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Axel Borsdorf

Christoph Stadel

The Andes
A Geographical Portrait
Translated by
Brigitte Scott and Christoph Stadel

Springer Geography

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Axel Borsdorf Christoph Stadel

The Andes
A Geographical Portrait

Translated by Brigitte Scott and Christoph Stadel


Axel Borsdorf
Institute for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research
Austrian Academy of Sciences (AW)

Christoph Stadel
Department of Geography and Geology
University of Salzburg

ISSN 2194-315X
ISSN 2194-3168 (electronic)
Springer Geography
ISBN 978-3-319-03529-1
ISBN 978-3-319-03530-7 (eBook)
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The Andes, a natural mountain environment and a cultural sphere, fascinates both scientists
and visitors. In their academic pursuits the authors were fortunate to become acquainted with
a diversity of tropical and non-tropical mountains. However, the Andes remained the focus
of our research interests. Since the 1970s we have carried out studies in these mountains;
and with the students of our universities we have, jointly or individually, organized numerous
excursions and field investigations. In these years we have extensively travelled in the sierras, from the cordilleras near the Caribbean coast to the southern tip of the continent, and we
have also crossed the Andes along many profiles from the Pacific coastal plains to the eastern
flanks of the mountain system. Since the early 1990s our close collaboration and friendship
formed the basis for this joint book project.
A major motivation for writing this book was the realization that since the publication of
the Geography of the Andes by Pedro Cunill, first in French and later in Spanish, some 50
years ago, no comprehensive geographical documentation of the Andes has been undertaken.
Our aim was not to replace the most valuable book of Cunill but to update it and to amplify
its perspective. We feel also encouraged by the fact that the Argentine Robert Herrscher has
stated that, for us in Latin America, the German perspective has always been very important. Beyond a romantic embellishment, and beyond the experience of wars and dictatorships,
we always felt accompanied by this vision in the tradition of Alexander von Humboldt. It is a
curious and deep view manifesting diligence and impartiality (Herrscher 2011, translated by
the authors).
Our book is not a mere geography of the Andean countries. It focuses on the mountain
area of the Andes, but also takes in the multiple interdependencies between the cordilleras
and the adjacent lowlands.
The first chapter conveys an overview; therefore it contains only a few references and
maps. The following, more detailed, chapters are complemented with a number of text boxes
on specific themes or regions. These are either based on our own studies or on other sources.
These are referenced in the extensive multidisciplinary and international bibliography, which
exceeds a mere list of references and should be a rich source for further studies. In a conventional way, we have decided to portray first the natural environment, followed by the cultural
realm. As both these spaces are closely connected, a number of feedbacks to natural factors
and processes had to be included in the treatment of the human parameters.
In looking at the manuscript as a whole, certain repetitions and overlaps become evident.
We have consciously accepted this, as we are of the opinion that it is justified to come back
at important aspects in a new context. It was unavoidable that the text contains many specialist terms. Whenever feasible, we have explained them at the first mention. In other cases the
reader can refer to the Glossary at the end of the book. Many of the place names, although
not all of them, are found in the general location map preceding Chap. 1.


The book is organized into a sequence of chapters that follows the convention for regional
geographies. We have opted for this procedure as we like to emphasize that many cultural
phenomena and processes can only be comprehended on the basis of the factors and of the
forces of the natural environment. However, we have attempted to avoid an encyclopaedic
approach. In many chapters, sub-sections and boxes, the reader will be familiarized with frequent interactions between people and the environment in the diverse mountain regions.
In the text we have avoided, with some exceptions, a cumbersome number of abbreviations. In some cases we have added the full meaning of the abbreviations in brackets. Spanish
terms, when mentioned for the first time, are written in italics and small initial letters; subsequently they are given in regular type form.
We have illustrated the text with numerous photographs in order to convey to the reader
many rich and diversified images of the different natural and human environments of the
Andes. The photographs (with some exceptions, where a different source is indicated) can be
credited to the authors. We like to acknowledge with sincere thanks the contributors of additional photos, and in particular Perdita Pohle, for permitting us to include one of her maps.
We are greatly indebted to the staff members of the Institute for Interdisciplinary
Mountain Research of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. In particular to Brigitte Scott,
who not only translated a large part of the book (excellently as always) but also took on the
language editing for the whole book. Axel Borsdorf extends special thanks to his co-author
Christoph Stadel for translating his part of the German original. We also want to mention
Kati Heinrich and Tobias Tpfer for their cartographic work and for the adaptation of photographs. Within the Department of Geography and Geology of the University of Salzburg, our
deep gratitude is extended to Walter Gruber for his most valuable assistance in the illustrations and to Agnes Spieberger for her text-editing work. Great thanks are due as well to the
publisher Springer.
We would also like to acknowledge with many thanks our colleagues Hans Gundermann
(Chile), Jack Ives (Canada), Bruno Messerli (Switzerland), Fausto O. Sarmiento and Fred
Zimmermann (USA), with whom we had most fruitful discussions. We also like to mention
with sincere gratitude the many scientists from the Andean countries, in particular Rodrigo
Hidalgo, Carla Marchant, Andrs Moreira, Hugo Romero and Rafael Snchez from Chile,
Juan Hidalgo and Azucena Vicua from Ecuador, Hildegardo Crdova from Peru and Luis
Alfonso Ortega from Colombia. Invaluable and unforgettable were the encounters, discussions and joint activities with many rural and urban people in the Andes. They were for us
a precious human enrichment, and an indispensable source of information. Axel Borsdorf
would also like to thank his Innsbruck colleagues Johann Sttter and Martin Coy who supported him, especially for granting him additional time for working on the book. Christoph
Stadel, in turn, would like to express his gratitude to the Chairmen of the Department for
their logistic support, to Lothar Schrott, who checked Chap. 2.
In the initial preparation phase of the book were the invaluable contribution of the participants of the two EU Research Programmes ALFA-GEORED I and II from Quito and Cuenca
(Ecuador), Manizales (Colombia), Lima (Peru), Santiago and Valdivia (Chile), as well as
from Marburg (Germany), Innsbruck and Salzburg (Austria). Furthermore, we owe our deep
gratitude to the UN Economic Commission for Latin America (CEPAL), as well as to the
Director of the Department on Sustainable Development and Human Settlement, Jos Luis
Samaniego. Important impulses we received also from the staff of the project Risk Habitat
Megacity of the Helmholtz Foundation in Bogot and Santiago.




Not least, we are very grateful to our families and friends for their support and understanding that allowed us, alone or in their company, to spend a considerable amount of time
in the Andes. They demonstrated, over several decades, a great deal of patience and understanding for our research engagement in this fascinating mountain realm.
The AndesA Geographical Portrait is an amended, updated and translated version of the
book Die Anden. Ein geographisches Portrt (Heidelberg/Berlin: Springer Spektrum 2013).
Innsbruck, July 2014

Axel Borsdorf
Christoph Stadel

Axel Borsdorf (*1948) and Christoph Stadel (*1938) have been travelling and have
researched in the Andes since the 1970s. They have visited all Andean countries and have
carried out field investigations in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Since 1991
their common interest in the Andes has resulted in many joint academic ventures, research
programmes, excursions and field schools. While both authors have focused on various
themes of mountain geoecology, cultural phenomena and regional development, the rural
environment and the sierras of Ecuador and Bolivia received specific attention by Christoph
Stadel; Axel Borsdorf specialized in urban development and the mountain regions of Chile
and Colombia. The work of both authors is shaped by a deep empathy for local people, for
their culture, wisdom and livelihoods. They are not only interested in the rich and varied past
and its environmental impacts, but they are also keen observers of the current vast array of
current factors, features and forces; and they are intrigued by potential future scenarios and
developments. Their thorough knowledge of other mountain regions has enabled them to
detect and analyse the identity of the Andean environment and society. Furthermore, both
authors have an almost missionary zeal to instill into their students and to a wider public
a passion for this fascinating mountain realm. This was for them the principal objective of
compiling the book The AndesA Geographical Portrait. This presentation and analysis of
the multiple geographical structures and processes, since Cunills Geography of the Andes
in French, and later Spanish, some 50 years ago, is the newest comprehensive portrait ofthe
entire Andean mountain system.


1 Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.1 The Geographical Identity of the Andes as a High Mountain Area. . . . . . . . .
1.1.1 The Variety of Andean Landscapes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.1.2 The Southern Andes: High Cordillera and Coastal Cordillera. . . . . .
1.1.3 The Central Andes: Mountain Chains and High Plateaus. . . . . . . . .
1.1.4 The Northern Andes: Three Mountain Regions with Distinct
Geological Characteristics. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.2 Locational Aspects, Structure and Geographic Delimitation. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.3 Highland-Lowland Interactions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.4 Core Areas and Peripheries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.5 Potential of the Natural Environment. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.5.1 Climatic Diversity in Relation to Latitudinal and Hemispheric
Location, Elevation and Topography. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.5.2 Geomorphological Configuration and Climatic Processes . . . . . . . .
1.5.3 WaterThe Elixir of Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.5.4 Soils and Their Importance for Agriculture. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.5.5 Ecosystem Functions of the Andes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.5.6 The Andean EnvironmentA Source of Natural Wealth
or an Ecological Handicap?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.6 German and International Research on the Andes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.6.1 German-Language Research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.6.2 Contributions of Latin-American, Anglophone
and Francophone Scholars to Latin-American Research. . . . . . . . . .



Factors, Processes and Spaces of Physical Geography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

2.1 Geology and Tectonics. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.2 Mineral Deposits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.3 Mountain Relief. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.4 Climatic Differentiation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.5 Horizontal and Vertical Climate and Vegetation Zones and Levels. . . . . . . . .
2.6 Typical Plant Societies of the Tropical Andes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.7 Soils. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.8 The Andes as Water Tower. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.8.1 Rivers and Lakes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.8.2 Lake Titicaca . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.8.3 Glaciers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.9 Natural Hazards. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .




Conservation and Protected Areas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

3.1 The Protected Area Concept. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.2 The Example of Machu Picchu . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.3 Vilcanota Spiritual Park. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.4 Biosphere Reserves . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.5 National Parks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.6 Management Challenges . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.7 Maintaining Indigenous CultureThe Case in Point of Podocarpus
National Park. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.8 The Corridor Concept . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


The Cultural Development of the Andes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

4.1 Pre-inca Civilizations. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.2 The Inca and Their Cultural Landscape. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.2.1 Historical Development of the Inca Civilization. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.2.2 CuscoThe Navel of the World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.2.3 Inca Agriculture. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.2.4 Agricultural Terraces. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.2.5 Raised Fields (Camellones, Waru Waru). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.2.6 Sunken Fields (Qochas). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.2.7 Inca Architecture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.2.8 Concluding Remarks. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.3 The Spanish Colonial Period and Its Spatial and Societal Impact. . . . . . . . . .
4.3.1 Colonial Economic Structures and Regions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.3.2 Casa de Austria. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.3.3 Colonial Agrarian Laws and Agricultural System. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.3.4 Mining . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.3.5 Transatlantic Trade and Transportation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.3.6 Population and Society. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.4 The Post-colonial Era. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Ethnic and Demographic Structures and Processes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

5.1 Social Structure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.2 Indigenous Heritage and Communities. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.2.1 Lo Andino: Andean Wisdom and Ancestral Concepts. . . . . . . . . . . .
5.2.2 Distribution of Indigenous Populations. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.2.3 Mobility and Migration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.2.4 Indigenous Ethnic Groups. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.2.5 Indigenous Communities in the Light of Recent Developments . . . . .
5.3 Demographic Aspects. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.4 Mobility and Migration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.5 Other Population Movements. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.5.1 Emigration. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.5.2 International Immigration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.5.3 Amenity Migration. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Rural and Urban Settlements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

6.1 Rural Settlements: Types and Structures. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
6.1.1 Problems and Conflicts in New Settlement Regions. . . . . . . . . . . . .
6.1.2 Oasis Settlements. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
6.1.3 Structural Changes in Rural Settlements. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
6.2 Andean Market Centres: The Example of Ambato, Ecuador. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
6.3 Urban Development. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .





6.3.1 Capital Cities of the Andean Countries. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

6.3.2 Trends in Urban Development. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
6.3.3 Modelling Fragmented Spatial Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
6.3.4 The Urban Structure of Santiago de Chile. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Medium-Sized Cities in the Andes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
6.4.1 Medium-Sized Cities in Peru and Ecuador . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
6.4.2 Medium-Sized Cities in Chile. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
6.4.3 Argentine Medium-Sized Cities in the Andean Region
and Its Foothills. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Economic Structures and Regions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

7.1 The Economy in a National, Continental and Global Context. . . . . . . . . . . . .
7.2 Andean Agriculture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7.2.1 Traditional Andean Cultivars. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7.2.2 Altitudinal Differentiation of Agriculture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7.2.3 Rain-fed Agriculture and Irrigation Farming. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7.2.4 Highland Pastoral Economy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7.2.5 Agrarian Reforms. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7.2.6 Changes in Andean Agriculture. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7.3 Mining and Mining Settlements. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7.3.1 Mining in Mountain Regions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7.3.2 Mining in the Andes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7.3.3 Mining and the Environment. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7.3.4 Mining Settlements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7.4 The Industrial Sector . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7.4.1 Industry in the Andean Countries. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7.4.2 Environmental Problems with Industry. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7.5 Changes in the Role of the Tertiary and Informal Sector
of the Economy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7.6 Andean Tourism. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7.6.1 Mountain Tourism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7.6.2 Andinismo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7.6.3 The Tourism Potential of the Andes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7.6.4 Tourism and Development. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7.6.5 Protected Areas and Tourism. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7.6.6 Participatory Tourism. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


The Andes as Transport Space. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

8.1 The Andes: Interactive Space and Transport Barrier. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
8.2 Air Traffic in the Andes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
8.3 Railway Traffic. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
8.4 Road Traffic. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
8.4.1 Carretera Marginal de la Selva. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
8.4.2 Carretera Panamericana. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
8.4.3 Passes and Highest Mountain Roads. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
8.4.4 Effects of Road Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
8.5 Shipping. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
8.6 Cable Cars . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Geo-political and Religio-Geographical Parameters. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 285

9.1 State Territories and State Borders. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 288
9.1.1 The Process of State Formation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 288






9.1.2 Territorial Conflicts and Boundary Changes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

9.1.3 Andean States Today. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Effects of Globalization . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Indigenous Opposition Movements and Reform Approaches. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Religio-Geographical Structures and Processes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


10 Development Aspects and Perspectives. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

10.1 Development Scenarios in Rural Environments and Strategies
for a Sustainable Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
10.2 Rural Development with a Cultural Focus. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
10.3 Development Trends in Urban Areas. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
10.4 The Andes in the 21st Century. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
10.4.1 Economic Challenges. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
10.4.2 Challenges in the Social Domain. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
10.4.3 Political Challenges. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
10.4.4 Ecological Challenges. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
10.4.5 Cultural Challenges. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .




Epilogue. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 323
Glossary. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 329
References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 337

Caribbean Sea

Pico Bolvar
4981 m



San Augustn








Pacific Ocean



Mara Elena

Mara Elena

Pacific Ocean





Alicur dam


salt pan
major waterway
state border

Atlantic Ocean

Lake General

elevation in m
> 5,000
3,001 5,000
1,501 3,000
1,001 1,500
501 1,000
201 500
101 200



Falkland Islands

Cartography: Kati Heinrich, IGF, 2013

Based on data from: SRTM digital elevation model (USGS)
Projection: Albers equal-area conic projection,
Standard parallels: 5 S / 42 S

Cape Horn


A. Borsdorf and C. Stadel, The Andes, Springer Geography, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-03530-7_1

Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

The Aconcagua, at 6,958 m the Highest Peak in the Andes


1.1 The Geographical Identity of the Andes

as a High Mountain Area
El Condor Pasathis melody brought an exotic Andean
flair to homes and discos across the world in the 1970s.
In the Andean countries, though, the condor has a very
specific meaning. This impressive bird has already been
honoured in early civilizations and has been portrayed in
numerous rock paintings and other pictures, even in the
huge geoglyphs of the Peruvian coastal desert. As the king
of the sky, the condor is a symbol of pride and freedom,
and is therefore an epitome for the aspirations of Andean
people. But the societies of the Andes have witnessed
300years of colonial history and since their political independence many forms of external economic domination.
Whenever an Indio looks up at a passing condor, he may
dream of a future that brings him a future of self-esteem
and freedom (Fig.1.1).
The entire western part of the New World is flanked
by an impressive mountain system in South America, the
Cordillera de los Andes (Fig.1.2, Table1.1). In an abbreviated form, it is generally referred to as the sierra, the cordilleras, or simply the Andes.
The Andes represent one of the most fascinating and
diversified high mountain systems of the world. On a hemispheric level, they are unique in harbouring the highest
capital cities, the highest navigable lake, the highest railway station, the highest international airport, or the highest
mine. Abject gloom and poverty contrasts with gleaming
splendour and wealth; current areas of marginality may
be found in the vicinity of the sites of former high civilizations; peasant communities with their modest dwellings
are juxtaposed to modern metropolises and their skyscrapers. The Andes are a destination and a challenge for mountaineers. A few mountains have no internationally accepted
names; and some may not have been conquered yet. The
mountain landscapes offer incomparable natural beauty, but
they have also been arenas of cultural extinction, economic
oppression and fierce political conflicts. We have experienced the Andean people as a most friendly and hospitable
populace, but some of them have also been feared as brutal
drug lords or guerillas.



Nudo de Pasto


Nudo de Vilcanota






Antarctic Plate

coastal cordillera
western cordillera
central cordillera
puna basin
eastern cordillera
sub-Andean mountain ranges

mountain knots
plate boundaries
landscape boundaries
Cartography by
K. Heinrich, IGF, 2013

Fig.1.2Composition of the Andes, adapted from Tanner 1978

Fig.1.1Condor in the Peruvian

1.1.1 The Variety of Andean Landscapes

The term Andes may imply different meanings. The Spanish
called the agricultural terraces on the steep slopes andenes
(Fig. 1.3). Anti was also the name for the inhabitants of

1.1 The Geographical Identity of the Andes as a High Mountain Area

Table1.1Synopsis of abiotic characteristics of the Andes (complement to Fig.1.2)
Northern Andes
Northern central
Middle central
3 Chains, 2 rift
2 Chains and sub23 Chains and
Andean sierras



Western cordillera:
oceanic crust,
recent volcanism;
central cordillera:
eastern cordillera:
sedimentary fold
Cocos Plate

Southern central
12 Chains and
coastal cordillera and
pampas sierras

1 Chain and coastal
cordillera (mostly
islands) and pampas
Mesozoic synclinal,
batholiths and
laccoliths, in the
north ongoing
volcanism; coastal
cordillera and sierras

Western cordillera:
tertiary to recent
volcanism; remnants
of the central
cordillera: batholith;
eastern cordillera:

Western cordillera:
young volcanoes;
eastern cordillera:
Palaeozoic core,
tertiary to recent

Coastal cordillera
and sierras:
basin=rift valley;
high Andes: base
andesitic, volcanism

Nazca Plate

Nazca Plate,
Peru-Chile Trench
Vein ores;
Impregnation ores
(copper), coal,
saltpetre, semiprecious stones, salt,
lithium; oil/gas in
Highest snow line,
pediment formation,
salt tectonics

Nazca Plate,
Peru-Chile Trench
Vein and
impregnation ores

Stable Antarctic
Plate, low tectonics
Oil/gas in Patagonian
foredeep and
Magellan Strait,
low-yield primary

Peak glaciation, in
the south foredeep
glacier basins, lahars

2 large ice fields,

intensive glaciation,
strong alpine

Mineral deposits

Coal (western and

eastern cordillera);
salt (eastern
cordillera); oil in
eastern foredeep

Tin, copper, silver,

gold, lead; oil/gas in

and formation

Only 2 glaciers,
extensive terrace
systems, recent mass
movements, plain

Longitudinal valley
systems, strong
slope erosion, plain

the eastern parts of the mountains, which led etymologists

believe that the Spanish later adopted this term.
The standard designation of this mountain system suggests a uniformity which cannot be confirmed by its tectonic, geological, geomorphological, ecological, cultural
and economic characteristics. This is immediately evident when comparing the configuration of the mountain

landscapes. Only the southern Patagonian Andes consist of

a single mountain chain; and even here, some single mountains, like the majestic San Lorenzo, are located outside the
main cordillera string. On the Taitoa Peninsula, a coastal
cordillera runs parallel to the main cordillera; but south of
Puerto Montt, the coastal cordillera emerges only as a string
of islands.

Etymology of the term Andes

The Spanish word Los Andenes (=terraces) was later modified to the abbreviated term Los Andes. Los Andenes
or Los Andes referred to the agricultural terraces in the mountain regions conquered by the Spanish. However,
Sarmiento (2012: 1925) points out possible alternative origins. Some etymologists retrace the term to the Quechua
(kichwa) word anti (=people of the jungle), andi (=high mountain), or anda (=copper). But Sarmiento rejects these
interpretations, because anti and also andi is correctly translated as east; and anda (=copper) was of no major
importance in pre-Hispanic times. But the term Andes could have well been derived from Antisuyu, the Inca designation for the eastern part of their Empire. The Inca Garcilazo de las Vegas (1609) used the term Antis for the people
living in the eastern cordilleras.
The indigenous populations used exclusively local terms for the mountains in their region and never a uniform
term for the cordilleras. In 1572, the Spanish chronicler Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa introduced the term cordillera
de los andenes as a human landscape modeled by many terraces.

Fig.1.3Terraces (Andenes) in the Sacred Valley of the Inca

1.1.2 The Southern Andes: High Cordillera

and Coastal Cordillera
With the Cerro San Valentn (4635 42 S, 7320 45 W),
the Patagonian Andes reach their highest elevation
(4,058m). The southern Andes are massively glaciated; of
major significance here are the two large ice fields from


which various valley glaciers flow into finger lakes, or may

even reach the ocean (Fig.1.4). While in the Patagonian
Andes a shrinking of glaciers can generally be observed, the
Perito Moreno glacier, extending into the Lago Argentino,
periodically advances, blocking the natural outflow of the
meltwater, until it breaks through the glacier tongue whose
ice wall continuously collapses into the lake water.
Because of a high relief energy, the glaciers of the southern Andes are moving comparatively fast. The glaciers on
the western windward side of the cordillera, dissected by a
maze of sracs, penetrate deeply into the Patagonian rainforest with its rich undergrowth and exotic bird population
of parrots and colibris. A similar grandiose landscape contrast is found in the southern island of New Zealand.
The summits of the Patagonian cordillera are frequently
characterized by a penetration of laccholits into slate formations. A spectacular example of this is found in the Paine
Cordillera (Fig.1.5).

1.1.3 The Central Andes: Mountain Chains

and High Plateaus
The central Andes are very rich in minerals.
Chuquicamata in northern Chile is the largest open pit
copper mine in the world (Fig.1.6). Bolivia has many

Fig.1.4Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Source Image Science and Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center (ISS006-E-42326)

1.1 The Geographical Identity of the Andes as a High Mountain Area

Fig.1.6Chuquicamata, Chile

Fig.1.5Paine Massif in the Patagonian cordillera

important silver, gold and tin mines; Peru is rich in zinc,

copper, gold and silver deposits. One example of the
extraordinary beauty of the central Andes is the view
from the Altiplano with its grass steppes to the glaciated
Illimani in the Cordillera Real of Bolivia (Fig.1.7). The
eastern side of this cordillera drops sharply to the Yungas
with their dense cover of tropical mountain forests, further
down replaced by the tropical rainforest of the Amazon
The Bolivian Andes are characterized by the extended
plateaus of the Altiplano with the large freshwater
Lake Titicaca, salt lakes, like Lago Poopfed by the
Desaquadero flowing out from Lake Titicacaand the salares (salt pans, e.g. Salar de Colpasa; Salar de Uyuni). In
Peru, the Altiplano becomes narrower, and the western and
the eastern cordilleras converge in the Nudo de Vilcanota.
Further north, north-south oriented longitudinal valleys are
located between the cordillera strings; they were centres
of former civilizations and remain the core areas of highland Peru. Of particular importance among these valleys
are the Urubamba Valley, the sacred valley of the Inca,
The Apurimac Valley, and the Callejn de Huyaylas, the
valley of the Santa River, which separates the snow- and

Fig.1.7View across the Altiplano to Illimani peak

ice-covered Cordillera Blanca (Fig.1.8) from the non-glaciated Cordillera Negra, located in the rain-shadow of the
humid Amazonian air masses.
The Peruvian western cordillera drops sharply towards
the coastal plains of the Pacific Ocean. Travelling by car or
train from Lima to the sierra, one has to climb over 4,000
altitudinal metres, crossing the 4,780m Anticona (Ticlio)
Pass with the La Galera railway tunnel, to reach the smelter
town of La Oroya (3,700m) and Huancayo. This railway
line is the second-highest railway line in the world (after
the new Lhasa railway in China, which climbs to 5,262m).
Another famous railway line links Durn in the Ecuadorian
coastal plain with Riobamba (2,750m) and Quito
(2,800m), following the spectacular Highway of Volcanoes


with the Chimborazo, Cotopaxi (Fig.1.9) and Pichincha. In

recent years, this railway link has been gradually restored.
The most spectacular part and a major attraction for railway

enthusiasts is the section near Alaus, where the train at the

famous Narz del Diablo conquers some 500m of altitude
in a series of switchbacks.

Important summits of the Andes

Pico Bolvar, 5,002m

Highest mountain of the Cordillera de Mrida and of Venezuela

Pico Cristbal Coln, 5,775m

Highest peak of Colombia

Nevado del Huila, 5,750m

Volcano in the southern Cordillera Central

Nevado del Ruiz, 5,400m

Active volcano in the Cordillera Central

Purac, 4,756m

Summit of the Pasto Mountain Knot

Chimborazo, 6,272m

Highest mountain of Ecuador, ecological studies and attempted summit climb

by Alexander von Humboldt

Cotopaxi, 5,896m

Impressive active volcano in the eastern cordillera

Tungurahua, 5,010m

Strato volcano in southeastern Ecuador, with an almost uninterrupted activity

Pichincha, 4,784m

Active volcano in the vicinity of Quito

Huascarn, 6,768m

Highest mountain of the Cordillera Blanca and of Peru

Yerupaj, 6,634m

Highest mountain of the Cordillera Huayhuash

Alpamayo, 5,947m

Considered one of the most beautiful mountains, Cordillera Blanca

Misti, 5,842m

Impressive volcano at the southern edge of the western cordillera

Ausangate, 5,433m

Highest summit of the Vilcanota Mountain Knot, sacred mountain

Sajama, 6,542m

Volcano and highest mountain of Bolivia

Illimani, 6,432m

Highest peak of the Cordillera Real

Illamp, 6,368m

Double-peak mountain in the Cordillera real

Cerro Rico, Potos, 4,800m

Silver mountain, now tin mining mountain near Potos

Ojos del Salado, 6,893m

Highest mountain of Chile, highest (extinct) volcano on earth

Llullaillaco, 6,723m

Impressive volcano, last eruption 1877, Inca archaeological site on the summit

San Valentn, 4,058m

Peak on the Northern Patagonian Ice field

Villarrica, 2,840m

Active volcano in central Chile

Osorno, 2,660m

Ideal shape of a volcanic cone in the Lake District

Cerro Paine, 2,460m

Spectacular granitic peaks in Patagonia

Aconcagua, 6,958m

Highest mountain of the Americas

Lann, 3,776m

Isolated volcano near Neuqun

Fitzroy, 3,375m

Spectacular mountain in Patagonia, one of the most challenging climbs of the


Yogn, 2,469m

Highest mountain of Tierra del Fuego, located in the Darwin range

1.1 The Geographical Identity of the Andes as a High Mountain Area

Fig.1.9Cotopaxi summit, Ecuador (photograph by M. Mergili)

Fig. 1.8The Cordillera Blanca, with the Chopicaquic in the foreground and the Huascarn Norte in the background

The plateau and valley regions between the western and

eastern cordilleras are not uniform and level. Several
mountain knots (nudos) link the two mountain ranges
and divide the interior parts of the sierra into a number of
high basins (cuencas or hoyas; Fig.1.10) which are core
regions of settlement and human activities. These cuencas are located in the most favourable altitudinal zone, in
the transition between the level of the temperate climate
(tierra templada) and that of the cool mountain climate
(tierra fria). Agriculture in these regions also benefits
from the fertile volcanic soils, and this since pre-Hispanic
In the southern part of the central Andes, from Santiago
to Puerto Montt, a tripartite regional division prevails, with a
coastal cordillera, a parallel topographic depression, and the
high sierra, itself often consisting of several mountain ranges.
The coastal cordillera does not reach the climatic snowline,
and is in its southern part primarily characterized by forestry;
further north, in the regions influenced by a Mediterranean
climate by extensive pastoral activities. In the Chilean

Fig.1.10The town of Cuenca in the basin of the same name, Ecuador

Longitudinal Valley (Valle Central or Valle Longitudinal),

the melt waters of the Andean glaciers furnish the necessary
water resources for perennial irrigation and productive field
cultivation. It should be pointed out that the Valle Central is
basically not a river valley, but a depression formed by tectonic forces. In a number of ways, the Valle Central of Chile
can be compared to the Californian Central Valley.
In the Small North (Norte Chico) of Chile, from about
Copiap to the Ro Aconcagua, in a semi-arid steppe climate, the rivers flow in an east-westerly direction from the



cordillera to the coastal plains, creating a number of fertile river oases. In the desert environment of the Big North
(Norte Grande), to the north of Copiap, the depressions
between the coastal mountains and the high cordillera are
occupied by basins with an interior drainage system. Here
we find the salars of the Atacama and the famous nitrate
deposits (Fig.1.11). The high cordillera in the Norte
Grande is composed of two major ranges, separated by the
Altiplanos of Bolivia and northwestern Argentina.

1.1.4 The Northern Andes: Three Mountain

Regions with Distinct Geological
Fig.1.11Salar de Atacama in the Big North of Chile

Fig.1.12Flower growing in the Sabana de Bogot, Colombia

Fig.1.13Upper reaches of Ro Magdalena, Colombia

The tectonically youngest part of the Andes are the three

cordillera ranges of Ecuador and Colombia) to the north of
the Pasto Mountain Knot (Nudo de Pasto). While the western and central cordilleras primarily consist of sediments
over older crystalline cores, the eastern cordillera represents
a young orogene which even contains some early quarternary sediments. The fossils of the Saccoglottis lowland
plant is testimony to the extraordinarily rapid uplifting still
going on today.
The eastern cordillera includes numerous fertile intramontane basins at elevations of some 2,5002,800m;
among them the Sabana de Bogot, formerly a lake basin,
with the sprawling capital city and shrinking agricultural
land (Fig.1.12). Nearby we find the salt mine of Zipaquir,
which was an important resource for the Chibcha civilization in pre-Hispanic times. The wealth in salt resources is at
the origin of the famous story that one of the Chibcha chiefs,
used to cover his body in gold dust and to take a bath in the
Laguna of Guatavita. This legend of El Dorado enticed the
Spanish to search (in vain) for the fabled gold resources.
Large tectonic grabens (rift valleys) separate the three
principal strings of mountain ranges in Colombia: the
Magdalena Valley (Fig.1.13) between the eastern and the
central cordilleras, and the Cauca Valley between the central and the western cordilleras. Furthermore, an additional
Pacific coastal mountain range reaches comparatively modest elevations; it is separated from the western cordillera by
the tectonic trench of the Ro Atrato. In general, the topographic interplay of deeply entrenched valley regions and
high mountain ranges make Colombia a distinctly vertical country, which also finds its repercussions in cultural
diversity. In travelling from Bogot to the Pacific shore, for
instance, one encounters a double mountain barrier and two
deep river valleys. For Colombia, these topographic constraints were not only a major challenge for transportation
(Fig. 1.14), they also resulted in political fragmentation as
evidenced in internal political turmoil and the difficulties in
establishing an efficient national administration.

1.1 The Geographical Identity of the Andes as a High Mountain Area


Near the boundary between Colombia and Venezuela,

the eastern cordillera branches out into the Sierra de Perij,
which finds a topographic climax in the isolated mountain massif of the Cordillera Nevada de Santa Marta (with
a peak altitude of 5,775m), and the Cordillera de Mrida
in Venezuela, with the Pico Bolvar (5,007m) as its highest
peak (Fig.1.15).

1.2 Locational Aspects, Structure

and Geographic Delimitation
With a total length of over 8,000km and a latitudinal extension of more than 66, the Andes are ecologically the most
diversified mountain system of the world. We encounter
tropical highlands on both sides of the equator, and regions
with a temperate climate in the southern parts of the Andes;
humid, semi-humid, semi-arid, and arid climatic regimes,
the latter particularly prevalent in the coastal plains and
intra-montane basins; volcanic (Fig.1.16), crystalline and
sedimentary rock formations. In the most southern parts,
the Pleistocene and recent glaciations have given the mountain landscapes an Alpine character, and Alaska-like glaciers and fjords offer impressive sceneries. Very striking are
also the large and ideally shaped stratovolcanoes which, in
many parts, dominate the mountain landscape.
Like all high mountains, the Andes are characterized
by a hypsometric zonation of climate and vegetation. This
was first documented by Alexander von Humboldt on the
Chimborazo. The altitudinal differentiation of the ecology exhibits considerable variation between the permanently humid, the seasonally humid, the semi-arid and
the arid mountains, and also between the cordilleras with
Mediterranean and temperate climates.
While the Andes and their adjacent coastal lowlands are
the geologically youngest part of South America, they also
constituted the environmental basis for the development of
the oldest civilizations of the continent. Today the intermediate altitudinal regions and the Pacific plains north of
the Tropic of Capricorn are the most densely settled areas,
whereas the Amazon lowlands remain rather sparsely populated pioneer regions.
The rich natural diversity within rather small geographical spaces makes a regional subdivision of the Andes a challenging task. Based on the conventional classification, the
following three major units can be distinguished: The northern Andes extend to the mountain knot (nudo) of Pasto in
southern Colombia. They are composed of the three principal ranges of the sedimentary eastern cordillera, and the
central and western cordilleras, both exhibiting volcanic
traits. These cordilleras are separated from each other by
the two tectonic grabens of the Magdalena Valley and the
Cauca Valley. This topographical configuration facilitated

Fig. 1.14Mountain road in Colombiathe orographic structure

of the country hampers transport routes

Fig.1.15Pico Bolvar, Venezuela, 1991, because of climate change

the glacier has since melted

the north-south transportation links in Colombia, and hampered the east-west connections. Gabriel Garca Mrquez
has vividly described travelling in Colombia in his novel
Love in the Time of Cholera (2007). The German geographer Herbert Wilhelmy, in turn, has also referred to his
travel experiences in this country (1990) and compared
them with the observations of Alexander von Humboldt
almost 200years ago and with the novel of Garca Mrquez.
At the Nudo de Pasto, the three cordilleras converge;
further south, a western and an eastern cordillera enclose a
number of mountain basins (cuencas), and are separated in
Peru by a series of longitudinal valleys. To the south of the
Nudo de Vilcanota, the mountain ranges embrace the large
high-altitude plateaus of the Altiplano in southern Peru and



Fig.1.17Shipwreck in the Magellan Strait, Chile

Fig.1.16Basalt columns on Osorno Volcano, Small Chilean South

Bolivia. At the Llullaillaco, the cordilleras converge again to

form a singular mountain range extending along the boundary
between Chile and Argentina. This cordillera is composed of
an Andesite base with a series of protruding volcanoes. The
most southern part of the Andes, the Patagonian cordillera,
offers geomorphologically unique features with its impressive
granitic rock pillars resulting from a plutonic rock structure
and the topographic imprints of extensive glaciations.
With their large meridian extension, the Andes cut through
many latitudinal climatic belts. They also act as a marked climatic division of South America, which is reinforced by the
fact that this mountain barrier is located at the western edge
of the continent. The climatic contrasts between the western
and the eastern side of the cordilleras are not limited to the
belt of westerly winds in the southern part of the Andes. In
the central and northern Andes, the contrasting precipitation
regimes between the eastern and the western flanks of the cordilleras is a result of the southeasterly and northeasterly trade
winds affecting the slopes facing the interior of the continent;
and the ocean currentsthe cold Peruvian Current, and the
warm Equatorial Currentinfluencing the Pacific side of the
mountains. Even in the realm of the inner tropics, a marked
differentiation in the precipitation patterns can be observed.
On a local and regional scale, major differences exist between

the wet exterior windward slopes, and the less humid, often
even semi-arid intra-montane valleys, cuencas and Altiplanos.
The orientation of the Andean countries towards the
Pacific Ocean was a development obstacle in colonial times,
as the goods to and from distant Spain had to be transported
through the Isthmus of Panama. On the other hand, the passage around the treacherous Cape Horn did not become an
alternative until the 18th century, after the lifting of major
trade restrictions between European countries and also with
the technological improvement of sailing boats and later
steamships. Still, the many ship wrecks in and around the
Magellan Strait are a testimony of the hazards of this route
(Fig. 1.17). Today Asia-Pacific has become a highly active
economic space, especially in the current age of rising
Pacific powers (Japan, China, South Korea, in particular), the
quest of North America and Asia for the natural resources of
the Andes, and in general of globalized economies.
The coastline of the Pacific is the western delimitation
of the Andean system. This coast, over long stretches having a steep shoreline, offers little potential for good natural
harbours in the northern and central parts. An exception is
the Bay of Guayas, which favoured the development of the
sheltered port city of Guayaquil, today the largest city of
Ecuador. South of Santiago, the ria coast and estuaries offer
the natural advantages for the establishment of sheltered
ports, foremost that of Concepcin-Talcahuano. The deeply
entrenched fjords of western Patagonia would also offer
excellent natural harbour conditions, but here the absence
of large and dynamic economic hinterlands and poor land
transportation systems have by and large prevented the
emergence of larger ports. Only Puerto Montt and Valdivia
(Fig.1.18) are major ports along the southern Pacific coast.
In the Strait of Magellan, the Chilean Punta Arenas is
also of some importance; on Tierra del Fuego, the city of
Ushuaia, especially for the booming cruise ship tourism.
The delimitation of the Andean space to the east is much
more difficult to establish. In the northern and central parts


1.2 Locational Aspects, Structure and Geographic Delimitation

of the Andes in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and

Bolivia, it is still in many instances relatively easy to identify the foot of the mountains. Here the transition from the
mountain slopes to the adjacent alluvial lands is evident in
a rather clear topographic line. Further south, in Argentina,
the sierras of the Pampa region are geologically part of the
old Gondwana Shield.
The delimitations of the Andes to the north and south are
also debatable. Strictly speaking, the islands in the southern
Atlantic Ocean close to the southern tip of the continent
although only partly composed of rock formationsas well
as the Antarctic peninsula (Fig.1.19) could be considered
part of the Andes, although this is commonly not accepted.
In the north, the eastern cordillera finds a continuation in
the volcanic islands of the Lesser Antilles and in the mountains of the Great Antilles. In turn, the western cordillera
extends into the sierras of the Central American landbridge.
As in both cases other tectonic plates were at the origin of
the mountain orogeny, and even more so because they are
generally considered separate mountain systems with a distinct ecological, cultural, economic and political identity,
the mountains of Central America and the Caribbean are not
further dealt with in this book.

Fig.1.18Port of Valdivia, Chile

1.3 Highland-Lowland Interactions

High mountains cannot be considered solely as closed
landscape systems without any connections with adjacent
regions. As there are various transitional zones between
highlands and lowlands, a clear natural delimitation of
mountains is difficult to establish. In all high mountains
on earth, numerous and diverse interactions exist between
highlands and lowlands. Geomorphological processes in the
mountains greatly influence foothill areas and adjacent lowlands. In a dramatic way, the various and frequent natural
hazards (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods and mass
movements) have an impact on neighbouring plains.
The mountain climate with its temperature and precipitation regimes and the characteristic mountain winds (e.g.
foehn) also influence adjacent regions. In their turn, the
high and low pressure systems over oceans and land regions
affect the highlands. In many mountain areas, intensive cultural interchanges have taken place between highlands and
lowlands. High civilizations centred on coastal areas and
river valleys, as well as in favourable mountain regions,
often with intensive mutual interactions. Temporary or permanent migrations between highlands and plains have a
long tradition.
Varied and intensive economic exchanges and also
political influences have always existed between the two
spheres. While the mountainous areas were often controlled
by the political centres in the plains, the reverse pattern may

Fig.1.19Antarctic Cordillera

be observed in tropical regions. Mountains further acted as

preferred retreats for ethnic or religious minorities, which
were often driven out from the plains. They were also the
initial bases or centres for insurgents who often subsequently attempted to bring other national territories under
their control (Fig.1.20).
These general observations can also be applied to the
Andes and their adjacent coastal plains and interior lowlands. The Pacific plains are of varying extension, widest
in the Costa of Ecuador and parts of Peru. In general, the
western cordilleras rise abruptly from the lowlands, but
they also include fragments of coastal cordilleras. Deeply
entrenched penetration valleys are the natural arteries
for transportation and other forms of human interaction
between mountain and plain. This explains why the foothill


Fig. 1.20Police presence as protection against guerilla attacks in

Purac, Colombia

Fig. 1.21The market town of Babahoyo on the coastal platform

of Ecuador

zone at the exit of the rivers from the mountains is a preferred location for settlements with their prime functions
as transportation nodes, market centres, central places and
gateways, at the point of contact between coast and sierra.
Between these and the important ports there are intermediate places like Babahoyo (Fig.1.21).
The short rivers flowing towards the Pacific Ocean are
characterized by steep gradients (Fig.1.22); they have
a strong erosive power within the mountains and a large
sedimentary load in the plains. This results in widespread
landslides on steep terrains and periodic flooding hazards.
But the Andes are the prime water tower for drinking water,
agriculture, mining and industry.
The relationships between the Andes and the Pacific
coastal plains have always been very intensive within the


tropical area. In Ecuador and Peru, adequate but not excessive precipitation and a good irrigation potential provided
the basis for favourable agricultural conditions, for good
transportation development, for the rise of important civilizations (e.g. Chim, Mochica), for dense populations and
dynamic seaports. In Peru, the riverine oases acquired an
early and eminent importance as focal centres of development (Fig.1.23). Similarily strong, at least since colonial
times, were the interactions between the cordilleras and the
Caribbean coast in Colombia and Venezuela. From early on,
both a complementary and a competing duality emerged
between the Andes and the coastal lowlands. In the Pacific
lowlands in Colombia, especially in the Choc, such interactions were hampered by excessive precipitations, dense
vegetation and transportation drawbacks.
The traditional indigenous agricultural economy was
based on a complementary utilization of all altitudinal
zones. In general, a native community (ayll), worked arable and pastoral lands at every altitudinal level. The tierra
caliente, the hot zone, furnished cocoa (Fig.1.24), tobacco
and palm fruits. In addition, here, as well as in the tierra
templada, the temperate zone, basic food crops, manioc,
bananas, maize and a range of tropical fruits were cultivated. The tierra templada of the eastern flanks of the cordilleras, foremost in Peru and Bolivia, are also the preferred
sites for growing coca, the Andean plant of eminent medicinal and cultural importance (Fig.1.25).
Traditionally, the agriculturally most intensively used
altitudinal zone is that of the tierra fra, the cool lands. It
yields maize, vegetables, fruits of a temperate climate,
tuber crops, such as different potato varieties, oca (Fig.1.26
olluco), and since colonial time also wheat and barley. At
the transition zone between the tierra fra and the tierra
helada (the icy zone), some cold-resistant crops, foremost
quinoa (Fig.1.27), amaranth and some potato varieties are
still grown, but the tierra helada with the climatic snowline
as the upper limit is primarily the zone for keeping llamas
and alpacas. Figure1.28 portrays the agricultural use of the
Hacienda Guachal in Ecuador at altitudes between 2,200
and 3,800m.
The tierra fra and even the lower margins of the tierra
helada were also centres of pre-Hispanic high civilizations, among them the Tiwanaku, Chibcha and Inca. With
the demise of the indigenous cultures after the Spanish
conquest, the introduction of European cultigens greatly
modified the traditional agricultural land use pattern. Many
aylls disappeared, as their land was not officially registered
and was consequently taken over by new, registered landowners. In the tierra caliente, large export-oriented plantations for the production of cotton, rice, bananas, cocoa,
pineapples and tobacco, as well as large cattle ranches,
dominated the agricultural landscape. In the tierra templada,
coffee, in particular the high-quality variety of Coffea arabica, was introduced. The tierra fra now produces wheat,


1.3 Highland-Lowland Interactions

vegetables, fruit, as well as meat and milk from imported

European breeds of cattle, sheep and goat. Thus, the lower
altitudinal zones were destined to produce cash crops and
meat for the world market, while the higher regions primarily continued to grow food crops for the autochthonous population. Indigenous communities were best preserved in the
sierras of Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, although even here,
as in many other Andean regions, especially in Venezuela,
Colombia and Chile, the proportion of mestizos (mixed
Indian-White population), cholos (natives who have given
up their Indian identity) and criollos (people of Spanish
descent) prevailed. In the plantations of the Caribbean
and Pacific coastal lowlands, as well as in a few deeply
entrenched valleys (e.g. Chota Valley in Ecuador), Black
slaves were imported, which gave these regions a new cultural imprint of Afro-American and mixed race populations.
In summary, the altitudinal belts of the sierra provide a
number of vital ecological resources (clean air, water, fertile soils, hydro-, solar and wind energy, stones, gravel
and mineral resources) for both the mountain and lowland
Before the late 1960s and early 1970s, large proportions
of the Amazon lowlands were barely developed. Until then,
they were relatively undisturbed retreat spaces for indigenous communities, and were mostly of interest to missionaries, anthropologists and ethnologists. The large-scale,
government sponsored opening up of the Brazilian Amazon
periphery set in motion a rapidly advancing pioneer front
with the construction of highways and airports, planned
and unplanned settlements, and the large-scale exploitation of resources. This, in turn, triggered the governmentsponsored agrarian colonization of the eastern lowlands of
the Andean countries, with the objectives of attenuating
the population pressure on the highlands, to find a spatial
and relatively uncontested outlet for rural reforms, to tap
alternative resources and to geostrategically counter the
Brazilian advance (Fig.1.29).
In recent times, two major agricultural trends can be
observed: the advance of a soy-based agriculture in the
Amazon lowlands oriented on the world market; and the crisis of coffee cultivation in the tierra templada of the sierra.
Spurred by development programmes of the World Bank
in a late phase of the Green Revolution, new hybrid varieties of coffee were introduced since the 1980s (Fig.1.30).
The losers of these initiatives were the agrarian colonists
of the tierra templada. Not being able to compete with
the new types and forms of large-scale agricultural enterprises, many farmers increasingly resorted to an illegal but
lucrative cultivation of coca, delivering their crops to the
stakeholders of powerful drug producing syndicates. The
introduction of soy plantations and hybrid coffee estates
also had significant negative ecological consequences,
resulting from deforestation, monocultures and the massive
application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Fig.1.22Ro Jubones, Ecuador

Fig.1.23River oasis north of Lima, Peru

Fig.1.24Cocoa in the lowlands


Fig.1.25Coca in the tierra templada

Fig.1.26Ullucus tuberosus (ullucu, olluco, melloco) in the tierra fra

Fig.1.27Quinoa cultivation in Ecuador


The livelihood of the agrarian colonists is even more

threatened by the mining companies. The discovery of rich
oil and gas fields, the thirst of the corporations and of governments for large revenues, land grabbing, deforestation
and water pollution have severely eroded the viability of a
family pioneer agriculture. It is therefore not surprising that
farms are being abandoned and young people flock to the
oil and gas fields or into the cities. In Ecuador and Peru, the
number of mining companies has dramatically increased
in the Amazon lowlands (in Peru from about 10 in 1990 to
around 8,000 in 2007) and the ever expanding mining concessions are a threat for indigenous communities and agricultural settlers alike. In addition, the military installations
and operations in this strategically sensitive area represent
a further danger for the environment and for traditional
In the southern part of the central Andes, in the current
territory of northern and central Chile, economic connections between the mountains and the narrow coastal strip
have existed since colonial times. The cordilleras were of
particular importance as a production zone for ores and
agricultural products, whereas the coastal zone became
the focus for the foundation of urban settlements and seaports (Fig.1.31). Furthermore, a favourable climate in
central Chile created the suitable natural conditions for
productive agricultural activities. Further south, however,
because of the extreme topographic fragmentation of the
Pacific Coast and a rather hostile climate, the interactions
between the Pacific Rim and the mountainous interior
remained weak.
In general, though, the interactions between the coastal
regions and the Andes were always more intensive than
those between the cordilleras and the interior continental
lowlands. This can be explained by the differing ecological
conditions and contrasting cultural and economic developments and settlement traditions. Today, the coastal zone
from Ecuador to central Chile is relatively densely settled,
includes the largest cities of the respective countries and
also shows higher rates of population growth than those
within the sierra, nowhere more so than in the large urban
regions of Guayaquil, Machala, Portoviejo and Esmeraldas
in Ecuador; Lima-Callao, Trujillo, Piura, Chiclayo and
Chimbote in Peru; and Antofagasta, Valdivia, ConcepcinTalcahuano, Puerto Montt, Valparaso, Arica and Iquique in
Chile. These coastal cities and agricultural plantations exercise a strong pull on the national migration flows, resulting
in a cultural blend of sierra and costa populations, although
perceived and real contrasts persist between these people. The strong demographic, economic and political links
between the sierra and the Pacific strip has been further
stimulated by a major improvement of the transportation
infrastructures of the highway and air traffic, and by new
forms of electronic communication.


1.3 Highland-Lowland Interactions

Fig.1.28Altitudinal zones
of land use on Hacienda
Guachal, Ecuador

4,000 m
3,800 m
8,019 ha

Type of use


sheep, cattle, mules

23 %

potatoes, barley, peas, lentils

0 % (lease of land)

milk and cheese, horse breeding,

maize, cereals, potatoes

12 %

avocados, chirimoyas, peaches

65 %

3,600 m
3,400 m
3,426 ha
3,200 m
3,000 m

572 ha

2,800 m
up to 2,200 m

50 ha

Fig.1.29Agrarian colonists in the Ecuadorian Selva

Fig.1.31The port of Valparaso, Chile

Fig.1.30Hybrid coffee varieties in Colombia

Diverse environmental and human interactions can also

been observed between the eastern cordilleras and the
vast adjacent interior lowland savanna, steppe and rainforest regions of the South-American continent within the

territories of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia

and Argentina. As stated before, in a geomorphological
sense, the eastern edge of the Andes is difficult to determine, as a number of foothills and isolated mountains
(morros) in close proximity to the major cordillera ranges
emerge from the lowlands.
As the continental watershed between the Pacific and
the Atlantic has an asymmetrical hemispheric position and
is located in the areas between the central and the eastern
cordilleras, the transverse valleys of the Atlantic drainage
system penetrate deeply into the Andes. They are natural
guidelines for the hydrographic links between the mountains
and the interior lowlands. Along the penetration valleys, the
climatic influence of the Orinoco and Amazon rainforest
and savanna regions reaches deeply into the inner-Andean
sphere. A good example for this is the Patate-Pastaza watershed in Ecuador where the influence of the equatorial rainforest climate creates very humid conditions along the
valley floors of the Pastaza River and the foothill zone of



Fig.1.32Paso Socompa, on the border of Argentina and Chile

the eastern cordillera, whereas the upper parts of the Patate

River watershed have a much drier climate. With the major
river systems of South America originating in the Andes,
this hydrographic link between the cordilleras and the adjacent plains plays a crucial role for the continental water
A different situation can be observed in the southern
Andes. In the colonial era the frontier region between
southern Bolivia and northwestern Argentina was an
important geographic link between the political and
economic core of the sierra (Alto Per) and the Atlantic
coast. Over the mountain passes and through the eastern
Andean valleys, intensive cultural, economic and political ties had been established between the Pacific coast,
the cordilleras and the Altiplano, the eastern foothills of
the Andes, the interior plains (e.g. the Chaco), and the
Atlantic seaports. At the transition zone between the interior lowlands and the sierra, major colonial towns were
founded (Salta, Jujuy, Crdoba, Mendoza), which have
maintained their status as important regional centres until
today. But further south, the mountain barrier of the rugged Patagonian cordilleras with their extensive glaciers
and ice fields effectively separates the sparsely populated Patagonian plains of southern Argentina (Fig.1.32)

from the few settlement pockets of the southern Chilean

Pacific coast.
In conclusion, a complex and varied pattern of the interactions between the Andean cordilleras, high plateaus and
valley regions, and the adjacent lowlands and the Pacific
and Caribbean coastal areas, can be observed. This is the
result of the highly differentiated topographic, ecological, historical, economic and political conditions in these
regions. It illustrates that the Andes cannot be analysed and
interpreted in an exclusive, isolated approach, ignoring the
foothills and neighbouring lowlands. In profound and multiple ways, the mountains exercise an influence on the adjacent lowlands; but on the other hand, the coastal areas and
plains, in turn, also radiate into the highlands.

