Jun 212015


Today is Willkakuti (Aymara for “Return of the Sun”), Machaq Mara (Aymara for “New Year”), Mara T’aqa, Jach’a Laymi or Pacha Kuti, an Aymara celebration in Bolivia, Chile, and southern parts of Peru, which commemorates the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. It is related to the Inca festival of Inti Raymi https://www.bookofdaystales.com/inti-raymi/ .

Willkakuti was declared a national holiday in Bolivia in 2010 by the government of Evo Morales, despite opposition from the Christian right in Bolivia. In 2013, when the year 5521 of the Aymara calendar was marked, Willkakuti was celebrated in more than 200 places, among them Inkallaqta, Inka Raqay, Samaypata and Uyuni. Its major celebration hub is Tiwanaku.


The Aymara or Aimara people are an indigenous nation in the Andes and Altiplano regions of South America; about 2 million live in Bolivia, Peru and Chile. Their ancestors lived in the region for many centuries before becoming a subject people of the Inca in the late 15th or early 16th century, and later of the Spanish in the 16th century. With the Spanish American Wars of Independence (1810–25), the Aymaras became subjects of the new nations of Bolivia and Peru. After the War of the Pacific (1879–83), Chile acquired territory occupied by the Aymaras. Aymaras themselves make significant distinctions between Bolivian and Chilean Aymaras.

Archeologists have found evidence that the Aymaras have occupied the Andes, in what is now western Bolivia, southern Peru and northern Chile, for at least 800 years, descended from preceding cultures. Their origin is a matter of scientific dispute. The region where Tiwanaku and the modern Aymaras are located, the Altiplano, was conquered by the Incas under Huayna Capac (reign 1483–1523), although the exact date of this takeover is unknown. It is most likely that the Inca had a strong influence over the Aymara region for some time. At the same time, the architecture for which the Inca are now known appears to have been influenced by the older Tiwanaku style. Though conquered by the Inca, the Aymaras retained some degree of autonomy under the empire.

The Spanish later classified a number of ethnic groups as Aymara in their effort to identify the native peoples. These were identified by chieftaincies and included the following: the Charqa, Qharaqhara, Quillaca, Asanaqui, Carangas, SivTaroyos, Haracapi, Pacajes, Lupacas, Soras, among others. At the time of Spanish encounter, these groups were living throughout the territory now included in Bolivia.


Linguists think that Aymara was once spoken much further north, at least as far north as central parts of Peru. Most Andean linguists believe that it is likely that the Aymara originated or coalesced as a people in this area. The Inca nobility may have originally been Aymara-speakers who switched to Quechua shortly before the Inca expansion. For example, the Cuzco area has many Aymara place names. The so-called ‘secret language of the Incas’ referred to in historical texts appears to be a form of Aymara.

The Aymaras overran and displaced the Uru, an older population from the Lake Titicaca and Lake Poopó regions. The Uru lived in this area as recently as the 1930s.


Most present-day Aymara-speakers live in the Lake Titicaca basin, a territory from Lake Titicaca through the Desaguadero River and into Lake Poopo (Oruro, Bolivia) also known as the Altiplano. They are concentrated south of the lake. The capital of the ancient Aymara civilization is unknown. According to research by Cornell University anthropologist John Murra, there were at least seven different kingdoms. The capital of the Lupaqa Kingdom was the city of Chucuito, located on the shore of Lake Titicaca.

The present urban center of the Aymara region is El Alto, a 750,000-person city near the Bolivian capital, La Paz. For most of the 20th century, the center of cosmopolitan Aymara culture has been Chuquiago Marka (La Paz). Bolivia’s capital was moved from Sucre to La Paz during the government of General Pando (died in 1917) and during the Bolivian Civil War.

The native language of the Aymaras is Aymara. Many of Aymaras speak Spanish as a second language, when it is the predominant language in the areas where they live. The Aymara language has one surviving relative, spoken by a small, isolated group of about 1,000 people far to the north in the mountains inland from Lima in Central Peru (in and around the village of Tupe, Yauyos province, Lima department). This language, whose two dialects are known as Jaqaru and Kawki, is of the same family as Aymara. Some linguists refer to this language as ‘Central Aymara.’ ‘Southern Aymara’ is the language spoken most widely and is spoken by people of the Titicaca region.


Most of contemporary Aymaran urban culture was developed in the working-class Aymara neighborhoods of La Paz, such as Chijini and others. Both Quechua and Aymara women in Peru and Bolivia took up the style of wearing bowler hats since the 1920s. According to legend, a shipment of bowler hats was sent from Europe to Bolivia via Peru for use by Europeans working on railroad construction. When the hats were found to be too small, they were given to the indigenous peoples. The luxurious, elegant and cosmopolitan Aymara Chola dress, which is an icon of Bolivia (bowler hat, aguayo, heavy pollera, skirts, boots, jewelry, etc.) began and evolved in La Paz. It is an urban tradition of dress. This style of dress has become part of ethnic identification by Aymara women. Many Aymara live and work as campesinos in the surrounding Altiplano.


Chairo is a traditional stew of the Aymaras . It is made of chuño (freeze dried potatoes), onions, carrots, potatoes, white corn, meat, wheat kernels and pretty much whatever you want to put in. It can also contain herbs and spices such as cumin and coriander. It is native to the region of La Paz, and, although obviously influenced by the cuisines of the Inca and the Spanish, is considered distinctively Aymara. It is the chuño that is the central ingredient. Without it all you have is a regular stew.

Chuño is a freeze-dried potato product traditionally made by Quechua and Aymara communities of Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Peru. To make it is a five-day process. First you expose a frost-resistant variety of potatoes to the very low night temperatures of the Andean Altiplano, freezing them, and subsequently exposing them to the intense sunlight of the day. The word “chuño “ comes from Quechua ch’uñu, meaning ‘frozen potato’ (‘wrinkled’ in the dialects of the Junín Region).

To prepare chuño for cooking you must first soak it for about 5 hours in cold water. Change the water every hour otherwise the potatoes will have a sour taste. Here’s a pretty typical list of ingredients, which you can vary as you wish.   Modern recipes tend to be European in their methods, that is browning the meat and onions before simmering, and so forth. I imagine that classically everything was just dumped into a large pot over an open fire and simmered until everything was tender and blended. I also suspect that the usual meat was llama which tastes something like lamb or mutton.




¼ kg of stewing beef (with bone) cut into 8 pieces
¼ kg chalona (dry and salty lamb meat) cut into 8 pieces
1 tbsp salt
½ cup of peeled Lima beans
½ cup of fresh green peas
½ cup of peeled carrots, cut into thin strips
4 cups of peeled potato, cut into thin strips
1 cup chuño washed, soaked, and peeled
1 cup peeled and cooked white corn
1 cup peeled and cooked wheat grains
1 cup white onion, cut into thin strips
2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ cup green onion, cut into strips

For serving

minced parsley
dried oregano
chopped, fresh hierba buena or mint


Place the meats in a large soup pot, cover with water, and simmer until they are tender, 1 to 2 hours.

Add the rest of the ingredients (except those for serving), and simmer for another 30 to 40 minutes.

Serve in deep bowls with the parsley, oregano and hierba buena available for guests to add as they wish.