ABSTRACT

Bolivia’s Altiplano covers slightly less than 10 per cent of the country’s surface area, yet from time immemorial it has exerted an unchallenged, dominating influence in terms of population, settlement, agriculture and mining. A number of Aymara farming communities clustered around the Bolivian shores of Lake Titicaca and strewn across Altiplano claim to be able to trace their ancestry back to pre-Columbian times. Although theoretically in both Aymara and Inca agricultural communities, land was communally held and private ownership prohibited, there were exceptions to the rule. Many of the lowland groups remained excluded from mainstream Bolivian economic and political life until the 1990 march for ‘Territory and Dignity’ publicized their struggle for titled rights to their traditional lands. According to Von Hagen, ‘agriculture was the soul of the Inca Empire; it determined everything’. Although land was controlled by the ayllu, it was regarded as the property of the state that is the emperor held land in trust for the people.