1.4 Core Areas and Peripheries

The concept of core areas and peripheries is commonly
applied in geography and economics to illustrate an unbalanced distribution of population and the uneven regional
level of economic dynamics and political power. Cores
and peripheries are also distinguished in terms of cultural
development, the cores being the focus of high civilizations


1.4 Core Areas and Peripheries

or the principal locations of specific cultural, ethnic, or

religious groups; the peripheries referring to the marginal
areas of these cultures. In the Marxist critical assessment
of capitalism, the principal role of peripheries is to supply
the cores with important natural and human resources. This
gives the cores a dominating and exploitive role, and puts
the peripheries into a weak and dependent position.
On a global scale, most mountain regions can be considered as peripheries, providing a range of natural resources
(e.g. water, timber, agricultural products, mineral deposits
or the natural scenery) for the economies and the people
of core regions, mostly located outside the mountains. The
major valleys and adjacent lowland regions have also been
preferred destinations for mountain people seeking temporary or permanent employment opportunities. However,
more recently, a reverse migration pattern from lowlands
to highlands can be observed, as some industriesparticularly research-oriented and technological branches
as well as service jobs, especially in the tourism sector,
have moved to highland locations. Attractive lakeshores or
places with splendid vistas, fresh and clean air and water,
snow, a perceived peaceful and secure environment, and
the opportunity to pursue a different lifestyle exert a pull
on recreationists and investors to amenity migrate to the
mountains. In the subtropical and tropical areas, mountains
may also offer more favourable climatic and health conditions, and possibly alternative employment opportunities,
for example in tourism or mining. As a consequence, physiological population densities in selected areas can be quite
high and we may also encounter cores of high cultural and
economic development and major cities in the mountains.
In the tropical Andes, for several thousand years, a sedentary population was concentrated in preferred environments. In particular, people developed remarkable expertise
and skills to make the most of the hydrological and ecological potentials of the mountains, and impressive cultural,
economic and political centres evolved in selected locations.
At times these places were important enough to establish
strong cultural, political and economic links with neighbouring foothill zones, or coastal and interior lowlands.
During the colonial period between the early 16th and
19th centuries, Latin America was embedded in a global
mercantile system and primarily served the political and
economic interests of European powers. The principal role
of the Andes was to satisfy the economic greed of Spain,
mostly supplying gold and silver, later also tropical agricultural products to the Spanish crown. Furthermore, Spain
developed an elaborate administrative system of vice-royalties, audiencias (large administrative units) and cabildos
(municipality) to secure political control over the overseas
colonies. The human resources of indigenous populations
were also
integrated into this system of political domination and economic exploitation. By the administrative tools

Fig.1.33Hacienda in the Patate Valley, Ecuador

of encomiendas, compartimientos, reducciones, mita and

obrajes, the autochthonous population was controlled and
exploited through various forms of tributes and labour obligations. In the environmentally most suitable areas, large landholdings (haciendas) of powerful criollos were established
(Fig.1.33) which also effectively used the native labour force.
Even after the political independence of Latin-American
states, the Andean space remained by and large in a peripheral position of dependence. In the course of the 19th century,
other European powers, especially the British Empire and the
United States, entered the scene, and exploited a more diversified range of mineral and agricultural products. To facilitate the access to these resources and to transport them to
the export markets, an effective transportation infrastructure
of railways, roads and seaports was established. In the 19th
century, Latin-American states first adhered to the development paradigm of desarrollo hacia afuera (development with
an external export orientation), and later, from the 1930s to
the 1980s, to a desarrollo hacia adentro (development with
an internal orientation based on a protection of national economies). Only in recent years have some countries, foremost
Chile, today also Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador, attempted
to bring their resources more under national control.
Today, the economies of the Andes are in many ways
embedded into the process of global interlinkages. Although,
within a global context, the Andes can still be considered a
periphery, most of its regions and populations are today
influenced by the impacts of modernization, technological
advancements and the various facets of globalization. But
these processes are quite selective in spatial and social terms,
and regional and socio-economic disparities have been reinforced. The large metropolitan centres of Santiago, Caracas,
Bogot and Lima in particular exhibit a range of globalization traits. According to Taylors (2003) classification of


world cities, Santiago is a gamma world city, defined as a

city that links smaller economic regions into the world economy. In terms of the Global City Competitiveness Index of
the Economist Intelligence Unit, Santiago ranks 68th, Bogot
89th, and Medelln 96th in the world. Marked spatial and
socio-economic disparities are also apparent within urban
regions. Here pockets of high development, modernity and
affluence in the central business district, modern shopping
centres or elegant gated communities contrast sharply with
the new peripheries of extensive marginal shanty towns and
blighted inner city areas. At the larger regional level, islands
of relatively high development, for example the prime destinations of world tourism, modern industrial centres or
advanced export-oriented agricultural regions, contrast with
rather stagnant and poor rural regions. Finally, on the continental level of South America, the Andean states, possibly
with the exception of Chile and Argentina, continue to be
countries of lower development indices.

1.5 Potential of the Natural Environment

The potential of the natural environment of the Andes is
determined by the geomorphological structure and mineral
resources (Sects.1.2 and 2.1), the topography, the climate,
the diversity of vegetation and fauna, the soils and the water
resources in their suitability for human and animal consumption, agricultural potential and as a source of energy,
as well as their scenic qualities.

1.5.1 Climatic Diversity in Relation

to Latitudinal and Hemispheric Location,
Elevation and Topography
The Andes exhibit a sharp contrast between the humid
windward flanks and the drier leeward sides of the cordilleras. A good example for this is the Peruvian sierra. In
the eastern foothills and the adjacent mountain slopes, the
humid winds of the low pressure systems of the Amazon
basin contrast sharply with the arid and semi-arid conditions in the Pacific coastal plain and the western side of the
sierra, a result of the Pacific high pressure cell and the cold
Humboldt (Peruvian) Current.
Contrary to the designation of seasons according to temperature criteria, the seasons in the Andean space are distinguished by the cycle of wet and dry periods. The rainy season
is called invierno (winter), the drier months verano (summer).
This is a logical designation, as in the tropical regions the average monthly temperatures show only small variations. Here
the differences between day and night temperatures are significant, and one speaks therefore of a day climate. In contrast,
in the extra-tropical zone, south of the Tropic of Capricorn, in
the Chico Norte, the central and southern parts of Chile, and


in the Argentinian cordilleras, the annual temperature amplitude is greater than the daily one. These climates are referred
to as westwind climates, according to Kppen/Geiger as
C climates. In this zone, once again, the Andes act as a marked
climate barrier. In central and especially in southern Chile, the
ascending westerlies bring large amounts of precipitation to
the Pacific side of the cordillera, whereas the leeward foothills
in Argentina remain rather dry. Along a profile in the area of
Puerto Aysn (45 10S) in southern Chile, over a horizontal
distance of only 40km, the average yearly precipitation drops
from some 5,000mm to only 300mm.
In the tropical Andes, the so-called arid diagonal is a significant climatic feature with major human consequences. This
zone extends from the coastal areas of Ecuador near the equator southwards along the Pacific lowlands into Peru and northern Chile, and in a southeasterly direction across the Altiplanos
of southern Peru and Bolivia to the eastern foothills of northwestern Argentina. The driest parts are found in the Atacama
Desert, where average yearly precipitation is near zero.
In Fig.1.34 the higher altitudinal zones above those of
the tierra fra are designated as C climates in the Kppen/
Geiger classification, on the criterion that the mean annual
temperature is below 18. This may be misleading, as
C climates are commonly associated with extra-tropical,
temperate areas. It would therefore be more justified to refer
to these climates as mountain varieties of a tropical climate.

1.5.2 Geomorphological Configuration

and Climatic Processes
In addition to the tectonic structures, bedrocks and surface
materials, the climate is a major agent in the formation and
configuration of relief features. It is responsible for the
type and intensity of weathering, for erosion and denudation processes, for the transport of materials and for their
accumulation. Physical weathering prevails in the arid and
also in extremely cold environments; chemical weathering
is dominant in humid and warm climates, and also in limestone regions.
In arid climates and in wind-exposed areas, aeolian denudation and transportation is prevalent; whereas in humid climates,
fluvial processes are the main agents for erosion, transportation
and sedimentation. But many areas experience a combination
of physical and chemical weathering and mixed forms of erosion, denudation, forms of transport and accumulation.
Figure 1.35 shows the principal climatic-geomorphological regions of South America (adapted from Wilhelmy
1974), primarily based on ecological criteria. The following major zones can be distinguished: in the permanently humid zones of the inner-tropical climate (zone 12
on Fig.1.35), the relief features are far less influenced by
the type of bedrock than in other zones. The petrographic
differences are largely obliterated by the intensity of the


1.5 Potential of the Natural Environment

















Tropic of Capricorn


Tropic of Capricorn








K. Heinrich, IGF, 2013
after W. Kppen, 1961


K. Heinrich, IGF, 2013
after H. Wilhelmy 1974


First letter:
E Ice climates

warmest month < 10C

Warm temperate climates

coldest month
18C to 3C

Dry climates

Dry season
despite summer
Dry season in winter

Third letter:
a warmest month > 22C
b warmest month < 22C

at least 4 months > 10C

fewer than 4 months

> 10C

all months above 18C

Mean temperature

Second letter:
S Steppe climate
W Desert climate
f all months with
sufficient precipitation
m Equatorial climate
despite dry season
(e.g. monsoon)

Tropical climates

dry-hot, annual
temperature > 18C
dry-cold, annual
temperature < 18C

Fig. 1.34Climatic differentiation of Latin America, following


chemical weathering processes. Nevertheless, even the inner

tropics exhibit geomorphological forms which are related to
a specific type of rock. This is for example the case in the
impressive landscapes of tropical cone karst or tower karst.
Outside the permanently humid zone, we find geomorphological forms associated with the wet-dry climatic
regimes (zone 11 on Fig.1.35). Bdel characterizes this
zone as one with an excessive level surface formation. The
deep-reaching weathering in the tropics combined with

Zone 2b: subpolar tundra zone

Zone 4: humid-temperate forest climate
Zone 5: cold forest steppe, steppe, semi-desert,
desert and high desert climates
Zone 6a: mediterranean winter rain areas
Zone 7: humid subtropics
Zone 8: dry subtropics
Zone 9: subtropical-tropical desert climates
Zone 10: dry tropical rim
Zone 11: wet-dry tropics
Zone 12: moist year-round tropics

Fig. 1.35Climatic-geomorphological zones of Latin America after

Wilhelmy, modified

a seasonal intensity of precipitations has caused extensive

processes of sheet erosion (Fig.1.36) and sheet floods. This
has resulted in large-scale plantations of the terrain. In some
cases, one can find an older peneplain up to 30m below the
surface level, a testimony of a former climatic period.
Among the planation zones, Bdel also identifies an arid
to semi-arid zone of preservation or successive remodeling
of pediments (Fig.1.37). Among those, Wilhelmy counts
the geomorphological features of the semi-arid or arid margins of the tropical area and the subtropical desert regions
(zones 9 and 10 of Fig.1.35). Generally, with growing aridity, the intensity of physical weathering processes increases.
This becomes evident in the formation of hard surface
crusts, and also of tafoni (Fig.1.38), and to a splitting of



Fig.1.39Core splitting in granite, Chilean Little North

Fig.1.36Sheet flood, Argentinian Andes

Fig.1.40Rock peeling (desquamation) in the Chilean Little North

Fig.1.37Pedimentin the Atacama, near the Llullaillaco volcano, Chile

Fig.1.38Tafoni formation in the Chilean Big North

rocks (Fig.1.39). But the most evident geomorphological

features in the semi-arid and arid Andes are the extensive
pediment surfaces. They originate at the foot of the mountains and extend as inclined planes of the sediment-covered
glacis. Finally, the large salt pans (salares) in the basins
with an interior drainage are a further typical landform of
the semi-arid/arid zone.
In the seasonally humid tropics, the combined action
of frost weathering, thermal insulation, and hydration is
particularly evident. In the areas of granitic rocks, large
accumulation of boulders, and processes of tafonization and desquamation can be observed (Fig.1.40). Here,
the rill erosion and gullies which can eventually result in
the formation of badlands, as well as extensive sheet erosion and denudation processes, characterize the mountain
Different conditions and features prevail in the nontropical, seasonally humid and moderately humid forest
climates (zones 7 and 8 of Fig.1.35). Among these, the
Mediterranean climate of Central Chile (Cs climate in
the Kppen-Geiger classification) and the moderately


1.5 Potential of the Natural Environment

warm, winter-dry climate of northwestern Argentina (Cw

climate in the Kppen-Geiger classification) are particularly noticeable. The typical karst phenomena, typical for
Mediterranean regions, are not found in Central Chile, as
carbonate rocks only occur in the most southern parts of
the country. Instead, broad, torrent-like valleys are characteristic landform features. These extensive river beds
exhibit massive accumulations of gravel in the dry summer months and are often filled with floodwater in the
humid winter.
In the winter-cold steppe climates of Argentinian
Patagonia, the vast plateau to the east of the Andes is covered by fluvio-glacial deposits and ground moraines. The
rock layers close to the cordillera have been affected by
lifting processes, as evidenced by the occurrence of table
mountains and cuestas (Fig.1.41). Finally, in the temperate
humid forest climates of western Patagonia (Chico Sur) in
Chile, the geomorphological features have been modeled by
the action of glaciers and the sea forming impressive fjord

Fig.1.41Table mountain, Neuqun, Argentina

1.5.3 WaterThe Elixir of Life

The Andes are the major water tower of South America. They
are the source regions of the Amazon, Orinoco, Magdalena
and Cauca rivers, the western tributaries of the Paran River
and the Ro Negro and Ro Chico in Patagonia, all draining
into the Atlantic Ocean and forming large drainage basins. The
rivers emptying into the Pacific are much shorter and have less
volume of water. However, they too are of vital importance
for the water supply of the Andean states. Among these rivers with less reliable water volumes are the Esmeraldas and
Daule rivers in Ecuador, the comparatively short Pacific rivers
of Peru feeding the major coastal cities and river oases, and
the many rivers in Chile, among them the Copiap, Maule
and Bo Bo. In the arid regions of southern Peru and northern Chile, some of the smaller rivers may dry up during long
rainless periods, others are almost entirely fed by mountain
glaciers. The Ro Loa of northern Chile, for instance, carries
enough water in its upper mountainous course and therefore
successfully traverses the Atacama, the driest desert on earth,
and eventually still reaches the Pacific Ocean. This river is not
only of major importance for the water supply of settlements,
but also for the copper mines, which results in problems and
conflicts in terms of water distribution and water pollution.
The larger rivers of western Patagonia, in turn, the Baker
and the Pascua rivers, have their sources on the eastern side
of the cordillera and cross the mountain chain in impressive
epigenetic transverse valleys. In spite of the modest volume
of water of the Pacific watershed, the rivers draining into the
Pacific Ocean, because of their high relief energy (Fig.1.42),
have a significant potential for hydro-electric power. Whereas

Fig.1.42Waterfall on a basalt formation near the Puyehue volcano,


only few of the Pacific rivers are navigable in their lowest parts of the coastal plains, among them the Esmeraldas
and Daule in Ecuador, the large rivers flowing towards the
Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean have always been
major transportation arteries and are the principal lanes for
settlement and economic activities. The water resources of the
Andes are discussed in more detail in Sect.2.8.

1.5.4 Soils and Their Importance for Agriculture

Determining factors for the formation of soils are the parent
rock material, climate and vegetation. In humid regions,
the moisture in the soils has a descending tendency, and the
minerals are transported into deeper levels of the subsurface.

representation of soil
formation in Latin America
(modified after Barth 1977: 89
and Borsdorf etal. 1982: 14)




Thorn bush






> 10

(in mm)

> 1800




< 300


c >> p




c << p




grey desert

Duration of dry
season (months)








Design: K. Heinrich, IGF 2013

modified after Barth 1977 and
Borsdorf et al. 1982


In arid regions, in contrast, an ascending movement of moisture brings the minerals closer to the surface. Figure1.43
portrays in a generalized fashion, the formation of soils in
relation to varying climate and vegetation conditions.
The wet equatorial space is characterized by a specific
soil handicap. Here the minerals essential for plant growth
are rapidly transported by the action of excessive precipitation to depths beyond those of the root systems, which
results in a thick B-horizon of up to 30m. The plants develop
only rather shallow roots, which means that they have to get
their nutrients from the highest soil levels and the organic
top layers. In many cases, the roots receive their nutrients
primarily via root fungi (Mycorrhiza). This means that the
plants grow on the soil, but they largely do not live from the
soil, as is the case in other ecozones. Therefore, if the forest
cover is removed, often by clearing, the root fungi are dying
and the soil is quickly leached and rendered infertile, also
because this type of soil cannot store the nutrients. The twolayer argillaceous soils of the inner tropics do not have the
capacity to effectively retain and bind the nutrients, as is the
case for the three-layer argillaceous soils of the outer tropics.
Also of little fertility are desert soils, especially when
mineral and salt crusts have formed on the surface. In
the absence of these hard crusts, desert soils are potentially fertile, but the great limiting factor is the scarcity of
water. Therefore, if irrigation water is available, these soils
can be very productive. On the other hand, the fertility of





depletion horizon
sedimentation horizon
(minerals, salts)
raw soil
movement of the water content
lime and salt crust
chemical weathering
physical weathering
formation of nutrients
through hydrolysis

the soils can be impaired once again, if irrigation is not

applied in an appropriate and skilled fashion. A strategy
aimed at a timely drainage of stagnant irrigation water prevents the soils from becoming swampy and saline. In the
Valle Sagrado of Peru, as a consequence of inappropriate
irrigation, large parts of the cultivable land have become
The soil map of Latin America (Fig.1.44) portrays the
distribution of the major types of soils in relation to the prevailing climatic conditions. In the permanently humid and the
sub-humid tropical regions, as well as the wet Atlantic side
of Central America, tropical lateritic soils (ferrosols, acrisols,
lixisols, nitisols, plinthosols) prevail. At the higher altitudinal
levels of the cordillera, regosols, leptosols, andosols and also
polygonal soils are found. In central Chile, Mediterranean
soils are characteristic. The arid regions lend themselves only
to scant soil formation. The Atacama and Peruvian coastal
deserts are thinly covered by grey desert soils. Section 2.7 discusses the soils of the Andean space further.

1.5.5 Ecosystem Functions of the Andes

The Andes fulfil many functions for the entire ecosystem of
South America. As stated above, they offer an indispensable
water potential for the mountains, the neighbouring arid and
semi-arid coastal strip, and the adjacent eastern foothills.


1.5 Potential of the Natural Environment


Tropic of Capricorn

Cartography by
K. Heinrich, IGF, 2013
based on Diercke Weltatlas 2008

Gley podsols and moor podsols

Czernozems (czernozem and czernozemic steppe soils)
Brown earths, lessivs
brown mediterranean soils (including some Terra rossa)
grey and cinnamon-coloured semi-arid desert and desert
rim soils (incl. some Zerozems)
soil-like and soilfree sediments of full deserts
red and yellow podsols
dark clay soils (vertisols and tirse)
oxisols of the dry savannahs and dry forests
(in part lateritic)
lateritic soils (latosols, ferralitic soils)
mineralic and hydromorphous soils (riparian forests,
marshes, moors) and alluvial soils
mountain forms of the relevant soils
(e.g. podsols = mountain podsols)
grey mountane forest and mountain steppe soils

Fig.1.44Latin-American soils after Hintermaier/Zech

For instance, the intensive agricultural activities and

highly productive cultivation of a wide range of products
for domestic and international markets in the river oases
of Peru, the vineyards of the central valley in Chile and of
the Rioja and Mendoza regions or the sugarcane plantation
in the Tucumn area in Argentina would not exist without the water from the Andes. As the supply of the urban

populations is at times and in certain parts precarious, the

vital importance of the water tower of the Andes cannot be
overstated and the future management of a sustained provision of the population with water is a major challenge for
national governments.
The rich and highly diversified vegetation and the high
genetic potential of the Andes represent a unique wealth in
biodiversity. The forests and grasslands of the cordilleras
and their adjacent lowlands are indispensible in helping to
attenuate climatic hazards, to preserve the air quality and
to reduce greenhouse effects. Furthermore, the timber and
grassland resources have been vital for Andean people as
fuel, construction material and feed for their domestic animals. The vegetation and the cultigens have also for many
centuries provided the Andean population with a solid nutritional basis at different altitudinal levels, up to the highest
parts of the Andean ecumene. A major challenge for the
future will be to adequately protect the Andean biodiversity
while responding to the need for sustainably feeding the
local people, as well as to develop market opportunities for
a range of agricultural products.
The wealth of the Andes in minerals is legendary and
even today the ores are highly coveted resources on the
world markets. Within the cordilleras, precious metals,
copper, zinc, tin, lithium and some rare ores are of major
importance; in the eastern foothills also oil and natural gas

1.5.6 The Andean EnvironmentA Source

of Natural Wealth or an Ecological

un pas rico! (We are a rich country!) is a slogan one can hear everywhere in the Andean realm. By this
statement people refer primarily to the wealth in natural
resources, the diversity of agricultural activities, to their cultural traditions and achievements, to their family and community bonds and also to their beautiful mountain sceneries
and sacred sites. To a critical observer, though, the economic
and social realities seem to contradict this optimistic view.
Over-generalizing slogans do not truly reflect the complex realities of Andean environments and livelihoods. They
seem to adhere to a concept of geodeterminism, which has
been rejected by geographers for a long time. Neither the
topographic configuration, nor the climate, nor the type
and quantity of natural resources, or even less the perceived
qualities of people ultimately determine the level of success
and wealth of a country. For instance, the rainforest may on
the surface appear as a rich natural resource base with an
unlimited potential for wood and a promising future for settlers. The massive clearing of these forests, the negative environmental impacts of the removal of natural forests and the



poor suitability of these lands for sustainable agriculture have

proven that these myths are untenable. The opposite position
adheres to the concept of the ecological handicap of the tropics. This theory is based on the undisputable fact that tropical
soils, except for volcanic soils, are rather poor and not very
suitable for a sustained agriculture without any crop or field
rotation. However, it has been shown that traditional or new
forms of agricultural activities that are perfectly adapted to
the environmental conditions, various forms of agro-forestry,
or alternative options for development (e.g. eco-tourism) can
be a successful option. With respect to the availability of
mineral resources, a long-term guarantee of national wealth
and secure livelihoods for local population is not necessarily
linked to a rich base of natural resources.
Fig.1.46Thaddus Haenke, Kupferstich von Vinzenz Grner

1.6 German and International Research

on the Andes
1.6.1 German-Language Research
In 1999, the International Humboldt Year was celebrated
in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the Reise in die Aequinoctial-Gegenden des Neuen
Kontinents (Travels to the Aequinoctal Regions of the New
Continent) of this famous explorer and scientist, who lived
from 1769 to 1859 (Fig.1.45). The year 1799 can indeed be
considered as heralding the modern geographical and ecological research on Latin America and the Andean space.
Before this time, a number of explorative descriptions
and accounts on South America during the Conquista and
the colonial time were published. Although they rarely
had genuine scientific foundations, they became a valuable
source of information for later geographic and historic studies. A particularly important document was Waldseemllers
map of South America (1507), which for the first time
depicted the continent with a remarkable degree of accuracy,

Fig.1.45Alexander von Humboldt, painting by Fritz Borsdorf

14years before Magellan sailed around South America.

Incidentally, this map was only rediscovered by Austrian
geographer Josef Fischer at the end of the 19th century.
Referring back to the time of Alexander von Humboldt,
the Austrian geographer, botanist and philosopher Thaddus
Xaverius Peregrinus Haenke (17611861; Fig.1.46) has to be
singled out. He excelled in research activities on the Andes
(Gicklhorn-Wien 1966). In Bolivia and Chile, countries not
visited by Alexander von Humboldt, Haenke is still well
known as the gentle conquistador (Markstein 1991). One of
his remarkable findings was the discovery of the value of saltpetre for the production of nitrogen. Other scientists worth
mentioning were the geographer, botanist and zoologist
Eduard Poeppig (17981868); the palaeontologist, botanist
and zoologist Rudolph Amandus Philippi (18081904) and
the natural scientist Bernhard Eunom Philippi (18111852).
Johann Jakob von Tschudi (18181889) published important books on the Quechua language, the Peruvian fauna and
sketches on his journeys through Peru.
At the end of the 19th century, German research on Latin
America focused on regional geographies. A pioneering
contribution in the conceptualization of regional geography
was the Lnderkundliche Schema (Regional Geographic
Scheme 1892) of Alfred Hettner (18591941) which was, at
least in part, based on his empirical research in the cordillera of Bogot. It was Oskar Schmieder (18911980) who
for the first time published a two volume geographic compendium on the New World with a focus on cultural geographical aspects. The first edition of the volume on South
America appeared in 1934; a second edition as late as 1962.
In addition to Oskar Schmieder, after World War II,
Carl Troll (18991975; Fig.1.47) and Herbert Wilhelmy
(19102003; Fig.1.48) were the most prominent researchers on Latin-American geographies. Carl Troll is regarded
as the founder of the field of landscape ecology and of
comparative high mountain geography and ecology. In particular, he is credited for developing a systematic scheme


1.6 German and International Research on the Andes

Fig.1.47Carl Troll, Photograph by J. Ives, ca. 1965

Fig.1.48Herbert Wilhelmy,

of the three-dimensional arrangement of horizontal and

altitudinal belts of climate and vegetation in the Andes and
in other tropical mountain regions. His detailed empirical
observations and succinct classification schemes formed an
indispensable basis for later generations of high mountain
geographers, in particular Wilhelm Lauer.
Herbert Wilhelmys observations and experiences in
the cordilleras of Chile and Argentina laid the foundations
for the development of his climatic geomorphology (1958,
1974). He also wrote a highly acclaimed cultural geography
of South America, with a special emphasis on the cities of
the continent (1952). A summary of his research contribution
on South America was published in 1980. Hans Kinzl (1898
1979) of the University of Innsbruck can be considered the
founder of modern Austrian geographical research on the
Andes. Of eminent importance is his work on the Cordillera
Blanca of Peru. Kinzl was also instrumental in making
Innsbruck a European centre of high mountain research, a
tradition which recently culminated in the establishment of
the Institute for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research of the
Austrian Academy of Sciences.
In the latter part of the 20th century, a number of geography departments in Germany specialized in Latin-American
studies. After Carl Troll the University of Bonn became a
distinguished centre of Latin-American and high m
research. Wilhelm Lauer, Winfried Golte and Jrgen Bhr,
the latter subsequently establishing a Latin-American Center

in Kiel, became reputed scholars with a South-American

focus. In Tbingen (Gerd Kohlhepp, Axel Borsdorf),
Aachen (Felix Monheim, Wolfgang Schoop, Gerrit Kster),
Stuttgart (Christoph Borcherdt, Klaus Kulinat), Hamburg
(Jrgen Ossenbrgge, Beate Ratter, Christof Parnreiter,
Martina Neuburger), Freiburg (Wolf-Dieter Sick), Dsseldorf
(Ekkehard Jordan) and Erlangen (Perdita Pohle), foci of
Latin-American studies evolved, although not necessarily on
the Andes. In Switzerland, the University of Berne acquired
a great international reputation with its research focus on
Latin America, comparative mountain studies and development research. In large parts this was the work of Bruno
Messerli, his successor Heinz Veith and an impressive team
of prominent researchers. Wolf-Dieter Sick did research
in Ecuador, and the University of Gieen implemented a
research station in Santa Marta, Colombia. Unfortunately,
with the demise of regional geography in Germany, the rich
and reputable tradition of German Latin-American research
has suffered in recent decades. New generations of geographers often no longer pursue regional studies and a number
of Latin-American centres have disappeared.
The role of Austria in the exploration of South America
began with the Casa de Austria (Habsburgs on the Spanish
throne) during the time of the Conquista. Later, expeditions
with Austrian participation resulted in new discoveries and
scientific findings. For instance, Samuel Fritz (16541725)
documented his voyage on the Amazon from the cordilleras
to the mouth of the river. For quite some time his map of
the Amazon was the only reliable orientation for the watershed and it even served repeatedly as a reference document
in border disputes. The four expeditions of Martin Gusinde
(18861969) to Tierra del Fuego and to the southern part
of western Patagonia also acquired considerable fame.
Gusinde was the first person who scientifically studied the
large inland ice fields of the Patagonian cordillera.
A major impetus in fostering of Latin-American studies
in Austria came from the foundation of the interdisciplinary sterreichisches Lateinamerika-Institut/Austrian Latin
America Institute in Vienna in 1965 and the Study Group
of Latin-American Researchers in 1983. Among the university departments, Innsbruck (Gerhard Abele, Axel Borsdorf,
Martin Coy, Martina Neuburger) and Salzburg (Christoph
Stadel, Lothar Schrott) established a Latin-American focus.

1.6.2 Contributions of Latin-American,

Anglophone and Francophone Scholars
to Latin-American Research
With the conquest of Middle America and South America,
the Spanish interest in exploring and describing the new continent was awakened. Among the chroniclers who compiled
reports on the conquered lands was Gonzalo Fernandez de


Oviedo (1535 and 15511558). Pedro Cieza de Len (1553)

gave a detailed description of the landscapes and fauna of
the Andes. Garcilaso Inca de la Vega (1609) described the
flora, fauna and landscapes of Peru. Particularly well-known
are the accounts and illustrations of the livelihoods of indigenous populations by the Jesuit Jos Acosta (1590).
In the 18th century, scientific expeditions furnished additional new and more profound findings. Among these, the
voyage (17351745) of the French explorer La Condamine
became particularly famous, as he determined exactly the
position of the equator line. The two Spanish members
of La Condamines expedition, Jorge Juan and Antonio
de Ulloa, published a travel account in 1748 of the ViceRoyalty of Peru, a work which was subsequently translated
into several languages. In their report, they also critically
examined the practices of the Spanish colonial administration. Among the early South-American scientists of the 18th
century, Juan Ignacio de Molina has to be singled out. In
1776 he published a compendium on the geography and
history of Chile and in 1782 one on the natural history of
this territory.
Stimulated by further voyages, the interest in the scientific exploration of the Andes was enhanced and deepened in the 19th century. An outstanding hallmark was the
already mentioned voyage of Alexander von Humboldt
and Aim Bonpland in the Orinoco region and the Andes
between 1799 and 1805. The observations of their experiences and encounters continue to rank among the most
outstanding and succinct scientific travel reports of the
19th century. Following the example of Alexander von
Humboldt, other adventurers and scientists embarked
on further trips to South America, among them Alcide
Dessalines dOrbigny (18021857) and Claude Gay (1800
1873). DOrbigny published his knowledge in nine volumes
(18351847); Gay between 1844 and 1848.
With the growing political and economic influence of
Great Britain in Latin America, British expeditions and scientific journeys became more frequent in the course of the
19th century. One of the most remarkable achievements was
the voyage of Charles Darwin (18021882) who sailed in
his legendary boat Beagle around Tierra del Fuego, along
the coast of Chile and Peru, and to the Galpagos archipelago. Darwin reported extensively on his experiences
and observations (1859). Darwins accounts enticed other
British scientists to South America trips. For 15years
Richard Spruce (18171893) explored the Amazon region
from the Andes to the Atlantic estuary. His experiences
were posthumously published in 1908.
Since the 19th century, South-American scientists
have participated actively in the exploration of the Andes.
Particularly remarkable was the work of Fiovanni Battista
Agostina Codazzi (17931859). As the author of the
Geografa Fsica i Poltica de las Provincias de la Nueva


Granada (1853), he can be considered as the founder

of Colombian geography. He also compiled atlases of
Venezuela and Colombia. To honor his name, the Instituto
Geogrfico Agustn Codazzi (IGAC) was founded in 1932.
It houses the cadastral services of Colombia and issues
the major maps and atlases of this country. By now, governmental institutes of geography exist in all Andean countries, most of them being controlled by military agencies:
the Instituto Geogrfico de Venezuela Simon Bolvar;
the Instituto Geogrfico Militar of Ecuador; the Instituto
Geogrfico Nacional of Peru; the Instituto Geogrfico
Militar y de Catastro Nacional of Bolivia; the Instituto
Geogrfico Nacional (formerly Instituto Geogrfico Militar)
of Argentina; and the Instituto Geogrfico Nacional (formerly Instituto Geogrfico Militar) of Chile.
A milestone in the geographical cooperation in the
Americas was the foundation of the Instituto Panamericano
de Geografa e Historia (IPGH) in 1928. All Andean states
are members of this organization. The commissions on history, geophysics and geography are producing important
scientific and technical reports. Regularly appearing publications of the IPGH are the Revista Geogrfica; Revista
Cartogrfica; Revista de Arqueloga Americana y Folklore
Americano; and Boletn de Antropologa Americana.
The 20th century heralded the era of extensive American
geographical research on Latin America and the Andean
region. Isaiah Bowman (18781950) undertook major scientific voyages in the Andes and the Atacama Desert in
the period between 1907 and 1913. His book The Andes
of Southern Peru (1916) can be regarded as a classical
regional geography of an Andean country. Between 1915
and 1935, Bowman was also president of the American
Geographical Society. In the ensuing decades, the prominent geographers included George McCutchen McBride,
Preston E. James and Carl O. Sauer. McBride (18761971)
became well known for his regional geography of Chile
(1935); James (18991986) by the first standard work on
Latin America (1942), which dominated the classrooms
for decades. With his focus on the landscape morphology and his Berkeley School of Cultural Ecology, Carl O.
Sauer (18991975) exerted a major influence on succeeding
generations of North-American and Latin-American geographers. In 1982 Robert C. West (19132001) published
Sauers letters of the year 1942; they give a good overview
of the scientific work of Carl O. Sauer in the Andean region.
The next generation of American geographers who
has undertaken research on Latin America and the Andes
includes a number of prominent representatives; only a
cursory selection of these can be given in this general
overview. As a disciple of Carl O. Sauer, James J. Parsons
(19151997) has published on various themes of the cultural geography of Colombia (1949, 1969). Another eminent scholar with a focus on the Andes was Raymond E.

1.6 German and International Research on the Andes

Crist (19041993), who also published mostly on Colombia

In contemporary Latin-American and Andean research,
North-American and British geographers are making major
contributions. Once again, only a brief overview shall be
given in this book. William E. Denevan has produced an
impressive dossier on traditional cultural landscapes and
indigenous forms and techniques of agricultural resource
management (1971, 1985, 1986, 2001). He also received a
great deal of national and international attention by shattering the myth of pristine landscapes of the Americas prior
to the arrival of the Spanish (1992). Csar E. Caviedes has
done pioneer work on the El Nio and La Nia phenomena (2001a, b) and has also compiled a number of important regional geography textbooks (1984, 1995, together
with Gregory W. Knapp). In addition, he has published on
a number of geopolitical themes (1984, 1988, 1994). On the
latter topic, Jack Child has also made significant contributions (1983, 1985, 1990).
One of the most prominent representatives of Andean
ecological studies is Fausto O. Sarmiento. He made pioneer contributions to the field of Pramo research, arguing
that these unique tropical grassland landscapes cannot be
understood and interpreted solely on the basis of ecological criteria (2000a, 2002, 2012). Sarmiento and Hamilton
also focused on issues relating to the protection of Andean
forests and grasslands. In the studies on cultural ecology and landscapes, outstanding and innovative research
has been produced by Gregory W. Knapp. Other eminent
human geographers who have significantly contributed to
the knowledge of Andean ecology and cultural landscapes
are Daniel W. Gade, Karl Zimmerer, Anthony Bebbington
and the late anthropologist Robert E. Rhoades. Gade (1992,
1999) has excelled by his in-depth knowledge and interpretation of Andean nature and culture. Karl Zimmerer, a
geographer and environmental scientist, is primarily concerned with the interaction of cultural, socio-economic, and
environmental dynamics, as well as with the role of globalization in agriculture, rural livelihoods and biodiversity
conservation. With a regional focus in the Andes on Bolivia
and Peru, he researched on agrobiodiversity change and
resilience related to water resource use and irrigation, and
on spatial interactions involving the role of environmental
factors and social networks in agrobiodiversity farming. A
selection of his more recent publications on Andean themes
is given in the bibliography of this book.
Anthony Bebbington specializes in research on farmer
knowledge, rural livelihoods and agrarian change, and
rural development in mountain communities in Peru and
Ecuador. Some of his more recent studies deal with mining
development and the role of the state in Peru and Ecuador.
Robert E. Rhoades work centered on rural livelihoods, community and sustainability in Andean Ecuador. His major


research was based on extensive collaborative fieldwork

with local indigenous communities in the Cotacachi region
of Ecuador and was published in English and Spanish.
Prominent textbooks on Latin America also include sections on the Andes. These works include the earlier books
by Gilbert (1974), Preston (1979), Odell and Preston
(1978), Blakemore and Smith (1981), and by Morris
(1979). More recent titles are the textbooks by Blouet and
Blouet (1981) and Caviedes and Knapp (1995); the work
by Jackiewicz and Bosco (2008); the book by Gwynne and
Kay (1999); and the frequently appearing editions of the
textbook by Clawson (1997).
In 1963 Latin-American research in North America
received a major impetus by the foundation of the
Committee on Latin American Geography of the
American Association of Geographers (AAG). In 1969 the
Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers (CLAG)
was founded. It developed into an important forum of scientific exchange by the increasingly popular annual meetings held at different places in North America and Latin
America, and by a number of publications, in particular the
CLAG Yearbook: Proceedings of the Conference of Latin
Americanist Geographers. Much appreciated documentations of the state of art of geographical research on Latin
America were the Benchmarks, which were published in
1970, 1980 and 1992. From 2002 the CLAG Yearbooks
were replaced by the Journal of Latin American Geography
which appears twice a year. Since 2005 David Robinson of
Syracuse University has managed the electronic bulletin
CLAGnet ( In addition to these
geographical sources of information, a number of interdisciplinary documentations exist, among them the bi-annual
Bulletin of Latin American Research, which first appeared
in 2002.
Although geographical institutes and societies exist in all
Andean countries, and geography is taught in most universities, the international research status of South-American
geography, possibly with the exception of Chile and
Colombia, lags behind that of other sciences, such as ecology, anthropology and history. Below, a selection of prominent Latin-American geographers is given, although the
authors are aware that this is a subjective and incomplete list.
Pedro Cunill Grau (*1935) must be considered one of
the best reputed and internationally well-known Andean
geographers. Of Chilean origin and later nationalized
Venezuelan, he has published extensively on the Andes,
especially on Chile and Venezuela. He was the first geographer who published a comprehensive book on the entire
Andean realm, with the exception of the Argentinian cordillera. It was published first in French in 1966, with a second
edition in 1980; subsequently also in Spanish (1978).
Prominent contemporary Chilean geographers include
the internationally well-known Hugo Romero, who has


published extensively on a wider range of Chilean topics

and regions, especially on issues of water management,
mining and urban problems. Other Chilean geographers are
Victor Quintanilla, who is an expert on vegetation aspects;
and Adriano Rovira, who focused on urban and regional
development in the South of Chile, Jorge Ortz, Rodrigo
Hidalgo and Hugo Zunino who made significant research
contributions on urban and social topics, especially in the
metropolitan area of Santiago.
Among Colombian geographers, Ernesto Guhl undertook pioneer research work on the Pramo de Sumapaz.
Hctor Rucinque has given a summary of the work on
Colombian geographers in a review article published in
1989. A similar summary of the work of Peruvian geographers appeared in the same journal and same year.
Geographical research on Peru is largely based on the
work of Pulgar Vidal (19112003). Well respected current Peruvian geographers are two representatives of the
Pontificia Universidad Catlica del Per, Nicole Bernex de
Falen and Hildegardo Crdova. Bernex de Falens studies
primarily focus on environmental aspects and on the management of water resources; she also published a regional
geography of Peru. Hildegardo Crdova examined a wide
range of geographical topics, emphasizing urban issues.
He is also the editor of the Revista Geogrfica of the
Panamerican Institute of Geography and History, and of


the journal Espacio y Desarrollo. In Ecuador, the father

of Geography is Francisco Tern who has made numerous
contributions to the regional geography of Ecuador. Today
most geographical research is carried out by members of
the Pontificia Universidad Catlica del Ecuador and the
Instituto Geogrfico Militr. In Venezuela and Bolivia, ecologists, more so than geographers, have acquired an international reputation, in Venezuela in the person of Maximina
Monasterio, in Bolivia Mximo Liberman.
The survey of international geographical research of the
Andes would be incomplete without making reference to
the contributions of French scholars; most of this research
has been published in Spanish or French. Olivier Dollfus
(19312005) counts as the doyen of French Andean geography. Significant work on the glaciers of the Andes has
been made by Bernard Francou. Research on agriculture
has been published by Jean Christian Tulet (Venezuela)
and Pierre Morlon (Peru, Bolivia). Anthony Franqueville
and Jean-Claude Thouret have made major contributions to urban geography. One of the most reputed French
geographers who has worked on a wide range of regional
and socioeconomic topics of Ecuador and Peru has been
Pierre Gondard. A large part of this research was supported and published by the governmental agency Office
de la recherche pour le dveloppement with the Office de la
recherche scientifique et technique outre-mer (ORSTOM).

Factors, Processes and Spaces

ofPhysical Geography

A. Borsdorf and C. Stadel, The Andes, Springer Geography, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-03530-7_2

Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015



Cordillera Fitzroy, Patagonian Cordillera, Argentina


2 Factors, Processes and Spaces of Physical Geography

2.1 Geology and Tectonics

The South-American plate is part of the Gondwana
Supercontinent (Fig.2.1). 140million years ago it disengaged from Africa and drifted westwards through an opening in the Atlantic. This triggered volcanic activity in the
form of broad flows in the interior of the continent and of
innercontinental rift valleys and basins that slowly filled
up. In the west, subduction of marine plates allowed a tectonically active mountain range to emerge that is defined by
volcanism (Fig.2.2)the Andes. The continental crust of
South America kept on expanding and over time subduction
created new ranges in the west so that today the Andes consist of up to three parallel mountain ranges.
The mountain system of the Andes is geologically and
tectonically varied. It is made up of old plate remnants,
new parts of the crust, large volcanic deliveries, granitic
intrusions and in parts also of sediment parcels (Fig.2.3).
Climate, weathering and erosion have contributed in different ways to shaping todays form. Weathering has created
woolsack forms on granitic intrusions; impressive valley
scenery has evolved in the semi-arid Argentinian cordillera (Fig.2.4), glaciation has led to the emergence of an
alpine mountain type in the cordillera of Tierra del Fuego
The eastern foredeep of the Andes is filled with thick
Tertiary and Quarternary sediments, the scree of the rising
Andes. The parts of the South-American Gondwana block
that moved far west and then submerged rise up only occasionally as sierras pampeanas.
In geologic-tectonic terms there is no joining connection via the Caribbean between South America and North
America. Such a connection did not emerge until the

Fig.2.1Tectonic plates in
South America

Fig.2.2The Villarrica
volcano, Chile, after the 1971

Jurassic, and South and Middle America were only joined

in the Tertiary by the Central-American isthmus. An old
volcanic arc (the Antilles) runs between North America and
the large Northern Boundary Fault of South America. On
its western edge it presses against the Pacific Cocos Plate,
represented by an arc of volcanos, some of which are still
active today. Mighty tholeiitic magma series were welded
to the northwestern corner of South America. The fast westward movement of South America led to diversification at
its northern edge and to a bending of the cordillera strands.
Between them isolated blocks (e.g. Santa Marta) are found
and between those, deep gorges that are still being filled up
(e.g. Maracaibo).
In the south, too, the link to the Antarctic via Tierra del
Fuego and the Antarctic Peninsula is not a direct continuation of the South-American Andes. The former Gondwana
Continent broke up, the plates moved from east to west, an
outer magmatic arc formed.
To this day the Andes are shaped by activity in the
interior of the earth. Such activity comes from plate









2.1 Geology and Tectonics

tectonics, the oceanic plates (Cocos Plate, Nazca Plate,

Antarctic Plate) moving under the continental plate that
is coming in from the east, with sharp delineation in the
north to the Caribbean and in the south to the Antarctic.
Figure 2.6a gives an schematic view on major processes
shaping the face of a continent plate like South America.
Figure 2.6b shows the geologic composition of South
The striking orography of the Andes is by no means due
to any uniform orogenesis. On the one hand, different plates
were subducted by marine plates, on the other, the subduction angles varied considerably, resulting in quite diverse
accretion at the plate boundaries. The different depths of the
seismic centres situated along these moving areas, which
can be measured with seismographic methods, give us a
clue to the subduction angles.
If during subduction much material of the rising plate
(South-American Continental Plate) is pulled under, often
by stretching the surface, then the crusts thicken considerably and melt in the deep. By and by, these molten
magmas re-enter the emerging mountain range as they
slowly cool (intrusiva, e.g. granite masses), crystallize
gravitatively in the process (the crystallization differentiation causing ores to form) and, in the last phases of cooling, generate hydrothermal and pegmatitic-pneumatolitic
seams with rich seams of gold, silver or spar. If these
seams are exposed to weathering and erosion, secondary deposits form, which are washed out into the rivers as
placers. Often the molten material seeped into the original rocks, this is how the copper ores in Chile developed
In weakened places, however, the magma can rise
quickly, which is how the many volcanos of the cordilleras came into existence. There have been disastrous
eruptions in recent times. In 2009 the town of Chaitn in
western Patagonia was completely destroyed by a volcanic eruption; in 2011 the eruption of the Cordn Caulle
(Puyehue Volcano) in Chile resulted in metre-high ash
deposits, which even affected Argentinian Switzerland
around Bariloche (Rovira etal. 2013). The Tungurahua
Volcano in Ecuador is another example of recent volcanic
More volcanoes are situated along both sides of the
volcanic line because there both the western and the eastern cordillera are characterized by volcanic activity. While
these are all stratovolcanoes, they still display great variability in form and type of rock (Fig.2.8).
The Andean volcanoes have been continuously active
since the end of the Cretaceous and have intensified their
activity in the last 100million years. Such transport of
swallowed material along the subduction area is also called
tectonic erosion. On the surface this led to the formation of
several broad Andean ranges of different ages. The eastern

Fig.2.3Folding in the cordillera of north Ecuador

Fig.2.4Cordillera of the Salta region, Purmarca Valley, Argentina

Fig.2.5Cordillera near Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina


2 Factors, Processes and Spaces of Physical Geography


air streams


deep sea



flora & fauna


climate dynamics



oceanic circulation


mantle processes

sea floor

Cartography: T. Tpfer, IGF, 2014



Tropic of Capricorn

K. Heinrich, IGF, 2012
after H. Gerth 1955 and
Harms: Handbuch der
Erdkunde, vol.V, Amerika

crystalline Archaeozoic and Palaeozoic

palaeozoic and mesozoic top layers
mesozoic lava and basalt layers, in places under the top
tertiary and quaternary sediments
sub-Andean fold and fracture regions
Chilean-Argentinian cordillera, Jurassic and Late Cretaceous
western cordillera (mainly Late Cretaceous)
mainly plutonic rocks
dissected eastern puna grassland
puna rump
Palaeozoic and pre-Cambrian of the eastern cordillera and
the outer cordilleras
south-Andean Cretaceous geosynclinal (marine Late and
Early Cretaceous)

Fig.2.6a Processes influencing a continent system (Source: Harms 2014: 6, heavily modified). b Geological composition of South America


2.1 Geology and Tectonics

cordillera of the northern Andes is comparatively calm

today. It is the oldest cordillera in South America and has
inclusions of many sedimentary rocks.
If, however, the upper continental plate pushes the material in front of it (sediments and ocean floors) along on
its western rim, stacking and raising of often folded and
metamorphically changed material from the edges of the
South-American continental plate occurs and forms coastal
cordilleras (Fig.2.9). There is less volcanic activity and
what remains is limited to the higher cordillera ranges. In
the northern part (Colombia and northern Ecuador), a wide
belt of oceanic crust with thick young tholeiitic basalts has
been thrust together.
Overall the Andes are asymmetrical: in the west they
fall off steeply to the edge of the plate and to the Peru-Chile

Fig.2.7Copper mine La Escondida, Chile

Fig.2.8Avenue of the
volcanoes, Ecuador (after Collin
Delavaud etal. 1982)































fault line

25 km

K. Heinrich, IGF, 2013
Based on data from


2 Factors, Processes and Spaces of Physical Geography

Trench, with nearly 14km altitudinal difference, the highest

relative relief found on earth. On the eastern side the foothills
flatten out gradually. On both sides of the ranges the inclination of the slope is very steep, but there are also depressions

in the interior, of tectonic origin, in the shape of intramontane

basins (Altiplano) or rift valleys (Chilean Longitudinal Valley,
Cauca and Magdalena valleys, Fig.2.10). These are being continuously filled in with erosion products or by volcanic activity.

The Formation of the Highest Mountain in the Andes

At 6,962m the Aconcagua is the highest peak of the American cordilleras. Its geological formation is complex.
The central Chilean-Argentinian cordillera is the result of plate tectonics. The oceanic Nazca Plate was pushed into
and subducted under the continental South America Plate. According to the law of isostasy (equilibrium) the lighter
continental plate is lifted. In this process magma from the oceanic plate can rise along the fault lines and form active
However, the subduction angle varies. In the area of the Aconcagua it is relatively flat, getting steeper to the
south. In the flatter area, folds and thrust faults appear, in steep areas active volcanoes form. This explains why the
Tupungato, south of the Aconcagua, is a volcano, while the Aconcagua is the result of a folding process.
And yet, the Aconcagua initially (late Cretaceous to the early Miocene) was an active volcano. At that time subduction still occurred at a steeper angle, which explains the volcanic rocks found as lava, breccias and pyroclastic
rocks along its flanks. During the Miocene the subduction angle flattened. This stopped volcanic activity and led to
thrust faults and folding processes, during which the Aconcagua was separated from its magma base as Mesozoic
rocks were thrust underneath. The Aconcagua can thus not be called a volcano even though volcanic activity contributed to its formation.
Aconcagua High cordillera
Outer cordillera Sierra

Zone without volcanic activity

Coastal Cordillera


C hi l e - P e r u - Tr e n c h



Coastal cordillera



Oceanic Plate

oceanic crust
erupted material



100 km

Block diagram of Aconcagua and Tupungato (after Ramos 1996)

K. Heinrich, IGF, 2013
after Ramos 1996


2.1 Geology and Tectonics

The Tungurahua Volcano in Ecuador

The tenth-highest mountain in Ecuador (5,023m) is situated in the eastern Andean cordillera (1.45S, 78.43W) and
is one of the most active volcanoes of the northern Andes. It is a stratovolcano with steep flanks (3035) and a crater
300m wide and 100m deep. Five main phases of eruptive activity (16401641, 17731777, 18861888, 19161918,
1999present) have been recorded since the Spanish conquest (1534). They are characterized by tephra, pyroclastic
streams, lava streams and lahars (Ruiz 2007). The volcano resumed activity in 1999, with further eruptions in the
years 2008, 2010 and up to the present.
In recent eruptions rains of ash and tephra occurred predominantly on the western flank of the volcano. Huge
clouds of steam and ash formed a mushroom cloud, up to 7km high, above the volcano. On a scale from white to
yellow to orange to red, the risk level has been raised to orange and even red. In the village of Baos and in the surrounding villages emergency has been declared repeatedly and up to 26,000 people have been evacuated several
times on orders of the government. At the same time the roads between Riobamba and Puyo and between Ambato
and Puyo were closed. However, the inhabitants keep returning to their villages and the tourists also appreciate the
landscape and the hot springs and keep coming back.

