Issue - November 2007

November 2007

In this edition Arnold Brower presents a different view of Frisbee, Walter Sanchez teaches us about the Chonta Palms history, Ross Eventon investigates a Ney Way of living, and Ciudadela SEDEGES, always with dedication to orphan children, opens five new more...

November 2007

The Chonta Palm and the agricultural tools used in Cochabamba

Walter Walter Sanchez C.
Inphograpy: Ivan Montaño
Archeological Museum, University of San Simón

According to Peruvian historian Maria Rostorowski, the use of the chaquit’ajlla – an “Andean” plough – dates back to approximately 2500 B.C. This agricultural instrument, made of a stick measuring 1.70m high, has two extensions: one where the hand is placed and another which is used by the foot as a lever. Bourliaud states in his article, Chaquitaclla, Strategies de labour et intensification en agriculture andine (1986), that this agricultural tool, one of the most important of the Andes, is so perfectly adapted to the Andean physiographical conditions that it allowed them to successfully work on land which sloped at an angle of 45º or more.

The chaquit’ajlla was used by the people of the Tiwanaku tribe (400 A.C. – 1,100 A.C.). Many of the artifacts found in the Valleys and Yungas of Cochabamba have been linked to the Tiwanaku people, which leads us to believe that they had an important presence in these areas. It is known that 14,000 colonizers (mitmaqkuna) reached Cochabamba, led by the Incas Thopa Inka Yupanqui and Wayna Qhapac. With the help of two tools, the chaquit’ajlla and the raucana (Quechua) liuk’ana (Aymara), the colonizers cultivated maize and coca, which helped them establish an agricultural area.

Archaeological findings and sources show that these two pre-Hispanic tools, the chaquit’ajlla and the raucana were made of hard, rough palm tree wood and were used to plough the earth. The Chonta palm (Astrocaryum chonta Mart. of the Palmae family) can only be found below 1000m, so there are many in the tropical Yungas as well as the Amazonian flats. The indigenous Yuracar¬e people of Cochabamba are experts in transforming the wood into tools, a process which involves fire.

After the Spanish conquest, the landscape of Cochabamba was dramatically changed. There are two reasons for this: 1. the presence of the ox driven plough – which resulted in the destruction of the terrace system; and 2. the introduction of iron tools - various documents written and published by José Macedonio Urquidi suggest the presence of these new agricultural tools.

During the following decades there was an increase in use of these new agricultural tools. By the end of the XIX Century, these two tools, the chujchuca (azada) and the arado, were introduced into the most common agricultural practices of the campesinos of the valleys of Cochabamba. In his article, Instrucciones Para la Vida Campesina (1888), Luis F. Guzmán explains how the topographical conditions determined their use: “When the land that needs to be worked and it is on a slope where the plough cannot reach, it is indispensable to work it by hand, uprooting (with the chujchuca) the brush and straw, little by little, if there are no trees to cut or burn. If the ox and plough can move freely, then the work is perfected just by the help of the chujchuca”.

The hoe, the chujchuca, ax and machete were all important in the Yungas. The hoe and the chujchuca were used predominantly in the cultivation of coca, while to plough the fields they would use the “chontas or small iron spears with a flattened curved tip. It´s length varies, depending on whether they were used to work on soft soil or to clear heavy brush.” This description demonstrates that although the use of palm tree wood was abandoned in the Valles, they continued using this material in the Yungas until the end of the 19th century.

Through looking at these findings, we can begin to understand the importance of palm wood in the agricultural societies of both the Yungas and the Valles. We can see that interaction and exchange between the “Amazonian” and the “Andean” societies existed, which goes against all previous writings that insist that the two tribes lived separately.

Expansion of Orphanage in Cochabamba
Nowadays, SEDEGES is responsible for the maintenance of about 84 orphanages in the entire department of Cochabamba. This includes, feeding, educating and caring for the children that arrive to these facilities because of abuse, protection or abandonment....
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