Tungurahua, Ecuador

Ausbruch des Tungurahua, Ecuador

The Andes have been lifted in several phases which is

why in the larger valleys several systems of rocky terraces
have been retained one above the other (Fig.2.11). A large
part of the Andes has been eroded during its formation, the
debris has collected and some of it has been heated up during subduction along the thrust area and been moved up
again as magma or other volcanic material. This cycle produces new mixtures in the mineral composition as well as
an enrichment of some elements, which explains the occurrence of ores at concentrations that make mining feasible.
If we trace the Andes from north to south, we notice some
peculiarities. In the northern Andes the cordilleras fan out
along the Oca Fault that runs west to east. It is the cause of
many displacements in a north-easterly to south-westerly direction, e.g. the Bocon Fault. The eastern ranges of the cordilleras are pushed to the north. Between the ranges of the central
cordillera, the Santander Massif, the Santa Marta Massif and
the Venezuelan Andes, depression basins and trenches form as

Lahar am Tungurahua, Ecuador

Fig.2.9Coastal cordillera at Valdivia, Chile


Fig.2.10Ro Magdalena Valley, Colombia

Fig.2.11Terrace systems in the Chota Valley, Ecuador

Fig.2.12Cordillera Real in Bolivia

2 Factors, Processes and Spaces of Physical Geography

the result of stretching. The Magdalena and the Cauca valleys,

the Catatumbo Basin and the Maracaibo Basin, which became
famous for the oil found there, emerged in this way. During the
Tertiary they filled up in the course of several thrusts, sometimes with sediments thousands of metres thick, and in some
cases they were pushed together again.
The hydrographic systems repeatedly present depressions
or reduced lifts. This explains why, possibly into the Tertiary,
the Amazon ran through the Andes and into the Pacific.
In the northern central partin Peru and Boliviathe
Andes reach their greatest width. A number of ranges and
a large central depression, the Altiplano, here form a mountain system of 800km in width, with very steep escarpments, accompanied by faults. To the west they fall off to
the oceanic trench and to the east, via the yungas, to the
Amazon Basin. The impressive volcanoes of the eastern
cordillera, locally known as Cordillera Real, rise from the
Altiplano (Fig.2.12). To the east it is followed by deep
drainage gorges. Enormously thick layers of debris from the
soaring cordilleras have settled in the east since the Tertiary.
Near Salta these are up to 6,000m deep. To the east the
central Andes fall off steeply.
Old rock series from the edge of the former Gondwana
continent have been worked into the Cordillera Real. This
zonefrom Lake Titicaca via Cochabamba and Potos to
Santa Cruzholds the mineral wealth of Bolivia (tin, silver, lead, bismuth, etc.). During the long development of the
Gondwana complex, with its repeated formation, denudation
and accumulation, as well as phases of heating up and repeated
lifts in the westward thrust of the South-American plate, mineral deposits formed that are rich enough to warrant mining.
The southern central Andes in Chile are characterized
by a clear division into the three sections of coastal cordilleraLongitudinal Valleyhigh cordillera. The coastal
cordillera in the west of the continent is an old mountain
rump with Palaeozoic elements. Again in the Triassic and
Jurassic periods, thick rock strata were deposited along
the former western edge of Gondwana. They are geosynclines, some thousand metres thick, intensively folded and
later deformed. Fault tectonics led to the emergence of
basins between the mountains (Fig.2.13). Figure2.14 is a
cross-section through the central Andes at the latitude of
the Tropic of Capricorn and includes old Gondwana rocks,
young volcanic rocks and tectonic faults.
In Chile the coastal cordillera is strengthened by granite intrusions of Patagonian batholith, which is covered by
crusts of sediment. Separated by severe folding, this is followed by troughs filled with debris. A very attractive landscape of often very regular stratovolcanoes (Fig.2.15) sits
on the Chilean high cordillera, which becomes the western
cordillera north of the Llullaillaco. These volcanoes dominate the landscape far into the south of Chile.


2.1 Geology and Tectonics

The coastal cordillera includes at the bottom repeatedly

folded strata of the old Gondwana base. There are also
traces of the sea coming in from the Pacific in the form
of rare limestone, important for cement production. The
large Longitudinal Valley is a tectonic depression, densely
populated and used for agriculture. It probably emerged
as a result of isostasy and thus with a lifting of the high
cordillera: a subsidence in one area, with sediment deposit,
while large volcanoes establish elsewhere, a development
that started in the Neogene and continues to the present.
The Chilean-Argentinian high cordillera is not homogenous
either. During the westward movement of the continent great
numbers of vulcanites were formed here. Regular-shaped stratovolcanoes sit on a prophyrite basement that has been thrust
up to 4,000m in some places while in other places it is only
thinly interspersed with land or ocean sediments. This landscape was formed by a varied and repeatedly shifted movement
of this continental orogeny, with diverse lifts and subsidences.
This massive porphyrite formation hosts one of the
largest copper ore deposits in the world. Copper-rich solutions soaked into the igneous rock and often collected and
enriched along faults on the western side of the Andes as
massive large diffusion deposits in places with abysses
and breccias. Leaching as well as enrichment by oxidation
reflect the varied history of the high Andes of the southern
central cordilleras. The flow of volcanic rock from the basement across long periods of time, accompanied by enrichment processes, also produced other deposits, e.g. those of
wulfenite, mercury and lithium, the latter also as lithium
chloride in brines and salt lakes (salares). The profitability
of the rich ore deposits, however, depends on global market
demand and accessibility of the deposit. The lithium from
the Salar de Atacama in Chile (Fig.2.16) and the Salar de
Hombre Muerto (Argentina) is an increasingly important
raw material used in the production of long-life batteries.
Further south, at ca. 45S, in the Golfo de Penas, the large
oceanic structure of the Chile Ridge in the Pacific hits the
mainland, as is well documented in seismic activity. Here the

through the central Andes,
from Antofagasta (northern
Chile) to Tarija (southern
Bolivia); adapted after Zeil

Fig.2.13Intra-mountain basin in the coastal cordillera, central Chile

Nazca Plate, which subducts by up to 8.4cm/year below the

South-American Plate, borders on the Antarctic Plate, which
delves under the Patagonian Plate with a reduced speed of
only 34cm/year. In this process, igneous rock can crystallize and large granite complexes dominate. Volcanic activity
is diminished, except for the northern rim of this zone, where
the eruptions of the Hudson Norte (1991) and Chaitn (2008)
are proof of ongoing strong volcanic activity. Their lahars
destroyed whole villages, the inhabitants were evacuated.
During the Cretaceous and the Tertiary there were geosynclines on both sides of the Patagonian cordillera, with
sediments including flysch, quite similar to the Alps. These
rocks are folded and have in places been covered. On Tierra
del Fuego there are molasse sediments reaching on to the
Patagonian Crust. In the foreland basins of the mountains,
raw oil deposits formed, which are being exploited in the
Pampa and on Tierra del Fuego, as well as offshore in the
Strait of Magellan.











Andesit formation (Cenozoic)

Rhyolit formation (Cenozoic)
Mesozoic volcanite
Mesozoic-Cenozoic plutonites

Paleozoic plutonites
Mesozoic-Cenozoic sediments
Paleozoic sediments

Pampa-like and
sub-Andean sierras


2 Factors, Processes and Spaces of Physical Geography

Fig.2.17Perforated disc in
the Bogot gold museum

Fig.2.15Stratovolcano Villarrica, Chile

Fig.2.16Lithium production, Salar de Atacama, Chile

2.2 Mineral Deposits

The existence of gold and silver deposits triggered ideas of
a rich country as early as the Spanish conquest (Fig.2.17),
expectations that were only met in part. The mineral deposits are often quite rich but very limited in space.
In the Andes ore deposits must be seen in connection
with igneous and volcanic processes, with rocks being
repeatedly molten and recrystallized during the orogeny.
In some regions, in different phases, at the edge of plates
and mountain ranges, metal elements were mobilized in
the course of severe subsidence. We often find nickel and

cobalt, together with lead, zinc, gold and silver. In Bolivia

they are concentrated in the tin-silver belt, a mineralrich zone in and around the Cordillera Real (Lake Titicaca,
Cochabamba, Oruro, Potos, Fig.2.18). Even if many
deposits have been exhausted by now, the former High Peru
(the Andean part of Peru and Bolivia) still is an important
provider of raw materials for the world market.
Peru is the top silver producer worldwide, second in zinc
and copper, third in lead and wulfenite and fifth in gold. Mining
exports make up two thirds of the countrys export earnings.
Large copper deposits (the Andes hold more than 25%
of global deposits) are found in volcanic rock that has been
thrust up as disseminated deposits when the Andes formed.
Along major tectonic lines and fault zones, the volcanic rhyolite series thrust up from the subduction crust and spread,
enriching deposits in the course of repeated disseminations.
Copper is accompanied by wulfenite as well as by gold
and silver seams. In pre-Hispanic times and in the colonial
period, gold was mainly extracted from unconsolidated sediments of denuded granites, esp. in the gold belt of Peru and
Before the copper mining boom the economy in Chile
was dominated by saltpetre deposits in the north (Fig.2.19).
Chile saltpetre (sodium nitrate) is found in the caliche crust,
formed by rising water, and is extracted by leaching. It is an
important raw material for ammunition and fertilizer production. Now that nitrogen can be extracted from air, saltpetre has lost its former status. The previously flourishing
mining settlements have been deserted (Fig.2.20).
Other, non-metallic deposits are salts, also mined in the
arid parts of the Andes, in Chile and Bolivia. In addition
there are desalination plants at the sea and salt mines, e.g.
in Zipaquir, Colombia. Salts have also formed during the
Late Permian, Middle Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous in
shallow water basins and were later integrated into the cordillera as small salt stocks. Younger salt formations, some
of them still going on today, can be found in the endorheic,
closed tectonic basins and grabens (salt lakes, salares).
They present a high boron content.
The guano deposits from bird excrements are tied to an
arid climate and are found at the coast of southern Peru


2.2 Mineral Deposits

and northern Chile with its rich fish stocks. Recent tectonic movements along the coast heaved terraces covered
with guano into different heights of up to 600m. Other raw
materials are lacking in wide areas, particularly lime for
cement production. Only the Colombian eastern cordillera
and the Patagonian cordillera have large stocks of limestone. Marl is also scarce, but loam (clay and sand) is used
as raw material for adobes and for making rammed earth
walls (Fig.2.21).
The eastern cordillera and esp. the foothills of the Andes
offer rich fossil energy deposits. In Colombia and in southern
Patagonia this means coal, which in Colombia has boosted
heavy industry, insignificant today, and in Patagonia encouraged the passage through the Magellan Strait in the beginnings of steam-ship traffic. Elsewhere, coal deposits are
found under the sea in the ditch below the Chilean precordillera near Coronel, Lota and Schwager. At the foot of the
Andes there are rich deposits of mineral oil and gas, which
can be differentiated into various petrol megasystems along
large tectonic structures. The trans-Andean pipeline transports the oil from the deposits at the Oriente to the refineries
of Esmeraldas at the Pacific coast.
The intracratonal oilfield systems, e.g. the Solimoes
Basin on the border of Peru and Colombia, the western
Amazon Basin or the Chaco-Parana Basin, are situated
along faults of the old South-American Plate. Here the
deposits in dolomites and sands created in the Palaeozoic
have been covered by lavas from the Jurassic and
Cretaceous. They are very rich across large areas, offering
future potential as light oil and gas fields. Great hopes are
based on the sub-Andean foreland basins in the Napo area
of Ecuador, the Salta region in the borderland of ArgentinaBolivia and the Argentinian Neuqun Basin.
Within the geological structures of the Andes, there are
strikingly rich oil deposits in Colombia and particularly in
Venezuela. Between the spreading cordillera ranges at the
northern edge of the continent and as a result of continuous
active transversal movements against the Caribbean, widening basins have formed, subsiding since the Cretaceous, and
particularly during the Tertiary. Sludge-like sediments, fast
rates of deposition, shifts and the cutting off of bitumen-rich
deposits, particularly in the Tertiary, are almost classic situations for the formation of oil fields. Oil production in these
areas, for instance in the Maracaibo Basin and in the lower
and middle Magdalena Basin, in the Guajira Basin and in
the Falcon Basin, achieves the highest South-American production rates (Fig.2.22). In the western cordillera ranges of
Colombia (e.g. in the Perija Andres) and further south down
to the Santa Helena Peninsula in Ecuador, Tertiary shelves,
which also contain oil, were folded in from the Pacific.
They decrease in richness towards the south.

Fig.2.18Potos silver mountain (photograph by Almhofer (2001))

Fig.2.19Saltpetre processing in Maria Elena, northern Chile

Fig.2.20Saltpetre wasteland in the Chilean Atacama Desert


Fig.2.21Adobe brick production in Valle Sagrado, Peru

Fig.2.22A host of oil platforms in Lake Maracabo

2.3 Mountain Relief

The topographic coherence of the Andes across 67 of latitude must not distract from the fact that they are highly differentiated in both geology and geomorphology (cf. on this
and below Wilhelmy 1977). The wealth of forms of the
tropical Andes is characterized by broad rumps, which have
been lifted to great heights and only then been dissected in
places as a result of the great relief intensity. Old, worndown surfaces (Rumpfflchen) are mostly angled near-plains
not influenced by either geological structures or differences
in bedrock. They extend more or less smoothly across bedrock of various degrees of resistance. Normally they emerge

2 Factors, Processes and Spaces of Physical Geography

following the principle of double levelling. A thorough

chemical weathering dissolves the bedrock while on the surface a flat landscape evolves through denudation by running
water and eventually runs in parallel to the lower rock line.
If weathering and erosion occur in equal intensity, it results
in a balance and both levels are lowered at the same time.
In the tropical Andes, the slopes are extensively eroded.
Gully erosion is a widespread phenomenon in these regions.
The rivers have indeed cut into the outer rims of the cordillera
and formed valleys that can rise up to 2,000m, but they rarely
reach far into the the mountains, allowing flat forms to persist.
As even the Pleistocene glaciation was restricted to the higher
elevations, there are no low passes in the tropical Andes.
Outside the snow-covered mountains they therefore resemble uplands that have been gigantically enlarged. Old plains
are also found outside the tropics and there bear witness to an
earlier relief generation (Fig.2.23). Many of them have been
destroyed, however, by more recent erosion processes and by
intensive lifting tectonics so that only small areas remain.
Flat areas may also evolve through pedimentation. Such
landscapes at the foot of mountains are formed by denudation, with only minimal inclination and at their upper edge
are followed by a pediment knick-point and a much steeper
back slope. In the arid Andes they were formed recently, in
semi-arid to subhumid climates they can also occur as the
result of slower formation or as relicts.
Only in the extratropical Andes do narrow valleys, often
created by glaciers as transfluent passes, traverse the mountain ranges, so that many of the rivers in the Patagonian
Andes running into the Pacific originate on the Atlantic side
of the Andes. One tourist attraction is crossing the cordillera (Cruce de Lagos) from Puerto Montt on the Chilean
Pacific coast across the Lago Llanquihue, the Lago Todos
los Santos and the Lago Nahuel Huapi to Bariloche in
Argentina at an altitude of just 976m.
In the tropical Andes the occurrence of glacial forms
is surprisingly meagre compared to other mountain
areas. Valley glaciers like in the Alps never existed in the
Colombian, Peruvian or Ecuadorian Andes. Only peaks
above 4,7004,800m are glaciated there. Even during the
Ice Age, when the snow line was 7001,000m lower than
today, only local plateau glaciers and short valley glaciers
formed. Glaciation is, and always has been, least in the dry
Central Andes, where it is confined to the highest peaks.
Only the soaring mountains on the eastern rim were and
still are covered by thick firn and ice. This is particularly
true for the Cordillera Blanca, where the humid air is forced
to rise and falls as snow at higher altitudes. In contrast, the
Cordillera Negra in the lee remains ice-free.
Tropical glaciers have short tongues, which represent
only a small proportion of the total ice area. Avalanches
only occur within the glacier, except for those triggered by
earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. The mass balance is not


2.3 Mountain Relief

Fig.2.23Old plains in the central Chilean cordillera

determined by temperature but by the change from dry to

rainy season. The situation is different outside the tropical
Andes. There we find a climate of seasons and the higher
the latitude the longer the tongues, representing a greater
proportion of the ice area. In the Patagonian cordillera, the
glaciers may reach the valley or even the sea. In the south,
avalanches are frequent, but as the area is very thinly populated and there is still little mountain tourism, casualties
have largely been avoided.
In the Patagonian and the Tierra del Fuego cordilleras,
ice cover reached its greatest dimension in the Pleistocene.
To this day glaciers dominate the landscape. High precipitation at low temperatures (no monthly average above 1 C)
still feeds the large Northern and Southern Patagonian Ice
Fields (Fig.2.24).
During the last glacial period the snow line at the equator was at around 4,000m altitude, rising to up to 5,500m
at the dry edges of the tropics and in the subtropics. At the
Aconcagua it fell to 4,000m and reached sea level at 50S.
On the humid side of the mountains it was 200300m
lower as on the dry side. The penitentes snow forms are
characteristic for the dry mountain ranges at the edges
of the tropics and in the subtropics. Their shape evolves
through the intensive evaporation and high incoming solar
radiation. It turns the snow fields into closely spaced, tall,

Fig.2.24Northern Patagonian Ice Field

thin blades, pillars or pins of hardened snow or ice, up to

6m in height (Fig.2.25), which look like a procession of
people in white penitential robes. In places several generations of penitentes are stacked one above the other


2 Factors, Processes and Spaces of Physical Geography

The Andes also include karst areas, albeit small in size.

The tropical karst with its domes and cones only occurs
where there is carbonate rock, like in the eastern cordillera in Colombia and near Tingo Maria or Tarma in Peru
(Fig. 2.27). Real karst towers, however, could not develop
as there is no plain at the edge of the karst. Unlike in the
Mediterranean karst, here the full forms dominate. Karst
forms through chemical dissolution of the soluble carbonate
bedrock. In the tropics this process is more intense than in
Europe because of higher temperatures and precipitation. In
massive carbonate bedrock, water collects at the bottom, is
enriched with CO2 as it penetrates the rock, which increases
its dissolution capability. At the basis of the domes, abrasion is strongest and over time creates steep towers and
Fig.2.25Penitentes, at 30S, on the Argentina-Chile border

Fig.2.26Three generations of penitentes

Fig.2.27Tropical domed karst near Tingo Maria, Peru

2.4 Climatic Differentiation

The mountain climate in general is characterized by a distinct differentiation of the individual climate factors, such
as air temperature, radiation, humidity, precipitation and
winds. In the tropical part of the Andes, the daily climate
presents well-balanced day/night periods with high temperature changes within a day but little seasonal differences in
temperature and radiation. While in the inner tropics, seasons hardly differ in temperature, seasonality is distinct in
precipitation terms and well observed by the population.
People in Latin America clearly distinguish between invierno (rainy season) and verano (dry season). The temperature profile was taken down by Carl Troll as early as 1968
in comparative thermo-isopleth diagrams, with particularly
great intraday changes in higher valleys and on the higher
plateaux of the tropical rim (Fig.2.28).
Here thermal opposites are intensified by a marked
incoming and outgoing radiation helped by the relative
local dryness and little vegetation cover. On the Altiplano
in Bolivia, daytime temperatures can reach up to 30 C
and fall at night to below 10 C (Burga 2004: 2224).
Generally the vertical temperature gradient is 0.50.6 C
per 100m on humid slopes and 0.350.5 C on the dry side
of the mountains (Lauer and Erlenbach 1987: 89), albeit
with deviations because of local topographic and ecological
influencing factors.
The high mountain wall of the Andes is a marked climatic divide, separating the Pacific from the Atlantic climate region. Since westerly and easterly winds that start
from different air masses blow across the outer flanks of the
cordillera, the precipitation distribution is quite varied. The
difference between windward and leeward position, intensified by the foehn effect (Fig.2.29), plus the decreasing temperature with rising elevation determine climate and plant
cover. From north to south temperatures change evenly.


2.4 Climatic Differentiation


Punta Arenas, Chile

10 m NN


5310 S
7056 W




10 12


12 10

8 6













015 S
7835 W




Quito, Ecuador
2,850 m NN


July Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec. Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr.



May June




July Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec. Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr.

May June

Fig.2.28Two thermo-isopleth diagrams of Andean places: Punta Arenas at the southern end of the continent, at sea level, and Quito near the
Equator in the tierra fra

The Pacific side of the western cordillera in Colombia

is hit by equatorial westerlies and receives much rain, up
to 10,000mm per annum, i.e. one of the highest precipitations worldwide. Only 200km away, around the Guayas
Gulf, the transition to a dry climate sets in and stays with
the Pacific coast down to 27S. This abrupt change in climate is due to the impact of the cold Humboldt or Peru
Current, which follows the South-American western coast
from south to north until Guayaquil, where it turns off west
into the Pacific and causes a dry climate on the Galpagos
Islands, which lie on the Equator.
Generally the amount of precipitation in the tropical
parts increases with altitude up to middle elevations and
then decreases in the highest mountain areas. Locally and
regionally, however, there can be great differences, particularly between locations at the edge and between the
mountains as well as between windward and leeward positions. Such contrasts are especially marked in the Bolivian
Andes, which made Carl Troll remark in 1929, There may
hardly be any place on earth where climate contrasts come
together so fiercely in such a small space as the humid
Yungas climate, the dry, rough Altiplano climate and the
desert-like subtropical Valle climate, (quoted in Kessler
2004: 457).
Annual precipitation on the east-facing slopes of the
Yungas amounts to between 4,000 and 6,000mm, while on
the Altiplano, at between 3,700 and 3,800m altitude, it ranges
from just 100mm (in the south-western part of the Bolivian
Altiplano) to ca. 800mm at the edge of Lake Titicaca.

Fig.2.29Foehn effects near Quito

In the subtropical and the temperate Andes, marked climatic contrasts occur between the northern latitudes of
the Chilean-Argentinian cordillera, as well as from west
to east between the windward and the leeward sides of the
mountains. The northern part, esp. areas around 20S, are
extremely dry all the way up into very high elevations. Even
the Llullaillaco at 6,739m has no permanent snow or ice
cover because of the low precipitation, which makes it the
highest non-glaciated mountain in the world.


2 Factors, Processes and Spaces of Physical Geography

transect from southern Chile
to the Equator

S 41









1 N




Precipitation [mm]



Fig.2.31El techo, Atacama coastal uplands

South of the Mediterranean transition zone of the

Chilean Andes, with a seasonal regime of southern winter
precipitation and southern summer dryness, in the temperate climate zone south of ca. 38S, precipitation on the
western flank of the Andes increases strongly in both frequency and intensity (Fig.2.30). Temperatures drop, the
proportion of snow in the total precipitation rises and at
ca. 50S the vegetation period is reduced to 34months
(Arroyo etal. 2004: 212213). The rising air on the eastern rim of the tropical Andes creates foehn-type phenomena











































tropical rainy seasons

with dry fallwinds in the west. Because of the windward/

leeward effects of the cordillera, there is a marked contrast
in the southern Andes of the temperate zone between the
extremely wet western flank of the Andes and the semi-arid
eastern side of Argentinian Patagonia.
While cold seawater and the mixture of cold sea air and
overheated land air along the coast allow fog (el techo, the
roof, Fig.2.31), mist (gara) and dew (Fig.2.32) to form,
they bring hardly any measurable precipitation. Above the
techo, the Atacama is largely free of vegetation and counts
as the driest desert on earth. The boundary of the tropics
runs through it.
Only from Small North of Chile onwards does the desert
climate change into a steppe climate, followed around the
latitude of Santiago by the Chilean winter rain area. From
about 40S, the southern Andes lie fully in the westerly zone
of the southern hemisphere and receive high precipitation
all year round, which in western Patagonia may amount to
7,000mm/a. There, over a horizontal distance of just 5080km
to the east, precipitation decreases to just 400mm in the east,
again a result of the windward/leeward effect. Through most of
the Andes this effect means that a very humid side is complemented by a dry one. Ships use the waterfalls that tumble from
the hanging valleys into the fjords for their supply with drinking water (Fig.2.33). The dryness on the leeward side is intensified by a marked foehn effect (called zonda in Patagonia).
The eastern side of the cordillera system is influenced by
the trade winds from north-western Argentina to beyond the
equator. The north-easterly trade winds pick up humidity above
the Amazon and are forced to rise at the edge of the mountains.
From Venezuela to Bolivia they bring ample precipitation to
the Andes. From the tropic to the catchment area of the Ro


2.4 Climatic Differentiation

Fig.2.32Emergence of the
coastal fog on the arid coast
of the Andean countries

warm air

coastal fog
cool air

flow of energy




cloud forest


Colorado, however, they are dry even on the eastern side. Only
the northwestern Argentinian Andes receive summer precipitation, caused by the south-easterly trade winds. Further south
the westerlies rain down on the windward side. There the ice
ages have cut deep fjords and channels that lead into the lateral
valleys via steep steps (so-called hanging valleys).
Thus there is a large South-American arid diagonal running through the Andes from south to north through the
Patagonian pampa. At Mendoza/Los Andes it crosses the
high cordillera, continues into the Small and the Big North
as well as the Peruvian part of the Atacama, and ends near
Salinas on the Pacific coast of Ecuador.
The arid diagonal is the result of the Andean mountain
complex running from north to south. It modifies the climatic belts which normally run more or less parallel with
the latitudes and forms a distinct climatic divide between
humid and arid climates.

2.5 Horizontal and Vertical Climate

andVegetation Zones and Levels
According to Lautensachs concept of geographic change of
forms (1952), four shifts in position determine changes in
geographic forms: planetary change, i.e. changes from north
to south leading to different landscape belts and zones; westeastern, meridional changes in form, e.g. different strips of
landscape with increasing distance from a coast or a mountain range; changes in form from a centre to the periphery,
manifested in concentric rings of landscape types; and hypsometric change of forms in natural and cultural landscapes,
dependent on altitudinal zones and levels. With his pioneering
work on the three-dimensional differentiation of landscapes
across the globe, Troll (1962) pointed out the subdivision of
landscapes and ecology by latitude and altitude and illustrated
this with numerous landscape profiles of mountain areas.

Fig. 2.33A boat refilling its water tanks from the waterfall of a
hanging valley

The Andes, with their enormous north-south extension

and heights ranging from sea level to just under 7,000m,
present an impressive geo-ecological diversity. On a larger
scale, the cordillera system ranges through the landscapes of
the inner tropics, the tropical rim, the subtropics and extratropical areas. Another marked distinction can be observed
in the cross sections from the Pacific coastal regions and the
western foothills across the cordilleras, high basins and valleys of the sierra to the east-facing foot of the Andes facing
the lowlands. Besides relief and climate, the geological and
tectonic criteria greatly contribute to our understanding of
soils and vegetation and the Andean geo-ecology.
The impressive vertical subdivision of the mountain
regions (Fig.2.34) into altitudinal zones by climate, vegetation and soil has been examined since the pioneering works
of Alexander von Humboldt in a wealth of international and

Fig.2.34Altitudinal zones
of the Andes, adapted after
Becker (1994)

2 Factors, Processes and Spaces of Physical Geography

6,000 m

6,000 m




5,000 m

5,000 m
0 C
2 C


4,000 m







6 C

3,000 m

cloud forest

andean level
misty cover
misty precipitation

level of
maximum cloud

13 C
cloud forest

2,000 m


montane forest

19 C
1,000 m

level of

interandean level

3,000 m

2,000 m

interandean level
1,000 m


subandean level
interandean level

high forest

4,000 m



25 C

interdisciplinary literature. On a smaller scale, the mountain

ecology has been essentially influenced by the geomorphology and topography, the hydrological situation, but esp. by
the impact of animals and humans. This impact manifests
itself in small-scale niches of climate, vegetation and soils,
so that large-scale maps and geo-ecological models of the
Andes are limited in their explanatory power.
Usually the ecological altitudinal zones of the Andes
are subdivided on the basis of temperature and named in
Spanish (Lauer and Erlenbach 1987: 89, Fig.2.36):
Tierra caliente (Fig.2.35): from 0 to around 1,000m,
annual avg. temperature 2327 C;
Tierra templada (Fig.2.37): ca. 1,000 2,500m, annual
avg. temperature from ca. 1215 C to 23 C;
Tierra fra: ca. 2,5003,800m, annual avg. temperature
from ca. 58 C to around 1215 C;
Tierra helada (Fig.2.38): ca. 3,800 to 4,8005,000m,
annual avg. temperature from 0 to 58 C
Tierra nival or nevada (Fig.2.39): above ca. 4,800
5,000m, annual avg. temperature below zero.
The Andean sierra therefore subdivides into a lower area of
warm tropics and an upper area of cold tropics. The different humidity situations allow a further differentiation into
humid, semi-humid, semi-arid and arid mountain regions.


Pulgar (1941) divided the Peruvian Andes into eight

ecological altitudinal levels and used Quechua and Aymara
Chala: arid, desert-like coastal plain plus adjoining cordillera foothills, 0500m;
Omagua (also known as selva baja, walla or anti):
humid, hot rainforest level, 80400m;
Yunga costal: semi-arid level with sparse vegetation, in
some parts loma vegetation, 4002,300m,
Rupa-Rupa (also called selva alta): hot level with
extreme rainfall with montane and cloud forests,
Yunga fluvial: humid, warm montane forest level at the
eastern slopes of the cordillera, 1,0002,300m;
Quechua: temperate to cool climate with low precipitation, on the western flank of the cordilleras, but distinctly
more humid than the eastern flank, 2,3003,500m;
Suni (also known as jalca or sallqa): cold and relatively
humid altitudinal zone with grassland and/or shrub,
Puna: cold, high-andean climate with frequent frost days
and seasonal precipitation, low grasses, 4,0004,800m;
Janca: altitudinal zone above the snow line, starts around


2.5 Horizontal and Vertical Climate and Vegetation Zones and Levels

On the tropical rim a pronounced daily temperature

amplitude is accompanied by a seasonal temperature
amplitude that increases towards the south. At 15S the
monthly average temperature is ca. 4 C; by 22S it has
reached 1112 C (Kessler 2004: 458). What matters for
agriculture are certain temperature thresholds, such as
the so-called low warmth line and the frost line. The low
warmth line runs at an annual avg. temperature of 18 C,
which is the upper limit for growing tropical crops of the
tierra caliente.
Just as important for agriculture is the lower limit of
periodically or frequently occurring night frosts. In the
tierra helada the number of days with frost (i.e. days with
night frost and daytime temperatures above zero) increases
with altitude until it reaches areas of prevailing permanent
frost and snow and ice cover in the tierra nival. The climatic
snow line varies greatly throughout the Andes.
In addition to large-scale wind systems that impact on
the Andean region, esp. the north-easterly and south-easterly trade winds and the westerlies outside the tropics, the
southern cordilleras and parts of the Bolivian Altiplano are
periodically hit by cold winds from the Antarctic or from
southern Patagonia, which are known by various names,
e.g. surazos or nortes. The rhythm of daily valley breezes
and nightly mountain breezes and foehn phenomena, esp. on
the eastern rim of the southern cordillera (zondas), play an
important part.
Similar to the variety in climate conditions and zones,
both along north-south and west-east profiles, as well as
along altitudinal levels, natural vegetation in the Andes is
characterized by great heterogeneity and variability.

Fig.2.35Rainforest in the tierra caliente

Richter (1992: 7) has pointed out that, vertical climate

change creates physiological and morphological elevation gradients in high mountain flora. With rising altitude,
hygrothermal conditions change. In the tropical Andes,
conditions for plants remain favourable well into middle
elevations; in the humid mountain areas outside the tropics, climate stress for the vegetation increases. In all cases,
trees, shrubs and grasses protect themselves and adapt with
mosses and lichen (Fig.2.40).
In the innertropical mountain areas humid forests dominate generally up to about 3,0003,500m: from the evergreen rainforest (selva) to submontane rainforests, montane

altitudinal levels of the
tropical Andes (after

30 N

thermal boundary of the tropics

thermal boundary of the tropics


outer tropics

512 C Ts [year]


inner tropics

05 C Ts [year]


outer tropics

512C Ts [year]

Ts [day] > Ts (year)

warm tropics (megathermal)
cold tropics (mesothermal and oligothermal)

Ts = temperature amplitude
Tm = avg. temperature


30 S


Fig.2.37Montane forest in the tierra templada

Fig.2.38Farmstead in the tierra helada near Riobamba, Ecuador

semi-evergreen forests to montane cloud forests (ceja de

la montaa) with their characteristic ferns and epiphytes.
Above ca. 3,000m, the tree vegetation gradually gives way
to the mountain grassland of the pramo. We can distinguish

2 Factors, Processes and Spaces of Physical Geography

a level of low pramo (ca. 3,0004,000m) and one of high

pramo (ca. 3,6004,200m). Contrary to the common
assumption that plant height decreases at higher elevations,
the higher pramo contains impressive giant rosette plants,
esp. the genus Espeletia (locally also called frailejones;
Fig.2.41) and Puya (Fig.2.42).
However, only remnant stocks are left of these plants,
partly because they need optimum climate conditions, and
partly because they have been dramatically reduced on
grazing land and today mainly occur in protected areas.
With decreasing humidity the rosette trees and shrubs give
way to turf societies and further up to cushion-forming
plants. At the upper limit of vegetation, in the so-called periglacial pramo, a sparse and sketchy plant cover prevails
(Monasterio 1980). South of Quito the humid pramo gradually makes way for the semi-arid and arid puna (Fig.2.43).
At the tropical rim, the contrast between an increasingly arid western flank of the Andes and the humid eastern flank is reflected in the natural vegetation. In Peru and
northern Chile, contiguous plant cover on the slopes facing
the Pacific soon hits its hygric lower limit outside the river
oases. Below that limit only scattered, sparse and sometimes
only periodically occurring loma, spiny and succulent vegetation prevails. Figure2.44 shows loma vegetation at the
condensation level of the Ro Techo in the Small North of
Chile. Figure2.45 presents the loma phenomenon in Peru.
At higher elevations various puna formations occur,
depending on humidity levels. The boundary between the
arid/semi-arid zones and the semi-humid regions of the
tropical rim follows the so-called dry diagonal. The high
elevations of the Altiplano at 3,5004,200m are characterized by puna grasslands, which are important as grazing
land and have been greatly modified by the use as pasture.
Typical for the high plains are Festuca grasses and tola
shrubs (Parastrephia lepidophylla).
On the humid tropical eastern slope of the Andes, the
Bolivian Yungas, humid montane forests dominate with
a rich mosaic of different plant species. Further south, in
the subtropical mountain areas, the climate becomes drier.
In the rain lee zones of the valleys, dry leafless or even
thorn forests occur, along the rivers also gallery forests.
With higher precipitation, evergreen montane forests prevail (Kessler 2004: 458461). On the eastern slope of the
north-west Argentinian cordillera (e.g. around Salta), a narrow forest brow has established at middle elevations with
maximum convection, which is adjoined from both below
and above by dry zones.
In the extratropical Andes there is a marked contrast in
natural vegetation between the humid Pacific side and the
semi-arid Patagonian eastern slopes. The western slopes of
the cordillera are covered in dense temperate forests, followed upwards by zones of krummholz, grassland and cushion-forming heathland. At the foot of the Andes in Patagonia,
forests recede, grassland and shrubland dominate (Fig.2.46).


2.5 Horizontal and Vertical Climate and Vegetation Zones and Levels

The altitudinal limits of tree and forest lines differ considerably (Fig.2.47). The highest tree and forest lines are
found on the tropical rim of the Andes. Here residual stocks
of Polylepis trees grow at altitudes above 4,000m, e.g. in
the Peruvian Cordillera Blanca or in the Bolivian western
cordillera. The highest forest line on earth for Polylepis
tarapacana stocks is supposed to exceed 5,000m around
the Sajama Volcano (18S) and features scattered dwarf forests and shrubs (Burga etal. 2004: 44).
In other high areas of the Andes, the tree and forest line is marked by a variety of shrub and tree species.
In the Colombian Andes these are mountain laurels; in
the montane cloud forest of Venezuela we find varieties of Podocarpus, Oreopanax, Havetia, Ocotea, as well
as tree ferns (Cyatheaceae, Fig.2.48); in the Chilean and
Argentinian cordilleras Nothofagus species dominate. On
the southern tip of the South-American continent, the tree
line is down to around 500m.
The description above is of the natural Andean vegetation,
not taking into account centuries of manifold human influence. We must bear in mind that any description of the flora
presents a static situation, which on the ground is in constant
dynamic transformation as a result of natural, geomorphological and climatic events and processes. Volcanic eruptions,
floods, erosion and mass movements, as well as extreme
weathers and longer-term climate change have caused
changes in the plant cover, the species diversity and the upper
altitudinal limits of plant societies. Most significant however,
have been and still are anthropogenic impacts on vegetation.
This is particularly true for the tropical sierras, which
have been the favoured settlement and cultural area for
thousands of years. As these regions, esp. the higher basins
and river valleys, presented favourable conditions for agriculture, the forests were cleared early on and replaced by
fields and pastures (Fig.2.49). During colonial times, overfelling was particularly intensive because of an increased
demand for timber and for new clearings for settlements. In
more recent times, mining has caused some dramatic interventions in the natural ecosystems, as has industry (sometimes with vegetation destroyed for kilometres all round,
as the drastic example of La Oroya in Peru demonstrates!),
road and pipeline construction, hydro-electric power stations, but also reforestation with non-endemic tree species
such as eucalyptus or pine, and particularly the expansion
of settlement and business areas on the edge of large cities.

Fig.2.39Cotopaxi Glacier in the tierra nival, Ecuador

Fig.2.40Spanish moss

2.6 Typical Plant Societies of the Tropical

In the permanently humid tropical Andes, the lower vegetation level is taken up by tropical rainforest. It consists of
three tree storeys above a thin herbaceous or shrub layer. The
denser this bottom vegetation is, the younger the forest, often

Fig.2.41Pramo El Angl, Ecuador


Fig.2.42Puya raimondii, Cordillera Blanca, Peru

a secondary forest. The ecological variation between the different storeys are considerable. The plants of the lowest storey experience constant climatic conditions all year round:
even humidity (often 100%), temperatures between 23 and
27 C, depending on location, little radiation and no winds.
In contrast, the plants in the uppermost storey are faced with
massive changes in temperature, humidity and wind speed.

Fig.2.43Puna of the northern Altiplano in Bolivia, with Mt Illimani

2 Factors, Processes and Spaces of Physical Geography

The tropical Andes are an El Dorado for plant lovers. In

the 1950s and 1960s, no Central European home was complete without an epiphytes tree, bringing the rainforest into
individual homes. Since then a wealth of epiphytes and
hemi-epiphytes, as well as lianas is considered characteristic of rainforests.
These plants have adapted to the prevailing light conditions. They rearrange their photosynthetically active and
generative organs upwards towards better radiation conditions. They do without a firm stem, which would need many
nutrients. Lianas root in the soil and grow up trees towards
the sun, while epiphytes completely forego any connection
to the soil and sit on the stems. Hemi-epiphytes start off sitting on other plants, but turn into separate plants as soon as
their roots reach the floor. Epiphytes use other plants as support. They sprout high above on the branches of trees, where
the light is several times as strong as on the forest floor. The
orchid family (Orchidaceae) holds the most epiphytic species, many more than terrestrial plants. There are also epiphytic cacti, ferns and mosses. In the rainforest, bromelias
(Bromeliaceae) are also epiphytes. While terrestrial bromelias
do not grow there, we find a variety with adventitious roots
in the water tank, one with water-absorbing trichomes on its
leaves in the water tank and another with numerous waterabsorbing trichomes to capture fog run-off without a funnel.


2.6 Typical Plant Societies of the Tropical Andes

Fig.2.44Loma vegetation in Chile

Hemi-epiphytes include the stranglers, among them

the strangler figs (Ficus species), Metrosideros robusta
(Myrtaceae), Clusia species (near Guttiferae), Griselinia
littoralis, G. lucida (Cornaceae), and others. Like epiphytes, stranglers sprout in axils. There they develop a
small system of shoots and aerial roots (Fig.2.50), which
cling to the stem, grow down along it or hang down freely.
Growth of a strangler can lead to the death of the original
tree as the strangler prevents it from growing any bigger in
circumference. By the time the original tree has died, the
root system of the strangler may have turned into a false
stem, creating a fake tree.
Araceae may take the opposite development. They start
off as normal lianas until the lower parts of the stem die off
and they become epiphytes.
The herbaceous layer is rarely distinct from the shrub
layer, as herbaceous plants may grow up to 6m in height,
making it difficult to draw an exact line between herbaceous layer and shrub layer. The lack of light lets few species prevail, which is why there are fewer herbaceous plants
in the tropical rainforest than there are wooded species. In
contrast to the herbaceous layer in temperate latitudes, the
organs of the tropical herbaceous plants above the ground
can survive a long time because there are no seasons. The

Fig.2.45Cross section
through the Peruvian coastal

Fog humidity



more often

dense never
cloud plants
(trees possible)
loose herbaceous cloud plants





more often


most striking feature of the herbaceous plants is often their

adaptation to the low light.
On the ground, animals play an important role as seed
distributors. As there is no wind, plants cannot distribute their seeds by air. This function is taken up by animals which do not eat up all the fruit and also distribute
some seeds via their digestive system. Monkeys take
this on, ants and birds (parrots, toucans) also transport
some seeds. Today, in addition to epiphytes, some special
plants of the herbaceous layer have found their way into
European conservatories and living rooms. These include
the Brugmansias, a nightshade (Solanaceae). The plant can
grow to three or four metres in height and has elongated
egg-shaped leaves. The flowers are 2030cm long, fragrant
and are inclined downwards. The calyx is enlarged and
indistinctly five-toothed. It is poisonous and an hallucinogen, used by the Quichuas del Oriente in their rituals. The
rainforest is rich in medicinal plants, which play an important role in traditional native medicine and today increasingly also in modern alternative medicine.
Heliconias (Fig.2.51; Heliconiaceae) are monocotyledonous plants. The genus includes over 250 species. Heliconias
are herbaceous plants of up to three metres in height, with a
permanent root stock and banana-type leaves that can be up
to a metre long and are usually long or lancet-shaped. The
flowers can be erect or drooping, with large, dense bracts in
striking colours, often in a range from orange to red.
The lower storey of the rainforest, dominated by herbaceous plants and shrubs, is followed by layers of trees with
a closed canopy. This is the storey with the largest diversity of species. On just one hectare of rainforest we can find
more than 220 species of trees, reaching heights of up to
60m. The trees have slim, straight stems that rarely branch
out below the canopy. The bark is thin and some tree species do without it altogether.
Since the nutrients are all in the top layer of the soil, there
is fierce root competition in the rainforest. The trees have
only shallow root systems. To ensure their stability they are
forced to grow buttress or stilt roots (Fig.2.52). The tree layer
includes many palms (Arecaceae), e.g. Iriartea deltoidea,

rare (mornings)




2 Factors, Processes and Spaces of Physical Geography

round. In this zone the ground is covered by a dense layer of

quite high herbaceous plants and shrubs, including begonias,
fuchsias and geraniums. Above them are several storeys of
higher plants, with tree ferns, bamboo, vines, curtains of moss
and epiphytes on the first floor and umbrella-shaped canopies up to 15m in height on the second. Hymenophyllaceae
envelop the branches and stems with an evergreen coat.
At around 3,5004,000m altitude the pramo starts. At
this height the plants must adapt to the cold climate. They
must be hardy to cope with the regular change from cold
nights to cool days. Strong winds, heavy cloud cover, frequent
fog, occasional short periods of snow or hail and reduced
evapotranspiration slow down growth. The dense felt of hairs
on these plants protects them against radiation and control
transpiration. It slows down the wind, prevents the stomata
from drying out and protect the plant against night frost. The
typical forms of pramo vegetation are whorl-forming plants
and cushion plants with highly developed root systems.
The most striking plants within the pramo are the
frailejones (Espeletia), which often form stems of several
metres in height, but only grow above the tree line. The
common name means monks because in some lights and
weathers they look like praying monks. In adapting to the
prevailing frost they have evolved a nyctinastic behaviour
of closing the rosette leaves at night around the growing or
budding young leaves (Fig.2.54). As there are many layers of leaves, the insulating effect is considerable. While
the outer leaves are frozen by the morning, the temperature
inside does not fall below zero. As the temperature rises in
the morning, the rosette opens again within minutes and is
immediately ready for photosynthesis.
The small-scale formation of the pramo vegetation
evolved as a response to climatic fluctuations during the
Pleistocene, which included both considerably lower and
somewhat higher temperatures than today and changing
amounts of precipitation. The pramo zones of the mountain ranges were thus periodically separated from each

Fig. 2.46Cushion plants on the eastern flank of the Patagonian


Mauritia flexuosa, Calyptrogyne, walking palm (Socratea

exorrhiza) and hungurahua palm (Jessenia bataua). They
are very important for the people living in this ecozone.
They cover their huts with the leaves of the screw pine, make
hats and ropes from its fibres and eat the heart of the leaf
Among the giant trees of the top layer, the kapok (Ceiba
pentandra) is the most important and belongs to the Malvaceae
family. It has a massive, smooth stem, covered more or less
densely with spikes. As it ages, it often forms distinct buttress
roots, several metres in height (Fig.2.53). For the native cultures it held great mythological significance. Today the kapok
is mainly cherished for its fibres, which contain 65% cellulose
and hemi-cellulose. They are smooth, water-repellent and very
elastic and are often used as fillers and insulation.
At ca. 3,000m altitude, a vegetational peculiarity extends
from Venezuela to Ecuador, on the eastern flank of the Andes
even to Bolivia: the cloud forest, the mountain eyebrow (ceja
de la montaa). At this elevation the water-logged air forms
a permanent band of fog, humidity is around 100% all year

decreasing rain
(5001,500 mm)

heavy rain (to 4,000 m)



main cordillera




Fig.2.47West-east profile
of forest vegetation at around
41S; adapted after Hueck

Coastal cordillera


Chilean Longitudinal Valley


d il

Lago Nahuel Huapi

Lago Llanquihue

2 4 5 4

rn sl

of t

Boldo forest with Peumo boldo

Valdivian rainforest
Roble Rauli forest
Coihue forest
Fitzroya forest


5 43

diminishing shrub stocks of Nothofagus pumilio and N. antartica

high-andean grassland
Libocedrus chilensis forest
Patagonian steppe and diminishing stocks of Librocedrus


2.6 Typical Plant Societies of the Tropical Andes

Fig.2.48Tree ferns of the Colombian cloud forest

Fig.2.50Aerial roots

Fig.2.49Tillage farming in Chibuleo, Ecuador

other and reconnected. This meant a succession of floral

exchange and isolation, a driving force of evolution.
Human impact is a major problem for the pramos. These
are anthropogenically determined by fire, grazing and wood
cutting, so that this vegetation zone often consists of secondary replacement societies. Fire is likely to have played a role


2 Factors, Processes and Spaces of Physical Geography

all the way back to early settlements at least 15,000years ago,

first as an aid in hunting, today as a means of clearing the forests for additional grazing land and fields. Large Espeletias
are no longer found on the Cotopaxi, instead, a plant society
of Indian paintbrush (Castilleja arvensis), a type of lobelia; flower of the Andes (Chuquiraga jussieui); Baccharis
genistelloides, a plant in the aster family; gentian (Gentiana
propincua), and feather grass (Stipa ichu) has formed there.
Occasionally one may find the ground orchid Altensteinia
fimbriata, which grows to about 30cm. In addition there is
ladys mantle and small ground bromelias, as well as lichen,
which make hardly any demands on the soil. Higher up, from
4,200m, we also find Senecio (Culcitium canescens), a plant
that grows on rocky, barren land up to 5,000m.
In the Andes rainforest, clearance generally progresses less
fast than in the Amazon lowlands. Even so, between 0.1 and
0.7% of the forest is cleared each year (Table2.1). Clearance
affects soil fertility and exacerbates erosion and denudation.
A third of forest clearance takes place in the tierra caliente, a
quarter each in the tierra templada and tierra fra, and about
11% in the tierra helada (Surez etal. 2011: 169).
Even in Chile, 120,000ha of natural forest are cut down
each year; 14,000ha per year are being reforested with pine
(Pinus radiata) and eucalyptus.
Fig.2.52Stilt roots in the rainforest

2.7 Soils
Soils in the Andes present a very complex situation,
which is difficult to condense into a neat overview. The
diversity and structural changes on a small spatial scale are
the result of complex geomorphological, topographical,
ecological and hydrographical circumstances. To make matters worse, scientific terminology is inconsistent and local
terms are used alongside scientific ones.
A general zonation is possible by distinguishing tropical,
subtropical and temperate climate zones. This classification
is overlaid with a differentiation by elevation and by mountain and valley landscapes. In the tropical Andes thin red clay
soils of little fertility dominate the warm tierra caliente. Often
the Ah horizon (humus rich top layer) is only 12cm deep. It
is covered by organic matter, which, despite plenty of litter, is
broken down very quickly by bacteria and fungi very under
conditions of high temperature and humidity. The nutrients
are immediately absorbed by the plants through a dense root
network close to the surface (a so-called fibrous root system).
In contrast, the B horizon is very thick and often more than
15m and up to 30m deep. Ferrous oxides in the soil often
give it a reddish colour (so-called ferrasol). These soils have
developed through intensive chemical weathering (Fig.2.55).
As a rule, this horizon only holds two-layer clay minerals
with low exchange capacity, which makes it of little use for
plants. The C horizon of bedrock only starts at greater depth.

Fig.2.53Ceiba (kapok)



The low fixation of nutrients in the soils affects land use.

Intensive clearing can lead to an exhaustion of the soils
because of a lack in biomass which holds most of the nutrients. Traditional farming systems of shifting cultivation
take these circumstances into account.
At the foot of the mountains, the potential of these soils
is increased by mineral-rich sediments carried in from the
mountains. River sediments (fluviosols) are particularly
important on the valley floors of the large Andean rivers, e.g. in the Cauca and Magdalena valleys in Colombia,
where a combination of favourable relief, climate and soil
conditions provides excellent conditions for intensive agriculture. At the eastern foot of the mountains, we find areas
of tierra preta, which resemble chernozems. It is a mix
of charcoal, dung, compost and lime. In this soil the high
exchange capacity of the ample organic matter prevents a
leaching of nutrients.
Other relatively fertile soils are those made up of volcanic ash (andosols). They are usually young and have
evolved from changing compositions of lava, tuffs and
ignimbrites. Such soils are loose, with highly porous.
They include a large proportion of variable charges and
have considerable exchange capacity, esp. at low pH values. Humus content may be up to 20%. These soils are
the reason for the high fertility in the volcanic areas of the
Andes. One handicap is the high phosphate content, which
can reduce yields. At higher elevations, humus generation
is generally increased through low temperatures and precipitation and through increased supply of minerals. In
the higher mountain areas, the low temperatures make for
a very slow development of soils, e.g. regosols, leptosols,
andosols, frost-pattern soils, in the pramo also deep raw
humus soils.
In the drier regions of the tropical rim and in the subtropics, esp. at lower elevations, the limiting factor for soil
quality is the precipitation deficit. Here grey desert soils
dominate. In the Andean high basins large-scale salination occurs (salares, e.g. Salar de Uyuni; Fig.2.56). In the
vicinity of volcanoes, ash soils dominate, which can cover
the eroded bedrock (Fig.2.57). On the western flank of the
Andes, in the Mediterranean Chilean Longitudinal Valley,
there are excellent climatic and soil conditions (brown

Table2.1Wood clearing in
the tropical Andean countries



Fig.2.54Espeletia flower

soils) for high agricultural yields. In the extratropical part

of the cordillera podsol-type soils of low fertility often
develop along the humid slopes. On the Patagonian side,
however, steppe-type soils dominate, which offer good
potential for extensive grazing.

2.8 The Andes as Water Tower

Mountain areas play a vital part as water towers: more than
half of humanity depends for its drinking water on rivers
that originate in mountains (Mountain Agenda 1998: 5).
Precipitation in mountain areas is often higher than in the
lowlands and provides the mountain population with good
hydrographical potential, esp. in arid and semi-arid areas.
High mountain areas are the main source areas of rivers
and often rich in lakes, whose retention function ensures
an even outflow. These are important preconditions for adequate drinking water supply and for agricultural irrigation.
Moreover, high mountain areas are sources of water
storage for producing electricity and a vital resource for
trade and industry. The rich water supply in mountain areas
greatly contributes to their scenic attraction, which makes it

Forest cover
In 1,000ha

Adapted from Surez etal. (2011: 169)

Annual change






Fig.2.55Ferrasol profile, eastern flank of the Ecuadorian Andes

an important attribute for leisure and tourism. In traditional

societies rainy seasons, rivers, lakes and even glaciers also
carry spiritual and cultural meaning.
Most high mountains, except in totally arid zones, are
glaciated in parts. The meltwater of these glaciers provides
an additional water potential, esp. in tropical regions during

Fig.2.56Salar de Uyuni (photograph by Almhofer)

2 Factors, Processes and Spaces of Physical Geography

low precipitation periods. At the same time, high precipitation and particularly heavy rain can greatly increase the
fragility and vulnerability of mountain areas through latent
threats of flooding, erosion, landslides and denudation
The significance of the water resources in the mountains
is not restricted to the mountain regions. The waters flowing into the adjoining lowlands are vital for the water supply of rural areas, for irrigation of the fields (Fig.2.58) and
for the cities, but they may also form a threat occasionally.
Distribution and use of the water resources are often laden
with problems and conflict, both inside the mountains and
between mountain areas and the surrounding regions. The
sustainable management of hydrographical resources at
local, regional, national and international level thus represents a major challenge.
Because of their low geothermal depth and of the recent
volcanic activity, the Andes are rich in post-volcanic phenomena, i.e. fumaroles, solfatara and thermal springs. On
the Tatio Volcano in northern Chile large geysers can be
admired in the early hours of the morning. The Nudo de
Vilcanota in Peru sports a magnificent field of fumaroles, as
do the Termas de San Juan at the Maziso Colombiano near
Popayn (Fig.2.59). The presence of warm water with a
variety of minerals has led to the creation of elegant resorts


2.8 The Andes as Water Tower

as well as peasant baths. The thermal springs of Papallacta,

for instance, near the Antisana Volcano in Ecuador, reflect
this tourism potential.

2.8.1Rivers and Lakes

The Andes are the major water tower for the entire SouthAmerican continent. Most of the large rivers originate in
these mountains, in particular the enormous river system
of the Amazon, the Magdalena River in Colombia and
large tributaries to the Orinoco and the Paran rivers. The
Amazon, with a total length of some 6,450km, has its
source at the Nevado Mismi in Peru at 5,170m and has a
catchment area of more than seven million square kilometres. This is the equivalent of a hydrographical basin of
about a quarter of the South-American continent.
The most important headwaters of the Amazon are the
1,600km long Maraon, traditionally seen as the spring
of the Amazon, the Huallaga, the Ucayali and the Ro
Apurimac. The larger rivers of Bolivia also have their
source in the Andes, esp. the headwaters of the Ro Beni
and the Ro Mamor, later flowing into the Amazon.
Ecuador, which has lost its Amazon port of Iquitos to Peru,
still carries the Amazon in its coat of arms. The Ro Napo
(Fig.2.60) is the major Amazon tributary there. The waters
running from the Argentinian Andes eastwards cross the
Gran Chaco and flow into the Paran; in Patagonia into the
Ro Negro, Ro Chibut and Ro Chico.
In general we can distinguish lightwater, blackwater and clearwater rivers in the tropical Andes. Many rivers with their headwaters in the pramos carry black
water. They are saturated with humic acid and therefore
extremely poor in nutrients and fish. As their tributaries
introduce high sediment charges, they change into lightwater rivers, which really are of a light-brown colour, which
can look white viewed from a low angle (Fig.2.61). The
sediments are rich in nutrients and encourage a diverse fish
fauna as well as being the reason for the fertility of alluvial
soils. Clear water is rare in the Andes and occurs in places
where quartzite and granite rocks supply little sediment.
The valley shapes change with elevation. Even in the
highest reaches we find relatively flat valley floors as a
result of long lasting denudation processes. On the steep
slopes these change to V-shaped valleys or even canyons
and form massive floodplains along the lower reaches.
There, and in the middle reaches, fluvial terraces may form,
either as erosion forms (rock terraces) or accumulation
forms (sediment terraces). They originate from recurring
uplifts in the Andes and were originally old valley floors.
Since the continental watershed in the cordillera runs
close to the Pacific shoreline, sometimes less than 100km
inland, the rivers flowing into the Pacific are short and carry
little water. Even so, they have always been very important,

Fig.2.57Soil profile near Guaranda, Ecuador

Fig.2.58Irrigation of a strawberry field, Bolivia

esp. in the semi-arid and arid parts of Peru. In the river

oases they have enabled the development of a cultural landscape and irrigated agriculture for at least 3,500years. In
the Palpa Valley in southern Peru, the rivers from the Andes
leave about 3mm of sediment each year, which allows
intensive, irrigated cultivation of maize, chickpeas, mangoes and citrus fruits on the sediment terraces, which can be
up to four metres thick.
To this day, these river oases in Peru form the core
regions of intensive agriculture and dense settlement on
the seam between coast and sierra. In Chile the rivers running towards the Pacific are also short, the longest is Ro
Loa with 443km, an allochthonous river that crosses the
Atacama Desert (Fig.2.62). In the north of the country,
because of extreme dryness, the rivers are of low volume
and sometimes only exist periodically. Permanent rivers are


Fig.2.59Field of solfatara, Termas de San Juan, southern Colombia

(photograph by F. Borsdorf)

Fig.2.60Ro Napo, an Amazon tributary, Ecuador

fed mainly by meltwater from snow and ice at the summit

regions. Towards the south, water volume increases. Around
Santiago, the river valleys of the Maipo and Mapocho are
intensively cultivated agricultural regions, where mainly
wine, fruit and vegetables are grown.

2 Factors, Processes and Spaces of Physical Geography

After the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean

is the third sea, drawing the waters of the Colombian and
Venezuelan cordilleras. In Colombia the longitudinal valleys
are oriented to the north and separate the mountain ranges.
They have always been major transport routes between the
Caribbean coast and the mountains. The Ro Grande de la
Magdalena is the main river and more than 1,500km long.
Its catchment area measures more than 260,000km2. The
Magdalena River is navigable for about 1,000km, from the
port of Barranquilla to the town of Honda, a unique naval
opportunity in the Andes. In his essay Wilhelmy (1990)
compared the impressions of Alexander von Humboldt, the
literary representation by Garca Marquz (Love in the Time
of Cholera) and his own adventures.
Apart from the river systems, the hydrology of the Andes
is shaped by lakes of diverse formation and characteristics.
In the high elevations of the tropical Andes that were glaciated during the Pleistocene or more recently, and on the
mountain rim in the extratropical southern Andes, these are
mostly deep incision or tongue basin lakes formed by the glacier (Fig.2.63), e.g. Lake General Carrera or Lago Buenos
Aires on the border of Argentina and Chile (1,850km2),
Lake Argentino (1,490km2) and Lake Viedma (1,088km2)
in Argentina, or the smaller incision lakes and cirques in the
Cordillera Blanca of Peru. The Chilean and the Argentinian
Switzerland owe their names to the wealth of such lakes.
The other main type of lake in the Andes are the mainly
flat lakes in the Altiplano of Peru, Bolivia and Chile, remnants of previously much larger inland lakes. As late as the
Pleistocene, the Sabana of Bogot was taken up by a lake,
Lago Humboldt, whose fertile clays provide the basis for
intensive market gardening in the Sabana today. While Lake
Titicaca, with its more than 25 tributaries, is a freshwater lake, most of the other lakes on the Altiplano are salty,
because of low precipitation and low volume tributaries,
combined with high evaporation. They can form salt flats
(salares) (e.g. the Salar de Atacama in Chile with an extension of 3,000km2, or the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia with an
area of almost 12,000km2), which may periodically or permanently dry out further or form salt pans. And then there
are the small crater lakes, for instance the Laguna Cotacachi
(Fig.2.64) or the Laguna Quilotoa in Ecuador.
In the Andes, too, the groundwater and surface water
resources are vital for the drinking water supply of the population in the rural municipalities and towns, both in the mountain
areas and in the adjoining lowlands, and for irrigation agriculture. In the Andean culture and mythology, water, rivers, lakes
and glaciers have enjoyed a sacred status since the Inca period,
were under special protection and used with care. One example is the ritual bath of the Inca near Cusco (Fig.2.65).
With population growth, particularly in the cities, today
the main concern and challenge is an adequate supply of
clean drinking water for the population. This challenge is


2.8 The Andes as Water Tower

exacerbated by the fact that groundwater levels and the volume of the springs and the Andean rivers react sensitively to
seasonal or annual changes in weather.
The water resources also form the basis for agriculture in the Andes and the adjoining lowlands, particularly
on the Pacific coastal plain with its river oases. They were
the essential precondition for the development of the early
advanced civilizations and today are the basis for both irrigation farming and in many areas also for grazing. Trade
and industry, too, depend on secure water supply and the
hydrological potential of the Andes is an essential resource
for electricity generation (Borsdorf 2010).
Andean mining also uses up water, which is particularly problematic in terms of the amounts of water needed
and the considerable contamination of the water quality,
both in the mining area itself and along the rivers and generally for the aquifers of the wider region. Copper mining
in the Atacama Desert in Chile (Mountain Agenda 1998:
25) and the Ro Blanco project in the Piura district in Peru
(Bebbington and Williams 2008: 190195) are graphic
examples of this issue. The problem is exacerbated when
the mines and processing plants are situated at high elevations in the upper parts of the relevant hydrological basin.
The high demand and diverse use of Andean water
resources by a variety of decision makers and interest groups
makes water an ecological, cultural, economic, social and
political issue. In many regions, particularly in and around protected areas, the protection of the water resources is in opposition to the interests of increased use of water. Further areas of
conflict arise from different and sometimes hardly compatible
forms of use as well as from discrepancies between local or
regional and in part traditional consumption of water and water
management oriented on national or international objectives.
Other conflicts may arise from diverging interests in different areas of the same hydrological basin, e.g. between
the upper and lower reaches of rivers, between native and
non-native users, between rural and urban drinking water
supply or between agricultural, trade, industrial and tourist
priorities. It is therefore vital to work out a regional water
management strategy that integrates the aims of all interest
groups in a fair and sustainable manner.
In Colombia such concepts have already been implemented. In the Ro Piedras basin an integrated water management system has been established involving the city of
Popayn and the native and campesino communities.
One of the recent and highly controversial hydro-electric power megaprojects is that of HidroAysn in Chilean
Patagonia. The project, proposed in 2007, would have consisted of five large dams and power plants, three on the
Pascua River, and two on the Baker River. The joint venture of the Italian Endesa Company and the Chilean Colbn
Company had a price tag of some 8 billion USD. It would
have generated an annual average of 2,750MW, transporting

Fig.2.61White-water river, middle reaches of the Cauca, Colombia

Fig.2.62Tranque Sloman dam at the Ro Loa, Chile

Fig.2.63Lago Panguipulli, Chile


2 Factors, Processes and Spaces of Physical Geography

Fig.2.64Laguna Cotacachi, Ecuador

Fig.2.65Inca bath near Cusco, Peru

the hydro-electric energy over a 1,900km long transmission line to nine Chilean regions. The HidroAysn project
was initially approved in 2011 by the former government
of president Piera; but, after increasingly angry mass protests supported by the movement Patagonia Sin Represas, it
was placed on hold in 2012. In June 2014 the Chilean government, stopped the project, at least temporarily. President
Bachelet declared it not feasible. Not only would it have
seriously affected six Mapuche communities, it would have
flooded 5,900ha of natural reserves and would have had a
negative impact on 6 national parks, 11 natural reserves, 26
conservation priority areas, 32 privately owned conservation areas and 16 wetland districts. In addition it would have
severely hampered the tourism potential of the Aysn region.

5,920m high Mt Licancabur on the Paso de Jama, which

links Antofagasta with Salta, is the highest lake in the
Andes. Lake Titicaca stretches for 180km in a northwestern to southeastern direction. At its broadest point, from
Peruvian Puno to Bolivian Conima, it measures some 80km
(Fig.2.66). The average depth of the lake ranges from 140
to 180m; at its deepest point it measures 280m.
Lake Titicaca sits in the Altiplano of southern Peru and
northern Bolivia. The state border of the two countries runs
from north to south through the Lago Grande and the Lago
Pequeo. At the meeting point of the two lakes is a Bolivian
navy base (!) to maintain the countrys claim to be a maritime nation. Numerous rivers that start in the Altiplano and
the adjoining cordilleras flow into Lake Titicaca. Only one
river, the Desaguero, drains the lake in a southerly direction. A considerable part of the total water volume is lost
through evaporation, mainly because of intensive solar radiation, low air humidity and prevailing strong winds.
Lake Titicaca holds a number of small islands. The Isla
de la Luna and the Isla del Sol are imbued with a particular mythological and touristic significance. In addition, the
floating totora reed islands of the Uru people (Fig.2.67) near
Puno are heavily marketed in tourism. Legend has it that the

2.8.2 Lake Titicaca

With an area of around 8,300km2 and a total volume of
1,800m3, Lake Titicaca is the largest freshwater lake in
South America and, at an elevation of 3,810m, the highest navigable lake in the world used by larger boats and
even hovercraft vessels. The small crater lake on the

2.8 The Andes as Water Tower

Fig.2.66Lake Titicaca with Isla del Sol

Fig.2.67Uru people on the reed islands, Peru



first Inca, Manco Capac, and Mama Ocllo stepped out of the
lake onto the Isla del Sol and went from there to Cusco, making Lake Titicaca the region of origin for the realm of the
Incas. The battle, in which the Inca defeated the Diaguita,
thus strengthening their hegemonial claim, took place on the
Isla del Sol. The water level of Lake Titicaca undergoes only
small seasonal changes of up to 1m and larger deviations
year on year. In El Nio years flooding of the flatter shores
is more likely, as happened between 1985 and 1989. Since
the year 2000, however, the water level in the lake has fallen
The favourable geographical conditions, in particular
the semi-arid climate, the high solar radiation and the
fertile soils, have made the region of Lake Titicaca an
intensively used agricultural area from earliest times and
the cradle of ancient advanced civilizations. Tiahuanaco
is probably the oldest settlement in the Altiplano and its
monumental architecture a predecessor of the Inca culture (Fig.2.68). This culture emerged around 600 BCE
and dissolved around 1,200 CE, most likely in the wake
of a longer drought. During the Inca period, the region
around Lake Titicaca was a mountain area with relatively dense settlements and intensive field crop cultivation, mainly potatoes and other tubers, as well as quinoa.
The fields around Lake Titicaca were often set up as
raised fields (suka-collos), a form that goes back to the
Tiahuanaco period. This form of cultivation adapted
these field plots perfectly to the microclimatic conditions
and protected the crops against frost. Another form of
cultivation were the so-called sunken fields, with crops
being planted in small ditches that improved irrigation
and protected them against wind erosion. Today these
techniques are being reapplied in some areas (see also
Sects. 4.2.5 and 4.2.6).
In addition to arable farming, the Altiplano around
Lake Titicaca always provided favourable conditions for
grazing camelids like llamas, alpacas and vicuas, and,
from colonial times onwards, also sheep. Today there are
a great number of smaller and larger settlements along
the shores of Lake Titicaca. Some take the form of individual farmsteads, others are coherent villages or towns.
Puno in Peru, with more than 100,000 inhabitants is the
most important central place for the entire Titicaca region
In former times Lake Titicaca was regarded as a pure
and sacred body of water. Today it may still superficially
live up to this image, but it is threatened with serious contamination and eutrophication as a result of sewage, agricultural chemicals and contamination from mining in the

2 Factors, Processes and Spaces of Physical Geography

Fig.2.68Tiahuanaco, Bolivia

adjoining areas. This has led to a massive increase in algae

and to pressure on endemic flora and fauna. Local, national
and international efforts to counteract such developments
have borne fruit: in 1978 Lake Titicaca was declared a
Reserva Nacional in Peru (Kraemer 1997: 1).

With an area of more than 2,600km2 the glaciers of
the tropical and subtropical Andes stretch almost as
wide as the Alpine glaciers (ca. 2,900km2), thus covering several times the area of the tropical glaciers of
Africa or Indonesia (Mountain Agenda 1998: 24). The
44km2 of the Quelccaya Ice Cap in the Peruvian Andes
is the largest glaciated area in the tropics. In the extratropical Andes the Northern Patagonian Ice Field and
the Southern Patagonian Ice Field are much bigger and
represent the largest glaciated areas outside the Arctic
and Antarctic. The Southern Ice Field has an area of

2.8 The Andes as Water Tower


Fig.2.69Puno, Peru

around 13,000km2, which makes it the largest contiguous ice field of the extrapolar world after the Greenland
Ice Sheet. Because of this size it is often wrongly called
inland ice in the literature. The mountains on its rim
have long glacier tongues that end in glacial lakes. The
Monte San Lorenzo has an impressive cirque from which
the valley glacier originates (Fig.2.70).
The glacier tongues from these ice sheets and plateau glaciers occasionally reach sea level on the Pacific
side of southern Chile where they enter mighty fjords
(Schellmann 2003: 2227). The San Rafael glacier is the
glacier nearest to the Equator that reaches down to the
sea. It cuts through the Patagonian rainforest and ends
in a round glacial lake that connects to the sea through the
fjord of icebergs.
On the Patagonian side the glaciers calve in often spectacular ways into glacial lakes. The best-known example is
the Perito Moreno Glacier, which is 30km long and 5km

wide and whose tongue reaches into the Lago Argentino,

damming it in regular intervals until, after some time,
the Lago Argentino breaks through the tongue. This dramatic phenomenon attracts tourists and TV teams from
across the world, who can watch it from a visitor platform.
Figure 2.71 clearly shows the different water levels of the
Lago Argentino.
In the tropical and subtropical Andes, the glaciers are
especially significant, as these regions are densely populated and agriculture there is highly dependent on the
water resources fed by the glaciers. The nearly two million inhabitants of La Paz and El Alto in Bolivia depend for
their drinking water on the glaciers of the Cordillera Real.
Especially the Zongo Glacier nearby supplies both cities with 50120 litres of water per second during the dry
season from April to November (monthly precipitation
between 10 and 40mm), in extremely dry and warm years
with even more water (Mountain Agenda 1998: 24). Many


Fig.2.70San Lorenzo, a gigantic mountain in the Northern Ice Field, Chile

Fig.2.71Perito Moreno Glacier

2 Factors, Processes and Spaces of Physical Geography


2.8 The Andes as Water Tower

more Andean cities and those on the adjacent coastal plain

(e.g. Lima) take their drinking water, at least in part, from
glacial meltwater. The Antisana, for instance, (Fig.2.72)
supplies drinking water for Quito and the Chimborazo
(Fig.2.73) provides the municipalities around it with drinking and irrigation water.
Traditionally, the Andean glaciers provided markets
near and far with fresh natural ice. Best known are the ice
gatherers, the hieleros on Chimborazo, who sold the glacier
ice in Riobamba, Guaranda and even in the lowland cities.
The glacier meltwater not only ensures drinking water supply but also a reliable hydrological potential for year-round
agriculture in the valleys, particularly during the dry season.
One such example is the Santa Valley in Peru, where the
ample waters from the Cordillera Blanca supply the villages
and the agriculture in the mountain valleys and on the adjacent coastal plain. In the core area of the Inca, the significance of the water can be read off the name Valle Sagrado
(sacred valley, Fig.2.74). In addition to the economic
aspects, the Andean glaciers play an important role in the
mythology and cultural traditions of the indigenous population. Each year thousands of pilgrims walk to the sacred
Qolqepunku Glacier in Peru and carry glacier ice or meltwater home.
In the river oases on the coastal plain of southern Peru,
agriculture would not be possible all year round without
the glaciers. The Chilean Longitudinal Valley with its
Mediterranean climate has a year round meltwater supply from the Andean glaciersunlike the Californian
Central Valley of the same climate region. The meltwater
forms the basis for intensive, export-oriented irrigation
The glaciers in the tropics differ fundamentally from
those outside the tropics. The tropical glaciers have short
tongues and form no valley glaciers. The equilibrium line is
nearer the accumulation area, the ablation area is relatively
short. Glacier movement, however, is faster than outside
the tropics, hence they are sometimes called fast glaciers.
Borsdorf and Stadel (1997) described such a glacier, taking
the Chimborazo as a case in point. The highest snow line
is reached in the subtropical regions. There only the very
high mountains carry small ice caps (Fig.2.75). With ablation being so strong, they cannot form any valley glaciers.
In contrast, the glaciers in the climatic zone of the westerlies
form tongues. If the accumulation area is limited, the glacier
moves slowly, but if it is on a large ice field, glacier movement may be relatively fast.
As in most regions in the world, the Andean glaciers,
too, esp. those in the tropics and subtropics, are under threat
from massive ablation.
The local population has reacted with great concern to
the almost total disappearance of the firn and ice cap of the
Cotacachi in Ecuador (4,939m). The older people saw it as

Fig.2.72Antisana, Ecuador

Fig.2.73Chimborazo Glacier, Ecuador

Fig.2.74Valle Sagrado, Peru


2 Factors, Processes and Spaces of Physical Geography

Fig.2.75Licancabur Volcano near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

a punishment by Mama Cotacachi, who needed to be pacified with religious ceremonies. The loss of the snow and
ice cap of the Cotacachi has had a detrimental effect on the
water supply of the densely populated area around the volcano (Rhoades 2007: 3750).
A similar reduction in glaciers can be observed in the
tropical Andes of Peru. They contain about half of the tropical ice areas on earth, covering 723km2, distributed across
more than 700 glaciers. In the last 40years, the glaciers
in the Peruvian Andes have lost between 11 and 30% of
their volume (Raup etal. 2007) and between 1970 and 1997
some 15% of the glacier area. The Quelccaya Ice Cap has
lost about 20% of its extension since 1978, and the Quori
Kalis Glacier that originates there has become about 150
200m shorter per year since 1995.
The glacier loss in the tropical Andes increases natural
hazards and the vulnerability of the rural and urban population. More and more often, steep glacier tongues break
off and, in combination with debris flows, destroy settlement areas. Since the 1940s, about 25,000 people in the
Peruvian Cordillera Blanca (Fig.2.76) have been killed by
glacier avalanches, mass movement of debris or breakout of
glacial lakes (Carey 2010). In April 2010, in Ancash province in the Cordillera Blanca, a huge block of ice fell off the
Hualcn Glacier into a glacial reservoir, triggering a disastrous flood wave and a stream of debris that destroyed the
reservoir and devastated the agricultural areas and some settlements below the overflowing lake.
In the course of warming in mountain regions, permafrost is thawing and exacerbates the instability of the
slopes. Shrinking glacier tongues may create new lakes and
increased meltwater can lead periodically to breakthroughs
of the glacial lakes.

Fig.2.76Frozen steep slope in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru

Glacier melt also occurs in the extratropical Andes.

Between 1945 and 1975, the Northern Patagonian Ice Field
lost 93km2 in glacier area and another 174km2 between
1975 and 1996. In general, between 1995 and 2000, the 60
largest ice caps of the Chilean and Argentinian cordilleras
melted twice as fast on average as in the previous 25years.
Most of the glaciers in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field
are also losing mass and length: the OHiggins Glacier,
which terminates in the lake of the same name, shrunk by
15km between 1975 and 1996, the largest reduction in that
area. In Fig.2.77 one can see a layer of black ash from the
outbreak of the Hudson Norte Volcano. Such layers of ash
reduce the glaciers albedo and intensify the ablation process. The vegetation-free abrasion areas on the Serrano
Glacier testify to the fast reduction of the glacier (Fig.2.78).
There is concern about the retreat of the Echaurren
Glacier in central Chile, which feeds the Ro Maipo and
some of its tributaries and supplies about two thirds of the
water needed by the capital Santiago de Chile. Estimates
see it completely gone by 2060. One of the few examples
of an advancing glacier is the 30km long Perito Moreno
Glacier, which grew by 4km from 1947 to 1996 and has
since reached a provisional equilibrium. However, this
advance is not explained by sinking temperatures, rather


2.8 The Andes as Water Tower

by snow drifts from the Patagonian Ice Field and by the fall
of chunks of smaller glaciers onto the tongue of the Perito
These statements underline the significance of the Andes
as a water tower. For the mountain area and the adjacent
lowland regions, the rivers, lakes and glaciers are probably the most important resource (Mountain Agenda 1998;
Wiegandt 2008). Climate change (Kohler etal. 2010),

growing settlement pressure and rising demand and needs,

which trigger increased use of water in agriculture, energy
production, mining, trade and industry, as well as tourism,
threaten the water resources of the Andes with overuse and
impairment of their quality. Careful use, sustainability-oriented management and a fair distribution of the hydrological resources therefore seems to be a key challenge for this

Climate Change in the Andes

Together with globalization, climate change is a major driver of change in the Andean natural and cultural landscape. Vuille (2013) has investigated climate change in the tropical Andes and has modelled further developments.
The trends for temperature and precipitation in the tropical Andes are shown in the figure below.
The increase in temperature particularly affects glaciers and the pramo. Higher temperatures put great pressure on the
fragile ecosystem of the pramo (Ruiz etal. 2011) and will impact on the lowland population as well, since the Andean
wetlands, together with the glaciers, have hitherto ensured their water supply. 10million people are thus threatened. In
the northern Andes, the Chacaltaya Glacier alone had an area of 0.22km2 in 1940, reduced to just 0.01km2 in 2007, and
had disappeared by 2009. In the Cordillera Blanca some 15% of glacier area has disappeared between 1970 and 1997.
Glacier retreat in the extratropical Andes is also alarming. The Patagonian Ice Fields are among the fastest
shrinking ice masses in the world, with 40km3 melting each year. Since Steffens investigation of the San Rafael
Glacier in Chile at the end of the 19th century (published in 1919), this glacier has retreated by ten kilometres.
Fraser (2009) has shown the dramatic effect of climate change on local culture and the existence of the indgenas.
Their food security is threatened and traditional ceremonies on the glacier can no longer take place due to the
increased distances. Borsdorf and Mergili (2011) have looked at the adaptation strategies of indgenas and campesinos to climate change in southern Colombia. They found that awareness raising, protecting biodiversity and
water resources, organic farming and biological engineering techniques are suitable for protecting livelihoods even
under conditions of climate stress.
In 2013 Lingenhhl reported, on the basis of recent studies, that climate change also affects volcanicity. For a
long time there had been agreement that volcanic eruptions influence the climate by throwing up ashes and sulphurous particles that block solar radiation and cool down the earth. Now evidence is mounting that global warming may increase volcanic activity. As the ice gets thinner, volcanic eruptions become more violent. In the Andes,
where the seismic centres are deeper down than in other volcanic areas, this process is slower, but even there the
volcanoes have been more active in warm phases once their ice caps had grown smaller or disappeared altogether

Surface temperature in C


Mean temperature
Deviation from the mean











Temperature trend in the tropical Andes, compared to the mean for 19611990, for the period from 1939 to
2006, based on measurements from 279 stations. The grey area shows the deviations from the mean.


Fig.2.77OHiggins Glacier, Chilean Patagonia

Fig. 2.78Glacier retreat on the Serrano Glacier, Ultima Esperanza

Fjord, Patagonia

2.9 Natural Hazards

The active tectonics and the high relief energy as well
as the climatic conditions represent significant dangers
for human settlement and land use. Active volcanoes
with lava and gas eruptions, plus so-called bombs and
lapilli rain, occasional hot mud streams (lahars), frequent

2 Factors, Processes and Spaces of Physical Geography

earthquakes of high intensity and seaquakes with tsunamis

make up great hazards for people living near volcanoes,
on the coast or in areas prone to earthquakes. The considerable relative relief makes for active morphodynamics.
As a consequence, mass movements (landslides, debris
flows) and avalanches frequently occur, occasionally triggered by earthquakes. In addition, the specific weathering leads to the desquamation of large rock complexes.
All these present potential dangers and risk factors for the
population and economy of the Andean space. Add to this
the effects of weather and climate extremes, often in connection with El Nio phenomena, i.e. extreme aridity and
drought, or catastrophic floods and landslides with their
direct and indirect effects (disruption of transport routes)
The Pacific coast and the Andes are a classic earthquake
region. The seismic centres are ranged along the main fault
lines separating the oceanic and continental plates or on the
staggered edges of the oceanic plates in the Pacific to the
west of the coast. The epicentres subduct from the coast to
the east along the edges of the plates. We can distinguish
two types: flatter subduction, of about 10, or steeper ones
of about 2530. Epicentres in the Pacific are for instance
found at the Seamount OHiggins and on the ridges that
lead away from the continent at a right angle, like the Nazca
Ridge, Juan Fernandez Ridge, Carnegie Ridge or Chile
Rise. The seismic centres are arranged along the subduction
zone, in the western cordillera in Colombia, for instance at
a depth of 70km, in the east at depths of up to 130km. The
tremors usually reach very far in a north-south direction
along the cordilleras, which are often altered through vertical movements or, in the east, also by lateral movements
of the plates. Subsidences as well as lifts occur in the deep
sea or in the longitudinal valleys. Over time, old rock series
are lifted to the surface, for instance in the coastal cordilleras. Figure2.80 shows the damages of the 1983 earthquake in Popayn, Colombia. Meanwhile the town has been
completely rebuilt and the effects of the earthquake are no
longer visible.
One of the most severe earthquakes measured so far
happened on 27 February 2010 in Chile. At 8.8MW, it
was still below the worst earthquake in Valdivia on 22
May 1960, which reached 9.5MW. Both events included
disastrous tsunamis. The earthquake in Valdivia dammed
up the outflow of Lake Riihue, which, after the natural
dam burst, led to further catastrophic floods and a subsidence of 2m.
Some of these damages are still visible today and the
town has still not completely recovered.


2.9 Natural Hazards

El Niothe Periodically Recurring Weather Event

El Nio is an episodically occurring rise in water temperatures on the surface of the sea, linked with changes in the
direction of oceanic currents in the Pacific. Only weather changes in the Pacific that are preceded by the warming ocean,
which is characteristic for this phenomenon, may be called El Nio (ENSO: El Nio Southern Oscillation). It starts in the
western (130160E) and middle (160150E) Equatorial Pacific some 63months before the rise in temperature in the
eastern part of the sea (15090W). Linked to it is a weakening of the anticyclones in the South Pacific and a strengthening of low pressure over Indonesia and Australia (the so-called Southern Oscillation), which lead to changes in air pressure in the South Pacific. While in normal years the surface water and the trade winds run from east to west, they switch
to a west to east direction in El Nio years. Humid air moves on the warm water that flows in an easterly direction, the
so-called Kelvin waves, and brings unusually heavy rain to the semi-arid Galpagos Islands and the arid coast of Peru
and Ecuador (Caviedes and Endlicher 1989).
In the Piura Valley, floods severely damage buildings, fields and public supply infrastructure and disrupt normal
life every time an El Nio event occurs (Waylen and Caviedes 1986). In Ecuador the rivers near the coast and in the
Daule-Vinces Basin overflow and destroy the crops of cocoa, bananas and sugar cane. In addition, the many streams
on the western slopes of the western cordillera break their banks and destroy buildings and the roads between the
coastal towns and the Andean centres (Rossel etal. 1998).
In El Nio years the rivers on the Colombian Pacific coast swell as can be read off the massive deposits of the
San Juan (Quesada and Caviedes 1992) and the Cauca rivers (Riehl 1984). In the rest of Colombia and in Venezuela,
however, El Nio normally brings low water levels. The river valleys of central Chile and the Andes of Mendoza,
Argentina, experience high water levels and floods as well as landslides (Berri and Flamenco 1999). There the usual
winter peaks are augmented by heavy rain (Waylen and Caviedes 1990), triggered by the stimulation of frontogenesis and cyclogenesis by the warming of the Pacific (Caviedes 2001).
In other South-American areas with little precipitation the heavy rains also lead to landslides, called huaicos in Peru
and Ecuador. These landslides greatly increase the sediments carried in the rivers and fill whole fields of sugar cane, cotton or maize with mud. Moreover, El Nio has negative effects on human health (Epstein 1999): epidemics caused by
viruses and bacteria become more frequent, for instance cholera, malaria, yellow and dengue fever, as well as intestinal
problems caused by contaminated drinking water, all of them potential consequences of persistent rain. Smaller catches
in Peruvian fishing grounds in the Pacific and the destruction of the shrimp cultures in the mangrove coasts of Ecuador
are additional impacts of ENSO.
In contrast, the cordillera and altiplano regions of Peru and Bolivia experience below-average precipitation
amounts in El Nio years.
Caviedes (2001a, b), however, has pointed out that El Nio can also have positive effects. ENSO years mean
record harvests of maize, peanuts and soy beans. In the western Andes, in central Chile and in the west of Argentina,
the rivers carry more sediment in these years, which supply additional nutrients to the fields, while the animals also
benefit from a better food supply in the humid months around Christmas.

The 1960 Valdivia earthquake cost 1,655 lives, 519 people died in the 2010 earthquake, which had its seismic centre 105km northeast of Concepcin and was followed by
over 100 aftershocks. Around 500,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, the total damage reached US$2030billion. The landmass in the Concepcin area was pushed 3m
to the west and that of Santiago 24cm to west-southwest.
19min after the tremor, the 2.4m flood wave of the tsunami
reached Talcahuano, after 34min it reached Valparaso
and after 4.5h it arrived at the Easter Island. Even this low
wavelow compared to the forecast of 30mcaused considerable damage and swept ships far inland.

The comparatively small number of deaths of the 2010

earthquake was owed to the fact that Chile was relatively
well prepared for such an event and had learned from the
earthquakes of 1960 and 1985. Still under military rule,
strict building regulations had been passed. Even so, disaster management was inadequate. The earthquake happened
at 3:37 a.m. The official state disaster protection authority
ONEMI was unstaffed overnight and because of some misinformation the state president even cancelled the tsunami
In Chilean western Patagonia a terrible volcanic eruption took place on 2 May 2008, which completely destroyed


Fig.2.79Mass movement on Tungurahua, Ecuador

Fig.2.80Earthquake damage in Popayn, Colombia, 1983

Fig.2.81The buried town of Yungay, Peru

2 Factors, Processes and Spaces of Physical Geography

the town of Chaitn. The eruption of the 1,222m high

volcano of the same name was the fastest for decades and
came about through rhyolite magma rising very fast from
5km below through existing channels. It formed a 20km
high cloud of ash. The 3,300 inhabitants of the harbour
town were evacuated and the town later abandoned. The
ashes fell in a large, but sparsely populated area of eastern
The eruption of the Puyehue Volcano (2,236m) on 4
June 2011 had a more dramatic effect. The eruption did not
start in the volcano itself but in the neighbouring Cordon
Caulle, a long mountain ridge with eruption crevices. The
column of ash was only 10km high, but hit the Argentinian
tourist centre around San Carlos de Bariloche in so-called
Argentinian Switzerland. The layer of ash was 50cm thick
in places and the ash in the air meant that flights had to be
cancelled, not only in Argentina, but also in Australia and
New Zealand, where the cloud of ash arrived on 21 June.
Several Argentinian provinces had to declare a state of
On the evening of 13 November 1985, a severe natural disaster struck Colombia. After months of increased
activity, the Nevado del Ruiz erupted and shot 35million
tons of material into the air. Hot ash melted the massive
ice cap of the summit. Enormous lahars ran down the
flanks of the volcano, taking with them rubble and trees
along the way, and reached the town of Armero, 100km
away, 2h later, destroying it completely. 23,000 people
died. The fate of 13year old Omayra Snchez touched
the world. Closely watched by press and TV, she fought
for her life for 3days, trapped in a hole underground.
She lost her fight, as rescuers could not free her in time
(Lingenhhl 2013).
On 31 May 1970, a catastrophic event destroyed the
town of Yungay in Peru (Fig.2.81). An earthquake on the
northern summit of the Huascarn caused a glacier avalanche that triggered a landslide of debris, rocks, ice and
water. The mass movement covered the town with debris
material to a thickness of up to 10m. Almost all the inhabitants, which numbered 25,00030,000 at the time, were
killed (Jtzold 1971; Patzelt 1983).
Earlier, on 10 January 1962, a similar event buried
the villages of Yanamachico, Shacsha and Ranrahirca in
the neighbouring Shacsha Valley. The people of Yungay,
however, had thought of themselves as safe until the disaster of 1970, because their town is separated from the
Huascarn Valley by a 140m high moraine bank.
Three reasons have been put forward why the town was
buried after all. First, a large mass of ice broke off (15million m3 according to official figures; Schhl 1970: 508);
second, the mass moved at an extremely high speed, reaching almost free-fall velocity within the first 1,000m (total
elevation difference from the summit of the Huascarn to
Yungay is 3,900m). The debris flow covered the 13km


2.9 Natural Hazards

distance within 1min 42s, according to French geologist

Platzelt (Platzelt 1970), who happened to be present, which
translates into a speed of 360km/h.
The pressure dissolved some of the ice into water, which
formed a film on which the debris flow, consisting of morainic
material, rocks, ice, water, debris and sediment, could easily
glide at fast speed. Third, because of its speed, the landslide
did not follow the lie of the valley but was deflected on the
slopes, thus taking a zigzag course. The last kink aimed it
directly towards the moraine wall and part of the debris flow
shot across it and thus directly towards Yungay.
First the debris flow reached the base camp of a 15-strong
Czech team of mountaineers, who wanted to climb Huascarn,
and buried them under several metres of rubble. The entire
team was killed.
Hardly anything was left of the town. Only the upper
parts of the cemetery hill were spared. Some remains of the
cathedral and four palms in the lee of the cathedral are all
that is left of the old town of Yungay.
Meanwhile a stone altar has been put up in the place of
the altar of the original cathedral and a church portal near its
original place has been restored. In a line of sight with the
altar and the portal, an obelisk was erected to commemorate
the disaster. Occasional headstones stand in places where
survivors believe their former houses stood. Two deformed

Fig.2.82Yungay Nuevo, Peru

car wrecks were exhibited and are still there. By now the
place is covered by sparse vegetation. In some places, people have established flower beds. Yungay Nuevo was built a
few kilometres further on (Fig.2.82), but even there it is not
entirely safe from further potential disaster.

Conservation and Protected Areas

A. Borsdorf and C. Stadel, The Andes, Springer Geography, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-03530-7_3

Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015



3 Conservation and Protected Areas


Offerings to Pachamama, Uros, Bolivia


3 Conservation and Protected Areas

3.1 The Protected Area Concept

In recent years there has been global agreement on the
realization that, with natural resources being exploited
beyond the limits of their capacity and ecosystems becoming severely impaired, it must be a global concern to protect
precious or characteristic natural and cultural landscapes.
Mountain areas play a special role in this respect. Of the
total acreage of protected areas, almost a third is situated
in mountain regions. In his inventory of protected mountain
areas, Thorsell (1997) only lists areas with a minimum size
of 10,000ha and a relative altitudinal difference of at least
1,500m, which moreover correspond to the IUCN protection criteria (International Union for the Conservation of
Even if one applies these restrictions, Hamilton (2006:
151f.) and other sources report that the World Conservation
Monitoring Centre in Cambridge, UK, lists 21,400 protected mountain areas across the world, with a total size
of ca. 11million km2 (=28% of the total mountain area).
These include national parks, regional parks, UNESCO
biosphere reserves (of which 67 are in mountain regions),
UNESCO world heritage sites (in the Andes, for instance,
Sangay National Park in Ecuador, Huascarn National Park
or the Sanctuario Histrico de Machu Picchu in Peru; globally, 61 world heritage sites are situated in high mountain
areas). Some protected areas border on those of a neighbouring country, in the Andes, for instance, Bernardo
OHiggins National Park and Torres del Paine National
Park in Chile on Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina,
or Sajama National Park in Bolivia, which continues on the
Chilean side in Lauca National Park). These protected areas
are sometimes organized as international corridors and take
on a special integrative and pacifying role. UNESCO aims
to encourage cross-border initiatives. At 11% of the mountainous parts, the proportion of protected areas is comparatively high in the Andes (Thorsell and Paine 1997; Fig.3.1),
even if the conservation status may not always be perfectly
ensured. The Andean space, esp. in the tropics, is characterized by a particularly rich diversity of ecosystems and natural landscapes. Prominent among them are the mountain
and cloud forests, the grassland savannahs of the pramos
(Fig.3.2) and punas, but also the impressive glacier, summit
and volcano landscapes of the sierras. Thousands of years
of settlement and land use, as well as intensive exploitation
of the resources, have created a threat to these mountain
landscapes in many places and put them in special need of

Fig.3.1Pramo in Cinturn Andino Biosphere Reserve, Colombia

At national and international level, protected area

designations focus on areas where the ecosystems are
particularly fragile, the endemic flora or fauna is particularly characteristic or diverse, or which are most significant in scientific, recreational or touristic terms. These
days it is often pointed out that, from an ecological perspective, it would be useful to create larger, contiguous
protection corridors, e.g. supraregional water catchment
areas or forests that go beyond administrative boundaries. At the same time the realization has dawned that
such endeavours can only be successful in the longer
term, if the living conditions of the local people are not
impaired by such initiatives. In many instances the original protection concept has been superseded by a strategy
of creating model regions of sustainable development
(Lange 2005), as exemplified in the biosphere reserves
and the IUCN-certified national parks. To this end the
agreement and participation of the rural communities
must be obtained.


3.1 The Protected Area Concept

Objectives of the IUCN Categories (Source




regional development


regional development




regional development


regional development














regional development







regional development

Strict Nature Reserve: strictly protected area set aside to protect biodiversity and also possibly geological/
geomorphological features, where human visitation, use and impacts are strictly controlled and limited to
ensure protection of the conservation values.
Wilderness Area: usually large unmodified or slightly modified area, retaining its natural character and influence without permanent or significant human habitation, which is protected and managed as to preserve its natural condition.
National Park: generally large natural or near natural area set aside to protect large-scale ecological processes,
along with the complement of species and ecosystems characteristic of the area, which also provide a foundation for environmentally and culturally compatible, spiritual, educational, and visitor opportunities.
Natural Monument or Feature: area set aside to protect a specific natural monument, which can be a landform, sea mount, submarine cavern, geological feature such as a cave or even a living feature such as an
ancient grove. Generally a rather small protected area and often having high visitor value.
Habitat/Species Management Area: area aiming to protect particular species or habitats, with management
reflecting this priority. This protected area will generally need regular, active interventions to to address the
requirements of a particular species or to maintain habitats.
Protected Landscape/Seascape: protected area where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced
an area of distinct character with significant ecological, biological, cultural and scenic values, and where safeguarding
the integrity of this interaction is vital to protecting and sustaining the area and its associated nature conservation and
other values.
Protected Area with Sustainable Use of Natural Resources: protected area to conserve ecosystems and habitats together with associated cultural values and traditional natural resource management principles. Generally
large in size, with most of the area in a natural condition, where a proportion is under sustainable natural resource
management and where low-level non-industrial use of natural resources is compatible with nature conservation.
Other (Selected) International Designations
Ramsar Area: protection and sustainable use of wetlands or waterfowl habitats.
World Heritage Site: natural or cultural place or region of a special physical or cultural significance, recognized by
the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.
Peace Park: cross-border natural or cultural protected area, with the aim of promoting peace and cooperation
between neighbouring states.


3 Conservation and Protected Areas

Tayrona NP

Sierra Nevada de Santa

Marta NP & BR

El Angl NP

Sanguay NP
Podocarpus NP & BR

Manu NP & BR

Fig.3.3Capacitacin as a form of participation and education in protected areas, Bolivia

Huascarn NP & BR
Cotapata NP
Santuario Historico
Machu Picchu

Sajama NP

Lauca NP & BR

Fray Jorge NP & BR

La Campana Peuelas

protected areas

Nahuel Huapi NP & NR

NP = national park
BR = biosphere reserve
NR = national reserve

K. Heinrich, IGF, 2013
Data sources:
IUCN and UNEP. 2012.
The World Database on
Protected Areas (WDPA).
UNEP-WCMC. Cambridge, UK.
SRTM 90 m digital elevation data

Laguna San Rafael

Los Glaciares NP & NR
Torres del Paine NP & BR

Kap Hoorn NP

Fig.3.2National parks and biosphere reserves in the Andes 2012

Under no circumstances should the indigenous population be moved from newly created protected areas or lose
their traditional livelihoods. Instead, what is needed is
patient and careful awareness raising (concientizacin)
and education (capacitacin) of the indigenous population

(Fig. 3.3). It is not enough to stress the ecological significance of the endemic diversity or the aesthetics of natural
landscapes. Instead the long-term value of preserving the
genetic pool of the indigenous flora and fauna in situ and
the urgent need for conserving and maintaining natural
water and land resources to ensure livelihoods should be
impressed on the rural communities. Another priority is
strengthening the environmental awareness of the rural and
the urban population from childhood onwards and to mobilize it via targeted programmes. In this context it becomes
clear that environmental and conservation concepts and
strategies cannot be restricted to the designated protected
areas but must be taken into account in any form of planning and implementation of a sustainable regional management without disregarding the needs of the local population.
Zoning of protected areas is designed to accommodate such
priorities. Biosphere reserves and national parks are subdivided
into core zones, buffer zones (where sustainable use is tolerated to some extent) and development zones. In these outer
zones traditional as well as innovative usages are encouraged
which are in line with the sustainability objective.
The rights and status of indigenous communities and local
small farmers should be maintained in protected areas, not
least because these groups of people have usually already
lived in the region before the protected area became established and have long been dependent on using the resources
sustainably. In contrast, the role of external decision makers
and non-sustainable forms of land use are problematic and
often incompatible with protection concepts. Such usage
includes massive diversion of water resources from mountain
regions into irrigation agriculture in the valleys and adjacent
lowlands or to the cities to satisfy the increasing demand for
drinking water, the often uncontrolled felling of forests, as
well as environmental degradation through excessive mining,
industry and transport infrastructure.
The protected area concept in South America goes back
to the US national park idea of the 19th century. The first


3.1 The Protected Area Concept

accumulated size of protected areas (1,000 km)


16 %

11 %


10 %

16 %



1965 1975




Fig. 3.4Development of protected areas acreage in the tropical

Andes (adapted from Hoffmann etal. 2011: 369)

protected areas were designated in the early 20th century in

Argentina and Chile; in 1903 the first public nature park was
founded in the region of todays Nahuel Huapi National Park
in Argentina, 1907 it was followed by the Malleco Reserva
Forestal in Chile. In the early 20th century, the main reasons
for establishing a protected area were the appreciation of the
beauty of a landscape and its added value for tourism.
The 1960s saw a dramatic increase in protected areas
in the Andes, both in the number of protected areas (see
Fig.3.4 for the tropical Andes) and in their size. Since then
the protection of ecosystems and of the endemic biodiversity have become the priorities. This development stems
mainly from the increasing interest of national governments
in conservation as well as from international initiatives (for
instance IUCN, UNESCO, FAO). In addition to the prime
aim of protecting natural ecosystems, achieved in part
through channelling visitor streams along established paths
(Fig.3.5) that they may not leave, these days great emphasis
is also placed on maintaining traditional cultural landscapes,
preserving the genetic pool of old cultivated plants and a
respectful handling of old cultural sites, esp. sites of major
spiritual or religious significance. These objectives have
become an integral part of the protected area system in Peru.

3.2 The Example of Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu (Andrade 2000: 4962), stretching across
some 32,600ha and through elevations from 1,800 to
3,800m, illustrates clearly the conflicting issues in this area

Fig.3.5Channelling visitor flows in El Angl National Park, Ecuador

as an Inca site of spiritual significance, particularly for the

native population, against booming tourism with its rising infrastructural demands and the threatening degradation of the natural environment. The few thousand locals
who live within the Sanctuario Histrico de Machu Picchu
(Fig. 3.6) are faced with 971,642 annual visitors, almost
70% of them foreigners (figures for 2011) (www.mincetur. The rapid and largely unchecked growth of Aguas
Calientes, the main tourist destination in the Urubamba
Valley, shows a marked socio-economic contrast between
the private businesses benefitting from tourism, such as
hotels, restaurants and shops on the one hand, and the local
population who does not benefit directly from tourism, plus
the seasonal low-pay workers, on the other.
While Aguas Calientes is oriented almost exclusively on the
needs of visitors, the families in the other small Quechua villages live mainly on traditional agricultural activities and regard
Machu Picchu as an important site of their cultural tradition.
Since 2001 indigenous interests are represented by the
native NGO, Yachay Wasi, which vehemently demands the
preservation of Machu Picchu as sacred site and the integration of the Quechua population in the management of the
protected region. In Machu Picchu, unlike almost anywhere
else in the Andes, the material interests of the international
tourist industry stand against the immaterial ecologic and


Fig.3.6Observation tower in Machu Picchu, Peru

spiritual values in a largely incompatible manner. This

opposition is also expressed in the needs and priorities of
the local population of the Urubamba valley and those of
supraregional national and international interests.
It seemed therefore urgently necessary to include the
diverging aims in a draft master plan (1998) and an integrated management concept, which was implemented in
2005, with the aid of an international institute supported
by UNESCO. The concept for the historic sacred place of
Machu Picchu aims at reducing the daily number of visitors in the area of the Inca site and along the Inca Trail and
to coordinate them better, to curb the uncontrolled growth
of Aguas Calientes, to introduce stricter traffic regulation
between the settlement in the valley and Machu Picchu and
to achieve better protection of the archaeological heritage
and the ecology (for instance of the Polylepis groves).
Machu Picchu is situated within an internationally acclaimed conservation hotspot, is a Global 2000
Freshwater Ecoregion of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF),

3 Conservation and Protected Areas

a WWF-IUCN Centre of Plant Diversity and one of the

exceptional regions of endemic bird species. In an effort to
better control the divergent interests and forms of land use
in the region and, where possible, to separate them on the
ground, the protected area of Machu Picchu was subdivided
into seven zones:
1. strict protection zone with only limited research activities;
2. protected area for the fauna, with only limited human
3. restoration areas for the vegetation;
4. historical-cultural protected area with designated public
5. intensively used areas for recreational and tourism
6. special designated areas for settlements and infrastructure;
7. buffer zone, including parts of the adjacent Urubamba
Despite these planning measures Machu Picchu still
faces enormous challenges. Potential problems include
the latent natural hazards of the terrain in the form of erosion, landslides and floods, uncontrolled burning of slopes
and forest fires, overgrazing and inappropriate agricultural
practices, destabilization of slopes through paths, roads and
rail tracks, mining activities that threaten the natural space,
negative impacts of the Machu Picchu hydropower centre
in the Urobamba Valley, the unclear legal title to the use of
land and water resources, rapid increase in waste, air and
water contamination, plus excessive tourism with its negative impacts.
In recent years the Peruvian government and the regional
authorities have come under increased pressure from
UNESCO to adhere more strictly to the protection regulations. Helicopter flights over Machu Picchu have been
banned and a planned cable car form Aguas Calientes to
the site of the ruins was not built. Aguas Calientes receives
10% of the earnings from entry fees to Machu Picchu for
improving the infrastructure, esp. for clearing up waste collection and waste water treatment.

3.3 Vilcanota Spiritual Park

Vilcanota Spiritual Park, situated in the Peruvian cordillera of the same name (Fig.3.7) is another example of a
protection status for a significant Andean cultural heritage
and a religious site with a tradition going back beyond the
Spanish Conquest. For the Quechua people, the Ausangate
(6,372m) is the home of their god Apu, and in June every
year, tens of thousands of Qero people make a p ilgrimage
to the Ausangate Glacier. Their Qolloy Riti festival
and the pilgrimage mix pre-Christian and Christian religious symbols and rituals. Meanwhile the festival and the


3.3 Vilcanota Spiritual Park

pilgrimage have been discovered by international tourism. While this brings certain economic benefits for the
Quechua population, it also poses a threat to their culturalspiritual authenticity. The local population is also concerned about the glacier retreat and about the impact of
external interests in the timber industry, in mining and in
the tourist industry.
Glacier retreat cannot be avoided, but to counteract the
other threats, conservation management and the maintenance of ecological and cultural-landscape diversity and the
traditional terraced fields (Fig.3.8) should be made a priority and be based on local traditions. The variety of Andean
tuber crops in this region seems to warrant particular regard
in terms of protection and further development. Alejandro
Argumedo, director of the Asociacin Kechua Aymara para
Comunidades Sustentables (ANDES) expressed the concept
of Vilcanota Spiritual Park as follows:

Fig.3.7Nudo de Vilcanota with Ausangate Glacier, Peru

Because of restricted access to some areas with voluntary protection measures exercised by the local population, Sacred Natural
Sites conserve local ecosystems and their unique biodiversity in
an effective and efficient way, so that they can serve as repositories of critical biological resources for rehabilitation of depleted
Andean landscapes. (quoted in: Wild and McLeod 2008: 71)

3.4 Biosphere Reserves

Biosphere reserves (Reservas de la Biosfera) are a special category of protected area, created within the UNESCO Man and
the Biosphere Programme (MAB) and offering plenty of information for the visitors (Fig.3.9). A biosphere reserve consists
of a strictly protected core zone (rea ncleo), surrounded by a
buffer zone of limited protection functionality (zona de amortiguamiento) and a transition or development zone (rea de
transicin) (Fig.3.10). While the core zone may only hold a
monitoring station, the adjacent areas may contain human settlements and activities, e.g. agricultural or industrial activities,
research, training or information centres or tourist infrastructure, as long as they are operated in a sustainable manner.
Across the Andes there are currently 28 biosphere
reserves, ten in Chile, six in Argentina, two in Bolivia,
two in Ecuador, four in Peru and four in Colombia (cf.
Table 3.1). The total size of all Andean biosphere reserves
in 1997 exceeded 9million ha. The largest biosphere
reserves in the Andes in terms of size are Reserva del Man
in Peru (1.88million ha) and Reserva de la Biosfera Cabo
de Hornos in Chile (1.9million ha on land, 4.88million ha
total). Many biosphere reserves stretch across great altitudinal differences and include several vertically staggered ecological zones.

Fig.3.8Terraced fields in Vilcanota Spiritual Park, Peru


3 Conservation and Protected Areas

Intensity of land use

research and
land use, economic
activity and development
recreation and
environmental education


Core zone: strictly protected conservation zone;

usually entering is only allowed for research and
Buffer zone: only ecologically sustainable impacts
allowed, e.g. ecotourism, environmental education,
ecological farming
Development zone: implementation of innovative model
projects for an ecologically and socio-economically
sustainable development of the entire region

Fig.3.10Zoning in biosphere reserves (after Lange 2005)

Fig.3.9Information sign in Fray Jorge BR

Table3.1List of Andean
biosphere reserves and year
of designation


Biosphere reserves

Created in


Andino Norpatagnica


Las Yungas






Riacho Teuquito


San Guillermo




Ulla Ulla




Archipilago Juan Fernandez


Bosques Tempados Lluciosos de los Andes Australes


Cabo de Hornos 2005


Corridor Biolgico Nevados de Chilln-Laguna del Laja


Fray Jorge


La Campana-Peuelas

1984, expanded in 2009

Laguna de San Rafael




Torres de Paine




Podocarpus-El Condor


Cienaga Grande de Santa Marta


Cinturn Andino


El Tuparro


Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta






North-West Peru








3.4 Biosphere Reserves

La Campana National Park and Biosphere Reserve, Central Chile

On 17 October 1967, La Campana, an area of 8,000ha in the coastal cordillera of Central Chile, was declared
a national park. Combined with the Reserva Lago Peuelas, the area became a UNESCO biosphere reserve on
15 February 1985, making it one of seven Chilean model regions of sustainable development. La Campana peak
(1,828m) is characterized by great biodiversity and a human presence going back a very long way. It is composed
of granite, with various ores on the rim of the batholith (wulfenite, pyrite, gold, haematite), which evolved during
the contact-metamorphic phase of the Jurassic. Between 300 and 900 CE, the Llolleo people settled there and many
ceramics attributable to them have been found. The Llolleo people were superseded by the Aconcagua culture.


La Campaa National Park

Lago Peuelas Protected Area

Mediterranean thorny shrubland of Acacia caven

and Prosopis chilensis


xerophytic matorral
Via del Mar

xerophytic Mediterranean coastal woodland

with Cryptocarya alba and Peumus boidus


xerophytic Mediterranean coastal woodland

with Lithrea caustica and Cryptocarya alba


temperate coastal rainforest with Nothofagus

macrocarpa and Ribes punctatum
low matorral with Chuqiuraga oppositifolia


Re g i n
Va lp a r a so

Regi n
M e tr opol i tana


20 k m

K. Heinrich, IGF, 2013
Data sources:
SRTM 90 m digital elevation data (

Vegetation zones in La Campana Biosphere Reserve

The designation as a protected area is not so much due to these archaeological findings but mainly based on the
diversity of its flora and fauna. 1,073 species of plants are growing there, of which 6% each are of Andean and
Central-Chilean origin, 35% neotropical, 12% gondwanic, 7% pantropical, 3% subantarctic and 31% of other
origin. Particularly impressive are the large stocks of the Chilean palm (Jubaea chilensis) and smaller stocks of the
Chilean oak (really a southern beech, Nothofagus macrocarpa). The lower vegetation levels are taken up by the
matorral plant society (comparable to Mediterranean macchia shrubland) and by xerophytes (cactuses, puyas, etc.).
In some places, weathering has led to the emergence of woolsack formations.
From 1618 August 1834, Charles Darwin climbed Mt Campana and recorded his observations in 1839 in his
travelogue. UNESCO designated the 260ha area La Campana as a biosphere reserve in appreciation of its long
history of scientific research and significance as well as for its diverse land use and the picturesque local culture.
Christian traditions, such as the processions to the pilgrimage church of Nio Dios de Las Palmas or to the Virgin
Mary in Caleu, the Huaso Festival (Chilean herdsmen), the technique of threshing with horses, a diverse folk music
scene and the popularity of the main town of Olmu as a holiday resort motivated UNESCO to protect the region of
La Campana and to support sustainable development processes. The area was divided into zones following the biosphere reserve model.
La Campaa Biosphere Reserve and National Park today is an important tourist destination and a target area for
amenity migration. Its development zone includes a significant Chilean fruit growing area (esp. avocados) (Borsdorf
and Hidalgo 2009). In this way the UNESCO objectives of conservation, environmental education, tourism and recreation have been well realized.


3 Conservation and Protected Areas

Since 1995 the UNESCO biosphere reserves go beyond

protecting culture and the environment and include social
cohesion and economic stability or even growth in their concept. At the 2nd World Congress of Biosphere Reserves in
Seville, their aim was formulated as creating model regions
of sustainable development. Economic impulses in the
development zone should safeguard the survival of people
in protected areas and strengthen their economic options.
Participation and bottom-up decision processes are to support social cohesion and ensure social and political peace. At
the 3rd World Congress in Madrid in 2008, this strategy was
further expanded to include climate change adaptation and
urbanization, so that since then biosphere reserves can also
be created in urban and periurban areas (Lange 2011).
Fray Jorge Biosphere Reserve in northern Chile is a
special case: on its 1,344km2 (5% core zone, 19% buffer
zone, 76% development zone) it not only protects four
vegetation levels but also a cloudforest (Fig.3.11) that has
formed at the condensation level of the coastal fog and
which is almost completely fed by humidity from the air.
In Cinturn Andino Biosphere Reserve in southern
Colombia the latest concept has already been implemented
(Borsdorf etal. 2011, 2012). There, guerrilla and paramilitary groups have been pushed back successfully and the
often violent rivalries between indigenous people and small
farmers have been brought to a close. At the same time,
sustained success in climate change adaptation (through
organic farming, terracing, windbreak planting, biological

Fig.3.11Cloudforest in Fray Jorge Biosphere Reserve

Fig.3.12Livelihood in Cinturn
Andino biosphere reserve (Source
Borsdorf 2011: 46)













3.4 Biosphere Reserves

engineering, etc.) has been achieved and livelihoods as well

as participation ensured. Existing natural capital has been
safeguarded, social and human capital strengthened and
resilience against potential threats increased (Fig.3.12).
In Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Biosphere Reserve,
Colombia, (size: 740,250ha), the development zone is even
partly oriented on the world market. Before the creation
of the protected area, 85% of the natural forest had been
felled and replaced with marihuana and later coca plantations and pastures (Thiel and Effler 2011). As a result, two
of the rivers that originate in the area dried out. In addition, the area was controlled by guerrillas and paramilitary
groups. The Colombian Alianza para Ecosistemas Crticos
(ALPEC) managed to start a reversal. As a special achievement, coffee was grown again in the development zone
with support from German NGO Partnerschaftsprodukte
e.V. Organic coffee has since been awarded the label coffee
K.U.L.T. and is being exported to Europe. Fourteen campesino families are currently involved in this project. They
make sure that the rainforest is used in a sustainable manner
and that degraded areas are reforested with indigenous tree

3.5 National Parks

In national parks the tourist function still dominates, for
instance in Huascarn National Park (Fig.3.13) in the
Peruvian Cordillera Blanca. This unique but highly fragile
high mountain area faces special challenges, with its
ecologic diversity, its glaciers and water resources, on the
one hand, and the partly conflicting interests and priorities of the agricultural and the urban populations, plus the
demands of national and international tourism, on the other.
The national park has a size of 340,000ha and was created in 1975. UNESCO expanded the protected area by
combining the national park region and the surrounding
areas, with a total size of nearly 400,000ha, into a biosphere
reserve. In 1985 the region was awarded the status of World
Heritage Site. In geographic terms, Huascarn National Park
is unique and includes 27 peaks higher than 6,000m, including the Huascarn, at 6,768m the highest mountain in the
tropics. The spectacular mountain scenery of the Cordillera
Blanca includes more than 600 glaciers, nearly 300 lakes
and some 40 rivers. This is an impressive wealth of glaciers
in the White Cordillera, even though they are in the process
of shrinking, and a valuable hydrological potential for the
entire region. However, glacier melt, periodic breakouts of
glacial lakes, rock fall and landslides, some of them triggered
by earthquakes (1945, 1962, 1970), have meant devastating


In the west, the Cordillera Blanca with its impressive peaks

(Fig.3.14) is bordered by the wide, densely populated valley
of the Callejn de Huaylas and in the east by the Callejn de
Conchucos. The mountain ridge forms the main continental
watershed between the Pacific and the Atlantic. The enormous
altitudinal difference of more than 4,000m and dramatic contrasts in the distribution of precipitation mean that the park
presents an amazing ecological diversity of plants (including
stocks of Polylepis and island stands of Puya raimondii) and
animals (of special interest are the rare spectacled bear, the
condor and a multitude of bird species). The main ecosystems
are differentiated by altitudinal zone as follows:
1. Montane tropical grasslands (dry leeward side of the mountains) and humid tropical mountain forests (humid windward slopes), at altitudes between ca. 3,000 and 3,800m;
2. Humid and semi-humid sub-Andean tropical grasslands
(pramos) at altitudes from about 3,8004,500m;
3. Sparse vegetation of cushion plants, grasses and lichen
above ca. 4,500m.
The valleys boast an impressive high mountain scenery and
rich ecological diversity as well as a cultural landscape with
a history going back several thousand years, esp. in the Santa
Valley. Evidence of this can be found in a series of archaeological sites of pre-Inca and Inca periods, densely populated
farmland with a long tradition and several smaller and larger
market towns in the valleys. While only about 850 people live
on subsistence-oriented extensive farming inside the national
park boundary, the adjoining buffer zone is home to nearly
300,000 people, spread across nearly 30 smaller and larger
municipalities, where cheese and other wares are produced
for selling at markets and at the roadside (Fig.3.15). The central place, greatly boosted by tourism, is Huaraz (ca. 100,000
inhabitants). North of it is the town of Caraz (ca. 20,000
inhabitants) in the Santa Valley. An estimated 10% of the population of Huascarn National Park and its buffer zone make
direct use of the resources of the national park (Byers 2000:
Cordillera Blanca and Huascarn National Park are
among the key destinations for national and international
tourism. Within the national park, Lake Llanganuco in the
northern part and the Pachcoto-Pastouri Valley in the south
draw the most visitors. In 2005 an average of some 3,000
tourists were counted per month, rising to ca. 7,000 per
month during the main season. Trekking and mountaineering
play an important role alongside day visits. Huaraz and the
Santa Valley attracted still much higher visitor numbers. This
is also where the main tourist infrastructures and services
are concentrated, esp. a wide selection of accommodation,
restaurants, tourist agencies, shops oriented on tourists and
locals as well as regional transport businesses. In addition to
agriculture and tourism, mining and hydropower production


3 Conservation and Protected Areas

Fig.3.13The summit of the Huascarn, Peru

Fig.3.15Local cheese production

Fig.3.14Glaciated peak in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru

play an important role and exacerbate the problem of potential conflicts of use.
Huascarn National Park is managed by the Peruvian
National Institute of Natural Resources (IRENA). The
management plan pursues three major aims: protecting
biodiversity, esp. rare plant and animal species; protecting
water resources; maintaining natural and cultural landscapes. A further concern is involving the local population in the park management. Local land owners within
the national park and the adjacent buffer zone may continue to farm in these areas, enjoy pasture rights and are
allowed to take out certain amounts of wood and medicinal plants, provided they plant new trees in replacement.
To this end, tree nurseries for endemic trees and shrubs
have been set up.
The indigenous population, however, is forbidden from
farming on endangered areas, overgrazing, hunting and
large-scale tree felling. The campesinos in the region have

3.5 National Parks

been invited to join so-called pasture management committees and to reduce the number of sheep and goats or replace
them by alpacas. In an effort to implement the protection
concept and to regulate the use of certain resources and
areas, the national park region was divided into five zones:
a strictly protected core zone; special vegetation protection
or restoration areas; game reserves or traditionally extensively or little used areas; intensively used recreation and
tourism zones; settlements and infrastructure areas.
The key challenges and issues for the management
include disputed land rights, unclear boundaries of the
national park and the biosphere reserve, the invasion of nonendemic eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) and pine stocks
(Pinus radiata), unregulated tourism, concentrated very
much in particular areas, inappropriate agricultural activities,
sprawling settlements in the Santa Valley; mining, increased
use of hydropower resources, water contamination and waste
disposal as well as the further expansion of the road network.
Add to this the dangers of climate change: melting glaciers,
extreme weather events, erosion and denudation phenomena, plus rock fall and floods, and, of course, natural hazards
unrelated to climate, like earthquakes and volcanism.

3.6 Management Challenges

While all Andean states today include a considerable number of protected areas, these differ greatly in their legal status and management concepts. In addition, regional selection
and selection criteria for protected areas are inconsistent,
often arbitrary. As a result, there are still noticeable gaps in
the spatial and ecological distribution of the protected areas.
The main deficits mentioned in its report by the Comisin
de Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo de Amrica Latina y Caribe
(n.d.: 158) relate to the diminished presence of specific
pramo and puna areas, certain montane, cloud- and subAndean forests, valley regions and xerophytic bolsons.
In a paper on the protective function of and threats to
tropical mountain rainforests, Kellner (2007) took the
protected area of Cotapata in Bolivia as a case in point
for the significance of this forest region as a hotspot of
biodiversity, esp. in terms of epiphyte species diversity.

Many of these forests are located in regions of high relief

energy and thus fulfil a key function in stabilizing the steep
slopes and protecting them from erosion. At the same time,
it is precisely the mountain rainforests and cloudforests that
are disproportionately endangered. Commercial felling,
clearing forest areas for agricultural use, mining, energy
production and road construction have all contributed to
deforestation. This is also very true of Cotapata National
Park, founded in1993 in mitigation of the construction of
the new trunk road from La Paz through the Yungas into the
Bolivian lowlands, which stretches across 850km2.


As with nearly all protected areas, various actors are

involved in using, endangering and protecting Cotapata
National Park. An estimated 1,500 people are permanently
settled in the protected area and a further unknown number
of people live there temporarily. These inhabitants mainly
live on agriculture and use the forest selectively to obtain
wood for timber and as firewood, and to gather forest products (resin, honey, wild fruit, medicinal plants, animals). The
ancient Choro Inca Path through the protected area, a popular destination for trekking tourists, makes the tourists and a
limited number of locals engaged in tourism benefit of this
function. Recently mountain biking has become increasingly
popular among the visitors of the national park.
The national park administration SERNAP, whose main
mandate is the protection and/or restoration of the hydrological potential and the forests, plus the protection or careful handling of biological resources, is another key actor in the region.
The trunk road La PazCoroico, parts of which still
run through the protected area, also has direct and indirect
effects on the region (Fig.3.16). On the one hand, road construction damaged the geomorphological and ecological
stability of the mountain slopes, on the other, it contributed
to people moving from the core areas of the national park to
resettle along the road, thus facilitating the implementation
of the conservation concept in the park.
Lauca Biosphere Reserve was included in the list of
UNESCO biosphere reserves in 1983. It includes the national
park territory (137,833ha, Fig.3.17), the Reserva Nacional
Las Vicuas (209,131ha) and the Monumento Nacional
Salar de Surire (11,298ha; Rundel and Palma 2000: 262
271). The ecological significance of this protected area lies
in the uniqueness of its still largely intact puna ecosystems
at altitudes above 4,000m, with an abundant diversity of
flora and fauna, including camelids like the vicua and

Fig.3.16Old road from La Paz to Coroico through Cotapata national

park, Bolivia


3 Conservation and Protected Areas

Sajama National Park, Bolivia

Sajama National Park is situated in the Bolivian western cordillera and borders on Lauca National Park in Chile. With
a size of just over 1,000km2, the park stretches from the Altiplano at around 4,200m to the peak of Nevado Sajama,
at 6,542m the highest mountain in Bolivia; other distinctive mountains are the Nevados de Payachata. On the Chilean
side there are the impressive double volcanoes Parinacota (6,342m) and Pomerape (6,222m). The Nevado Sajama is an
important catchment area for a number of rivers that provide water for the nearby municipalities and agricultural areas.
Sajama National Park is the oldest internationally recognized national park in Bolivia. In 1939 it was initially set
up as a protected area for the unique queua tree stands (Polylepis taracapana)nowhere else in the world growing at such high altitudeand the endangered camelids (vicuas). In 2003 Sajama National Park was included in the
preliminary list of UNESCO world heritage sites. Since 1995 it has been managed by the Servicio Nacional de reas
Protegidas (SERNAP). The village of Sajama is home to the administrative office of the park and starting point for
trekking tours and ascents to the peaks.
The semi-arid high altitude climate on the tropical rim means that the dominant puna vegetation features mainly
tussock grasses (Festuca ortophylla) and tola shrubs (Parastrephia lepidophylla), at higher altitudes also the deep
green cushions of yareta (Azorella compacta) and stands of queua trees, which can occur up to 5,200m altitude.
Before the national park was set up, the queua stands were decimated through local use for firewood and charcoal
for mining and railway building. Today the national park administration allows a small amount to be used for firewood to satisfy local demand. The tip of Sajama volcano is covered by a small glacier threatened with meltdown.

Church of Sajama, 4,300m, photograph by B. Messerli

Around 300 Aymara families (some 1,700 people) live inside the national park around Sajama peak, at an average elevation of 4,200m. Annual average temperature here is nearly 5 C, with an annual precipitation mean of around 300mm.
However, the temperatures vary greatly, particularly between day and night, with regular and often extreme night frosts.
Annual precipitation is concentrated on a few summer months, with 56months of hardly any precipitation. The considerable variation in precipitation year on year, and drought years in particular, are severely affecting the families.
The rough climate with its extreme vacillations in temperature and precipitation, the limited grazing possibilities
and scarce alternative sources of income, the isolation and continued neglect, made this region at the altitudinal upper
limit one of poverty and marginalization and forced many inhabitants to periodic or permanent migration into the cities
and mining areas. Others attempted to counteract their economic misery by smuggling goods from Chile to Bolivia.
The indigenous population in the region traditionally lives on animal husbandry of camelids and sheep. In 2007,
within the national park 24,170 llamas, 21,320 alpacas and 3,828 sheep were kept (Yager etal. 2008: 102). In addition to these grazing animals, some 5,000 non-domesticated vicuas live in the park. Before the establishment of the
national park, their stocks were severely reduced. Today the local population is involved in managing these animals
and in sustainable use of their wool. Intensive grazing is affecting the natural vegetation and the biodiversity of the
puna at times, particularly during droughts or in areas prone to wind erosion. Despite the high ecological and economic
vulnerability of the region, the local population has succeeded in surviving in this precarious mountain area, drawing
on their rich experience, their resilience and adaptability. The ties of the indigenous population to this region is mainly
based on traditional mythology and the strong cultural identification of the Aymara people with this mountain.


3.6 Management Challenges

Sajama National Park today is seen as a model for involving local people in the conservation concept of a unique
Andean natural and cultural area. Within the last 15years, SERNAP has succeeded in freeing itself from top-down
management concepts and strategies and achieved a bottom-up acceptance of the conservation idea in the local population. With the motto parque con pueblo, the national park administration explicitly recognizes the claim of the
local people to sustainable use of the resources and their involvement as partners in the management of the park.
This includes the participation of all interest groups, the state organization SERNAP, the Municipio Curahuara de
Carangas, as well as all small local municipalities in the planning and implementation of projects, ensured by the
inclusion of all decision makers in the managing committee (comit de gestin) of the park. The management concept of the national park is based on the following principles:
protection of natural and cultural heritage, esp. maintaining biodiversity, protection from degradation of the
land and strengthening indigenous communities.
sustainable economic and social development impulses at local and regional level.
Ecotourism potential is seen as an economic complementation. The national park offers unique scenic experiences
for short-term visitors, trekking tourists and mountaineers, plus a glimpse of the culture and living arrangements of the
Aymara people. This form of gentle eco-, agro- and cultural tourism is to be promoted through adapted expansion of tourist infrastructure and service offers. In 2003 the Tomarapi eco-lodge was established. It can take 2,0003,000 visitors each
year. The accommodation has been constructed using local materials in a traditional form of building and is managed
locally. The national park receives financial and technical support from the MAPZA project (Manejo de reas Protegidas
y Zonas de Amortiguacin) of the German Gesellschaft fr Technische Zusammenarbeit (Hoffmann 2007: 1114).

the guanaco, plus some 140 bird species (Fig.3.18; for all
Chilean biosphere reserves, see Moreira and Borsdorf 2014).
And yet this highland region at the upper limit of the human
ecumene can look back on a history of human use going back
several thousand years. Today mainly autochthonous Aymara
people live in the mountain region, plus some Aymaras who
have migrated in from neighbouring Bolivia. One of the key
aims for Lauca Biosphere Reserve is harmonizing the interests of these communities with the ecological priorities of the

biosphere reserve. Rundel and Palma (2000: 268) have identified five key challenges for the management and the protection
of resources in the biosphere:
1. protection and management of water resources;
2. management of rare and/or endangered plant and animal
3. handling the impact of human activities;
4. management of sustainable ecotourism;
5. assessing the status of existing administrative boundaries.


Nevados de Putre


national park boundary

state border
pre-puna shrubs

Volcn Pomerape
Cerro Parinacota




15 km

K. Heinrich, IGF, 2012





Fig.3.17Map of Lauca National Park with vegetation formations (after Rundel and Palma 2000: 263)

Data sources:
SRTM 90 m Digital Elevation
Data (


Fig.3.18Sajama volcano in Lauca Biosphere Reserve, with vicuas

in the front (Source Luca Galuzzi,

3 Conservation and Protected Areas

the ecology. This is best possible where human land use

adheres to the requirements of sustainability and the developed cultural landscape complements the natural heritage
Maintaining cultural heritage should not be limited to
protecting archaeological sites or cultural monuments but
also include rural and urban landscapes in their diversity.
For Brown and Mitchell (2000: 212217) this requires a
new approach to the concept and models of landscape protection. The two authors distinguish between the protected
areas approach based on the guidelines for IUCN Category
V and the cultural landscape approach of the UNESCO
World Heritage Convention (1996).
While both concepts recognize a connection between
natural environment and anthropogenous factors and processes, the main focus of a protected landscape is often
on maintaining ecosystems and protecting biodiversity. In
contrast, the cultural landscape approach emphasizes the
significance of the development of a cultural landscape, its
traditions, values and aspirations (Fig.3.19). Increasingly
it is now argued that a sustainable conservation concept
can only succeed if both concepts enjoy wide acceptance
in the local population who has to be involved at eye level
in integrating these concepts. In 1998 a meeting of the
UNESCO World Heritage Centre on this theme took place
in Arequipa, Peru. The conference met with broad agreement and the recognition of the Andes as one of the richest
and most complex natural and cultural heritages as well as
the important role of local communities in designating and
managing protected landscapes.

3.7 Maintaining Indigenous

CultureThe Case in Point
of Podocarpus National Park

Fig.3.19Upholding native traditions in Cinturn Andino Biosphere

Reserve, Colombia

In addition, the border location with Bolivia requires

international cooperation on issues of water distribution,
grazing rights, cross-border migration, international road
traffic and with developing a sustainable integrative tourism
In the debate about protected areas it has become clear
that there is a close connection between nature and culture and nowhere more so than in the tropical Andes. It is
therefore important to integrate the protection of traditional forms and techniques of land use with protection of

The natural and cultural diversity and the need to protect

local communities is also relevant for the project of maintaining biodiversity in mountain regions in Podocarpus
National Park and for supporting the adjacent settlement
areas of the Saraguro and Shuar people in the Cordillera
Oriental of southern Ecuador. The integrative approach
is used to achieve effective protection of the existing primary forest and its rich genetic resources, and to provide
development impulses for the rural area. By maintaining
and strengthening indigenous environmental knowledge as
human capital, the project will create the prerequisites for
the most appropriate sustainable development of land use
(Pohle 2004: 1421; Fig.3.20). Further measures include
strengthening social capital through participatory processes
and cooperation between the two ethnic groups.
This is a big challenge in terms of the particularly sensitive
mountain forest ecosystems, on the one hand, and the

3.7Maintaining Indigenous CultureThe Case in Point of Podocarpus National Park

Fig.3.20Podocarpus National Park (Source Pohle 2004, modified with the kind permission of the author)



enormous pressure on the land through expansion of agricultural areas, on the other. A top priority must be to respect the
cultural-spiritual and thus identity-forming function of the
forest for the Shuar people and to integrate their extensive forest-related environmental knowledge in sustainable management (Pohle 2004: 16).
For a long time the Shuar people have been using a
remarkable diversity of wild plants for subsistence, as nutritional supplement, as medicinal plants and as construction material. Other, less important uses include making
dyes from forest products, poisons for fishing and hunting,
using them as raw material for crafts, as tableware (e.g. the
leaves), as ritual plants and as raw material for other products. The traditional use of resources and the biodiversity
management of the Shuar people is thus based on a close,
cultural, economic and spiritual connection with the forest,
(Pohle 2004: 18, translated by the authors).
The Saraguro people in the higher regions have also been
using the forest resources for a long time, but have changed
large parts of the forest areas through slash-and-burn agriculture and grazing into a cultural area of small-holdings.
Even if today adequate landscape-ecological stability has
been achieved in part, this decimation of the mountain forest
impairs the high biodiversity, encourages erosion and landslides. Both in the Shuar and the Saraguro areas the small
private gardens have a long and important tradition of ensuring food security for the families. They are characterized by
a high diversity of species and varieties of basic foods, fruit
and vegetables, medicinal plants and culinary herbs, and at
the same time provide food for the animals and wood.
As early as 1982, Podocarpus National Park (150,000ha)
was put under strict protection because of the ecological
significance of the humid mountain forests on the eastern
flank of the cordillera in southern Ecuador, the dramatically
increasing pressure on land use and the expanding destruction of the forests. Recently three adjacent forest conservation areas, with a total size of more than 250,000ha, were
created, two of them in the border area with Peru. This concept focuses on maintaining biodiversity but largely disregards the economic needs and traditional land-use rights of
the autochthonous population. Pohle (2004: 19) suggests
two sustainability-oriented concepts as a way out of the conflict between forest conservation and forest use:
1. a conservation through use forest protection concept,
based on indigenous environmental knowledge and sustainable use of resources;
2. a nature and culture conservation concept aimed at
maintaining the biological hotspots as well as the cultural diversity.
This approach also fits in with the conservation and
development concept of UNESCO biosphere reserves with
its designation of strictly protected areas in the core zone,
allowing sustainable human land use in the buffer zone,
plus economic development in the development zone.

3 Conservation and Protected Areas

Such an integrated conservation and development concept for the Cordillera Oriental in southern Ecuador should
ease and regulate the pressures of unchecked agricultural
colonization, uncontrolled expansion of settlements along
the roads, uncoordinated mining activity and informal and/
or illegal extraction of timber. Such a sustainable regional
concept could integrate Podocarpus National Park as well
as the forest conservation corridors, the historically evolved
cultural landscapes (Loja, Vilcabamba Valley) and the settlement areas of the indigenous communities of the Shuar
and Saraguro people.
Figure3.20 shows the position and reach of Podocarpus
National Park and additional forest conservation areas in
the eastern cordillera of Ecuador, southeast of the town of
Loja. As these protected primary forest areas are situated
in the settlement areas of the indigenous Saraguros and
Shuars, the conservation concepts must be tailored to the
interests of these people. The forest conservation concept
is therefore based on the idea of conservation through use
and aims for traditional agri- and silvicultural use of the
forest resources and sustainable biodiversity management
(Pohle 2004).

3.8 The Corridor Concept

Any efforts to apply a protection status to larger contiguous areas can only be successful in the longer term if the
needs of the local population are adequately respected.
Ecological criteria demand biological corridors to counteract fragmentation of habitats, the loss of plant and animal
species and to protect the pronounced biodiversity of mountain areas. In the Andes various proposals and approaches
exist for creating such corridors at national and international level. Yerena etal. (2003), for example, demand an
ecological corridor to link the adjacent but spatially separated national parks of Yacamb, Terepaima and Guache
in the Sierra de Portuguesa in the northeastern part of the
Venezuelan Andes.
The proposed international Ruta Condor/Wiracocha
project is meant to enhance the protection of natural, cultural
and spiritual resources of the landscape on a larger scale. The
envisaged corridor is oriented on the pre-colonial Wiracocha
route from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia,
through the Quijos Valley in the Ecuadorian Oriente, across
the Alto Caete/Cochas Pachacayo region (Huayhuash
Cordillera) and through the Valley of the Kings near Pisac in
Peru to Sajama National Park in Bolivia. If realized, it would
grant a certain amount of protection to a unique landscape
profile with an exceptional biodiversity, fascinating old cultural landscapes and a rich spiritual heritage.
In support of the international conservation corridor
concept one should not only mention the ecological argument but also the pacifying function of such reserves.

3.8 The Corridor Concept

Having to manage the parks enforces the active cooperation

of administration and communities on both sides of the border. At the same time, diverging definitions of key concepts,
different classifications, planning requirements, legal criteria, methods and instruments hamper the implementation of
joint concepts and coordinated management. International
parks could also be very interesting for tourism, as visitors
like to cross borders in their holiday experience.
These statements on protected areas should have made
clear how important and complex the various categories of
protection zones and reserves are. These regions are essential
for the conservation and possibly restoration of ecosystems,


bio- and agrodiversity against the background of growing

populations and settlements and the intensifying hunger for
land and water resources. National parks and other protected
areas fulfil an important function in recreation and tourism,
which may be a burden on the local population but offers
alternative economic potential at the same time.
The latest planning and management concepts agree that
for the sustained existence and success of protected areas
an emphasis must be put on the needs and priorities of the
local population and that the local communities must be
included actively and consistently into the management of
the protected areas.

The Cultural Development of the Andes

A. Borsdorf and C. Stadel, The Andes, Springer Geography, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-03530-7_4

Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015




Burial Site in San Agustn, Colombia


4 The Cultural Development of the Andes

4.1 Pre-inca Civilizations

In 1992 the world commemorated the 500th anniversary
of the discovery of the New World. However, this world
was neither new nor was it discovered for the first time by
Columbus. The Americans have been settled for thousands
of years and the high civilizations of Mesoamerica and
the tropical Andes and their neighbouring Pacific coast
date back to a period long before the Christian calendar.
Many of the rich and diversified cultural testimonies were
destroyed, and the cultural heritage and influence of the past
vanished in part or was forgotten. But in many instances
some cultural traits were preserved or modified, in other
cases they were overlaid by successive cultures.
Christopher Columbus was not even the first European
who sat foot on American soil. It is a generally accepted fact
that the Vikings under Leif Ericson (c. 970c. 1020) reached
North America, where they founded a Norse settlement at
Vinland (Gulf of St. Lawrence area). But the assertion of the
Argentinian ethnologist Mahieu (1972) that they also came to
South America is a rather doubtful hypothesis. It is outside
the scope of this book to give a detailed account of the
cultural development of the Andean region and the adjacent
Pacific coast, but the appreciation and understanding of the
rich and diversified cultural heritage of the Andes requires an
at least cursory portrayal of the pre-Hispanic, colonial and
postcolonial historical development of the Andes (Table4.1).
It is generally assumed that small groups of hunters from
eastern Siberia crossed then still existing Bering land bridge
towards the end of the Pleistocene ice age, in the period
between 13000 and 9000 BCE. They migrated from Alaska
southwards, following the North American Cordillera,
crossing Central America, and eventually arriving in South
America. In addition, there are some indications thatearly
Table4.1Chronology of
pre-Hispanic Andean high

From 11000 BCE to 1150 CE
3500 BCE1500 BCE
3000 BCE1800 BCE
1600 BCE1200 BCE
1200 BCE500 BCE
1100 BCE200 BCE
900 BCE200 BCE
600 BCE1540 CE
370 BCE600 CE
0800 CE
3001000 CE
700 CE1000 CE
850 CE1550 CE
900 CE1200 CE
1000 CE1572 CE
1200 CE1536 CE
1250 CE1476 CE

trans-Pacific, and perhaps even some trans-Atlantic, migra

tions may have taken place (Sphni 1977). A hypothesis
(Fladmark 1979) suggests that early settlers also travelled
in boats along the already largely ice-free western coast of
the continent. As a consequence of these migrations, the
Andes were settled early. The progress in agriculture, in
turn, formed the basis for the rise of high civilizations. The
Atacameos date back to around 11000 BCE.
By and large, the first immigrants were nomadic or
semi-nomadic gatherers, hunters and fishermen who first

settled at favourable locations. These included regions with

a good potential for domesticating plants, for successful
agricultural activities and later for other economic and
cultural forms of development. The Valdivia culture is
generally considered the oldest advanced civilization of the
Andes. It emerged in the 4th millennium BCE around the
rivers of the Guayas Basin in Ecuador and expanded from
there into the sierra. Today we still admire the impressive
ceremonial centres of Loma Alta and Real Alto which became
quite famous for their early Andean ceramics. Excavations
in Real Alto also brought some insights into the economic
life and housing at that time. The settlement consisted of
between 120 and 150 huts, which accommodated some 2550
persons each. The basis for sustaining the livelihoods was the
cultivation of maize and fishing along the coast. Even older
are the many mummies, discovered by the Belgian padre
Le Peige in the mountains around San Pedro de Atacama
in northern Chile. They can be attributed to the Atacameo
and San Pedro civilizations which established their first
settlements some 11,000years ago. Deceased people were
buried in the high mountains, in the zone of eternal snow and
ice, and were consequently well preserved in the cold and dry
climate. Today some of these mummies are exhibited in the
museum of San Pedro de Atacama (Fig.4.1).
Atacameo/San Pedro, northern Chile, climax around 800 BCE
Valdivia, Gulf of Guayas, Ecuador
Caral, Peruvian coast
Machalilla, Ecuadorian coast
Chorrera, coast and highlands of Ecuador
Paracas, Peruvian coast
Chavn, Peruvian sierra, climax: 850 BC200 BC
San Agustn, Southern Colombia
Nazca, coast and western flanks of sierra in Peru
Moche, Mochica, Northern Peru
Tiahuanaco, highlands of Bolivia and Peru, centre on Lake Titicaca
Huari, highlands and coast of Peru
Diaguita, Norte Chico, Chile
Quimbaya, Cauca region, Colombia
Inca, sierra and coast from Ecuador to Bolivia and Central Chile
Muisca/Chibcha, Colombia, centre on the Sabana de Bogot
Chim, Northern Peru, centre in Chan Chan

4.1 Pre-inca Civilizations

Remnants of younger villages exist near the oasis of

San Pedro Atacama, for instance the site of Turo, which
was developed around 800 BCE and remained occupied for
nearly 1,300years. The well preserved fortress of Pucara
Qitor was erected around 900 CE and was further enlarged
by the Inca in the 12th century (Fig.4.2). Of vital importance
for the settlements were the melt waters of the ice and
snowfields, which fed the river oases at the foot of the
cordilleras on a year-round basis.
The sierra of southern Colombia, in the source regionof
the Magdalena River, was the centre of the San Agustn
civilization, one of the oldest and most advanced cultures
of the Andes, which persisted for some 4,000years. Today
San Agustn is one of the most remarkable archaeological
sites of Colombia (Fig.4.3), and became a UNESCO World
Heritage Site in 1995 (Borsdorf and Mergili 2011). About
300 monolithic sculptures are an astonishing testimony to the
advanced, hierarchically structured society. The sculptures
display symbolic features of animals, for example of eagles,
serpents and jaguars. The San Agustn civilization also
excelled in its remarkable astronomical knowledge. The
calendar year was subdivided into moon phases and consisted
of 52weeks. This calendar served as an important guide for
advanced agricultural activities.
Another important culture is the Norte Chico civilization,
also called Caral or Caral-Supe culture. It was located in
the central parts of the Peruvian Pacific coast, some 150
200km to the north of present Lima. It was bounded in
the north by the Casma Valley, in the south by the Lurn
Valley. It is assumed that the Norte Chico civilization
lasted over the remarkably long period from about 3200 to
1800 BCE. Crucial for the development of this civilization
located in the arid Pacific coastal strip was the effective
utilization of the irrigation potential of the rivers flowing
from the cordilleras into the coastal plain. The advanced
agriculture and the plentiful fishery resources permitted
the development of urban centres. It is assumed that Caral
was the oldest city of the continent, establishing active
commercial links with adjacent regions. While ceramic
artefacts are not known for these cultures, superb textiles
have been well preserved. The most impressive architectural
testimonies of Caral are the monumental pyramids.
From about 900 BCE, the cultural centre of Chavn
de Huantar emerged in the northern Peruvian sierra and
existed until around 200 BCE. Here too, a highly developed
agriculture formed the basis for this culture. In the river
valleys and on mountain slopes, farmers cultivated maize,
peanuts, cassava and pumpkins, among others. At an
early stage, fields were also irrigated, which stimulated
the agricultural production and increased the population.
Similarities in artefacts suggest a cultural, and possibly also
economic, link with Mesoamerica. In general, the cultural
influence of Chavn de Huantar was vast and extended over a


Fig.4.1Mummy at the museum of San Pedro de Atacama (aka Miss


Fig.4.2View from Pucara Qitor towards the foothill oasis San Pedro
de Atacama

large part of the Andean space, from the highlands of current

Ecuador and Peru to the southern Peruvian coast. The site
of Chavn de Huantar was located in the foothill region of
the eastern cordillera in northern Peru, at an altitude of some
3,000m (Fig.4.4). Chavn de Huantar was also strategically
positioned at a crossroad of north-south routes that followed
the eastern foothill zone of the Andes, and west-east routes,
which linked the Pacific coast, over the Andes, with the
Amazon lowlands. The apogee of the Chavn civilization
can be dated to the time between 850 BCE and 200 BCE.
Chavn de Huantar was primarily a religious ceremonial
centre and consisted of a series of platforms, temples,
monumental staircases, stone sculptures and underground


Fig.4.3Sculpture from San Agustn

Fig.4.4Chavn de Huantar, Peru

passageways. The oldest buildings date back to around 900

BCE, but the largest structure is a pyramid with a 70m

4 The Cultural Development of the Andes

square foundation and a height of 15m. Further testimonies

to the advancedlevel of this culture are ceramics, adorned
with symbolic subjects and jewellery made of gold, silver,
turquoise and shells.
In this pre-classical period of early high civilizations,
afurther centre developed in the southern part of the
Peruvian coastal lowlands, that of the Paracas culture.It
lastedfromabout 1100 BCE to around 200 BCE and manifests
links with the Chavn culture. Particularly impressive
are the clay vessels, metal sculptures and artfully woven,
colourful cloths to cover the bodies of the dead (mantos),
which remained well preserved in the arid conditions of
the necropolises. In the coastal desert to the south of present
Lima stood the city of Pachacamac with its extensive system
of streets and adobe pyramids. The Paracas culture lasted until
it was conquered by the Inca who erected a well preserved
palace at this site (Fig.4.5).
After the demise of the Chavn civilization, in the
so-called Classical Period, further cultural centres emerged
in the sierra and the Pacific lowlands. On the Peruvian coast,
the advanced Mochica civilization developed in the northern
parts and the Nazca civilization in the southern sections.
Both cultures owe their importance to an intensive irrigationbased agriculture in the fertile river oases, as well as to
productive fishing in the Pacific Ocean. Both civilizations
began around the time of Christ and lasted until the 8th
The Mochica culture, named after the location of its
centre in the Moche Valley near the present city of Trujillo,
extended its influence from the Lambayeque Valley in the
north to the Nepena Valley in the south, over a distance of
some 250km, with an average width of about 50km. Over
the years the intensive and productive agriculture resulted
in a significant increase of the population. The climax of the
cultural development and of the territorial expansion falls
into the period between 400 CE and 600 CE. At this time, the
city of Moche flourished as a cultural, economic and political
centre of the Mochica people. They excelled in building
large irrigation systems with an extensive network of canals
and water storage basins. A particularly sophisticated
technique was implemented near the Pacific Ocean. Here a
major groundwater table exists near the surface of the land.
Farmers took advantage of this reservoir by artificially
lowering the fields to tap this water table (sunken fields).
They also complemented the available alluvial soils of the
rivers by utilizing the excrements of the seabirds as a natural
fertilizer (guano). This allowed the peasants to grow a vast
range of cultigens, among them maize, sweet potatoes,
manioc, pumpkins, beans, chili peppers and cotton.
The huge adobe pyramids are the most outstanding
testimonies of this civilization. So far, only parts of them
have been unearthed; others became greatly affected by
wind erosion and sporadic rains. For the construction


4.1 Pre-inca Civilizations

of the largest pyramid, the 41m high Huaca del Sol

(Fig. 4.6), with its base of 288m by 136m, more than
100 million sun-dried bricks were used. The Huaca de la
Luna is smaller but has a similar architectural design. The
pyramids assumed a religious ceremonial function for the
hierarchically structured society of the Mochica. Between
the two pyramids, a number of grave sites were discovered.
The Mochica culture is also rich in ceramic works with
their typical reddish brown to white colour tones, which
reflect a certain artistic influence from the Chavn culture.
In addition to pottery, the Mochica culture became famous
in the treatment of metals (gold, silver, copper) for
jewellery and household items. In addition, stone, bone
and wood carvings, as well as rock paintings, testify to the
high level of cultural achievement. It is speculated that the
demise of the Mochica culture may have been triggered by
natural disasters like earthquakes or prolonged droughts.
The Nazca civilization, in turn, was also spatially
concentrated in the river valleys. Similar to the techniques
employed by the Mochica, the water was brought to reservoirs
and the fields by open canals and by underground tunnels
(puquios), some of which are still in use today. Here too,
guano was used as a natural fertilizer. On the irrigated fields,
a variety of cultivated plants were grown. An active domestic
trade was carried out, along the coast primarily by reed boats,
in the adjacent sierra by llamas. The most important centre of
the Nazca civilization was Cahuachi, located in the river oasis
of the Nazca Valley. This city was abandoned between 350
CE and 400 CE, and subsequently served as a necropolis. The
other settlements were comparatively small; their location and
populations numbers changed frequently during the 800year
history of the Nazca civilization, mainly as a consequence of
natural events (droughts, flash floods). Today the remnants of
only one temple and a palace have survived.
Impressive and mysterious are the immense Nazca geo
glyphs, symbolized images of animals and geometrical lines
scratched into the desert soilsin their spatial dimensions
the largest artefact in South America (Fig.4.7). They were
discovered in 1939 and later closely examined by the
German scholar Maria Reiche. The geoglyphs can only be
fully appreciated from a birds eye view. Visitors are puzzled
by the question of what the meaning and function of these
images could have been. The most plausible explanation
might be that the Nazca people attempted to appease
the gods in the wake of worsening drought periods. This
obviously failed and the Nazca people eventually had to give
up their settlements as they lost their agricultural basis.
After 600 CE, the influence of the Nazca culture came
to an end and was gradually replaced by the expanding cul
tural and political expansion of the Tiahuanaco civilization.
The Mochica culture, too, was weakened and was eventually
ousted by the Huari (Wari) culture, centred in the highlands
of northern Peru. The Huari culture originated in an area

Fig.4.5Inca palace from the late period of Pachacamac

Fig.4.6Pyramid of Huaca del Sol, Peru

near the present city of Ayacucho around 500 CE and

subsequently spread over most of the Peruvian sierra and
the adjacent coastal regions. The best preserved ruins of
this culture are found near Quinua and the city of Chiclayo.
The Huari culture paved the way for the traditional Andean
terrace agriculture, highland irrigation techniques and the
building of mountain trails. In addition, the Huari culture
produced fine textiles. Numerous archaeological testimo
nies to the Huari civilization are found in the Callejn de
Huayalas and in the Santa Valley, especially near the village
of Recay.
Almost at the same time, the Tiahuanaco culture began
to emerge in the Altiplano region around Lake Titicaca,
in the area of present southern Peru, northern Bolivia and
northern Chile. Tiahuanaco was initially an important
cosmological and religious site which dates back to the


Fig.4.7Condor, a geoglyphic design of the Nazca culture, Peru

time of Christ. The major period of the Tiahuanaco culture

was between 300 and 1000 CE, with its apogee from 600
to 1000 CE. At this time, Tiahuanaco became a significant
religious and cultural centre and also a powerful political
entity, whose influence reached southwards into the
Atacama region, northwards along the Peruvian cordilleras
and also extended into the Pacific coastal plains. In many
respects, Tiahuanaco is seen as the precursor of the Inca
civilization and empire.
The centre of Tiahuanaco was located in the ecologically
favoured area near the southeastern shore of Lake Titicaca.
Here, more moderate temperatures with a lower risk of night
frosts and slightly higher precipitation amounts permitted
field cultivation, even at elevations of some 3,8004,000m.
Farmers were successful in adapting agricultural techniques
to the local environmental conditions. Particularly
remarkable was the method of developing raised fields
(sukacollos): rows of fields with deposited fertile soil and
mud alternated with irrigation ditches. This technique
enhanced the local microclimatic condi
tions, optimally
benefitting from the solar radiation during the day and
reducing the frost hazard by the irrigation canals at night.
The accumulated mud of the fields also served as a natural
fertilizer. Furthermore, some of the larger ditches were used
as fish ponds. On the mountain slopes adjacent to Lake
Titicaca, the comparatively milder temperatures permitted
the cultivation of tuber crops and quinoa on agricultural
terraces, at elevations even in excess of 4,000m. Field
cultivation was complemented by the raising of llamas

4 The Cultural Development of the Andes

and alpacas on irrigated pastures near the shores of Lake

Titicaca and on non-irrigated slopes up to about 4,500m.
The influence of Tiahuanaco significantly expanded
during the climax of its cultural, political and economic
development. It encompassed large parts of the tropical
Andes, the adjacent Pacific coastal lowlands, and the
eastern foothill zone of the Yungas, from present southern
Peru and Bolivia to northern Chile. The eventual demise
of Tiahuanaco is attributed to a deterioration of ecological
conditions, with scarcer precipitation and frequent
droughts, resulting in a lowering of the water table and a
shrinking of Lake Titicaca.
An impressive testimony of the Tiahuanaco cultures
are the monumental stone structures (Fig.4.8) with
their decorative stone reliefs (Fig.4.9), in particular the
famous, well-preserved Gate of the Sun (Fig.4.10). This
gate has been hewn from a single bloc of andesite rock of
a width of 3.75m and a height of 3m, believed to have
been transported from the Copacabana Peninsula, over a
distance of some 100km. The sculpture above the entrance
of the gate probably represents the face of the creator god
Viracocha. It is surrounded by a crown of rays ending
in heads of jaguars or pumas. Most noticeable among the
ruins of Tiahuanaco are also the remnants of a pyramid,
the Acapana, which measured 210m at each side of the
base and 15m in height. In addition, the cultural centre of
Tiahuanaco displays a series of monolithic stele, decorated
with symbolic engravings. In total, the archaeological site
of Tiahuanaco extends over an area of close to 4.5 km2.
The decline of Tiahuanaco marks the end of the classical
period of pre-Hispanic civilizations. It was followed
by a period of political unrest and changing power
constellations. In the coastal regions of present Peru, the
Chim succeeded in extending their influence from the
8th century onwards. The Chim developed a new and
impressive culture, which had its roots in the Lambayeque
civilization, also known as the Sicn culture. Between 1250
and their conquest by the Inca in 1476, the Chim were the
dominant political power and most important culture of the
central Pacific coastal region. During its climax, the Chim
empire extended from near current Tumbes (northern Peru)
to the Rimac River in southern Peru, over a distance of
about 1,000km.
The Chim people were highly skilful in utilizing the water
resources of the rivers, in order to develop an intensive and
sophisticated agriculture and to supply the growing settlements
with household water. The large irrigation system even linked
several separated valley regions (Jontes and Leitner-Bschzelt
2000: 20). After agriculture, fishery was the second major
pillar of food supply. In terms of transportation, the Chim
continued to rely on the network of trails and roads from the
Mochica period, but expanded and improved it further in order
to facilitate the interregional trade. In addition to relying on


4.1 Pre-inca Civilizations

land routes, trading was also carried out on boats along the
Pacific coast. Given its vital importance, it is not surprising
that water was also of eminent importance in the Chim
mythology and was considered a sacred natural element.
The former glory of the Chim culture found an impres
sive monumental expression in the capital city of Chan
Chan. It extended over some 20 km2 and was the largest
pre-Hispanic city built in adobe (Mikus 1988: 19). During
its apogee it had an estimated population of about 50,000
inhabitants. Chan Chan was a planned city with a chessboard pattern of symmetrical settlement blocks and rectangular streets, arranged according to occupational groups and
social classes. As a rule, the different housing units were
segregated from each other by high walls. The locally manufactured building material of adobe bricks proved to be very
well adapted to the dry and hot climatic conditions. Many of
the buildings were decorated with stylized representations of
animal or geometrical figures (Figs.4.11 and 4.12). Further
testimonies to the cultural creativity of the Chim were the
remarkable pottery, the weaving and the magnificent works
of golden artefacts. Gold was obtained from the rivers originating in the Andes or was imported from the sierra. After
the subjugation of the Chim by the Inca, many artisans
were taken to Cusco, where they continued to practice their
traditional skills.
The time after 1000 CE marked a phase of regional
integration, which was achieved by military enforcement,
political unions and expanded trade links. This period was
also characterized by the construction of impressive monuments, such as the tola hill graves or the sacred buildings
of the Cara in the north of Ecuador. Furthermore, the tradition of an advanced and intensive agriculture with field
terraces and extensive irrigation systems was continued by
the Atacameos, the Diaguitas of northern Chile and northwestern Argentina, and later by the Inca.
In the northern part of the Andean space, the Chibcha
culture reached a high level of achievement. They settled in the fertile valleys and mountain basins of the central parts of Colombia. Two powerful dynasties, the Zipa
of Bogot, the personification of the Sun God, and the
Zaque of Tunja, representing the incarnation of the Moon
Goddess, ruled over this region. The Chibcha people
also excelled in commercial activities. Their most precious trading good was salt mined at Zipaquira. Gold was
exchanged for salt and was crafted into artefacts of high
artistic quality (Fig.4.13). A famous and most elaborate
ceremony was the solemn coronation of the new ruler. He
was supposedly covered with gold dust and was floated on
a lake, with gold and emeralds sprinkled into the water.
This legend later enticed the Spaniards to search for this
dorado in the Andes.
This overview of early high civilizations, which were
spatially concentrated in the tropical Andes and the adjacent

Fig.4.8Tiahuanaco, Bolivia

Fig.4.9Sculpture in Tiahuanaco, Bolivia

coastal lowlands, aimed at demonstrating the long tradition

of advanced cultural achievements which preceded the Inca
era. Many of the cultural influences overlapped and mutu
ally stimulated each other. Therefore the Inca culture has to
be considered as the last, but arguably most grandiose, preHispanic civilization in a long sequence of political powers
and advanced cultures.


Fig.4.10The Gate of the Sun in Tiahuanaco, Bolivia

Fig.4.11Adobe walls in Chan Chan, Peru

4.2 The Inca and Their Cultural Landscape

4.2.1 Historical Development of the Inca
An extraordinary amount of scientific and popular litera
ture has been devoted to the Inca culture. At the time of the
Spanish conquest, the Inca Empire had an estimated population of some eight million and extended over a distance of
over 4,500km and a width of up to 500km, from the southern parts of present Colombia to central Chile. To some historians, the Inca Empire was a socialist and benevolent state,
to others a totalitarian and imperialistic regime. While some
attributes of the Inca Empire may justify these labels, its true

4 The Cultural Development of the Andes

nature cannot be characterized by overly simplistic criteria

that do not reflect its specific identity.
The Inca rulers derived their religious and political
raison dtre from their legendary origin. According
to this legend, the Sun God Inti had originally directed
the founders of the Inca culture to the Valle Sagrado in
the central Peruvian sierra where they formed a distinct
Quechua-speaking group. The Quechua word Inca
originally referred to Intip Churin, ruler or Son of the Sun
(Fig. 4.14). Later, the term was attributed to all members
of the ruling family and was eventually transferred to the
culture and political realm of these people.
According to mythology, the Inca had their origin on the
Island of the Sun in Lake Titicaca. The Spanish chronicler
Garcilaso de la Vega published his Royal Commentaries of
the Inca in 1609. He relates to an old Inca legend, according
to which Inti (the Sun God) sent from heaven his two children
Manco Cpac and Mama Occlo to instruct people in the
knowledge and worship of him and to live as civilized people.
He handed them over a golden wand and told them to thrust it
into the ground wherever they stopped to eat and rest during
their journey. Where this wand should penetrate the ground
at a single thrust, they would have to settle down and set up
their court and worship place. In their travels to the north,
Cpac and Occlo eventually reached the Valley of Cusco
where they successfully sank the wand into the ground. Here
they established a first settlement at a hill called Huanacauri.
This later became the imperial city of Cusco, which dates
back to the early 13th century. Until today Cusco celebrates
the God of the Sun and commemorates the foundation of
the city with its magnificent Inti Raymi festival, which
today is also a major tourist attraction (Fig.4.15). Under the
succeeding rulers, Cusco developed into a flourishing cultural
centre and became the administrative capital of a rapidly
expanding empire. From early times religion and politics
were closely linked and this was manifest in Cusco with the
close proximity of temples and palaces.
Initially though, under the first five Inca rulers, and until
the early 15th century, the power of the Inca remained relatively modest and the political realm of the Inca civilization
had only attained a regional importance. The impressive
rise and expansion of the Inca Empire began under the leadership of Inca Roca, with a substantial territorial expansion
to the southeast and northwest. Inca Viracocha successfully
defended Cusco during a siege by the Chancas, who were
defeated by his son. For this exploit he was awarded with
the title of Pachactec (saviour). This victory laid the foundation for a political consolidation and a further expansion
of the Empire. Pachactec conquered Tiahuanaco and the
Chim Empire. In doing so, the Inca benefitted greatly from
the knowledge, experiences, cultural achievement and agricultural and artistic techniques of these two civilizations.
Pachactec also implemented an efficient administration


4.2 The Inca and Their Cultural Landscape

and improved the infrastructure and economic conditions

for the population.
Under the rule of Tupac Yupanqui (14711493) and his
successor Huayana Cpac (14931525), the Inca Empire
reached the climax of its power and territorial expansion. It
extended over nearly 4,000km, from the Ro Ancasmayo in
present-day Colombia (3N) to the Ro Maule in presentday Chile (36S), and from the Pacific coast to the western
margins of the Amazon lowlands (Fig.4.16). At the time
of the Spanish conquest, some 1012 million people lived
under Inca rule. The Tahuantisuyu Empire, with a total
area of almost 1 million square kilometres, encompassed
four major parts, the so-called Suyus, each with its own
capital: Chinchasuyu in the north, Collasuyu in the south,
Cuntisuyu in the west and Antisuyu in the east. The suyus
were further subdivided into sayas, in which the village
communities (ayllus) formed the cores of the societal,
cultural and economic life of the people.
The military success and rapid conquests of the Inca
civilization can be attributed, at least in part, to their
strategic wisdom. While the conquered people were forced
to recognize the political and military supremacy of the Inca,
had to pay tribute and to agree with some forms of forced
labour and military service, they could retain a certain
degree of cultural and societal identity, and remained largely
unharmed if they abided by Inca laws and rules. The leaders
(curacas) of the conquered communities were by and large
allowed to maintain their traditional positions, in some cases
they were even included in the ranks of Inca nobles. Also,
marriages between the Inca and conquered people were seen
as consolidating bonds to ensure the inner peace within the
empire. However, a common practice was the resettlement
of population groups, either to quell any regional unrest or to
colonize new territories. An example is the relocation of the
Salasacas from the Bolivian Altiplano to the sierra of central
Ecuador. The different strategic areas of the empire were
secured by military garrisons and fortresses (Fig.4.17).
The Inca meticulously assessed the economic resources
of all regions of their territory and attributed specific land
and water use rights to individual families and aylls. The
assessment of the natural and human resources was carried
out by a unique counting system of knots (quipus). Basically,
two thirds of all resources and incomes had to be handed
over to the Incahalf of it to the ruling dynasty, the other
half to the clerical class. The returns from precious minerals
and some agricultural produce, especially the coca revenues,
had to be given in their entirety to the family of the ruler. A
unifying tie of the Inca Empire was the worship of gods, in
particular of the Sun God Inti, the Moon Goddess Killa and
Pachamama, the goddess of fertility and the earth.
After the arrival of the Spanish conquerors, the Inca ruler
Atahualpa was killed, but some elements of the Inca culture survived, at least for quite some time. Manco Cpac II

Fig.4.12Animal figures and patterns in Chan Chan, Peru

Fig.4.13Gold artefact of the Chibcha culture

headed a rebellion against the Spanish in 1536/1537, but was

finally defeated. He fled with his insurgents to Ollantaytambo
and then to Vilcabamba, where he tried to establish a new
Inca state. He was eventually murdered and the Inca dynasty
came to a close with the execution of his son Tpac Amaru in
Cusco in 1572. Subsequent insurrections by the native population remained unsuccessful. In spite of these defeats, the
memory of the glorious Inca heritage is still deeply rooted
in the historical and contemporary conscience of Peruvians
until today. Folk legends even predict the eventual return of
Incarri, a new Inca king.


4 The Cultural Development of the Andes











Machu Picchu






Pachactec Inca Yupanqui

Pachactec and Tpac Inca
Yupanqui 14631471
Tpac Inca Yupanqui
Huayna Cpac 14931527

San Pedro
de Atacama



todays state border

San Felipe

Fig.4.14The Inca, Son of the Sun ceremony in Cusco, Peru

K. Heinrich, IGF, 2013
(adapted from GEO-Graphik 1997)


Fig.4.16Extent of the Inca Empire 14381528

Fig.4.15Annual festival in honour of the Sun God, Cusco

4.2.2 CuscoThe Navel of the World

As mentioned before, Cusco (Qosqu in Quechua) was the
political, religious and cultural centre of the Inca Empire.
The city is located in a wide mountain basin between the

western and eastern cordilleras of Peru, at anelevation

of some 3,300m (Wilhelmy and Borsdorf 1985: 9295).
Cusco was built to a plan following the example of the
Chim city of Chan Chan. It had a rectangular plan of
symmetrical rectangular settlement blocks. The delimitation contours of the city resembled those of a puma, with
the fortress of Sacsayhuaman above Cusco forming its
head and open squares between its legs (Fig.4.18). It is
interesting to note that Quito, the capital of the northern
part of the Inca Empire, had a similarlayout.
Cusco (Fig.4.19) was the centre of a wide network
of roads and trails that formed the vital infrastructural
backbone of the Inca Empire. The principal north-south
axes, one along the coastal lowlands, the other in the
sierra, had a series of links running west-east between the
Pacific coast, the mountains and the Amazon lowlands.
This elaborate transportation system served militarystrategic as well as economic purposes. Certain sections of
the major roads consisted of five to ten metre wide paved


4.2 The Inca and Their Cultural Landscape

roads; others were basic gravel roads marked by rows of

field stones. The smaller trails were generally found in
rugged mountainous terrain, often using steps to conquer
the steep gradients (Fig.4.20). Bridges were made of liana
ropes crossing the ravines. Along the roads and trails,
at regular intervals, shrines, houses of supply and rest
(tambos), and also small huts (chuclas) for accommodating
the couriers (chasquis) were established. On the basis of a
well-organized relay system, the chasquis could cover daily
distances of up to 200km. In this way, news and goods
could be exchanged between Cusco and the Pacific coast in
just four days. In total, the road network of the Inca Empire,
at its climax, measured some 40,000km!
Following the death of Huayana Cpac in 1525, a bitter
feud erupted between his two sons Atahualpa and Huascar.
This resulted in a territorial split of the empire. Atahualpa,
who resided in Quito, the capital of Chinchasuyu, declared
war on the legitimate heir Huascar who continued to use
Cusco as his capital. On his military campaign trail to Cusco,
Atahualpa was seized by Francisco Pizarro (Fig.4.21) in
Cajamarca. Despite paying a legendary huge ransom in
gold and converting to Christianity, he was executed by the
Spanish. Huascar, in turn, was also murdered in Cusco.

Fig.4.17Inca fortress Ingapirca, Ecuador

4.2.3 Inca Agriculture

The Inca rulers were faced with the major task of supply
ing their substantial population with enough food. Given
the limited resource base in the Andes, the precarious
topographic and environmental conditions, and a latent risk of
earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, periods of drought and flood,
as well as the latent danger of soil erosion and landslides,
this represented a major and ongoing challenge. It required
the development of innovative and sustainable agricultural
methods and techniques. The advanced agriculture, in turn,
was also the prerequisite for intensive trade relations and
for attaining high levels of cultural achievement. The Inca
proved very successful in maximizing the potential of diverse
altitudinal zones and climatic environments by adapting the
various forms of field cultivation and pastoralism to the local
conditions. In this way they succeeded in optimizing the
utilization of the soil from the lowlands to the highest zones
of the human ecumene.
Given the crucial importance of water and its scarcity,
highly sophisticated methods of water conservation and irrigation were used for field cultivation and pastoral activities.
The steep terrain, in conjunction with a latent shortage of cultivable land, enticed the agricultural population to develop an
elaborate system of terracing (Fig.4.22). The building and
maintenance of the terraces and irrigation canals (acequias)
required a major labour input, which was secured by the tradition of communal work (mita, minga) of village communities

500 m

Based on data from: Google Earth 2009 DigitalGlobe

Cartography: K. Heinrich, IGF, 2010

Fig.4.18Ground plan of the Inca town of Cusco, Peru

(aylls). Nevertheless, the Inca cannot be considered the

inventors of most irrigation methods and agricultural terrace


4 The Cultural Development of the Andes

Fig.4.19View of Cusco, Peru

Fig.4.21Atahualpa is captured. Engraving by Pierre Duflos, created

between 1780 and 1810

Fig.4.20Inca road near Incapirca, Ecuador

building. By and large they adopted the techniques from previous civilizations but often refined and amplified them.
The agricultural production systems and the trade with
agrarian products were based on the Andean principles of
complementarity and reciprocity. A variety of crops were cultivated in different environments and were exchanged with
other regions: tropical lowland products like manioc, sweet
potatoes and a wide range of fruit from the tierra caliente;
maize, beans, pumpkins, tomatoes, bananas, coca and fruit
from the tierra templada and tierra fra; a variety of tuber crops
(potatoes, oca, olluco, mashua), quinoa, or tarwi from the
tierra helada. A special adaptation was required to cope with
the extreme climatic conditions of high altitudes. Here the
marked contrasts between frequent night frosts and an intensive solar radiation during the day necessitated the reliance on
specific varieties of tuber crops, in particular bitter potatoes

(papas amargas). In a special treatment of these cultivars, the

tubers are soaked in water and then the peasants squeeze the
moisture out of the potatoes by trampling on them with their
bare feet. Ultimately the knolls are exposed to sun and night
frosts, to finally produce the light, starchy and well conservable chuo. The chuo became a basic food item for the Inca
and has retained its importance for the highland population to
the present day. In Inca times it was also an ideal and easily
transportable food for couriers, traders and soldiers.
The altitudinal differentiation of field cultivation was
complemented in the higher zones by a pastoral economy
of llamas, alpacas and vicuas. The vertical zonation of
the agricultural economy was further complemented by a
mosaic of intensively utilized agricultural niches at favourable topographic and ecological sites. Also, the agricultural potential was influenced and differentiated by the
access to rain water and irrigation. The complementarity
of agricultural activities with their goal of minimizing ecological risks found a further expression in various forms
of field rotation, crop rotation and a mixed cultivation of
crops on the agricultural plots. The nave painting from
Ecuador (Fig.4.23) captures the traditional intensive and
varied agricultural system of the indigenous population.

4.2 The Inca and Their Cultural Landscape


Fig.4.22Terraced landscape in the Valle Sagrado, Peru

Fig. 4.23Painting by Alfonso Vega (1998). Cultural landscape in

Ecuador at ca. 4,000m

4.2.4 Agricultural Terraces

Given the importance of agricultural terraces and their expres
sion in the cultural landscape of the Andes, the previous short
comments on terraces will be further expanded in this section.

Agricultural terraces are found across the world. In South

America, the term andenes has been expanded to refer to the
entire mountain system along the west coast of the continent
(see also Sect.1.1). While agricultural terraces made their
appearance in South America in pre-Inca times, they found
their largest expansion during the apogee of the Inca Empire
(Fig.4.24). Terracing made it possible to cultivate crops on
steep mountain sides. At slope angles of up to 60, retaining
walls of soil, gravel or field stones were erected that
followed the natural contour lines. Between these steps or
walls, flat or gently sloping agricultural fields were laid out.
The base of these plots generally consisted of some coarser
gravel material to facilitate the drainage of rain water. The
top layer of the plots consisted of fertile soils. The steps
or walls of the terraces ranged from 0.5m to about 4m in
height, depending on the steepness of the terrain. While
terrace agriculture permitted a cultivation of rugged slopes,
the plots were often rather narrow and farmers had to rely
primarily on manual labour to cultivate the land.
Terracing reduced the speed and intensity of down-slope
water flows, and thus the impact of erosion and soil wasting
processes. It also enhanced the infiltration rates of water
and the maintenance of soil moisture on the agricultural


Fig. 4.24Terraced field cultivation in the Andes around 1500 CE

(Design W. Gruber, after Denevan 2001)

Fig.4.25Terraces in Bolivia

4 The Cultural Development of the Andes

plots. In the case of rain-fed agriculture, the platform of the

terraces tended to be slightly inclined towards the mountain
slope to facilitate the drainage processes. The irrigationbased terraces, in turn, had either level or gently downslope inclined plots.
At higher elevations the growing of crops on terraced
slopes bears a smaller risk of night frosts compared to
that in mountain basins and valleys. In the non-equatorial
regions, the sun-exposed mountain slopes also offer a further
advantage for the agricultural potential (Borsdorf and Stadel
2001: 65). The sunny sides (inti pata) of the Urubamba
Valley in Peru are a very good example. Agricultural
terraces were also laid out on gentler slopes or on alluvial
fans at valley floors (Fig.4.25). Denevan (2001: 175181)
distinguishes the following types of terraces: cross-channel
terraces and check dams (retaining walls built across
narrow valleys); sloping-field terraces (contoured terraces
with sloping field surfaces); bench terraces (spectacular
large, stone-wall staircase terraces with horizontal planting
surfaces); and broad field terraces (bench terraces with broad
cropping surfaces and low retaining walls). Vogl (1990) calls
the construction of terraces a form of agrarian technology
perfectly adapted to the natural environment as well as to
the needs of the population and based on an ecologically
oriented and sustainable economic system.
Agricultural terraces were most widespread in present
Peru and Bolivia, and they continue to be a characteristic
feature of the Andean cultural landscape. In some regions
amazing mosaics of over 100 vertically arranged terraces
can still found, for example in the Urubamba Valley near
Cusco. Figure4.26 portrays the impressive contrast between
the steep terraces on one side of the valley and the severely
eroded terrain on the opposite slope near Pisac, Peru. A spe
cial form of terraces arranged in circles is found near the village of Moray in the Peruvian cordillera. They date back to
the Huari civilization and could have had a ritual significance
or they might have served as experimental agricultural test
sites for different topographies and microclimates.
The Colca Canyon of southern Peru is a remarkable and
well documented example of an Andean terraced cultural
landscape (Fig.4.27). This valley is deeply entrenched into
the western cordillera, with the valley floor at approximately
1,000m and the surrounding mountains reaching 4,000m
or more. Irrigated bench terraces were mainly established
on the steep slopes; sloping-field terraces on the gentler
terrain and broad field terraces on the valley floor and
on its alluvial fans. The sheltered valley has been settled
and agriculturally used since pre-Inca times by the two
indigenous ethnic groups of the Collaguas and Cabanas.
Early terraces have been dated back to the period between
300 CE and 800 CE (Treacy 1987). Agriculture in the
Colca Canyon traditionally relies on a rain-fed cultivation
(campo de lluvia), and on irrigated fields (campo de riego),
complemented by pastoralism at high elevations. During


4.2 The Inca and Their Cultural Landscape

Fig.4.27Terraces in the Colca Valley, Peru

terraces in the Colca Canyon has been attributed in particular

to a reduction of the irrigation potential and to the decline in
the population after the Spanish Conquest. More recently the
demise of the traditional agrarian ecology and economy, the
weakening acceptance of communal labour to maintain the
terraces and irrigation canals, and a re-orientation of the local
population towards tourism and other economic activities, as
well as the migration of younger people to Arequipa and other
cities, have contributed to the modification of the rural landscape of the Colca Canyon (Denevan 2001: 204210).
Fig.4.26Terraced and non-terraced slopes. Pisac, Peru

4.2.5 Raised Fields (Camellones, Waru Waru)

the Inca time the agricultural activity, based on elaborate

terrace and irrigation systems, reached its highest level of
development. Yet this canyon landscape is characterized by
extreme topographic conditions, limited seasonal rains and
a frequent risk of night frost. After the arrival of the Spanish
in 1540, and even before, a substantial number of terraces
were abandoned, a trend which continued in subsequent
centuries (Denevan 1985: 17).
During the long history of human settlement in the Colca
Canyon, the cultural landscape and its agricultural terraces
were subject to numerous changes and modifications; peri
ods of development and expansion alternated with those of
decline and neglect. The reasons for this are complex and
multi-faceted. Contributing environmental factors are earthquakes, landslides, erosion, climatic and hydrographic variability. Changing human conditions include demographic
parameters, in particular mobility and migration, modifications in the type and intensity of land utilization, accessibility and changing market conditions, as well as the more recent
impact of changing rural lifestyles. The decline of agricultural

Raised fields are rows of heaped up agricultural plots sep

arated from each other by small ditches. This cultivation
system is aimed at ameliorating the microclimate and the
water budget of the land by reducing the frost hazard and
by attenuating the impact of periodic drought and flooding
(Vogl 1990: 59; Figs.4.28 and 4.29).
Raised fields were introduced on the Peruvian and Bolivian
Altiplano in pre-Hispanic times, in an attempt to enhancethe
agricultural potential in a precarious tropical highland envi
ronment. They became particularly elaborate during the Inca
period, with their greatest geographical distribution in the area
north of Lake Titicaca. Today, 90% of the raised fields of Peru
and Bolivia are still found within a radius of 20km from the
shores of Lake Titicaca (Vogl 1990: 59). The Altiplano around
Lake Titicaca, at elevations of 3,8003,900m, is characterized
by the seasonal alternation of an arid period (AprilSeptember)
with frequent and often severe night frosts with a more humid
period (OctoberMarch). During the rainy season the ditches
between the rows of agricultural plots drain the surplus water;
during the dry months they conserve the humidity and furnish


Fig.4.28Raised fields near Lake Titicaca. Design W. Gruber

4 The Cultural Development of the Andes

narrow strips of agricultural parcels and small irrigation

ditches were laid out in shallow excavated hollows. In this
way the scarce and precious rainwater could be collected
and conserved, and the roots of the crops may even be able
to reach the groundwater table (Vogl 1990: 68; Denevan
2001: 165). The sunken fields had an average depth of
25m, and a length of 90150m. In the sunken fields,
mainly tuber crops and quinoa were cultivated, generally
following traditional cycles of crop rotation.
With the beginning of the Spanish colonial period, many
sunken fields became neglected or were abandoned. One of
the reasons for this was the growing shortage of indigenous
labour for maintaining this system of cultivation. The other,
possibly even more important factor, was the contempt of
the Spanish for traditional local cultivation methods and the
gradual replacement of environmentally well adapted native
crops with imported cultivars, as well as the transformation
of large sections of the Altiplano into livestock pastures.
In conclusion, the traditional rural cultural landscape
became transformed and overlain by an introduced agricul
tural system and colonial rural landscape. In many cases the
heritage of the indigenous material culture only survived in
relics, often in remote regions or at sites which were unat
tractive for the colonial economy.

4.2.7 Inca Architecture

Fig. 4.29An indigenous farmer explains raised field farming to
Christoph Stadel

a source of water for irrigating the cultivated patches. In some

cases the ditches are deep enough to tap the groundwater table.
The canals also have a regulating thermal effect: the water is
heated up during the day by the intensive solar radiation and
stores some of this warmth during the night. As a consequence,
night-time temperatures over the raised fields may be up to
5C higher than those over the adjacent areas. Furthermore,
the soil fertility of the plots is maintained as nutrient-rich soil
and mud is regularly heaped up on the fields.
In most cases, the raised fields were arranged in bundled
groups, each one consisting of between 5 and 20 plots and
ditches. At the end of the rows the canals were either linked
with those of the adjacent rows of agricultural plots or they
were separated from each other by small earth walls. Principal
crops cultivated on the raised fields were several varieties of
tuber plants and quinoa (Denevan 2001: 254277).

4.2.6 Sunken Fields (Qochas)

Sunken fields (qochas; Fig.4.30) were another form of field
cultivation practiced in pre-Hispanic times in the semi-arid
environment of the Altiplano. In this method of cultivation,

Alexander von Humboldt praised the architecture of the

Inca. In his words it was impressive for its simplicity,
symmetry, solidity and identity (von Humboldt 1813,
quoted by Borsdorf and Stadel 2001: 106). According
to Bkula etal. (1998), characteristic features of Inca
architecture are the monumental buildings erected with
massive blocks of stone (Fig.4.31); the gently inward
leaning walls; the trapezoidal form of doors, windows and
niches; and the four-sided hipped roofs or two-sided gable
roofs. Contrary to the opinion of von Humboldt, the houses
of the nobles were often painted in colour and adorned with
figurines. Little of this has been preserved until today.
When the Spanish arrived in Cusco, they marvelled
at the splendour of the city, especially the magnificent
buildings of the golden enclosure of the Inticancha, later
named Coricancha. The buildings of Cusco were mainly
one- or two-storey houses, generally with a rectangular
ground plan. The most important buildings were erected
of rectangular or polygonal stone blocks, meticulously
assembled without the use of mortar. Apart from the single
detached houses, groups of buildings were arranged around
interior courtyards (kanchas). The buildings served different
functions and social classes: from temples and palaces of
the Inca ruler and his family to the representative houses of
the upper class and the modest huts of the ordinary people
(Wilhelmy and Borsdorf 1985: 9295).


4.2 The Inca and Their Cultural Landscape

Cusco with its grandiose architecture was meant to

demonstrate the wealth and power of the Inca. It was not only
the capital and navel of a vast and powerful empire but also a
major economic centre and the religious and ritual focus of
the empire. In the centre of the city, a double square served
as a forum for manifestations and ceremonies. It was also the
starting point for the major roads to the four principal regions
(Suyus) of the empire. Grouped around the central square
were the palaces of the Inca ruler, the major administrative
buildings and the temple district of the Coricancha. From the
central square a network of streets led to the outer parts of the
city. Under the Inca Pachacuti, Cusco was restructured and
enlarged, and a well-developed canal system supplied water
for its inhabitants. Later the Inca Roca initiated a sophisti
cated irrigation infrastructure for the agricultural hinterland.
Cusco was protected by the massive fortress of
Sacsayhuaman (Fig.4.32). An impressive triple zigzagwall
enclosed three interior platforms. Each wall was about
10m high and some 300m long. Further impressive
architectural landmarks of the Inca culture are the sites of
Ollantaytambo with their temple and steep terraces; the
ritual centre of Qenko; the complex of Tambo Machay; the
elaborate terrace system of Pisac; and especially the famous
mountain ruins of Machu Picchu.
The mountain retreat of Machu Picchu was never found
by the Spanish. It was discovered for the outside world
by the American archaeologist Hiram Bingham in 1911.
Machu Picchu is perched on an exposed mountain spur,
high over the meandering Urubamba Valley (Fig.4.33).
It is assumed that the settlement was built during the late
phases of the Inca Empire, towards the end of the 15th century. There is still some debate as to the specific role of this
remote centre. Was it a sacred mountain site? A retreat from
the advancing Spanish conquerors? A regional administrative centre? An observation point and fortress or a combination of these different functions?
At Machu Picchu, the remnants of about 200 buildings
are grouped together in the following principal areas:
the tumba real, the cult centre with the observatory of
Intiwantana; the district of the clerics and high social
classes in general; the modest huts of farmers, soldiers
and artisans. An elaborate system of step-like narrow
agricultural terraces had been carved into the steep rocky
slopes of the mountain. In addition, a sophisticated network
of wells and canals supplied water for an estimated
population of some 1,000 residents and also allowed
irrigating the agricultural plots of the terraces. High above
the site of Machu Picchu, at an elevation of 2,720m, the
sugar loaf peak of Huayna Picchu exhibits some remnants
of a moon temple and a number of excessively steep
terraces carved into the granitic rock face.

Fig.4.30Qochas in the Peruvian Altiplano

Fig.4.31Detail of an Inca wall in Cusco, Peru

Fig.4.32The fortress of Sacsayhuaman, Peru


4 The Cultural Development of the Andes

careful and sustainable human activities, the Inca imprint

on the mountain environment has been profound and,
by and large, does not fit the criteria of conservation and
environmental compatibility. For instance, the intensive
agricultural utilization of steep slopes, of high altitude areas
and other fragile zones, were in many cases not sustainable
in the longer term and the massive transformation of forests
into agricultural lands have also resulted in a profoundly
changed Andean landscape:
By 1492, Indian activity had modified vegetation and wildlife,
caused erosion, and created earthworks, roads, and settlements
throughout the Americas. This may be obvious, but the human
imprint was much more ubiquitous and enduring than is usually
realizedClearly, the most humanized landscapes of the
Americas existed in those highland regions where people were
the most numerous. Here were the large states, characterized by
urban centres, road systems, intensive agriculture, a dispersed
but relatively dense rural settlement pattern of hamlets and
farmsteads, and widespread vegetation and soil modification,
and wildlife depletionIs it possible that the thousands of years
of human activity before Columbus created more change in the
visible landscape than has occurred subsequently with European
settlement and resource exploitation? The pristine image of
1492 seems to be a myth, then, an image more applicable to
1750, following Indian decline (Denevan 1992: 379381).

Fig.4.33Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu, Peru

4.2.8 Concluding Remarks

The Inca civilization marks the last of a series of advanced
pre-Colombian Andean cultures. Compared to the previous
ones, it was of remarkable short duration but reached an
unprecedented level of development, cultural achievement
and political might, with its climax from about the mid
dle of the 15th century to the time of the Spanish Conquest
in 1532. The eminence and expansion of the Inca Empire
was based on an efficient centralized administrative system,
powerful military-political control, a unifying religion and
social organization, an elaborate transportation and communication system, and high levels of agricultural development
and inter-regional trade.
The Spanish invaders were impressed by the magnificent
cities with their monumental buildings and by the splendour
and richness of cultural expressions. The Inca exerted a
significant impact on the rural and urban cultural landscapes
of the tropical Andes. But the environment shaped by the
Inca does not fit the romantic myth of untamed nature or
of gentle impact on the environment and ecology of the
sierra (Denevan 1992). Although their land use and the
utilization of the natural resources showed many traits of

4.3 The Spanish Colonial Period and Its

Spatial and Societal Impact
4.3.1 Colonial Economic Structures
and Regions
During the Spanish colonial period, the new economic
structures in some parts revealed links with pre-Hispanic
traditions, but more so, they were characterized by new
forms and spatial patterns. The primary objectives of the
conquista were the exploitation of the natural and human
resources, and the conversion of the indigenous population
to Christianity. Consequently, at least during the early time
of colonization, the focus of economic activity was directed
towards mining precious minerals, especially gold and
silver; later also on producing tropical agricultural goods
and on textiles. In general, with the exception of some of
the remote mining sites, the Spanish were attracted to the
already more densely settled areas.
Economic core regions were the rich mining districts,
the fertile regions in valleys and basins, and the Caribbean
and Pacific coastal cities. In the mountainous interior,
regional market towns and trading hubs, and administrative and religious centres became the foci of colonial influence, radiating into the surrounding areas. Great merchant


4.3 The Spanish Colonial Period and Its Spatial and Societal Impact

Fig.4.35Plaza of Lima, Peru

and social core (Fig.4.35). It was framed by the seat of the

government, the major cathedral and monasteries, and by
the elegant patio houses of the upper class. The less privileged population, in turn, lived in simple houses or huts in
the peripheral districts of the towns. In general, the colonial towns and cities were characterized by a distinct spatial
structure and by morphological and social differentiation.
Fig.4.34Palacio Torre-Tagle, Lima, the palace of the von Thurn und
Taxis family, Peru

families like the von Thurn and Taxis hat their palaces
built in the capitals (Fig.4.34). Peripheries were the eco
nomically less attractive and also sparsely populated zones,
either in the hot and humid lowlands or in the poorly accessible or high-altitude mountain areas.
Contrary to the situation in North America or Australia,
where farmers were attracted to new promising agricultural
frontiers, most of the immigrants from the Iberian peninsula
were military people, administrative personnel, clerics,
merchants or traders, who preferred to settle in urban centres.
Therefore, during the early phase of the colonial period, a
spatial and socio-economic duality developed between a
Hispanic-shaped urbanity and the rural indigenous regions,
the latter retaining their traditional roots to a large extent, at
least initially.
Pre-existing cities, like Cusco, were transformed and
restructured according to Spanish plans, and the planning
and building of new urban centres also followed the Hispanic
traditions. Characteristic of the colonial towns were the rectangular layout of the street plan enclosing the individual
blocks of buildings (cuadras). The centre of the town was
the major square (plaza mayor), whose attractive park was
the showcase of the town and represented its administrative

4.3.2 Casa de Austria

On 25 November 1491, the city of Granada capitulated
as the last fortress of the moors in Europe. On the same
day, Isabella of Castile founded the city of Santa F near
Granada and here a treaty was signed in 1492 to send
Columbus on his overseas trip. On the 12th of October
of the same year, Christopher Columbus landed on the
island of Guanahani in the West Indies and discovered,
without being aware of it, a New World for Europe. Thus
the reconquista of the last bastion of Islam in Europe was
closely followed by the conquista of the Americas. These
epochal events are often considered as marking the end of
the Medieval Age and the beginning of the Modern Age.
Initially though, the Spanish who explored and conquered the newly discovered lands by and large still had
a medieval, reactionary frame of mind, marked by military ruthlessness, missionary zeal and a lust for power and
wealth. But many of them were also driven by a new vision
of discovering and exploiting hitherto unknown territories,
peoples, flora and fauna, and a few of them could be considered early researchers interested in scientific studies.
Most of the early explorers and conquerors originated from
the lower social classes, and their exploits were rewarded
with land and nobility titles. While the Spanish Crown
initially chose the conquerors on the basis of promising


military prowess and economic success, later on the Crown

and the Catholic Church could not remain indifferent to the
ruthlessness and cruelty of the conquistadores. Eventually,
a number of laws were proclaimed in an attempt to prevent
the worst human abuses and to give the native population at
least some security and basic rights.
From the onset the Catholic Church participated in
the conquista by sending priests and missionaries to the
new territories, by founding convents, building churches
and introducing Christian rituals and ceremonies. The
celebration of religious holidays became important events,
as did the inauguration of bishops (Fig.4.36), cardinals or
abbots. In a certain sense this missionary zeal of the church
was guided by the spirit of the crusades and some scholars
have argued that the conquista was the last of the medieval
crusades. But on the other hand, one of the primary goals of
the conquista was not so much the defeat of non-believers
but their conversion to Catholicism.
The guiding principle of the Habsburgs, the Casa
de Austria, representing the Spanish Crown ever since
the time of Charles V (the Spanish Charles I), was the
concept of establishing a patriarchal Christian empire. This
conceived world system somewhat resembled the Holy
Roman Empire of the German Nation, in which individual

Fig.4.36Inauguration of the archbishop in Cusco, Peru

4 The Cultural Development of the Andes

kingdoms and principalities, while recognizing the supreme

imperial leadership, were allowed to retain a certain degree
of independent political, economic and cultural identity.
Charles V (resp. Charles I) formulated his imperial state
idea and a new judicial system in the Nuevos Reynos de
Ultramar. His rule extended over a global territory in which
the sun never set.

4.3.3 Colonial Agrarian Laws and Agricultural

As the Spanish colonial cultural and economic focus was
strongly oriented towards the cities, the rural regions were,
at least initially, largely neglected. The encomendero, the
owner of land granted to him as a fief, generally resided in
the city, where he also had a seat in the cabildo, the local
administrative assembly. The Spanish administrative system
was characterized by a clear hierarchical ranking of urban
centres favouring the capital cities. This policy was at least
partially responsible for the development of the urban
primacy pattern of the later Latin-American states.
The feudal encomienda system, introduced during
the early phases of the colonial time, gave the encomendero power over the land and its inhabitants but, at least
in theory, made him also responsible for the safety and
fair treatment of the population within his territory and for
converting them to Christianity. Charles V took exception
to the abuses in the colonies and formulated regulations
for the physical and spiritual well-being of the indigenous population, and for instructing the inhabitants in
the Christian faith. Encomenderos who did not fulfil their
duties towards the native people in their constituency could
be dispossessed and/or had to restitute the revenues from
their encomiendas. The encomenderos and their mestizo or
mulatto servants were not allowed to take up residence in
native communities and could not have female indigenous
The hacienda system made its appearance later under
the reign of the Bourbons. The haciendas soon became
one of the principal cultural and rural economic symbols
of Latin America Fig.4.37). Out of the latifundias of the
later colonial period the revolutionary energy against the
colonial domination also emerged and eventually resulted in
the independence movements. Until today the hacienderos
wield considerable political and social influence.
In general the haciendas were managed by a steward of the estate (mayordomo) and an administrator. The
workers (colonos) were compensated for their labour by
being allowed to cultivate a small piece of land for their
own needs or at least to receive part of the revenues from
the agricultural plot (huasipungo). Often the huasipungeros were also provided with some form of basic housing


4.3 The Spanish Colonial Period and Its Spatial and Societal Impact

and limited access to social services. As ideal as this may

sound, this system entailed many abuses, often degenerating into reckless exploitation of the native labour force and
perpetual indebtedness of the campesinos. As the colonos
needed the products from the agricultural plots to feed their
families, they remained largely outside commercial market
processes (Borsdorf and Stadel 1997: 539). The hacienderos, in turn, sold the surplus agricultural produce to surrounding rural and urban populations, to mining towns and
also on regional and national markets. Tropical fruit and
spices soon found their way into overseas markets.
Outside the hacienda lands, which were mainly
concentrated in the valleys and mountain basins, the
indigenous agricultural system with its small plots of
cropland and communal ayll was able to survive, at least
to a certain extent. The native population was often pushed
back to the steep and rugged mountain slopes or to high
altitude zones (Fig.4.38). Here they partially succeeded
in maintaining their traditional cultivation methods,
agricultural techniques and social practices.
To a large extent the rural space was affected by many
transformations, especially by the import of new crops and
domestic animals, and by the adoption of new agricultural
techniques. Europeans brought wheat, barley and many
new vegetables (e.g. lettuce, cabbage, onions, garlic) and
fruit (e.g. citrus fruit, peaches, apples, pears, plums, later
also grapes) to the new lands. Whereas barley was primarily cultivated to feed native communities, wheat, grown at
intermediate altitudinal levels, became a major source of
food for the white population (Fig.4.39). With the penetration of European cultivars, some of the traditional crops lost
their former importance, especially those grown at higher
elevations. For instance, quinoa, canihua and tarwi were in
many areas replaced by barley and broad beans (habas). In
addition, the native tuber plants, such as the extraordinary
variety of potatoes, oca, olluco or mashua (Fig.4.40) had to
yield to a more uniform cultivation of a few types of potatoes, as well as to expanding pasture lands. Gade (1992:
465) describes the impact of the penetration of Old World
crops into the Andean space:
The Old World crops that passed into the agrosystems of the
native peasantry in the early colonial period met the tests of
usefulness, environmental fit and niche competition. Within a
century after the Conquest, Andean peasants had effectively
integrated a dozen plants and peripherally accepted a dozen
others, together comprising less than half of the total number of
plants brought by the Spaniards.

In the colonial pastoral economy, cattle, sheep, goats and

horses replaced the traditional llamas, alpacas and guanacos
in many regions, except in the high-altitude zones of Peru
and Bolivia, where they have continued to prevail until today.

Fig.4.37Hacienda Guachal in Ecuador

Fig.4.38Farmstead in the Bolivian cordillera

Sheep in particular (Fig.4.41), which were first adopted by

the indigenous population around 1560, became an integral
part of the rural economy, especially in the upper zones of
the Andean ecumene. Mainly because of the constraints
of a rugged topography and high altitudes, cattle were less
successful in the colonial Andean agriculture, except in
mountain basins at moderate elevations and in the lowland
plains. Goats, in turn, became appreciated for their adaptive
abilities to semi-arid conditions. However, they greatly
exacerbated the susceptibility of mountain slopes to erosion
and mass wasting processes. Imported horses, donkeys and
mules complemented the traditional llamas and alpacas as
pack animals. In the vicinity of farmsteads, pigs and chickens
became important new domestic animals as a supplementary


4 The Cultural Development of the Andes

Fig.4.39Wheat field near Quincheros, Ecuador

Fig.4.40Traditional crops, Bolivia

food source for the families. Nevertheless, until today the

traditional guinea pigs continue to be highly appreciated by
the indigenous population. In general, the European domestic
animals diversified the rural economy and enhanced the
food supply, but they also tended to erode the economic and
cultural bases of the traditional agricultural economy.

Gade (1992: 467469) has pointed out that the introduc

tion of European domestic animals may have had an even
greater impact on the indigenous population than that of
Old World crops. The dramatic decline of native people
during the first century of Spanish colonial rule no longer
necessitated the production of the same large amounts of
food crops as before, and also the shortage of rural workers could not sustain the maintenance of a labour-intensive
agriculture. Consequently, more extensive forms of pastoralism and field cultivation started to characterize the rural
landscape in the course of the colonial period.
In conclusion, the colonial agricultural economy and the
rural landscape were shaped by a vast array of influences,
innovations and impacts. The colonial period was a time of
profound changes and voluntary or enforced displacement
processes and overlays. Nevertheless, indigenous communi
ties retained a number of their proven traditional ways of
life, agricultural methods and resilience strategies, while
at the same time adapting to some of the new stimuli and
forms of the agricultural economy:
Plants, animals, and tools were selectively integrated into
native agropastoral systems and architectural elements into
settlement patterns. Of the screens that filtered the array of
Old World rural traits, keeping some out, permitting others
to successfully pass and be adopted, the most significant


4.3 The Spanish Colonial Period and Its Spatial and Societal Impact

were conditions that the highland environment imposed

and competition from existing elements of the already welldeveloped Andean agricultural complex. These Old World
biotic contributions juxtaposed with the native elements into
a complex that crystallized between 1550 and 1650 (Gade
1992: 460).

4.3.4 Mining
The Spanish Crown pursued the primary goal of enhancing its
economic strength and political power by exploiting the rich
resources of its colonies. In the Americas, mining precious
ores became the most important source of revenue (Fig.4.42).
In the Vice-Royalty of Peru, gold and silver were the most
coveted mineral resources; their high value justified the long,
expensive and hazardous transport to Spain. Initially, after
the conquest of the Inca empire, the focus was on a crude
plundering of the easily accessible gold and silver treasures,
especially those found in and around Cusco. During the second half of the 16th century, however, an exploitation of the
first mines started. Large amounts of timber were required for
the smelter of the ores and for building the settlements and
transportation infrastructures. In addition, there was a pressing need to supply the mine workers with food, some basic
housing, clothing and other require
ments. Within a short
period of time, pioneer settlements and a new economic landscape developed at the mining sites and in their vicinity. The
massive influx of workers, merchants, traders, officials and
other people seeking their fortunes resulted in a considerable
increase in the population of the mining districts and a rapid
growth of the mining centres.
Whereas the production of gold was the most important
mining branch in the Americas before 1540, in the ViceRoyalty of Peru the mining of silver surpassed that of any
other ore. In 1538 Gonzalo Pizarro conquered the province of Charcas, took over the Inca mines and founded
the city of La Plata at the site of the former Inca town of
Chuquisaca. The richest silver veins were discovered
by native herders on Cerro Rico in Alto Per (Bolivia) at
an altitude of some 4,700m. The year of discovery, 1545,
marked the beginning of an unprecedented boom of silver
mining and the development and heydays of Potos, which
was given the title Villa Imperial by Charles V (Figs.4.43
and 4.44). Mineral resources were considered royal prerogatives, whereby one fifth of the revenues were reserved for
the Spanish king.
During the first years of mining, the silver production in
Potos and the wealth generated from it were extraordinary,
as the ores contained up to 50% pure silver. Silver was
smelted in thousands of small furnaces (huayras). Between
1545 and 1550, the mines of Potos produced some 200 tons
of silver per year, amounting to approximately two thirds

Fig.4.41Flock of sheep near Cochabamba, Bolivia

Fig.4.42Mining in Chile

of world production at that time. Yet only 20years later,

the richest and most easily exploitable mines were already
exhausted, requiring new mining and smelting procedures.
Now the ore blocks were split by advanced hydraulically
driven hammers. The smaller chunks of ore were then amalgamated by mixing them with mercury. From this silvermercury amalgam, pure silver was eventually obtained.
Silver mining required large amounts of fuel wood and
charcoal, as well as a substantial labour force. The huge
timber requirements resulted in a massive deforestation in
the vicinity of Potos; the reckless application of mercury,
in turn, resulted in a severe contamination of soil and water,
and created a severe health hazard for the miners.


Fig.4.43View of the Cerro Rico from Potos, Bolivia

Fig.4.44Potos, view of the city

4 The Cultural Development of the Andes

Until the discovery of the Santa Barbara mines of

Huancavelica in the Peruvian sierra in 1563, mercury
was imported from the Almadn mine in southern Spain.
Huancavelica (3,600m) is at a distance of about 1,000km
from Potos (Figs.4.50 and 4.51). This involved a long and
arduous journey for the transportation of mercury. It was
first brought by llama caravans from Huancavelica to the
Peruvian port of Chincha, shipped on the Pacific to present
Arica, and from there again transported by llamas to Potos.
This made Huancavelica and Potos the most important
anchor cities for the early colonial mining industry of the
Vice-Royalty of Peru.
A major challenge for the colonial mining industry
was securing a sufficient labour force. Initially, mostly
free native workers (yanaconas) were employed. Until
about 1570, the silver mines of Potos needed some 3,000
miners. With the introduction of the new amalgamation
technique, a significantly larger labour force was required.
Consequently, Viceroy Francisco de Toledo introduced new
obligations for the indigenous population to work in the
mines. Within the framework of the colonial reducciones,
the native population was resettled into hundreds of villages
(cabeceras). In this way, the Indian population could be
more easily recruited for the work in the mines.
Francisco de Toledo also established new regulations for
the procurement of workers for other tasks (repartimientos).
In the decrees of 1573 and 1575, he adopted the traditional
Inca concept of mita. It provided for certain work obligations

4.3 The Spanish Colonial Period and Its Spatial and Societal Impact

of the rural population for tasks of communal interest, but

also for work in mining and agriculture on an individual
basis. In the vicinity of Huancavelica and Potos, all males
between 18 and 25years were forced to work in the mines
on a rotating basis: every seven years, they were recruited
for a full year. This system triggered a migration flow of
some 14,000 workers each year to Potos. Frequently they
were joined by their families and accompanied by llama
herds. In Potos they lived in huts at the periphery of the city,
spatially and socially segregated from the Spanish and Creole
populations who lived in the centre of the city, generally in
elegant patio houses. The core of the planned and regularly
laid out city was richly endowed with some 30 churches and
numerous palaces, monasteries and civic buildings, among
them the Royal Mint (Casa Real de la Moneda). This well
preserved, rich architectural heritage was recognized by
UNESCO in declaring Potos a World Heritage Site in 1987.
The forced labourers (mitayos) were officially entitled to
a small salary and to regular working hours but these provi
sions were often ignored. In addition to the forced labourers,
free workers (mingados) were also employed, generally
with slightly better work conditions. Although the colonial
administration and some clerics attempted to shield the work
ers from blatant forms of abuse and cruelty, they could often
not prevent the reckless exploitation of workers by the own
ers and operators of the mines. Many of the workers became
permanently ill and unable to work or died prematurely.
Families also attempted to flee from the recruiting places of
the cabeceras or they tried to free themselves from the mita.
However, they often became indebted, lost their land and pos
sessions, and ultimately became permanent work slaves. The
attempt to employ black slaves in the mines largely failed as
they could not adjust to the conditions of high altitudes and
cold temperatures. Most of the black workers died soon, some
of them before they even went into the underground mines.

4.3.5 Transatlantic Trade and Transportation

In addition to the control of natural resources and the transatlantic trade by the Spanish Crown, it also had a monopoly
of the maritime transport between Spain and the HispanoAmerican colonies, even to the point that the colonies were
not allowed to trade with other countries.
In the Andean space, an extensive network of routes and
trails was established, which, at least in part, is still used
today. In order to enforce the transportation monopoly and
to protect the merchandise from pirates, the transports were
generally accompanied by armed flotillas. From the 1560s
to the 1750s, an armada of some 70 commercial ships sailed
across the Atlantic Ocean twice a year.


Fig.4.45Heavy goods traffic with mules in the Chilean cordillera

Only a limited number of ports (puertos habilitados)

were privileged to participate in the transatlantic trade:
Veracruz in New Spain (Mexico); Portobelo and Panama
at the Isthmus of Panama; Cartagena on the Colombian
Caribbean coast; and Callao in Peru. Cartagena was the
principal port for the trade with the territories of current
Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador; Callao for those of
Peru and Chile. Goods from and to Bolivia, Argentina
and Paraguay were at first mostly transported by animal
caravans to the Pacific coast (Fig.4.45), until the monopoly
of the puertos habilitados was lifted in 1746 and goods
could also be shipped through Buenos Aires.
The Spanish Crown awarded grants (asientos) to indi
vidual persons and societies for the exploitation of natural
resources and for the export and import of merchandise.
Until 1746 the puertos habilitados were the focal points of
the long-distance trade and dynamic centres of economic
activity. Tanner (1978: 106) estimated the value of gold
alone shipped from Cartagena to Spain during the first
20years of colonial rule to have exceeded 100 million
dollars. The long transportation routes, combined with
the Spanish trade monopoly, made the traded goods quite
expensive. This was a principal reason why the export of
agrarian products initially was not very profitable and why
the encomenderos and hacienderos had only limited interest
in enhancing the agricultural productivity on their estates.
In sum, the transatlantic trade during the almost three
hundred years of colonial rule was quite intensive and
subject to a number of changes in terms of the type of
exchanged goods, the volume of trade and the transportation


4.3.6 Population and Society

The conquest of South America by the Spanish and
Portuguese resulted in profound changes in the population
structure and society of the continent. A major feature was
the demographic collapse of the indigenous population,
brought about by the new imported diseases and by the
ruthless exploitation, persecution and killing of the native
population. The decimation of indigenous people, com
bined with the concurrent increase of the white and mestizo
populations, resulted in major changes, shifts and new spa
tial patterns of population distribution, in a concentration of
people in urban centres and in new societal structures.
Estimates of the size of the native population at the time
of the conquest generally vary between 12 and 15 million;
Butzer (1992: 347) even speaks of some 16 million. No exact
reliable figures exist for the decline of the native population
in the different parts of the Andes during colonial rule. But
there is general agreement that the decimation of indigenous
people was alarming during the first decades after the Spanish
Conquest. Particularly dramatic was the loss of indgenas in
the naturally favoured basin and valley regions of the sierra.
In the coastal river oases, the combination of the impact
of the new diseases and the neglect or abandonment of the
sophisticated irrigation systems, as well as the destruction of
the pre-Hispanic urban centres, were major determining factors
for the drastic decline in the native population of these areas.
In susequent decades it was Charles V (Charles I
of Spain), influenced by Bartolom de las Casas, who
promulgated a number of laws and decrees for the protection
of native peoples. In 1680 Charles VI (Charles II) confirmed
this official policy in the nine folios of the Recopilacin
de las Leyes de las Indias. This is a remarkable document
for the intended protection of indigenous people under the
rule of the Habsburgs. During their reign the most effective
protection of the native population could be implemented in
the territories directly ruled by the Crown. Here the unpaid
life-long forced labour was gradually abolished. Indios
newly converting to Christianity had to work for the Spanish
only after a transition period of five years. Furthermore,
the proportion of recruited workers was reduced, in Chile
by one third, in Peru by one seventh of the total native
population. It was also prohibited to extend the period of
forced labour to more than one year and to compensate the
workers without monetary pay, solely in natural produce.
In addition, an eight hour working day was officially
introduced and there was to be an adequate food supply
for the families. A number of regulations also addressed
specific labour protection measures. Child labour was no
longer allowed; married women could only be employed in
the houses of the Spanish jointly with their husbands; and
the weight of the loads for the porters was reduced. The
workers were not supposed to be involved in activities that

4 The Cultural Development of the Andes

represented an acute safety or health hazard. Additional

decrees were aimed at protecting expecting mothers and
adolescents, and restricted the access of workers to alcohol.
However, a number of these official laws met with con
siderable resistance or even rejection by local encomen
dores, and the Crown in many instances either resigned
from implementing the regulations or even suspended them.
In addition, it proved difficult and in many cases impossi
ble to supervise the practices in the distant territories and
to effectively control the often corrupt officials. While the
legal framework could not prevent serious abuses and a per
vasive discrimination of the native population, it neverthe
less contributed to safeguarding the indigenous heritage in
the Andean regions with a substantial indigenous population
(particularly in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador). In other areas,
European colonists and administrators established liaisons
with native women which resulted in the formation of mestizo
societies, especially in Venezuela, Colombia and Chile. The
indigenous population is further discussed in Sect.5.2.
In colonial times a distinct social hierarchy was
established. People born in Spain (peninsulares) formed
the top of the societal pyramid. In order to fully serve the
interests of the Crown, these Spanish officials were not
allowed to marry native women or to pursue economic
activities that did not directly benefit Spain. The highest
social rank also included the higher ranks of the clergy
(cardinals, bishops, abbots). Many of these persons had
nobility titles and manifested their prestige and wealth
in large land holdings. The next lower social stratum
consisted of large landowners, administrators of latifundios
(mayordomos), merchants and other entrepreneurs.
While they were of Spanish origin, they were born in
Latin America and were referred to as Creoles (criollos).
People of mixed race, the mestizos, occupied the middle
social ranks. They were often artisans, merchants, traders,
military people and lower ranking clerics or administrative
personnel. Below the mestizos, the cholos were those
natives who had adapted themselves in language, clothing
and customs to the Spanish in an attempt to climb the social
and economic ladder of the colonial society. At the bottom
of the social pyramid were the traditional indios in a largely
subservient marginal position (refer to Table4.2). Generally
also of lower social rank were the black and mulatto
populations, who settled in the coastal lowland regions
(Fig. 4.46) and in some warmer valleys of the sierra, for
example in the Cota Valley of Ecuador.
The poverty, outlaw status and discrimination of native
people enticed them repeatedly to revolts and insurrections,
which were generally suppressed by the ruling class. Many
of the indigenous people were resettled in consolidated
villages so that they could be more effectively controlled.
In other cases, native people retreated to remote (Fig.4.47)
and/or high-altitude areas of the pramos and punas.


4.3 The Spanish Colonial Period and Its Spatial and Societal Impact
Table4.2Social stratification in the colonial era (adapted from Schenck 1997: 33 and translated by the authors)
Social rank

Social group
Spanish officials
Nobility, latifundio owners
Merchants, successful entrepreneurs

Economic rank

In contrast, the naturally favoured regions of the fertile

mountain basins (cuencas) and larger valley floors became
the preferred settlement locations of the white and mestizo
population, of haciendas and colonial towns.
In the 16th century, the proportion of the white population
in the Andean space remained rather modest for quite some
time. In the central Andes, Gade (1992: 464) estimates that
their number in the rural areas outside the cities and mining
centres amounted only to some 10,00015,000 people, while
the native population was still close to an estimated one
million. In the course of the 17th century, though, the creole
population increased rapidly and steadily, and gradually
succeeded in occupying the social and economic status of
the former peninsulares. Marriages with native women also
became a common feature, continuously augmenting the
numbers of mestizos. As a consequence, the core settlement
regions in most Andean regions were soon characterized by
a mixed Indian-European population who developed their
own cultural identity (mestizaje). While many of them,
for a long time, ranked lower, at least socially, than the
Creoles, a growing number succeeded in enhancing their
social, economic and political clout. Among the native
people, only the descendants of the old Inca nobility and
the local political leaders (caciques) were able to assume a
comparable privileged social position (Fig.4.48).
One of the inglorious socio-economic measures of the
Spanish was the importation of Black African slaves. On
the one hand, this was a reaction to the protection measures
for the native population, on the other, it was aimed at
procuring a workforce for the lowland plantations. While
Bartolom de las Casas initially recommended the use
of a Black slave population, he later rejected it. It was
also Las Casas who founded the Order of the Red Cross
for the protection of the indigenous people. When this
initiative failed, Felipe III transferred the administration
of the territories in eastern Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay
to the Jesuits. They established the so-called misiones, by
all intents and purposes Jesuit states, in these lands. In this
way some 300 Jesuits supervised around 100,000 baptized
and approximately one million other native people! In the
Jesuit territories, the indios lived in relative freedom and
largely outside a monetary economy; they were responsible
for their own local political, social, economic and judicial
organization and even had a native police force. Cultural

Aspired Spanish
Acculturated Spanish

Racial affiliation
Mixed Spanish-Amerindian

Fig. 4.46Afro-Colombian, descendent of African slaves on the

Caribbean coast of Colombia

Fig.4.47Indio women in the Colca Canyon, Peru

cores of these unique Christian states were the numerous

monasteries and magnificent churches, built in a distinct
Spanish-Indian ornate style. Eventually, under the
Bourbons, the Jesuits were expelled and the political and
cultural heritage of the misiones vanished.


Fig.4.48Peruvian Cacique

4 The Cultural Development of the Andes

Dominicans, Augustines and Jesuits; hospitals, schools

and universities. In 1551 the first university in the
Andean space was founded in Lima and, at the end of
the Habsburg dynasty, a total of 26 universities existed.
It was the principal mandate of these institutions to substitute the assumed pagan beliefs and cultural manifestations by a Christian enlightenment and culture, and to
convert the indigenous people to the Catholic faith. The
missionary zeal was particularly strong during the first
phase of colonization and millions of indios were converted, albeit often in a superficial, nominal fashion.
Most pre-colonial temples, shrines and other ritual sites
were destroyed, and non-Christian practices, rituals and
other cultural expressions were forbidden. Nevertheless,
the cultural traditions survived in many areas, often in
a peculiar amalgamation of pre-Christian and Catholic
In sum, the colonial period marked a time of profound
changes, modifications and overlays of the cultural orientations, social fabric, economic outlook and political
structures. This entailed a substantial transformation of the
environmental and cultural landscapes of the Andes, and the
development of new spatial rural and urban patterns. While
some of the new cultural influences and economic stimuli
proved successful and became largely accepted by a majority of Andean people, others had a negative impact on the
environment, entailed the reckless exploitation of the natural and human resources, and resulted in a deplorable erosion of the rich ancient cultural heritage. Thus the colonial
period was another, but most significant, stage in the melting of traditional heritage, with new impulses and influences, a feature which can be observed for millennia until
the present time.
The Andean cultural landscape is above all a syncretism.
In spite of their hermetic reputation, Andean people have
always been pervious to outside influences when n on-native
elements demonstrated superiority or when they filled
an apparent vacuum if the risk of adoption was not too
high. European introductions created new possibilities
for enhancing rural livelihood. Those elements of Western
material culture preadapted to Andean conditions that were
of value to Andean people were incorporated into their folkways in the first half of the Colonial period without much
later variation. (Gade 1992: 474)

4.4 The Post-colonial Era

Fig.4.49Cathedral of Cusco, Peru

In the material culture, Christianity in the Spanish

colonies was primarily manifested by churches
(Fig. 4.49), monasteries of the orders of Franciscans,

In 2010 most Andean states celebrated 200years of politi

cal independence. But while the struggle to free themselves
from Spanish rule already began in 1809 (Ecuador and
Bolivia), followed in 1810 by the other Andean states,
with the famous Independence Shouts (gritos) on the Plaza

4.4 The Post-colonial Era

Mayor of the later capital cities, it should still take another

six years before the Spanish gave up their last bastions of
colonial rule.
Between 1809 and 1826, the Andean space was shattered
by various independence and post-independence wars.
The campaigns in the northern part of the Andes were
led by the citizens of the Vice-Royalty of New Granada
(later Venezuela), Simon Bolvar (Fig.4.50) and Antonio
Jos Sucre; in the south by the Argentinian Jos de San
Martin and the Chilean Bernardo OHiggins. The great
leaders of the independence movement, Simon Bolvar
and Jos de San Martin, dreamt of a unified, free state
within the boundaries of the former colonial empire. In the
proclamation of 1818, Bolvar set out to instil in the citizens
a new political enthusiasm with the following euphemistic
words: The Republic of Venezuela offers you her fraternity,
and when, covered with laurels, the last oppressors who
still trample our soil, will be annihilated, the Republic will
invite you to unite in a common South America (Wilhelmy

Fig.4.50Monument to Simon Bolvar, Caracas, Venezuela


and Borsdorf 1984: 47, freely translated by the authors).

These ambitious plans, however, never came to fruition.
Even partial attempts for unification, Gran Colombia, Gran
Per and La Plata, failed after a few years.
Argentina was the first country which in 1816 attained
its de facto independence; Chile followed in 1818. The
independence then reached Colombia, at the time with its
provinces of Quito, Venezuela and Peru. In 1819, Bolvar
conquered Bogot, but soon after, in 1830, the provinces
of Venezuela and Quitothe latter became the Republic
of Ecuadorbroke away from Gran Colombia (Fig.4.51).
Finally, in 1824, Peru was liberated from colonial rule; one
year later also Alto Per, which became the Republic of
Initially, the leaders of the wars of independence ruled
in a rather autocratic fashion before more democratic
forms of government were established. At first,
conservative political forces were the most influential
ones and they governed on the basis of presidentialdemocratic constitutions. Most of the politicians were
large landowners and other powerful stakeholders. In
order to protect their economic interests from undesirable
external competition, they propagated a development
directed towards the interior (desarrollo adentro) with
prohibitive international customs barriers. During the last
30years of the 19th century, more liberal political forces,
many of them from the merchant class, gained more
political influence. They tried to establish more genuine
forms of parliamentary democracies and changed the
constitutions accordingly. Their principal economic interest
was a relatively free and liberal trade under the slogan
development oriented towards the exterior (desarrollo
hacia afuera).
In some states, foremost in Chile and Argentina, but to
a certain degree also in the other Andean states, an immigration of Europeans was encouraged. In Colombia settlers were attracted to the nascent coffee economy; to
Peru and Ecuador mainly as merchants and traders; to
Bolivia especially as cattle ranchers. A significant number
of the European immigrants brought innovative economic
impulses into their new countries, many of them became
wealthy and some attained considerable political clout. In
some cases, small clusters of European settlers gave the
Andean countries a specific flair and a distinct cultural
imprint on the rural and urban landscapes. For example,
the Chico Sur of the southern part of central Chile was and
still is shaped by German immigrants. In the urban architectural landscape, elegant Central-European style houses
were added to the traditional Mediterranean patio houses.
In addition, migrants from Asia were also attracted to the
Andean countries. In Peru, for instance, many Chinese
were initially hired as contract workers in the booming
guano industry. Later the Chinese often became successful


4 The Cultural Development of the Andes

Fig.4.51Historical map of Gran Colombia as per 1824. Author Codazzi (1840)

business people. While a few of the immigrants of non-Hispanic descent also assumed political positions, especially
in Chile and Bolivia, as a whole their economic clout was
greater than their political one. In most cases, upper-class
Creole families were able to control the political destiny
of the Andean states, at least until the first part of the 20th
century, when military leaders, some of them rising from
lower social classes, were able to seize political power.
In the 20th century, both the Conservatives and the
Liberals tended to be the ruling parties and to alternate in
assuming political control. In Colombia the rift between the
Conservatives and the Liberals deepened around 1900. While
the Conservatives were calling for a strong central state and
president, the Liberals demanded a federally structured country and a constitution with an influential parliament. The controversy between the Conservatives and the Liberals reached
a disastrous climax in the War of Thousand Days (1899
1902), in which some 100,000 people died. In the wake of
this turmoil, Colombia lost Panama in 1904 upon the intervention of the United States. After World War II, the conflict
in Colombia intensified once again in 1946. After the murder
of the popular presidential candidate Jorge Elicer Gaitn,

a full-scale civil war erupted (La Violencia, 19481952).

Eventually the Conservatives and the Liberals agreed to
share power by forming a National Front (1958). This, however, once again cemented the domination of the country by
the traditional elites. In opposing this political inertia, various
guerrilla organizations emerged in the years that followed.
They demanded effective political, social and economic
reforms. Eventually the insurgents were able to control substantial parts of the country, especially many of the remote
areas. In turn, paramilitary groups fought the guerrillas, further contributing to insecurity and violence which terrorized the population of Colombia. Both the insurgents and
the paramilitary organizations were involved in the illegal
cocaine economy to finance their operations. With the establishment of the Plan Colombia, the guerrillas could be more
effectively controlled and their territories gradually shrank in
numbers and size. Today Colombia has by and large and in
most parts become more secure, but is still governed by the
old political establishment of influential families.
In recent times, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru
have witnessed a different political orientation. In Venezuela
Hugo Chvez seized power in a military coup and was


4.4 The Post-colonial Era

president from 1999 until his death in 2013. He established

a leftist, anti-American government programme, propagating the so-called Bolivarian Revolution, based on populist,
socialist economic and social policies. He was followed by
Nicolas Maduro, so far continuing in the political footsteps
of Chvez. In Bolivia, Evo Morales, an indigenous former
coca farmer and union leader, came to power in 2006. He
attempted a political and economic reorientation of the
country, giving the native population more power, implementing social reforms and trying to control the influence
of foreign companies. In Ecuador, Rafael Correa, another
leftist populist, proved to be rather successful in promoting
the economic development of his country; he was re-elected
in 2013. In Peru, Victor Ral Haya de la Torre founded the
Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana in 1924 (APRA,
Fig.4.52), the oldest political party in Peru. Most recently,
Ollanta Humala of the Partido Nacionalista Peruano came to
power in 2011, promising an economic development based
on the exploitation of the rich natural resources, coupled
with socialist reforms for the underprivileged social classes.
A unique political constellation took place in Chile.
In 1970, for the first time in South America, a socialist
(by some people, a Marxist) president came to power in a
democratic election (Fig.4.53). But as early as 1973, with
the alleged support of the United States, he was overthrown
and killed in a bloody military coup by Augusto Pinochet.
This heralded a 17-year long military dictatorship and also
revoked the socialist programmes of Allende, based on
import substitution, state controlled mining and industry, and
land reforms. Under Pinochet and also later under the democratically elected governments of presidents Aylwin, Lagos,
Bachelet, Piera and after him again Bachelet, Chile pursued
neo-liberal policies that made the country the economically
most successful Andean state (cf. Crandall etal. 2005).

Fig.4.52Flag of APRA, Peru

Fig. 4.53Gathering for president Salvador Allende in front of the

Moneda, Santiago de Chile 1971

Ethnic and Demographic Structures


A. Borsdorf and C. Stadel, The Andes, Springer Geography, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-03530-7_5

Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015




Indigenous people doing communal work, Photograph by MISEREOR


5 Ethnic and Demographic Structures and Processes

People in the Andes

One day people appeared in the mountains of the Andes
who learned to live with the severe climatic conditions. They
honoured the earth as a generous and patient mother who
carried and protected its fruits in her womb. To grow plants
as source of food does not simply mean to sow, sit down and
wait. You have to loosen the soil and happily water it with your
sweat. It means learning from the moon when you have to sow
and to talk with the stars about seasons and frost, to befriend
the clouds and to wait for the benign rains. Nobody taught our
fathers how they had to treat nature. They learned by observing
it, and the animals and insects were their first teachers. They
learned to look for edible roots, the tasty fruit, the healing
flower, the plant which clothes them. In this way, people
experimented and discovered. And so they found what they
needed and how to obtain it. The mountains of the Andes are not
comfortable. There are places where the soil is hard as a stone.
There are areas where the fog makes you blind, where the earth
is dying of thirst. Land full of thorns, rocky slopes, icy glaciers
and warm valleys; places where people could not live alone.
Andean people built terraces to protect their crops. With canals
dug into hard rock, they directed water to areas devoid of water.
People learned to cultivate maize in protected niches, potatoes
at higher places and bitter potatoes at icy altitudes. They even
learned to take advantage of the frost to conserve the potatoes.
They also used the afternoon sun to dry the cobs of maize and
they allowed the soft winds to carry away the chaff of quinoa.
From the warmer and wetter regions, they got mama coca to
dispel their fatigue. In the plains of the puna, they tended llamas
and alpacas. The hard stones served them to manufacture hoes,
and they made foot ploughs from the hardest wood. People in
the Andes knew that they could not survive alone in the vastness
of the mountains. Thousands of hands joined to transform the
land; they covered the mountain slopes with fields of maize;
and the communal work on their land changed into dance and
music. At sowing time, even today, the whole family dresses in
festive clothes, the ploughs are decorated with flags and Mother
Earth is caressed with love and hope. (Nicols Matayosh, Peru,
quoted by the Entwicklungshilfeklub in Vienna, 2010, translated
by the authors)

5.1 Social Structure

The present socio-ethnic structure of the Andean countries is
based on the Spanish colonial heritage. As mentioned in Sect.
4.3.6 (refer also to Table 4.2), Creoles traditionally headed
the social hierarchy. Soon, however, successful mestizos
succeeded in climbing the social ranks and the racial or
ethnic background of the people became less relevant in
determining their social status. A similar development can
be observed for the African and mulatto population of mixed

Fig.5.1Afro-American children in the Chota valley, Ecuador

White-Black racial ancestry. The Afro-American population

is largely concentrated in the coastal Caribbean and Pacific
regions, and in some lower valleys, like the Chota Valley
of Ecuador (Fig.5.1). Today wealth and income have
become determining criteria in the social stratification of the
societies, as well as ownership of land and urban real estate,
education and occupation, political connections.
In many instances, indigenous people remain at the
bottom of the social hierarchy, as the traditionally relevant
ethnic background remains combined with lower educational
attainment, inferior jobs and lower standards of living
conditions. But even here, some people with a native ethnic
background, especially in the cities, have achieved a higher
status through education, economic success and political or
military prowess. While most of these achievers have become
largely acculturated in language, clothing, social norms
and lifestyles, some successful and respected indigenous
communities are proud of their native heritage and manifest
it in language, lifestyles and social traditions. An example are
the Otavaleos in their homeland in northern Ecuador, as well
as in the cities, where they live as artisans, merchants, traders
or musicians. Since the 1990s, the indgenas in Ecuador and
Bolivia have organized themselves in political and social
protest movements. In marches for dignity and territory,
in road blocks and other actions, they have succeeded in
drawing national and international attention to their concerns.
In Bolivia, both the unions of miners (mineros) and of the
coca farmers (cocaleros) have successfully challenged the
traditional political fabric of the country by forming the party
Movimiento al Socialismo, which in 2005 won the national
elections. With Evo Morales as its leader, for the first time in
the history of the Republic, Bolivia has a native president.
Ethnicity and race have also lost some of the former
discriminatory label with the recognition of different ethnic
or racial groups in the constitutions of Andean countries.
Ecuador and Bolivia are now identifying themselves
as multi-ethnic and plurinational. In the Constitution
of Ecuador of 2008, Article 56 states that indigenous


5.1 Social Structure

communities, peoples and nations, the Afro-Ecuadorian

people, the back country people of the inland coastal
region (montubios) and communes are part of the single
and indivisible Ecuadorian State, (Constitucin de la
Repblica del Ecuador 2009). Article 60 even states that
ancestral, indigenous, Afro-Ecuadorian communities
and montubios can establish territorial districts for the
preservation of their culture. Spanish, Quechua and Shuar
are recognized as national languages. The Constitution of
Bolivia of 2009 declares in Article 1: Bolivia is constituted
as a unitary, social state of plurinational community-based
law, democratic, intercultural, decentralized and with
autonomies. Bolivia is founded in plurality and political,
economic, juridical, cultural and linguistic pluralism, within
the integrating process of the country, (Nueva Constitucin
Poltica del Estado 2009: 3). In the Andean countries,
indgenas have gained additional political and social clout by
mobilizing themselves in political movements and parties.
According to official census data, the mestizo population
forms a majority in Colombia and Venezuela. The highest
proportion of indigenous people is found in Bolivia, Peru
and Ecuador, with widely fluctuating statistical data. In
general, the number of citizens with a native background has
increased in recent years, because more of them no longer
try to hide their cultural background, but are now assertive
in declaring themselves as indgenas. Argentina and Chile,
in turn, are states with a predominantly white population.
However, any figures on the racial background of people
have to be treated with great caution, as the criteria used for
determining race or ethnicity vary considerably and are also
largely based on subjective self-identification. Furthermore,
statistical data in the Andean countries have a limited
validity and many people, especially in remote areas, are
either not reached by census takers or they try to evade them.

practices and ceremonies. In spite of the long history of

colonial oppression, assimilation and acculturation processes,
larger settlement regions of Quechua- and Aymara-speaking
communities, as well as numerous other smaller indigenous
islands with distinct native communities, have survived in
the Andes. Examples for this are the Otavaleos in northern
Ecuador (Fig.5.2), the Tarabucos in Bolivia (Fig.5.3), or the
Uros on the Peruvian and Bolivian Altiplano (Fig.5.4).
Mires (1992) formulates three approaches to the concept
of indianidad:
Indians are exclusively the descendants of preColumbian cultures and societies;
2. Indigenous implies a range of specific cultural, spiritual
and ritual characteristics, which are quite different from
Western norms, features and values;
3. Indianidad refers to an economic and social status characterized by judicial, social, cultural and economic deprivation and marginalization.
For millennia the Andean realm has been settled and
utilized by an array of indigenous communities. In the
course of time, native people have physiologically adjusted
to the stressors of high altitude and cold temperatures.
They have also developed special skills and techniques to
make optimal use of the different water, forest and agrarian resources in the varied altitudinal zones and topographic

5.2 Indigenous Heritage and Communities

The terms indgena, indio, Indian, ancestral people, aboriginal
people, which are often used as synonyms, are simplifying
and generalizing terms, which do not give adequate justice
to the heterogeneity of diverse native communities. This
nomenclature has also experienced a perceptual change in
the course of history; from a rather negative and derogatory
connotation in colonial and even post-colonial times, to a
more recent revaluation of the ancestral heritage of these
people and the recognition of their rights to the land, water
and other resources, local community organizations and their
adherence to their own social norms and lifestyles.
As has been mentioned before, the indios cannot be
distinguished from the mestizos on the basis of physical
characteristics. They identify themselves as communities
with their own cultural traditions, their language, clothing,
ways of life, social norms, rights and obligations, ritual

Fig.5.2Otavaleas in Ecuador


5 Ethnic and Demographic Structures and Processes

and to traditional agriculture. In the Andean countries, native

communities are endangered by external actors and economic
developments with, at times, serious environmental and cultural impacts. But an increasing number of indigenous communities and political movements have made some progress
in defending their traditional rights and access to resources,
and they have achieved a higher degree of participation and
autonomy. Recently this has happened especially in Bolivia
and Ecuador. Today there is hope that the indgenas will
gradually overcome discrimination, disenfranchisement, poverty and marginalization, and find new forms of development
which are adapted to their culture, long-term needs and to
environmental compatibility.

Fig.5.3Tarabucos in Bolivia

Fig.5.4Uros Chipayas, Bolivia

and environmental niches. In turn they have learned to cope

with a host of natural risks and hazards, and have developed
sophisticated resilience strategies. The major goal was to
minimize the risks by relying on a variety of agricultural
plots, crops and cultivation forms and cycles. Most impressive were the already mentioned terraces and irrigation systems. Other economic strategies were the various forms of
economic exchanges (truque) and regional trading of goods.
Today this is still reflected in the tradition of market centres and periodic markets. Living with and depending upon
nature has instilled in them a deep respect and veneration
for Pachamama and the natural phenomena.
Today the indigenous communities are facing important
challenges. The pervasive penetration of modernity, new technologies, capitalism and globalization provide new development options and opportunities. But they are also a threat to
the survival of the ancestral heritage, to proven social norms

Lo Andino: Andean Wisdom and Ancestral
In spite of the economic, political and cultural globalization trends, the attempt to preserve a regional identity and the
ancestral heritage is still deeply rooted in Andean communities. The return to the autochthonous cultural traditions and
ways of life can even be seen as a reaction to the levelling tendencies of globalization (Featherstone 1995: 93).
The cultural heritage of the Andes is particularly rich
and diversified. Over the long course of history, numerous
processes of displacement and overlay have taken place,
but, on the other hand, one can observe a remarkable cultural resilience and a tenacious preservation of ancestral
traditions: The most profound meaning of the Andes thus
comes not from a physical description, but from the cultural
outcome of 10 millennia of knowing, using and transforming the varied environments of western South America
(Gade 1999: 34). Because of its long and rich cultural history, Gade considers the tropical central Andes as the core
region (corazn) of the Andean material and non-material
culture: Many autochthonous elements, practices, strategies and symbols, both material and nonmaterial, make up
the sum of lo andino, (Gade 1999: 36). In this part of the
sierra, the traditional Andean culture has best resisted the
assimilation pressure of Europeans and North Americans,
and the acculturation processes of modernization and
Western technologies (Stadel 2003a: 78)
In economic terms, lo andino is based on the traditions
of field cultivation and pastoralism in their aim to make the
best use of the potentials of the environment, especially the
broad spectrum of altitudinal zones and agricultural niches.
By resorting to a diversity of production forms of field cultivation and of pastoral strategies, agricultural activities
strive to minimize the risks for the support of families and
the comunidad. One of the guiding principles is economic
complementarity (complementaridad). In spatial terms,
the vertical control (Murra 1975) allows the communities to access the resources of diverse altitudinal areas. It

5.2 Indigenous Heritage and Communities

manifests itself further in interregional market and trade relations between different regions of the sierra and between the
mountains and the neighbouring coastal or interior lowlands.
Complementarity is also achieved by growing a variety of
crops and by different forms of crop and field rotation, as
well as by combining field cultivation with pastoral activities.
A further pillar of lo andino is the Andean tradition
of economic and social reciprocity (reciprocidad). This
principle provides for a mutual and equitable exchange
and compensation of goods and services between families
and regions (Stadel 2001a: 151). Economic reciprocity
in the Andes has a long tradition, especially in the form of
bartering (truque), although it has considerably weakened
in recent times in the course of greater monetarization of
economies. In the exchange of products, the daily markets
(mercados) or weekly market days (ferias) play a vital
role. In this context, Rist (2000: 310311) asks whether
reciprocity today has to be regarded as a traditional and
marginal relic or as a successful and sustainable strategy.
He is of the opinion that reciprocity, at least from the
perspective of local stakeholders, retains its significance and
value, not only as a precious cultural heritage but also as a
meaningful economic and social system. In its social context,
reciprocity implies various forms of communal and mutual
assistance and obligations as pillars of support for families
and village communities. They include the faena, a service
for the comunidad (e.g., the repair of roads and bridges, or
the maintenance of irrigation systems); ayni, as mutual help
by one community member for another member for private
purposes (e.g., sowing and harvesting); or minka, a mutual
work support with major jobs for members of the community
(e.g., in building or repairing of houses, or the clearing of
land). These forms of work assistance have also an important
socializing function, as the community or the hosting family
supply the workers with food, drink, at times also with music.
Reciprocity is then an expression of the traditional vital
role of the community as a place in which the individual is
embedded in a system of assistance, obligations, solidarity,
local jurisdiction, social activities and rituals. Whereas in
Western societies personal freedom, private initiatives and
property, or self-determination are considered cherished
principles and values, in an Andean ayll, the economic
and social rights and obligations find their expression
within the community as a whole and an exclusion from the
community is considered the worst form of punishment, as
it means a loss of the homeland and all social networks:
In the Andes, the basic collective entity and the indispensable foundation of the identity is the ayll (), the unity of
the community of peasants. The ayll is the cell of life, the
celebrating and ritual atom, but also the economic foundation
of subsistence and of the internal exchange trade. (Estermann
1999: 226, translated by the authors)


The Kichwa in Ecuador call the ancestral concept based

on dignity, solidarity, community ties and harmony with
nature sumak kawsay. Lately it has been incorporated into
the constitution of Ecuador in its simplified translated form
of buen vivir. It is closely related to the Aymara concept
of suma qamaa, which is referred to in the Bolivian
constitution as vivir bien.
Lo andino also implies a specific cosmovisin;
Estermann (1999: 162163); calls it Pachasophie (pacha
meaning earth, world, living space, cosmic order). In the
Andean cosmovision, nature and the daily life of the people
(pachankiri) are influenced and overlaid by the spiritual life
(pachaqamaq), the social life (pachaqamachana) and also
by material factors. Of particular importance and sacredness
are nature and Mother Earth (pachamama) : As a living
reality, the Earth is for the indigenous communities the
essence for all individuals and the entire Indian nation().
In it, the Andean person (runa) develops his individual
and collective identity (Llanque Chana 1995, quoted
by Thonhauser 2001: 42, translated by the authors). For
the many links that Andean people maintain with nature,
Estermann introduces the term kosophie (ecosophy). All
life is rooted in pachamama; by its fertility, it symbolically
connects the different spheres of the universe. It is
therefore not surprising that the cult of pachamama is still
omnipresent in the indigenous regions of the Andes. For
example, prior to sowing, the peasant asks Mother Earth
to be allowed to open it, and he buries a sacrificial gift in
the soil. Farmers also pray to the God of Rains to fertilize
pachamama. Until today, the benediction of Mother Earth
is implored for the building of houses, family celebrations
and even at Christian holidays. In many parts, these ancient
religious beliefs and rituals are blended with the Christian
religion: Mother Earth may be identical to Mother God.
In Quillacollo, Bolivia, a holy stone symbolizing both a
link with Mother Earth and a statue of the Virgin Mary are
adored in close proximity to each other (Schoop 2008: 56).
As pachamama is an organic, living organism, all animals
and plants deserve respect and care.
According to Estermann (1999), the Andean ecosophy
also has an ethical dimension, which he calls Ruwanasophie.
Human beings are the custodians of the earth and they cannot
use and dominate it at will. Andean people have the privilege
to use the soil, but this should be done carefully and has to be
accompanied by ritual ceremonies. In turn, the loss of land and
soil is a serious disruption of the identity of individuals and
communities. In the Andean philosophy, many linkages exist
between the different manifestations of nature, which find their
expression in various ritual bridges (chakanas). For example,
the sacred coca leaves bring people in touch with the forces
of heaven and also with the ancestors. Other chakanas are the
rainbow, clouds, rain, fog, lightening, as well as glaciers and
mountains, in particular the snow-covered peaks (apus).


The Andean cosmovision has thus an ecological,

religious and societal dimension, and the Andean culture
and traditional Andean knowledge (saber andino) are based
on an ample body of collective wisdom and experiences,
accumulated and transmitted over many generations. This
knowledge is embedded into the religious, ethical and
mythological concepts of Andean people. However, it must
not be thought of as a static, unchangeable treasure, rather it
has changed over time, new elements have been added and
some ancestral traditions have been modified. Lo andino
is in a constant state of flux, integrating new elements and
rejecting others. For Andean people, tradition and modernity
are not necessarily contradictory and exclusive. But tradition
should be the indispensable framework for progress,
development and modernity (Estermann 1999: 322).
In many development programmes, which have been
implemented in partnership between local stakeholders and
external agencies, this approach has become the basis for
fruitful cooperation. An example for this is the SANREM
(Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management)
Programme, developed in 2006 with the local indigenous
population of Cotacachi in northern Ecuador (Rhoades
2006a). In this project, the principal objectives were the
protection of Mother Nature and her resources, as well as the
preservation and fostering of the local cultural traditions:
Research by the SANREM team demonstrates the fragility of
our natural environment and defines strategies for conserving
the Earths wealth (). The research undertaken by SANREM
demonstrates the usefulness and wisdom of our ancestral
indigenous knowledge. While the studiesare based on the
principles of Western science, researchers have not overlooked
the importance of our millennial way of life and social
organization (). The SANREM team has made an effort to
learn about the importance of the Pachamamaand about our
cosmovision, and thus, instead of relegating our ancient ways
of relating to nature to the category of superstition,members
of the team have made our customs and traditions and ways of
being in nature a central part of their studies (Auki Tituaa,
Mayor of Cotacachi County, quoted in Rhoades 2006a: XII).

5.2.2 Distribution of Indigenous Populations

As mentioned in Sect. 5.1, Bolivia (Fig.5.5) and Peru have
the highest proportion of native populations among the
Andean countries. Fischer Weltalmanach 2014 (2013) gives
the following proportions of indigenous people, based on data
for the year 2008: Bolivia, 55% (30% Quechua and 25%
Aymara); Peru, 45%; Ecuador, 35%; Chile, 11% (82% of
them Mapuche and 6% Aymara); Colombia, 3% (mostly
Chibcha); Venezuela, 1.5%; and Argentina, 1.6%. Included
in these percentages are also the lowland indgenas, most of
them living in sparse concentrations in the foothill zones of

5 Ethnic and Demographic Structures and Processes

Fig.5.5Native pupils in the Bolivian Altiplano

the sierra and its adjacent plains. In absolute numbers, Peru

has the highest number of indios (approximately 15 million).
While it is already quite difficult to obtain exact figures for the
native population in general, it is even harder to assess their
numbers in the cities. Today a growing number of them live
there permanently or temporarily, but many of them either
evade the census or they become acculturated by the processes
of cholonization (Fig.5.6) and mestizaje. As has been stated
above, native populations in many parts tend to increase.
This is a result of higher natural growth rates, but also a new
awareness and pride of identifying oneself as indgena.
The core realm of the indigenous population arethe
tropical highland regions, in particular the higher altitudinal
zones and more remote areas of the cordilleras. The
settlement frontier at and above ca. 4,000m is almost
exclusively inhabited by native people, most of them either
working in agriculture or in mining. Historically they were
in many parts pushed out from the naturally more favoured
mountain basins (cuencas) or valleys by the Spanish
colonists. They are also physiologically best adapted to
high altitude living. In these more isolated regions, they
succeeded best to preserve their identity and heritage.

5.2.3 Mobility and Migration

In general, the indigenous population tends to be less prepared for permanent migration than the mestizos. Even so,
in recent times they have shown increased mobility and a
higher preparedness to leave their traditional homelands on
a temporary or permanent basis. The new destinations of
native people are the new agricultural frontiers of the llanos grassland (Fig.5.7) and rainforest lowlands of the Ro
Negro/Orinoco and Amazon lowlands. New job opportunities in the oil and gas fields of the Oriente, especially
in Ecuador, have also attracted a young male labour force.
In the new settlement areas, the migrants often encountered major difficulties in adjusting to the new natural and


5.2 Indigenous Heritage and Communities

Fig.5.8Indigenous building worker in La Paz, Bolivia

Fig.5.6School uniforms in Guayaquil, an instrument of choloniza

tion, Ecuador

Fig.5.9Rural migrants in the Pueblos Jvenes of Lima, fetching water

Fig.5.7Indigenous woman in the Colombian llanos

cultural environments, and their native identity became

threatened or was even lost. Another new employment
potential for indgenas is the growing number of ecotourism

While the weekly mobility to the market centres of the

sierra has a long tradition, the improved access to the cities
and the better transport infrastructure have intensified the temporary and permanent flow of native people to the cities. Here
indios may find work in a variety of manual jobs (Fig.5.8)
and other types of formal or informal work; indios are primarily employed as maids in private households, as cooks
in streets and on markets, or in other inferior service jobs. In
the cities most of the native migrants live in shanty towns and
legal or illegal marginal settlements, often at the urban periphery (Fig.5.9). While they may still retain some economic and
social ties and contacts with their place of origin, many of them
soon develop a new identity and way of life.


The pull of urban centres is particularly strong in the

vicinity of large and medium-sized cities. In the case of
the metropolises, the migration catchment area is large and
often nation-wide. This is most noticeable in the cases of
Bogot, Quito, La Paz, Guayaquil and Lima. Most remarkable here is the phenomenal growth of El Alto in Bolivia,
which used to be a suburb of La Paz, located at an elevation of 4,000m, above the core of the city. With the massive
influx of people, it became an independent metropolitan
centre in 1985. In 2012, it counted a population in excess of
800.000, surpassing La Paz in population size, and today is
the second largest urban centre of Bolivia, after Santa Cruz.
El Alto may now be the largest settlement of indigenous
people in the entire Andean space.

5.2.4 Indigenous Ethnic Groups

The indigenous people of Latin America can be categorized
into a variety of ethnic groups and linguistic communities.
Since the Spanish Conquest, a number of the smaller
cultural communities have vanished, and today, only five
native language groups in Central and South America count
more than one million speakers. In the Andean space, the
three major ethnic communities, the Quechua, the Aymara,
and the Mapuche, will be discussed below. A precise
determination of the number of people belonging to these
groups is problematic as official census data are quite
unreliable. Also, as the identification of the ethnic affiliation
is generally based on language, and most indgenas are
bilingual, a precise ethnic categorization of the people
tends to be elusive. On the other hand, the foundation
and growing impact of native nations have raised their
social and political clout and pride, and may encourage
individuals to declare themselves as members of specific
indigenous communities. Quechua (Runakuna)

Quechua is a collective term for a diversity of indigenous
groups speaking the Quechua language. Quechua was the
official language of the Inca Empire and continued even into
the early colonial time, to be a lengua general in most parts of
the sierra and some coastal districts of Peru. But the emerging
national states in the early 19th century tried to unify their
state territories and to effectively incorporate the indigenous
people into the national framework by promoting Spanish
as the official language (castellanizacin). Only towards the
end of the 20th century, the governments of Bolivia, Ecuador
and Peru fostered the revival of indigenous languages
by introducing various programmes of an Educacin
Intercultural Bilingue. As a tool to grant more empowerment
to the native communities, the cultural autonomy and the
language rights are now endorsed in the constitutions of these

5 Ethnic and Demographic Structures and Processes

Andean countries. In Ecuador, the constitution of 2006, while

categorizing Spanish as the official language of Ecuador,
gives official recognition to the three intercultural languages
of Spanish, Quechua and Shuar. In addition, other ancestral
languages (some 12 in Ecuador) are to be used officially by
indigenous people in the areas they inhabit and as stipulated
by law. The constitution of Peru also grants all citizens the
right to preserve their ethnic, linguistic and cultural identity.
In Bolivia, the rights, traditions and institutions of the
multi-ethnic, plurilingual, and multicultural communities
are officially guaranteed in the constitution of 2009, which
specifies 37 languages as official.
Given the difficulty in accurately assessing their numbers,
the data on native speakers show considerable variations.
Daz-Campos, Coronel-Molina (2011) list 6.6million people
as the total number of Quechua speakers, with the following national breakdown: Peru (2007): 3.26million; Bolivia
(2009): 2.53 million; Ecuador (2009): 0.5 million; Argentina
(1999): 0.3 million. The highest concentration of Quechua
speakers is found in the sierras of Peru (Figs.5.10 and 5.11),
Bolivia and Ecuador, but a variety of Quechua communities also exists in some parts of the Amazon basin. Quechua
is divided into two main linguistic branches called central
Quechua, and northern and southern Quechua, each of which
consists of a variety of distinct regional and cultural groups
and dialects. In the northern and central Andes, the linguistic variant of waywash prevails; in southern Peru, Bolivia
and the neighbouring regions of Chile and Argentina is the
wampuy variant. Daz-Campos, Coronel-Molina (2011)
further emphasize the great linguistic, cultural and ideological diversity and differences of Quechua people, which
makes it problematic to regard them as a single, monolithic
Quechua nation.
The majority of the Quechua population lives in the rural
areas of the sierra in dispersed small farmsteads or village
communities (in Peru, they are called comunidades nativas). The Quechua people are either engaged in subsistenceoriented field cultivation on small minifundios (small farms)
and in collective pastoralism; or they work as farm labourers
(peones) on haciendas. Traditionally, highland Quechua people have also pursued seasonal harvesting work (zafra) on
coastal plantations. Since colonial times, male Quechuas have
also worked in mines. Today, many Quechuas have moved to
the cities in search for alternative employment opportunities.
A particular case are the farmers in the Montaa region of
the Peruvian eastern cordillera. These rural people, many of
them Quechua speakers, settled in the region of the Huallaga
Valley, expecting new agricultural opportunities from the
government sponsored colonization programme of the
1930s. While these policies and projects resulted in a general
improvement of transportation and social infrastructure, the
assistance to individual farm families proved to be insufficient
(Meentzen 2005: 4749). Because of suitable climate


5.2 Indigenous Heritage and Communities

conditions, comparatively high revenues and few alternatives,

many farmers engaged in coca cultivation. On a small scale,
the coca leaves were either sold in local or regional market
centres, for instance in Tingo Maria (Fig.5.12), or they
were purchased by the drug mafia for further processing.
With the massive support of the United States, the Peruvian
government tried to curtail the illegal cultivation of coca
busheswith limited success. In the 1980s and early 1990s,
the coca trade became intertwined with the operations of
the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and the paramilitary
counter offensive, which made the Huallaga Valley one of the
most dangerous parts of the Andes. While today the situation
has generally improved, and the illegal coca growing has been
substantially reduced in recent years, a complete stabilization
of the region has still not been achieved. Drug trafficking and
narcoterrorismo remain acute problems in the upper Huallaga
Valley (Van Dun 2009). Aymara
The principal living space of the Aymara people is found in
the higher regions of the sierra of Bolivia (Figs.5.13 and
5.14), southern Peru, and the northern part of the Chilean
cordillera. In Bolivia, it is estimated that 3040% of the
population are Aymaras; in Peru 5% and in Chile less than
0.5%. Before their conquest by the Incas, the Aymaras were
grouped together in small territories (collas). During the Inca
and colonial periods, they were at times forcibly resettled in
other parts of the Andes. As is the case with other indigenous
groups, the Aymaras encountered prolonged discrimination,
lack of rights and exploitation. Their situation in Bolivia
improved to a certain extent with the revolution and reforms
of 1952, when an attempt was made to integrate them more
effectively into the societies of the departamentos. Their
social and political empowerment has been greatly enhanced
since Evo Morales, the descendant of an Aymara family
from the village of Urinuqa, became president in 2006.
In the constitution of 2009, the 36 indigenous nations, the
indgenas originarios campesinos, were granted special
guarantees and privileges for more self-determination
and a limited autonomy in specific electoral districts.
Here the communities can implement their traditional
community laws and practices, and they can elect their own
representatives to the national parliament. Furthermore, the
economic situation, health and education of the indgenas
were to be improved. But Hlscher (2009: 2) points out that
many Aymaras have migrated to the Chapar, the eastern
lowlands, the cities, or the mining districts, where they may
pursue interests and activities that differ from those in their
traditional rural highland regions.
Depending on different sources, the numbers of Aymara
speakers range from about 2.55million. Also, many
Aymaras today are bilingual Aymara-Spanish speaking,
some also Aymara-Quechua speaking. In the cities, the

Fig.5.10Quechuas at the Pisac market, Peru

Fig.5.11Quechua woman in Cusco, Peru

Aymaras have experienced a major acculturation process. It

may therefore be difficult to determine whether a person is
Aymara in the cities of La Paz, Oruro or Puno. They attain
their highest spatial concentration in the vicinity of Lake
Titicaca and the adjacent Altiplano regions; in Bolivia, they
live mostly in the Departamentos of La Paz and Oruro; in
Peru in the regions of Puno, Tacna and Moquegua. Aymara
communities are also found in the Bolivian eastern cordillera, for example in the Chapar region. The Aymara ethnic
group settles in the highest parts of the entire Andes.
A special cultural sub-group of the Aymara ethnicity
are the Uros, who live in the Lake Titicaca region, along
the Desaguadero River and Lake Poop. They number
about 4,500 people; 2,500 in Bolivia and 2,000 in Peru.


5 Ethnic and Demographic Structures and Processes

They form three main groups: the Uros-Chipayas, the

Uros-Muratos and the Uros-Iruitos. Their original distinct
language, the Uro-Chipaya, has today become a highly
endangered idiom. On the Peruvian part of Lake Titicaca,
a number of Uro families lived, originally for reasons of
defence, on some 40 floating totora reed islands. With the
totora they built the huts and boats, and they also stabilize
the islands with bundles of reed. With the advent of national
and international tourism, these islands became a major
destination for day trippers by boat from Puno. In the
meantime, the Uros have succeeded in largely controlling
this lucrative business and quite a few people live on the
islands only during the day to sell their handicrafts and
services to the visitors (Borsdorf and Stadel 2001: 7778).

Fig.5.12Selling coca leaves, Tingo Maria, Peru

Fig.5.13Aymara children in Bolivia

Fig.5.14Aymara women in Bolivia Mapuche (Araucanians)

The term Mapuche refers to a diverse ethnicity composed of
various cultural subgroups who share the common language
of Mapugundun and some social and cultural characteristics. The cultural realm and living space of the Mapuche
(People of the Earth) or Araucanians (araucanos) is located
in central and southern Chile and the adjacent parts of
Argentina. The Mapuche form the three principal groups of
the Picunche (People of the North), the Pehuenche (People
of the Centre), and the Huilliche (People of the South).
Already under the Incas, and later by the Spanish rulers, the Picunche were conquered and suppressed. But the
Mapuche in the southern parts of their territory resisted the
Incas, and for a long time also the Spaniards. In the Treaty
of Killin (1641), the Spanish Crown recognized the territorial autonomy of the Mapuche Nation (Araucania). The
Bo Bo River marked the boundary between the two political spheres. However, the expanding Chilean nation began
to claim sovereignty over the Mapuche land on the basis
of the controversial legal principle of uti possidetis juris.
In the Arauco War, between 1860 and 1885, Chile tried to
subjugate and assimilate the Mapuche people living south
of the Bo Bo boundary. In the Arauco War, tens of thousands of Mapuches were killed, expelled from their lands
and resettled in native reserves (reducciones). Eventually, in
the 1880s, they were pacified. With force and some diplomacy, Mapuche chiefs signed a treaty agreeing to yield the
Araucanian territories to Chile. As a result of the Arauco
War, the traditional agricultural and trading economies of
the Mapuche people were largely disrupted and for generations the natives faced discrimination, persecution, neglect
and marginalization. While they were allowed to pursue
their own lifestyle and economic activities to a degree in the
reducciones between the Bo Bo River and the Toltn River
(Fig. 5.15), their overall situation is still characterized by
poverty and marginalization (Fig.5.16).
The majority of the 1.5million Mapuche population lives
in Chile (national census data of 2012), with close to 250,000
in neighbouring Argentina. Of the native people in Chile,
82% are Mapuche, amounting to about 510% of the total


5.2 Indigenous Heritage and Communities

national population (Fischer Weltalmanach 2014). These

numbers can only be tentative estimates, as here again census
figures are not very reliable. Furthermore, many Mapuches
have migrated to Santiago and other cities and often become
assimilated, losing their Mapuche cultural identity.
Under president Salvador Allende, an indgena law was
approved with the objective of returning some land to the
Mapuche people. But under the Pinochet regime, collective
properties were privatized (until 1987 about 90% of the
collective land); and the indigenous comunidades were
replaced by individual minifundios (Fig.5.17). The results
of these developments were a severe scarcity of land,
overutilization of the available land and water resources,
new land rental arrangements, and a massive rural exodus. In
1993, a new law, the Ley Indgena, was passed, for the first
time officially recognizing the indigenous communities and
their cultures. Within the framework of this legislation, the
Corporacin Nacional de Desarrollo Indgena (CONADI)
was given the mandate to establish foundations in support
of the safeguarding of native land and water resources, and
of specific education and health programmes. The Mapuche
ethnic groups, in turn, have now also founded a national
umbrella organization, with the headquarters in Temuco.
In 2010 Chile celebrated the 200th anniversary of
its political independence from Spain. But Mapuche
spokespersons declared that they had little reason to join in
the celebrations as they have experienced some 500years of
political, social and economic injustice and exclusion. Today
the unresolved issues are land rights and resource conflicts,
as well as a greater degree of political and cultural autonomy.
Every once in a while, demonstrations and confrontations
emerge. An example is the Bo Bo hydroelectric project.
In the course of its implementation, hundreds of Pehuenche
people were talked into selling their land or even forced to
do it, and were resettled. In 2008 violent confrontations took
place in support of the conservation of Araucaria araucana
forests, of the preservation of ecotourism activities of the
Mapuche groups, and in protest against expanding pulp and
paper industries. In Argentine Patagonia, in 2007, a Mapuche
group temporarily occupied a territory which had recently
been purchased by the Benetton Group, near Santa Rosa
Leleque in the province of Chubut.

Fig.5.15Mapuche thrashing with horses in the traditional way, Chile

5.2.5 Indigenous Communities in the Light

of Recent Developments

Fig.5.16Mapuche in the Frontera, Chile

The example of the Quechua, Aymara and Mapuche groups

has shown that the indigenous population largely remains
in a state of marginalization, which is characterized by
poverty and displacements, a lack of political participation and insufficient access to communication channels
and education, to electricity and water, (Meentzen 2005:
30, translated by the authors). By and large, native people

live in economically and socially peripheral rural regions

and in poor urban districts (barrios marginalizados). The
economic and social marginalization also entailed a loss
of human dignity, identity and honour. In the cities, in particular, native people have also yielded to the pressures of
cultural assimilation (castellanization). However, in some
parts of the Andean countries, indigenous populations have


Fig.5.17Minifundio of a Mapuche family with traditional Ruca, the

typical living quarters, near Valdivia, Chile

Fig.5.18Soil erosion in Huaraz, Peru

witnessed a considerable cultural revival in recent years and

an economic, social and political revaluation. In part this
has been the result of their own initiatives and actions, but
also that of a support by new legislations, authorities and
In the rural communities, the indgenas are mostly
engaged in subsistence agricultural activities. In addition,
they have always relied on the exchange and trading of
agricultural, crafts and household items on local and
regional markets. But access to the market has frequently
been hampered by limited production levels, difficulty in

5 Ethnic and Demographic Structures and Processes

physical access to market places and by the exploitative

role of intermediate traders (intermediarios). Today, the
traditionally oriented, small-scale native agriculture finds
itself in a difficult position vis--vis competition from
modern, large-scale, generally externally controlled,
commercial farming on haciendas, government farms or
large enterprises of external corporations. One of the grave
problems for the native communities is the threat to or
loss of indigenous territories and rights and titles to land,
water and resources. The scarcity of agricultural land, an
abandonment of proven field cultivation methods and forms
of pastoralism, have often resulted in an overutilization
of the soil and in serious land degradation processes
(Fig.5.18). In some cases, though, indigenous communities
have successfully discovered and implemented new forms
of agricultural specialization, for example, commercial
quinoa cultivation (Fig.5.19), cheese production or the
marketing of alpaca wool.
Another serious threat is the reduction in ecological
and agricultural biodiversity, one of the principal pillars of
traditional indigenous livelihoods. The Andes are one of the
richest biological regions of the world, whose diversity and
variety of indigenous forms of agricultural activities and
methods are threatened by acts of external biopiracy and a
tendency to grow monocultures. To counter these dangers,
specific laws and regulations have been introduced in a
number of regions and states (for example, in Peru in 2002),
in support of a preservation of the biological heritage of the
sierra regions. Nevertheless, these legal provisions are often
ignored or toned down. In some cases, local populations
have made major contributions in drawing up inventories
of the bioresources, with the objective of protecting them
and shielding the communities from the crude monetary
exploitation of their resources, and protecting their
biological heritage against a sell-out of plant patents to
external stakeholders. In participatory farmer-to-farmer
and community-to-community projects, indigenous people
have developed programmes for managing the ecosystems
sustainably and securing the nutritional sovereignty of local
A particularly remarkable project is the Potato Park,
which was established in 2000 near Pisac in the Valle
Sagrado of Peru. It forms a Community Conserved Area
(CCA) of six indigenous communities and an Indigenous
Biocultural Heritage Area (IBCHA). The principal
objectives of this park are the protection of the biocultural
heritage of the region; putting the control over their
resources in the hands of the local population; sustainable
use of the genetic diversity; and securing the nutritional
needs of the local communities long-term (Argumedo
and Pimbert 2006). As part of this project, at first, in a
collaborative effort of the local communities and external
experts, a detailed inventory of the geographical parameters


5.2 Indigenous Heritage and Communities

and the resources of the region was compiled and analysed.

With a number of maps and models, the intricate and
complex interrelationships between the geographical
conditions, the local biodiversity and the cultural heritage
of the Quechua people were investigated. In 2004 an
agreement was reached between the communities located in
the Parque de la Papa and the International Potato Center in
Lima, with the main aim of protecting the genetic heritage
of Andean cultivars and to repatriate them to the indigenous
communities. In the same year, the communities of Qeros
and Ausangate founded the Spiritual Park Vilcanota, the
first natural sacred protected area of Peru. In this way,
both a hotspot of Andean biodiversity and the spiritual
significance of the glacier region of the Ausangate peak
(6,372m) and its surrounding area came under a special
form of protection (Argumedo and Pimbert 2005: 211).
In areas with a tourist potential, native people have
found additional alternative employment and income
from selling handmade textiles, ceramics, jewellery and
paintings. They may also be engaged as tourist guides
or be occupied in a range of service jobs in the hotel
and restaurant businesses. This is especially so at the
major destinations of national and international tourism,
for example, in Cusco and the Valle Sagrado of Peru,
the Cordillera Blanca, the Lake Titicaca region or the
market centre of Otavalo, Ecuador (Fig.5.20). On a
more modest scale, native communities increasingly
discover the potential of various forms of ecotourism and
agrotourism. These ventures have proven to be particularly
successful when they have included a broad spectrum of
the communities and been implemented gently and in a
participatory fashion. In sum, some native families and
village communities have been able to reach an enhanced
social status and even a certain level of economic affluence
by engaging themselves in new economic ventures.
An issue of vital importance for the indigenous communities is climate change and its repercussions on the environment and the livelihoods of native people. These impacts
are particularly severe in the fragile ecosystems where a
large proportion of the indigenous population lives:

Fig.5.19Quinoa cultivation in Peru (Source

Emerging evidence suggests that the livelihoods and cultural

identities of indigenous people of North America, Europe,
Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific are already being
threatened by the impact of climate change. (Kyung-wha Kang
2007, as quoted by Feldt 2009: 2)

Climate change tends to exacerbate the intensity and frequency of environmental risks and hazards, and may force
the communities to resort to proven traditional and also
new resilience and adaptation strategies. It is therefore a
paramount task to include the native perspectives and perceptions in the discourse on the repercussions of climate

Fig.5.20Tourist at Otavalo market, Ecuador

change, and to incorporate the views of the indgenas into

the environmental, economic and social agenda:

Incorporating indigenous knowledge into climate change
policies can lead to the development of effective adaptation
strategies that are cost-effective, participatory and sustainable.
(Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change 2007, quoted by
Feldt 2009: 4)

In recent decades, a distinct and organized reaction

against the deprivation of rights and discrimination of the
indigenous population can be observed in the Andean
countries, albeit in varying strength and form. This path
towards more autonomy and empowerment is most
pronounced in Ecuador and Bolivia. In Ecuador these
demands have found their way into the constitution of
1998, with an administrative restructuring of the country
and the participation of indigenous groups in local and
regional governments (Stadel 2003a: 86). This autonomy
is primarily inward oriented, i.e. applied to the native
territories. In terms of resource rights, the indgenas today
are demanding equitable participation in the management,
use and revenues of resources. All the same, major conflicts
over land rights and resource extraction continue to mar
the relationship between native communities and external
In Bolivia some Aymara representatives, among
them Felipe Quispe, demanded the return to traditional
Inca norms and ayll community structures. Under the
presidency of Evo Morales, indigenous people have
received more rights and privileges as well as more
economic support. In regions with a majority native
population, so-called Distritos Municipales Indgenas
(DMIs) were created and, from 1998 onwards, specific
development programmes were implemented by the
Bolivian government for indigenous communities (Stadel
2003a: 86). Today government offices for indigenous
issues exist in the Andean states with major proportions of
native populations; for example the Consejo de Desarrollo
de las Nacionalidades y Pueblos Indgenas (CODENPE)
in Ecuador, or the Corporacin Nacional de Desarrollo
Indgena (CONADI) in Chile.
The empowerment of indigenous communities was
also fostered by native and non-native NGOs. An example
of a highly successful NGO with major participation
by indigenous people is the Association for Nature and
Sustainable Development (ANDES; Fig.5.21, with its
headquarter in Cusco. From modest beginnings in 1995,
ANDES has developed into a recognized and respected
organization, with the principal objectives of defending
indigenous rights over the genetic resources; supporting the
Andean cultural heritage and knowledge; and protecting
the environment and the biological and cultural resources.
One focus of the activities of ANDES is the preservation
of Andean biodiversity, which is to be achieved by
strengthening local social capacities and by effective

5 Ethnic and Demographic Structures and Processes

Fig.5.21Logo of the
Asociacin ANDES

indigenous networking. In this way, it is hoped that a

counterforce can be created to the threats and challenges
of globalization. A further principal goal of ANDES is
safeguarding adequate nutrition and health care, primarily
on the basis of local natural and human resources:
ANDES mission is to create local capacities and strategic
responses to confront the socioeconomic, cultural, ecological,
and political effects of globalisation on local Andean communi
ties. It also aims to protect local resources, knowledge and the
rights associated with them, as well as to preserve the character
of the Andean landscape. ANDES envisions human well-being
in sustainable indigenous communities in the Peruvian Andes,
using local capacities and resources, based on local strategies of
development. (Argumedo and Stenner 2008: 5)

These policies of inclusion notwithstanding, Radcliffe

(2001) speaks of a persistence of political practices of
excluding indigenous communities. There are still latent
and pervasive prejudices and forms of discrimination of
indgenas by the white and mestizo population. In their
fear of losing some of their power, influence and privileges, they try to resist genuine empowerment of native
communities. In conclusion, indigenous communities
today find themselves in intriguing arenas and societies,
influenced by both tradition and modernity. This may
entail dangers, insecurity and potential losses; but also new
options and opportunities. It is hoped that the blending of
traditional values, knowledge, but also the experience with
new approaches, techniques and Western science, may be
the right path to long-term prosperity and well-being.

5.3 Demographic Aspects

The Andean countries differ considerably in terms of their
territorial size and the demographic parameters (Table5.1).
While Argentina is by far the largest country, its Andean
area amounts only to some 5% of the national territory. In
contrast, Chile, with only one third the size of Argentina,
is almost completely an Andean state. Bolivia, Colombia,


5.3 Demographic Aspects

Table 5.1Demographic characteristics of Andean countries, 2011/2012 (based on Fischer Weltalmanach 2013, 2014 plus calculations by
the authors)








10,496 75







47,704 55


15,492 45


29,988 45

Venezuela 29,955

proportion (km2)
of Pop.

of urban
Pop. (%),

(in %),

(in %),

rate (%),


rate (%)



of Pop.

Pop. >65


















































































in the

pop. population

Ecuador and Peru also have relatively large parts of the territory located in the sierras, but an even larger proportion of
the national territory is located in the coastal lowlands. Even
so, they are considered Andean states because the traditional
core areas were located in the sierra region and a large proportion of the population is still concentrated in the mountains. Certainly within the last hundred years, the Caribbean
and Pacific coastal lowlands have economically advanced
and, because of substantial in-migration rates, they have
accounted for a growing share of national populations,
especially in and around the metropolitan centres. New
economic opportunities of new land colonization schemes,
and more recently petroleum and natural gas resources,
supported by enhanced infrastructural developments, have
meant that the interior continental piedmont zones and
plains have also witnessed a considerable influx of people.
In terms of the natural population growth rates,
Chile and Argentina have reached the last stage of the
Demographic Transition Model. Their annual rates of population increase have dropped to 1% or less. While the birth
rates of the Andean countries still show considerable variations, from 2.7% in Bolivia to 1.5% in Chile, the death
rates are more uniform at less than 1%. In population projections for the period 20112030, the natural population
growth rates are expected to drop further, albeit at rather
modest rates. Because of the generally improved sanitation,
health and nutrition standards, the average life expectancy
at birth, with the exception of Bolivia, has risen to over
70years, even reaching 80years in Chile. Nonetheless,
compared to Australia/New Zealand and the European
and North-American countries, the Andean states are still
characterized by a youthful age profile of their population. In 2012 the proportion of the national population
below the age of 15years was 21% in Chile and 24% in
Argentina, but 29% in Ecuador and Venezuela, and even
35% in Bolivia. In turn, the proportion of people aged over
65years was 11% in Argentina and 10% in Chile, 6% in
Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela, and only 5% in

Bolivia (Table5.1; all these demographic data are based

on Fischer Weltalmanach 2014). Consequently, the population pyramids of the Andean countries, with the exception
of Bolivia, no longer present the pyramid shape typical
for the early demographic stages of a developing country
(Fig.5.22). Chile has the most mature age profile.
Overall, the Andean countries have been experiencing
a remarkable process of urbanization and city growth.
Whereas for a good part of the last century, the population
explosion of the metropolitan centres was widely discussed
and dramatized, more recently the proportional increase
of the very large centres has slowed down at the expense
of substantial growth rates in selected medium-sized cities
and smaller urban centres. Direct comparisons of the rates
of urbanization of the Andean states must be considered
problematic, as the countries have different criteria for
what counts as an urban place. Nevertheless, and contrary
to some popular images, the Andean states by and large are
urban nations, with shares of urban populations varying
from about two thirds (Bolivia) to 90% and over (Chile,
Argentina, Venezuela). The topic of urbanization and city
growth will be further addressed in Sects. 6.3 and 6.4.

5.4 Mobility and Migration

In the Andean space, both population mobility and migration flows are significant and have been steadily growing.
Mobility is defined as a temporary movement of people
without a relocation of the principal residence. Common
expressions of mobility are the various forms of daily
commuting of people between their residences and their
workplaces; the visits of farmers to markets; of children
and young adults to schools and other learning and training centres; people visiting doctors, hospitals, government
offices, shops and entertainment places. Short-term forms
of mobility are also referred to as circulation. But mobility
may also be the movement of certain members of families


5 Ethnic and Demographic Structures and Processes

Fig.5.22Population pyramids for Bolivia and Chile 2014 (Source US Census Bureau, 2013 International Database. From official National
Census data projected for 2014 [])

in search of temporary or seasonal types of work, for example of young male adults at harvesting time to coastal plantations (zafra), to mining jobs; to work in the oil and gas
fields; or for military service.
As early as 1971, Zelinski developed the well-known
Model of Mobility Transition (Fig.5.23). In this fivestage model, the type and intensity of migration is related
to the level of development of a country and its societal
change. In phase I, called the pre-modern traditional
society, before the onset of urbanization, both birth rates
and death rates are high, the natural population increase
is low, and there is little migration and circulation.
Population movements take place within a limited spatial
framework as movements between rural areas and market
places, or pilgrimages to places of worship. In phase II,
the stage of the early transitional society, there is a rapid
increase in the natural population growth rate, as well as a
Fig.5.23Model of mobility
transformation (adapted from
Zelinski 1971 and modified)

massive movement from the countryside to the cities and

from the increasingly overpopulated rural regions to new
pioneer fronts. In phase III, the late transitional society,
the natural population growth rate is beginning to decline,
the population movements to the new colonization fronts
tend to be less intensive, but the rural to urban migration, the migration from city to city and the circulation
within large urban centres remain high. In phase IV, the
advanced society stage or industrialization stage, natural
population growth rates continue to drop, rural to urban
migration rates begin to decrease, but the urban to urban
migration, as well as circulatory movements within metropolitan centres are significant. In addition, international
movements are a major feature of this stage. In phase V,
the stage of a future super-advanced society, or the mature
modern society, the migrations and movements between
and within urban places, and international migrations tend

international migration
inter- / intra-urban migration
exodus from rural areas
internal migration to pioneer lines
exodus from the cities
















Fade out


5.4 Mobility and Migration

to be the dominant forms of population mobility. Spatial

reach and frequency of population movements increase
due to enhanced mobility-oriented lifestyles and better
transportation infrastructure. Furthermore, work-related
mobility patterns are complemented by leisure- and recreation-oriented trips. Today, circulatory movements and
migration may also have urban areas as their location of
origin, and rural areas as their destination points.
Migration, the more permanent movement of people to
establish a new residence away from their former home, has a
long tradition within the Andean space and has reached major
proportions in recent times. As pointed out in Chap. 4, waves
of migrants from Europe reached the Andean countries in
early colonial times. This migration flow started to abate from
the end of the 16th century. After independence from Spain,
the push factor of political and economic turmoil in European
countries, and the pull factor of real or perceived new economic opportunities led to intensified immigration flows from
a variety of European regions to the Andean states. The new
immigrants brought with them new economic and cultural
impulses, a fact that was honoured by the host countries with
a number of impressive monuments (Fig.5.24).
With the rapid industrialization and urbanization since the
1930s, a growing number of rural people sought their new
fortune in the cities. While the great majority of migrants
from the countryside were forced to live in legal or illegal
shanty towns and often found employment in poorly paid
jobs, a small segment of the urban upper class benefitted
from the rapid development of the cities and pursued a privileged urban lifestyle (Fig.5.25). In Colombia and Peru, in
particular, the political turmoil and insecurity by insurrections
and guerrilla movements in the countryside further intensified the rural to urban migration. In Peru the government
tried, with limited success, to stem this flow of rural people
by establishing a number of fortified villages (Rochlin 2003).

Fig.5.24Monument to German immigration, Santiago de Chile

Fig.5.25Urban upper-class wedding reception in Lima, Peru

It appears that in recent decades the movement of rural

people to the large urban centres has gone down, but
there are exceptions to this general pattern, as the explosive growth of El Alto in Bolivia demonstrates. The slowdown of the rural to urban migration has several general
and also regionally specific reasons. The economic situation has improved in some rural areas; they may be better
equipped with social infrastructure and services; personal
safety may have become more stable. As for life in the cities, more people became aware that in terms of employment, housing, safety and cost of living, the metropolitan
centres in particular may not be a very attractive alternative. In many cases population increase in cities today is
more a result of natural population growth than of migration gain. Borsdorf (2004a) has pointed out that more people are leaving the actual megacities than migrating into
them. Also more residential districts and industrial and
commercial enterprises locate in the countryside or at the
periphery of urban regions outside the administrative city
limits, initiating a process of counter-urbanization.


5.5 Other Population Movements

5.5.1 Emigration
During colonial times, and later in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Andean countries were classic immigration destinations. This changed profoundly in the post-WWII period, when
the push factors of poverty and marginalization, and the pull factors of new hopes for an improvement in living conditions outside their home countries, opened up new horizons for potential
migrants. This set in motion new forms of long-distance population movements from the Andean space to overseas destinations,
especially to the United States and Europe.
Yarnall and Price (2010: 107124) have documented
the importance and the impact of recent emigration and
the emergence of a New Rurality (cf. Sect. 6.1) with a case
study on the Valle Alto in the Departamento of Cochabamba
in Bolivia. This rural region, characterized by small landholdings, used to be an economically marginalized area
with a long tradition of out-migration. A first stream of
emigration took place at the end of the 19th century and
was directed to the nitrate mines of the Chilean Atacama
Desert. After the Bolivian Agrarian Revolution of 1952,
many farmers were given small parcels of land, but the high
birth rates of the farming population forced the families to
further subdivide the minifundios among their many children, seriously eroding the viability of agricultural livelihoods. Far from stabilizing the rural communities, this
development forced many people to leave their homelands.
At this time, the principal destination of the migrants was
Argentina, especially Buenos Aires. Since the 1980s, the
flow of emigrants has been primarily directed to the United
States, in particular to Virginia and Washington, D.C.; from
the beginning of the 21st century also to Spain.
As is the case with other regions of the global South, most
Bolivians send significant amounts of money to the families
left in their home communities. The principal recipients of
these remittances (remesas) are the husbands or wives, children, parents and other close relatives of the emigrants. Based
on estimates of the Inter-American Development Bank (quoted
in Yarnall and Price 2010: 115), in 2007 these external money
transfers to Bolivia amounted to a staggering one billion dollars. About 80% of these funds were sent to the three most
populous departments of Cochabamba, La Paz and Santa Cruz.
Taking into account that the average annual gross income of
Bolivians in 2007 was about 1,000USD, the mean annual per
capita remittance of 1,400USD from Diaspora Bolivians sheds
a light on the significance of this external money influx.
Substantial rates of emigration can also be observed
in the other Andean countries. In Ecuador, until the late
1990s, the United States were the principal destination
for the migrants. Since then, Spain has attracted many
Ecuadorian emigrants (Fig.5.26). Most recently, with the

5 Ethnic and Demographic Structures and Processes


or earlier





Fig.5.26Destination countries of Ecuadorian emigration 19972003

(calculated by the authors)

economic crisis and unemployment problems in Spain,

many Ecuadorians have lost their jobs and been forced to
return prematurely to their native country.
The remesas are primarily used for securing family livelihoods, but also for investments in agriculture, commercial
enterprises and real estate developments. Agricultural investments went for instance into improving seed quality, expanding irrigation, more effective control of plant pests and
diseases, improving the health and quality of livestock, diversifying agriculture, and better access to markets. But the benefits of the remittances were not solely directed to individual
families. More problematic signs of investments are elaborate houses as new symbols of affluence (Fig.5.27). Monies
were also spent to improve community infrastructure, such
as schools, health stations and recreational facilities, and to
enhance the attractiveness of the communities. Some emigrants are also donating funds for the community fiestas, especially the day of the patron saint, for example for music bands,
food and drinks. This is also the preferred time for the expatriates to visit their former home communities.
As a result of the influx of external funds into specific
Andean regions, the former economic hierarchy, affluence
and prestige of communities has often changed. Previously
impoverished villages with a high proportion of emigrants now compete successfully with the regional market
and administrative centres, and may even outshine them.
The newly acquired affluence of some families may create social tensions within the communities with those who
have not had such additional incomes. The drain of young
and enterprising people has deprived the communities of
many potential entrepreneurs, innovators and modernizers.
Moreover, the influx of external funds has created a certain
inertia and passivity among local people and made them
dependent on the remittances. When these funds dried up,
if expatriates lost their jobs or were unwilling to continue
to send the remittances, the families and villages often fell
back into a state of marginality.

5.5 Other Population Movements


5.5.2 International Immigration

While international immigration remains comparatively
modest in Andean countries compared to European and
North-American countries, it is nonetheless a factor not to
be ignored. With a certain and overall strengthening economic cooperation between Latin-American states, more
permeable boundaries, and a greater mobility of people,
a flow of migration between South-American states sets
in, generally in the direction of countries with a promise
of work and better salaries. Recently, a return migration
of disillusioned South Americans from Europe and North
America has been reported.
Here Chile is used as an example for an Andean country with a substantial rate of international in-migration.
This was already the case in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when many Europeans were attracted to this country. A brief interruption followed with the political turmoil
of the 1970s and 1980s, when many Chileans were forced
to flee the country. With the political stabilization and economic recovery since the 1990s, Chile has again become
an immigration destination, by and large for people from
other South-American countries. Immigrating Argentinians
account for 26% of the total immigrants to Chile.
Generally, they were able to find well-paid jobs and became
rather easily integrated.
The situation was different for many Peruvians flocking to Chile. As a more visible minority, they are to a large
extent occupied in informal sectors of the economy, tend
to be poorer and are spatially concentrated in the Santiago
metropolitan area. Peruvians make up 21% of the registered
immigrants of Chile; but the Chilean Foreign Ministry estimates that about twice as many Peruvians live in the country illegally. Today, a noticeable resentment against them is
expressed in the media, by certain political parties and the
general public (Borsdorf and Gmez-Segovia 2011; Torres
and Hidalgo 2009). Most male Peruvians pursue their economic activities in the centre of Santiago, where many of
them also live in substandard housing situations. This is
reflected in a distinct social differentiation and even fragmentation of the centre of the metropolitan area of Santiago.
Female Peruvians, in turn, predominantly work and live as
maids in middle-class or upper-class households in the more
affluent parts of Santiago, such as Las Condes.

5.5.3 Amenity Migration

In Latin-American cities, the upper classes increasingly aspire
to acquire secondary residences and also to relocate their
main residence to attractive places outside the urban agglomerations. This new form of urban flight results in a form of
amenity migration and in the development of a specific type

Fig. 5.27Residences constructed with remittance money in Azuay

province, Ecuador

of exclusive exurbia (Borsdorf and Hidalgo 2008a), similar

to that found in North America or Europe (Moss 2006). As
a case study, the situation within the wider exurban area of
Santiago, Chile, should illustrate this situation.
In the wider urban area of influence of Santiago, the
coastal cordillera and the Cajn del Maipo in the high
cordillera are preferred residential locations for affluent social classes. Here, lavish houses with swimming
pools and spacious gardens have been built on large plots
(parcelas de agrado). The coastal cordillera is not only
attractive for rich people from Santiago but also for those
from Valparaso/Via del Mar. The large plots are grouped
together in special types of walled and protected gated communities, similar to those at the urban peripheries in other
countries. The community of Olmu, some 80km from
Santiago, is an example for this development (Fig.5.28).
Pull factors for attracting people to Olmu are the healthy
microclimate with its fresh unpolluted air, the attractive
scenery, the proximity to a national park and a biosphere
reserve, a vibrant rural culture, and a range of amenities
and services. The rapid development of Olmu was further
triggered when a new access road was upgraded, reducing
the travel time to Santiago from two hours to one hour. A
regular and comfortable bus service at moderate costs further stimulated amenity mobility between Santiago and
The recreational prestige of the Cajn del Maipo is even
higher than that of Olmu. The surrounding mountains of
the high cordillera are very attractive, the river creates an
additional form of recreation, ski centres are quite close,
there is diverse culture on offer, and the touristic infrastructure is already more mature and attractive. Also within easy
reach are a number of nature parks with hot springs and


5 Ethnic and Demographic Structures and Processes

Fig.5.28Parcelas de Agrado near Olmu, Chile

spa-type tourist lodges. And all that is less than one hours
travel away from Santiago (at a distance of some 50km).
Borsdorf and Hidalgo (2009) have demonstrated that the
circulation and migration of people from the upper classes
to these new destinations, based on the described amenity factors, while still being modest in relation to absolute
population numbers involved, nevertheless has major spatial and socio-economic impacts for the new residential
communities. The authors estimate that between 1991 and
2002, approximately 1,200 people have migrated into the

communities of Olmu, Curacav and the Cajn del Maipo.

In this period, 337 parcelas de agrado with a total surface of
17.3ha were established.
The amenity migration in Santiago is further encouraged by a government deregulation of land-use zoning,
the privatization of the real estate market and other factors
of market processes, capitalism and modern lifestyles. In
conclusion, amenity migration can be considered another
contributing factor to the fragmentation of the urban and
peri-urban spaces (cf. Sect. 6.3.3).

Rural and Urban Settlements

A. Borsdorf and C. Stadel, The Andes, Springer Geography, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-03530-7_6

Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015



6 Rural and Urban Settlements


Quito at night, Photograph by M. Mergili


6.1 Rural Settlements: Types and Structures

Today it is often no longer possible to make a clear distinction between rural and urban settlements (Borsdorf and
Bender 2010: 7778). Even in the economically less developed regions of the global South, the distinctive characteristics of city and countryside are becoming blurred. This is
particularly true for urban agglomerations and for regions
with predominantly non-agricultural functions. As a result
of ever intensifying links of rural regions with urban centres, various elements of the material and non-material culture penetrate even peripheral areas. The almost ubiquitous
access to information distributed by different electronic

Fig. 6.1Farmstead of pastoralists in the tierra helada of Peru, at

about 4,000m

Fig. 6.2Agricultural hamlet in the tierra fra of the Cordillera de

Mrida, Venezuela

6 Rural and Urban Settlements

media and devices, the greatly enhanced contact of rural

people with cities and the influx of external individuals, e.g.
tourists, missionaries, business people, scientists and representatives of governmental and non-governmental institutions and agencies, have brought the rural regions into close
contact with cities and the outside world in general.
In the past in Latin America, the contrast between city
and countryside was pronounced in the era of the preHispanic civilizations and also during the colonial period.
However, even then the migration of rural people to the
mining centres and other cities brought certain rural elements to the urban areas, especially in their marginal
districts. Also, some former rural areas became more urbanized and a number of former villages developed into markets and small service centres; a few of them even obtained
the legal status of a city.
While the towns and cities are generally located in the
naturally favoured regions, at transportation nodes, or at
mining sites, rural settlements are more spatially dispersed.
In the tropical sierras, the farmsteads and villages extend
altitudinally from the low elevations of valleys and at foothill locations to the upper limits of the human ecumene. In
the inner tropical realm of the pramos, we find farmsteads
and hamlets at altitudes of up to 3,500m and even 4,000m.
In the semi-arid zones of the outer tropics, where the agricultural zones extend to even higher elevations, the agrarian settlements are found even above 4,000m and in some
areas even close to 4,500m. A special case are the mining
settlements which, in extreme cases (e.g. La Rinconada in
Peru) have sprung up at elevations in excess of 5,000m
(refer also to Sect. 7.3.4). Gondard (1984) calls the highest
zone of agriculture, predominantly characterized by pastoral activities (Fig.6.1) the active altitudinal pioneer front,
to be distinguished from the agricultural pioneer zone at the
transition between mountains and lowlands.
Lpez Sandoval (2004) has documented an upward
expansion of the agricultural and settlement zone in the
pramo of Ecuador in recent times, a fact which tends to
aggravate the problem of environmental degradation in
these areas. This vertical expansion was most noticeable
in the indigenous communities in the central and southern sierras, and here particularly in the area of communal
land ownership. Some out-migration trends notwithstanding, the rural population density in the favoured zones of
field cultivation is often quite high and ranges from a mix
of dispersed farmsteads to compact villages (Fig.6.2). In
the zones of predominantly pastoral activities, densities are
lower and families tend to live in isolated farmsteads.
Charbonneau (2009) has pointed out that there is a new
concentration of rural settlements in parts of the puna of
Peru. This is due to new and enhanced forms of mobility
of breeders and herders, to the expanding reach of existing
market centres and to the appearance of new periodic


6.1 Rural Settlements: Types and Structures

market activities (ferias) in these high-altitude zones. In

addition, the growth and clustering of service functions at
the district level have encouraged higher population densities in these zones, which may no longer be linked to the
traditional form of a dispersed settlement pattern. In most
cases, though, this new concentration of the rural population is only temporary in nature, generally coinciding with
the times of periodic markets. Charbonneau calls this a new
form of societal reciprocity mobility of the people in the
higher Andes. Nevertheless, he underlines that the cost of
transportation is still a barrier for the mobility of peasants
and that the attenuation of the distance of cost is a higher
development priority than that of the distance of space
and time. Therefore, one can still observe the persistence
of the traditional form of multi-local high-altitude livelihoods of families with several residences and/or locations
for agricultural activities. On the one hand, these trends
are in accordance with traditional forms of life, spatial patterns and socio-economic pursuits; on the other, they have
created new communal identities, economic activities and
mobility patterns.
Rural settlements are spatially concentrated in the valleys, mountain basins (cuencas) or plateaus and at the
lower slopes. But farmsteads and villages are also found
on steep mountain and valley flanks, representing a major
challenge in terms of their accessibility. In his study on
the rural settlements of Ecuador, Dubly (1990) points out
the importance of a location of poblados on rivers or along
transportation arteries. However, river valleys are not necessarily predestined as favourable locations for settlements. In
some cases, the deeply entrenched valleys, with their steep
slopes and a latent risk of landslides, rockfalls and also
flash floods, render them hostile to human settlements.
Because of the dense vegetation cover and the difficult
topographic conditions, the humid outer flanks of the cordilleras in many parts remained relatively inaccessible and
for a long time largely devoid of permanent settlements.
Farmsteads and hamlets were restricted to islands of land
clearing (Fig.6.3), and some service towns developed along
the road and highway arteries. Since the 1940s, on the eastern Amazonian side of the sierra, from Colombia to Bolivia,
government-sponsored land colonization programmes have
provided an impetus for the foundation of pioneer settlements along the transverse penetration valleys and the
new transportation arteries. In this way the Andean settlement front has gradually advanced towards the foothills of
the sierra and the adjacent continental lowlands (Fig.6.4).
In the course of this development, the construction of some
roads along the eastern foot of the mountains has stimulated
the emergence of a string of new settlements in this zone.
In the inner-Andean regions the settlements tend to
exhibit a wider spatial dispersion. While in the older settlement regions of the sierra the roads generally link

Fig. 6.3Pioneer farmstead at the eastern slopes of the sierra near

Baos, Ecuador

Fig.6.4Rural long-house in the Oriente of Ecuador near Puyo

the already existing towns and villages, in the new pioneer zones the construction of transportation lines was an
indispensable impulse for the establishment of new settlements. Today though, some new highways in the mountains
are by-passing existing villages and even urban centres.
Comparatively few settlements owe their origin and importance to railways, but there are some examples of railway
towns, such as Alaus and Bucay in Ecuador. With the
demise of railway transport in the Andes, the settlements
along the railway lines were forced to find a new economic
orientation if they wanted to prevent a rapid decline. In
some cases rural communities switch between several periodically used settlements and agricultural zones. Dubly


Fig.6.5Village street in the Altiplano of northern Bolivia

Fig. 6.6Traditional rammed clay house in the Pramo de Angl,


(1990: 285290) mentions the seasonal migration of the

Saraguros in Ecuador from their sierra home communities
between 2,400 and 2,600m to the village of Yacuambi, at
1,0001,200m in the Oriente.
In their appearance the rural settlements present marked
differences. In the sierra, compact hamlets, villages and
towns as well as dispersed single farmsteads are to be
found. The closely grouped comunas often date back to
colonial foundations, whereas the dispersed settlement form
tends to be rooted in an indigenous tradition. Today most
villages and towns present a Hispanic building plan with a
central plaza, a rectangular street pattern and compact rows
of single-storey adobe or stone houses (Fig.6.5).

6 Rural and Urban Settlements

The farmsteads generally consist of small single houses

or huts or several buildings enclosing an interior courtyard. The huts originally had no windows, a roof of reeds
or straw and were built with adobe, rammed clay (Fig.6.6),
baharaque (clay intertwined with sticks, cane or straw;
Fig. 6.7) or stone. However, today the traditional building
materials have been largely replaced by cement blocks or
bricks, and by corrugated iron or tin roofs. This is generally seen as a sign of progress and modernization, but may
not be very compatible with the climatic conditions. Special
types of building material are the totora reeds used by the
Uros on the floating islands of Lake Titicaca.
On the forest-covered lowland regions wood is the preferred building material. The one- or two-storey houses are
often built on stilts because of potential flooding and as a
protection against snakes and rodents. In addition, stilt
huts offer better ventilation. In contrast to the sierra huts,
the lowland houses have large open windows and doors. In
the case of two-storey houses, the living space is generally
found on the upper floor, the ground floor being used as a
work space. Often small storage huts surround the main
building (Fig.6.8).
Special types of rural houses are the haciendas which
were built during colonial times at naturally favoured sites.
They often consist of lavish residential houses, sometimes
a chapel, and several buildings with an economic function.
The houses are frequently grouped around a landscaped or
paved central square. The haciendas originally had an agricultural function for the production of grain, fruit and vegetables as well as for cattle breeding; they were also symbols
of prestige and affluence. While some of these places have
fallen into disrepair, others have been transformed into elegant tourist locations.
Some of the pioneer settlements on the outer flanks of
the sierra developed spontaneously; in other cases they
emerged as planned towns and villages. The latter were
generally equipped with essential community services
from the beginning, e.g. schools, health stations, community halls, some recreational facilities and a basic transport
infrastructure. Generally these settlements were aligned
along a road and therefore take the form of linear settlements (Fig.6.9). Today the villages and towns, in addition
to their function as regional service centres, have an important economic role as a stop-over place for the transit traffic.

6.1.1 Problems and Conflicts in New Settlement

In the regions where new settlements were built, potential natural and socio-economic problems and conflicts
may emerge. In the new agricultural pioneer zones, controversies and disputes have frequently arisen between the


6.1 Rural Settlements: Types and Structures

autochthonous, often native, population and the new settlers. As native communal or individual land titles have in
many cases not been officially registered, land ownership
patterns may be unclear, often with overlapping or blurred
boundaries of agricultural plots. Large-scale agricultural
and forestry operations, as well as booming and expanding
new towns, tend to threaten the traditional homelands and
the cultural integrity of indigenous communities. This has
been the case at the western flanks of the sierra in Ecuador,
where the new economic activities and the explosive growth
of Santo Domingo de los Colorados have seriously affected
the traditional livelihoods of the Tschila or Colorado indgenas. While their land rights have been officially recognized since 1978, these have been frequently violated ever
since. Today only a few hundred families are still living on
their ancestral land. Even greater problems are the massive
exploitation schemes of natural resources in the sierra and
the adjacent lowland areas by powerful national or international companies. Prime examples are the large oil and gas
fields in the Oriente of Ecuador with the side effects of the
accompanying road and pipeline infrastructures.
Another very problematic situation is the massive influx
of workers into camps and uncontrolled shanty towns in the
vicinity of large timber harvesting operations and mines. A
frightening example of the latter is the gold mining settlement of Nambija in the province of Zamora Chinchipe in
southern Ecuador. Located at an altitude of approximately
2,000m at the flanks of the eastern cordillera, this paraso e
infierno del oro (Dubly 1990: 139) counts several thousand
workers, often living in abominable housing and sanitary
conditions. These settlements are exposed to major environmental risks. The steep slopes are subject to landslides,
rockfalls and severe forms of denudation and erosion, especially after heavy rainfall. In the case of Nambija, an earthquake, in combination with torrential rains, caused massive
landslides and flash floods in 1993 that cost the lives of
some 300 people.
The new settlements of resource extraction and agricultural pioneer zones, at least in the initial phases of
their development, often suffer from major infrastructural
deficits. In some cases a gradual improvement of communal infrastructures and services sets in with maturing and
consolidation. Other serious problems in these areas are
the impacts of environmental degradation (Fig. 6.10) and
pollution of poorly controlled waste disposal and sewage

6.1.2 Oasis Settlements

A special category of settlements are the oasis villages
and towns in and at the mouth of the larger transverse valleys of the western cordilleras of Peru and northern Chile

Fig. 6.7Traditional baharaque house in the Cordillera de Mrida,


Fig.6.8Wooden stilt hut in the coastal foothills of Ecuador

(Fig. 6.11); as well as in the Atacama Desert of Chile

(Ratusny 1994). These settlements are rooted in a distinctive oasis culture dating back many centuries. The oases
were the core areas of a series of pre-Inca and Inca civilizations. During the colonial era, the oasis settlements
were important service centres for agriculture or mining as well as transportation nodes in the Pacific lowland
areas, between the Pacific coast, the sierra, and across the
Andes to the Argentine foothill cities (San Salvador de
Jujuy, San Miguel de Tucumn). While in post-colonial
time many river oases in the Pacific lowlands retained


6 Rural and Urban Settlements

Iquique and Arica in Chile. Many young men are also

migrating to the mining settlements of Calama, Mina del
Sur and Cerro Blanca.

6.1.3 Structural Changes in Rural Settlements

Fig.6.9Linear settlement in the central cordillera of Colombia

Fig.6.10Settlement prone to erosion at the periphery of La Oroya, Peru

their importance, many of the smaller oases towns in the

Atacama Desert experienced economic decline and a loss
of population. More recently, though, some of these settlements have improved their irrigation systems and have
moved towards greater specialization in their agricultural products (e.g. citrus fruits, mangoes). Some places,
in particular San Pedro de Atacama (Fig.6.12), Chile, or
Huacachina near Ica, Peru, became recreation and tourist
destinations. Despite these new economic stimuli, the oasis
settlements are heavily influenced by the pull of the large
and dynamic coastal cities, especially of Lima, Chimbote,
Trujillo and Piura in Peru; and Santiago, Antofagasta,

At a quick glance the rural settlements may convey an

image of consistency, of little change and even of inertia.
But most of them are subject to varying degrees of significant demographic, social, cultural and economic changes
which also manifest themselves in the transformation of
the physiognomic and socio-economic fabric. The dynamic
rural settlements are characterized by spatial expansion and
population growth, often also by a multi-functional orientation, improved infrastructures and visual upgrading. Some
former villages have even developed into urban centres,
particularly the villages near expanding large cities, as have
the market places surrounded by a rich agricultural hinterland, the booming mining or industrial centres, or settlements with a major tourist appeal. In contrast, other rural
settlements, in remote locations and with very limited economic potential, have tended to stagnate, decline or even to
become moribund communities.
Until recently, many of the small rural settlements of
the sierra were thought of as peripheral places of tradition, persistence, inertia and marginality. This image may
be true of some isolated and poor communities, but the
economic and social situation of the Andean rural settlements is far more differentiated and cannot be easily generalized. In the villages of despair, poverty is pervasive
and young people feel forced to emigrate. This may have
attenuated the former pressure on agricultural land and
other resources, but it has also deprived these communities of the vitality of the young generation. As was pointed
out before, the economic situation of these places may
have improved by an influx of remittances and some new
economic stimuli, but it may have been accompanied by
a form of dependence and socio-cultural transformation.
By contrast, in the villages of hope, new economic initiatives have been implemented and social capital mobilized. In some cases, external assistance and development
programmes provided an impetus for new ideas, modernization and for revitalizing the communities. Avila (2008)
points out that these transformations result in the countryside in what he calls a New Rurality.
In addition to the anthropogenic factors determining the
fate of rural settlements, the parameters of the natural environment must be taken into consideration. Dramatic natural events, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides or
flash floods can greatly affect the villages and towns and in
some extreme cases even destroy them. Sometimes natural


6.1 Rural Settlements: Types and Structures

disasters have forced the population to abandon their former

community and to rebuild it at a new, supposedly safer, site.
An example of this was Pelileo in Tungurahua Province,
Ecuador. After a disastrous earthquake destroyed the village in 1949, Pelileo Nuevo was rebuilt at a safer site above
the old location. The former residential lots were transformed into vegetable plots, but in recent years people have
started to rebuild some of the houses in the old community.
Another well-known example is Yungay in the Cordillera
Blanca region of Peru. After it was completely wiped out
in 1970 by rockfalls and landslides triggered by a severe
earthquake, the old town was only kept as a memorial and
the new Yungay established a few kilometres to the north
of the old village (refer to Sect. 2.9 for a detailed description of this event). But there are also cases where communities were rebuilt on the same site, as people tend to have a
strong attachment to their native soil.
In a less dramatic way natural events frequently have
a longer term impact on rural settlements. In many situations, apart from the damaging effects on buildings and
communal infrastructures, forests and agricultural land may
be harmed and the economic viability of the communities
could be impaired or transformed. Villages in the vicinity
of active volcanoes may present scenic beauty and offer a
potential for tourism, but they are also threatened by violent eruptions, for instance the town of Baos in Ecuador,
dominated by the 5,000m high Tungurahua. The frequent
and at times disastrous eruptions with their emissions of
ashes and pyroclastic flows as well as devastating mudflows
(lahares) have not only resulted in destruction but have also
forced people into temporary evacuations. Furthermore, the
all-important function of Baos as a pilgrimage place and
a centre of recreation and tourism has been repeatedly disrupted by such events (see box on the Tungurahua Volcano
in Sect. 2.1).
Today many development initiatives aim at strengthening
the viability of agricultural regions and supporting the rural
communities. This can be achieved either by a revitalization
of successful traditional activities or by a search for new
perspectives and opportunities. Priority is given to efforts
for a long-term and sustainable economic and social viability for all segments of these communities. This can only be
successful if the younger population sees sufficient prospects in their communities for meaningful employment and
income and for adequate social services. It is also important to convey to the people positive images of rural life and
community living. While it may be impossible to stop the
rural-to-urban migration and to prevent the large cities from
further growth, vibrant rural communities of hope could
offer at least some alternatives to urbanization and become
pillars for alternative models and strategies for a balanced
regional development.

Fig.6.11River oasis Elqui, Chico Norte, Chile

Fig.6.12San Pedro de Atacama, Chile


6 Rural and Urban Settlements

6.2 Andean Market Centres: The Example of

Ambato, Ecuador
In the Andes, market centres are important places for the
regional exchange of agricultural and non-agricultural products. The shops, markets and services not only supply the
populations of the towns proper but also the surrounding
regions. Market centres have become the preferred distribution locations for regional products. Moreover, market
places have always been the focal points for social and
cultural exchange between the towns and their rural vicinity (Stadel 1992b). This becomes particularly evident on
weekly market days (ferias), when large numbers of farmers, merchants, traders and consumers flock to the centres,
often creating chaotic urban traffic situations.
The daily and weekly markets in the Andean region in
their present form by and large date back to the Spanish
colonial period, but some agricultural market activity
existed even before. Ever since the Spanish Conquest, the
market function has played a major role in cities and towns,
in some cases even in villages. In Peru, Sunday markets
were introduced in early colonial times, mainly to provide
a central economic focus for the dispersed indigenous communities. In addition, the market places also assumed an
administrative and political function for the surrounding
rural territories. The market days also facilitated missionary
activities and the attendance of Sunday mass.
The rapid population growth with its increased demand
for and supply of goods during the colonial period quickly
enhanced the market orientation of the formerly small subsistence farmers and the importance of the market centres.
The development of the road network also had a major
impact on market activities and vice versa. Bromley (1978)
has succinctly portrayed the historical development of market centres in the cuencas of the sierra in a six-stage model
(Fig. 6.13). Stages 13 show the evolution of the market
settlements during colonial times; stages 4 and 5 that of
more recent periods; and stage 6 a possible future scenario.
In early times small market places existed in the centre of
the highland basins and on their rims. Later a few privileged
markets expanded while other pre-existing ones declined or
disappeared; but new market places (for example at favourable transport route sites) also emerged.
Ambato, Ecuador, located in the cuenca of the same
name, at an elevation of about 2,500m, is a prime example for an Andean permanent and periodic market centre.
The city is located within a densely settled and agriculturally productive region. On the intensively cultivated fields
of the highland basin and the surrounding lower slopes,
fruit trees (especially peaches), a variety of vegetables (for
example tomatoes, onions) and also flowers of the tierra fra
are grown; at higher elevations mainly maize, cereals and
potatoes. In the highest areas, in the tierra helada above

1: mid-16th C.

Establishment of new colonial centres, decline of pre-colonial centres

2: late 16th C.

Rise of the early colonial centre, establishment of new centres

3: early 19th C.

Establishment of further centres between existing ones

4: early 20th C.

Growth of centres on the periphery of the highland basin

5: Present

Loss of significance for places around the large centres

6: Future

Concentration of growth in the larger centres

Size of market centres:


Fig.6.13Six-stage model of the development of market centres in the

sierra of Ecuador (Source Stadel 1992b, adapted from Bromley 1978)

some 3,800m, at the foot of the volcanoes Carihuairazo

and Chimborazo, pastoral activities prevail, reaching elevations in excess of 4,000m. Ambato not only benefits from
the rich and varied agricultural potential of its immediate
surroundings but also from a rather easily accessible wider
agricultural service area. From the sierra regions, vegetables, corn, cereals, tuber crops and animal products are
shipped to Ambato; from the coastal lowlands mainly rice,
sugar cane, bananas and other tropical products; from the
Oriente, tropical fruit, timber and cattle. The other cities of
Ecuador also furnish the urban market of Ambato with a
wide range of non-agricultural consumer goods and industrial products (Fig.6.14).
The market function of Ambato is further enhanced by
a very favourable location within the transport network of


6.2 Andean Market Centres: The Example of Ambato, Ecuador

Fig.6.14Model of the
agricultural service areas of
Ambato, Ecuador (Source Stadel
1992b, adapted from Alba Moya
del 1986)


Juan Benigno Vela
Santa Rosa

(potatoes, cereals, vegetables, livestock)



(rice, bananas,


(tropical fruit and

vegetables, sugar cane,
timber, livestock)


livestock far ming



15 km

the sierra and also as an economic linkage point between

the Pacific coastal regions and the Amazon lowlands via
the natural transportation corridor of the Patate-Pastaza
Valley. The principal Andean trunk road, the Pan-American
Highway, links Ambato with the large cities of the
Ecuadorian sierra; with Latacunga, Quito and Ibarra to the
north; with Riobamba, Cuenca and Loja to the south. Paved
highways also connect Ambato in a westerly direction with
Guayaquil and other cities of the coastal plain; in an easterly direction with the settlements in the Patate/Pastaza
Valley, and with Puyo and other towns of the eastern foothills. Ambato is also quite easily accessible from its surrounding communities by a dense network of rural roads
and numerous bus and truck services.
In the traditional market process, selling and buying products takes place on a local and regional basis by a
diverse group of small traders (minoristas), by larger intermediate traders (intermediarios) and by powerful large
traders (mayoristas). These different market players distinguish themselves by the types of goods they are trading,
by the spatial range of their economic actions and by their
economic importance and social position. The permanent
and periodic market locations of Ambato also present an
intriguingly diversified picture. Traditionally market locations (plazas) were specializing in certain types of agricultural and non-agricultural products. There used to be a
specialized market place for potatoes (Plaza Urbina), for
fruit, vegetables and herbs (Plaza Primer del Mayo and
Plaza Coln); one for selling fish from the Pacific, for flowers and decorative plants (Plaza Bolvar); even one for selling stolen or smuggled items. Market places also tended
to be geared to a specific clientele and they had a distinct
physiognomic identity. Here a distinction can be made

(potatoes, cereals,
vegetables, livestock)

fruit, vegetables
fruit trees
vegetables (e.g. onions)
immediate agricultural

between the covered market halls (mercados cubiertos) and

the open markets (mercados abiertos), where the goods are
sold on the streets or in small huts and stalls (bodegas). In
most cases, the larger plazas are a combination of market
halls and open markets. On the weekly market days, the
selling and buying activity tends to spill into the adjacent
streets, often leading to considerable disruption of urban
traffic. Apart from offering agricultural produce, textiles
and other consumer items, the market locations also include
popular restaurants and meal vendors. Cattle markets were
located at more peripheral sites. The principal cattle market of Ambato (Plaza de Ganado Mayor) is one of the most
important in the sierra of Ecuador.
In recent times, Ambato has taken major steps to regulate and ameliorate the visual and sanitary aspects of the
urban markets. There was also a major attempt to improve
the oppressive problem of traffic congestion and chaos
in the city on market days. In this vein, in 2009, the large
Centro Comercial Popular Simon Bolvar was inaugurated,
which has room for almost 300 vending stalls of agricultural and non-agricultural products. In the same year,
the formerly open Plaza Urbina was newly designed and
equipped with a closed multi-functional market hall and an
underground car park. In addition, the Mercado Central was
rehabilitated and renovated. These modernization processes
and measures were undoubtedly necessary for aesthetic,
hygienic and urban traffic reasons. But in implementing
these changes the identity and traditional flair of the urban
markets of Ambato have been weakened or lost. In addition, as has been observed in the last 50years in other Latin
American cities, large modern shopping centres have also
made their appearance in Ambato, although these tend to be
shopping destinations for a primarily middle- or upper-class


6 Rural and Urban Settlements

clientele. The first one of these shopping arcades has been

the Centro Comercial Caracol across from the city centre on
the opposite side of the deeply entrenched Ro Ambato.
After the devastating earthquake of 1949, which severely
affected Ambato, the city quickly recovered and experienced a remarkable economic development. This triggered
a significant population growth and a dynamic spatial
expansion of the urban area. In 2010, the population of
Ambato totalled 179,000, making it the ninth-largest city
of Ecuador and the third-largest of the sierra, not counting Santo Domingo de los Colorados. With the growth of
Ambato, the number, diversity and importance of its functions have increased. In addition to the traditional market
and trade functions, Ambato assumes the administrative
role as the capital of Tungurahua Province. It is a major
centre for educational institutions and health services, a
transportation hub and also an important location for a
variety of manufacturing plants (metal industry, chemical
industry, textile industry, food processing). The significant
role of manufacturing finds its spatial expression in a new
industrial park at the northern periphery of the city.
With the expansion, modernization and functional diversification, Ambato, similar to the other medium-sized cities of the sierra, has become an alternative destination for
urban in-migrations and possibly a viable alternative to
metropolitan growth.

6.3 Urban Development

6.3.1 Capital Cities of the Andean Countries
While the Andean countries tend to have a centralized
administrative structure, not all of them are characterized
by an urban primacy (Table6.1). In Chile, the urban dominance of the capital and largest city Santiago de Chile is
most pronounced. Almost half of the nations population is
concentrated in this metropolis (Fig.6.15), and Santiago in
population size is more than ten times larger than the next

ranking cities of Puente Alto and Antofagasta. In Peru, still

slightly over one fourth of the countrys population is residing in the agglomeration of Lima-Callao, which has also
about 11 times the population size of the second largest
city Arequipa. Contrasting urban ranking situations can be
observed in Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia. In
Colombia, the rank-size pattern of cities can be attributed
to the geographical mosaic of distinct natural and cultural
regions, in part also to difficult accessibility situations, and
their ensuing regional identities of the population. Bogot
with its more than 7.2 million inhabitants is clearly the largest city, but Medelln and Cali, each with more than 2 million residents, and Baranquilla with more than one million
people, are important regional centres with large service
In Venezuela, the Andean metropolis of Caracas finds
a strong urban counterpart in Maracaibo on the Caribbean
coast. Bolivia presents a very special urban development.
The capital of La Paz has now been overtaken in population numbers by the dynamically growing Santa Cruz de
la Sierra in the eastern foothills of the Andes and also by
the explosive growth of El Alto, the twin city located at an
altitude of about 4,100m on the Altiplano above La Paz.
In Ecuador, the Andean capital of Quito has been lagging
behind the economically dynamic coastal city of Guayaquil
in population numbers since the 1950s.
Since colonial times coastal locations have been attractive for facilitating overseas trade, for the plantation economies of export-oriented agricultural commodities, such as
bananas, sugar cane, rice, cotton and other crops, as well
as for their superior accessibility compared to many sierra
cities. In the post-colonial era, these locational advantagesv
of coastal cities have persisted and become even stronger
when North-American and European countries and companies made these cities the overseas pillars of their economic and financial ventures. In more recent times, the
metropolises on the Caribbean and Pacific coast continue to
be dynamic economic hubs and windows of economic and
social globalization patterns.

Table6.1Primacy structures in the Andean countries, 2010

Bolivia (2010)

Santa Cruz

Chile (2012)


La Matanza/
San Justo
El Alto




Two cities
primacy index



Puente Alto

Colombia (2009)






Ecuador (2010)








Peru (2007)








Venezuela (2011)








La Paz











Two cities primacy index=population of the largest city divided by population of the second-largest city
Data Source: Fischer Weltalmanach (2013, 2014), authors calculations

6.3 Urban Development


Fig.6.15Skyline of the upper city business district of Santiago de Chile

Below, short urban portraits of the capital cities of the

Andean countries are given, based primarily on Wilhelmy
and Borsdorf (1985) and on some more recent studies of
these cities. CaracasMetropolis of an Oil-Rich Country

Santiago de Len de Caracas was the last city of the Andean
region that attained the status of a national capital. Founded
in 1567 by Diego de Losada, it initially grew rather slowly.
In the 18th century the city gained in importance benefitting
from a boom in cocoa cultivation and in 1777 it became the
capital of the Captaincy General of Venezuela. With the battle for independence under Simon de Bolvar, a son of the
city, Caracas enhanced its political status. On 5 July 1811
the Declaration of Independence was signed, but not until
1821 did Bolvar definitively defeat the royalists in the Battle
of Carabobo. Although a major earthquake largely destroyed
Caracas in 1812, the city soon reached a population of some
70,000 residents. At that time, though, the other capital cities of the Andean countries already numbered more than

100,000 inhabitants. As late as the middle of the 20th century, Caracas experienced a population explosion fuelled
by the national oil boom. Eventually, under the dictatorship of Marcos Prez Jimnez (19531958) and during the
following years, Caracas developed into one of the leading
metropolises of the Andes (Wilhelmy and Borsdorf 1985).
With the economic structure of the country increasingly
reorienting itself from an agricultural focus to that of an oil
economy, with its financial centre in Caracas, the rapidly
expanding city became a magnet for rural people. By and
large this population settled in an unplanned fashion in many
shantytowns (ranchos) on the urban hillside peripheries. As
of 2011, the population of the Distrito Capital of Caracas
amounted to 1.94 million people; that of the urban agglomeration of the Metropolitan District to about three million,
spread over five municipalities.
Caracas, at an elevation of 8001,000m, is located in a
tectonically shaped highland basin of the Caribbean coastal
cordillera, the so-called Chacao Plain, in an ecological transition zone between the tierra caliente and tierra templada


6 Rural and Urban Settlements

of the widely propagated social projects of the late former

president Chvez, a large proportion of the urban population
continues to live below the poverty line. Fiedler etal. (1995)
have vividly described the living conditions in a representative marginal settlement of Caracas. Under Chvez many
formerly illegal shantytowns were legalized and equipped
with urban services, and the population of these settlements
participated to a certain degree in decision-making processes. On the other hand, widespread land and real estate
speculation continues to be a major form of wealth accumulation for powerful people. Because of the persistent big
economic and social contrasts, rampant insecurity and high
crime rates are a major feature of this metropolis.

Fig.6.16Location of Caracas in a highland basin of the coastal cordillera of Venezuela

(Fig. 6.16). The city therefore enjoys a pleasant moderate

climate with a mean annual temperature of 20.4C, average daily maxima of 2427C, and night temperatures of
around 10C.
The administrative and economic focus of Caracas is no
longer the old Plaza Bolvar, but the Centro Simon Bolvar
in the modern Central Business District (CBD), commonly
called Milla de Oro, with a variety of shops, banks, entertainment venues and administrative buildings. A new second core is located in Sabana Grande, at a distance of about
two kilometres from the historic centre.
Caracas is an example of an Andean metropolis with a
location in a narrow, only about 3km wide, basin that offers
little space for urban expansion. This has been compensated
by the establishment of a number of satellite towns, such as
Ciudad Fajardo and Ciudad Losada. The restricted urban
space has also forced the population to occupy adjacent
mountain slopes. Closely linked with Caracas by a modern
highway, but morphologically separated from the metropolis by the 2,200m high mountain range of the Cerro el
vila, is the port of La Guaira, which also hosts the international airport.
The boom in oil revenues manifests itself in the urban
morphology by modern high-rise buildings, avenues and
roads with complex interchanges, and by attractive entertainment centres, for example the Helicoide in the Avenida
Fuerzas Armadas. This modern image of the city notwithstanding, the extensive hillside shantytowns are a striking
reminder of the pronounced economic and social disparities in Caracas. Some of the former slum settlements have
become consolidated and been improved (Zillmann 1998;
Fig.6.17). Programmes of social housing have resulted in a
modest yet insufficient attenuation of urban poverty. In spite BogotHigh-Altitude Capital of Colombia

and Metropolis of the Northern Andes
When Gonzalo Jimnez de Quesada founded Bogot on
6 August 1538, the choice of this location proved to be
quite advantageous (Fig.6.18). The new colonial city was
established on purpose in the centre of the former Chibcha
Empire. Located on the wide highland plain of the Sabana
de Bogot, the city offered good agricultural possibilities, a
reservoir of timber, sufficient access to drinking water and
room for urban expansion. Quesada initially called the city
Villa de la Santa F, but later it was renamed to Bogot, an
old Indian term, to distinguish it from other cities of the
name Santa F.
Bogot is situated at an average elevation of 2,630m
in the tierra fra ecological zone. At this location in the
inner tropics, the average monthly temperatures vary little,
between 14.1 and 15.0C, unlike the temperature amplitude between day and night, which is much greater. On rare
occasions the night-time temperature may even drop below
zero. The precipitation regime is characterized by two rainy
seasons with maxima in April/May and October/November,
giving average rainfall totals in excess of 1,000mm. These
climatic conditions, combined with the rather level topography of the Sabana de Bogot, allow the productive cultivation of wheat, rye, maize and a great variety of fruit and
vegetables. With the development of fast air traffic links
and global market connections, the Sabana de Bogot has
in recent decades specialized in large-scale export-oriented
flower cultivation.
Similar to most other large Latin-American cities, Bogot has a triple structure of a relatively small and
compact historic colonial core (Fig.6.18), a large and
expanding modern CBD and inner-city residential areas
(Fig. 6.19), and a belt of peripheral shantytowns. Until
the mid-19th century, Bogot still looked like a tranquil
provincial town in spite of its numerous churches, convents and elegant patio houses. With the Plaza de Bolvar
at its centre, the old town (La Candelaria, Fig.6.20) was
characterized by narrow cobbled streets, flanked by rows


6.3 Urban Development

of one- or two-storey patio houses, built of adobe bricks or

natural stones. Most of the upper-class families have long
moved away from their former residential area in the centre to elegant modern sections of the city, predominantly in
its northern districts. This had triggered a social downfiltering process in the centre, a problem of urban blight and
some inner-city slums, but urban restoration and revitalization programmes (Rincn Avellaneda 2011) have resulted
in successful urban gentrification, making La Candelaria
a major tourist attraction and evening recreation area for
From the old town, Bogot expanded mostly in a northward and southward direction, giving the city its present
elongated urban form. This expansion was coupled with a
distinct social differentiation. North of the historic city core
the modern CBD developed with high-rise buildings, banks,
offices, elegant restaurants and shops, and beyond that the
upper-class residential areas, in a chronological spatial
sequence: from the districts of Teusaquillo and Magdalena
of the 1930s, at a distance of some 3km from the city centre, to the districts of Retiro and La Calera of the 1950s,
about 9km from the core city. In the meantime, the northward linear expansion of Bogot covers a distance of some
30km or more. Like in other major Latin-American cities,
a large number of the affluent residents today live in wellprotected gated communities (barrios cerrados).
In contrast, the residential districts of less privileged
people are situated to the south of the Plaza Bolvar. Here
many manufacturing enterprises and commercial areas
geared to middle- and lower-class segments of the urban
society are concentrated. The adjacent hills of the eastern
cordillera are occupied by extensive, largely unplanned and
uncoordinated marginal settlements (tugurios; Fig.6.21).
Many of these shantytowns are the result of invasions (barrios de invasin; Fig.6.22) without officially recognized
legal land titles (barrios informales or barrios piratas).
In some cases, the land was acquired by real estate agents
who then subdivided the properties into small plots to the
settlers. Often the new urban in-migrants initially live as
subtenants (inquilinatos) with relatives and acquaintances
(compadres). In 2011 about three quarters of the population of marginal settlements were subtenants (Borsdorf and
Mergili 2011). These sharp contrasts between the rich and
the poor segments of the population and within the urban
fabric of Bogot are major contributing factors for the latent
insecurity and the high crime rates of this metropolis. This
has enticed the upper-class residents to live in secured barrios cerrados (Fig.6.23) and to protect their houses and
businesses with high walls, electronic security devices and
private guards.
The urban layout of Bogot in its historic core reflects
the pattern of Spanish-founded settlements, but in the
newer outlying neighbourhoods this layout has a modern

Fig.6.17Consolidated former hillside shantytown of Caracas, Venezuela

Fig.6.18Plaza Bolvar, the colonial core of Bogot, Colombia

character, while still reflecting the planned arrangement of

streets and roads. The calles run in an east-westerly direction perpendicular to the cordillera. Carreras, in turn,
extend south-northwards in parallel to the mountains. In the
newer parts of the city, major connecting roads, no longer
fitting into the rectangular street system, are the ejes, diagonales, or transversales. Obviously the streets and trails,
as well as the staircases in the shantytowns, are totally
unplanned and irregular.
Because of the mountainous topography, the transportation links of the capital with the different regions of the
national territory always represented a major challenge.
In colonial times, Bogot was in a rather peripheral location and at that time there were some considerations to


Fig.6.19Central business district of Bogot, Colombia

Fig.6.20La Candelaria, the colonial core of Bogot, Colombia

transfer the capital city function to another city. But the

spatial structure of Colombia and the pronounced regional
identities of the country made a relocation of the capital
city unfeasible. In former times people and goods reached

6 Rural and Urban Settlements

Bogot from the Caribbean coast, first by boats on the Ro

Magdalena, later by railway along the Magdalena Valley
and then on trails and roads to the Sabana of Bogot. Today
Bogot is effectively linked to the other parts of the country
by a network of paved highways and also air connections.
The national airline company Sociedad Colombo Alemana
de Transporte Areo (SCADTA), jointly founded in 1919
by Germans and Colombians, was the first national airline
of Latin America; it was renamed to AVIANCA in 1940.
The airport of Bogot today provides direct transportation
links to many international destinations.
With a population of 7.67 million (2013) for the capital
city, and 10.76 million for the Metropolitan District, Bogot
ranks first among the urban centres of Colombia in population figures. In the most recent decades the phenomenal
growth rates of the 19601980s have steadily dropped to
only modest increases during the past few years. This can
be attributed to lower natural rates of population growth and
also to a considerable slowing down of urban in-migration,
in part resulting from the pulling force of the other metropolises of Medelln, Cali, Baranquilla and Cartagena, and
also some dynamic intermediate cities. But Bogot remains
the most important economic, industrial and commercial centre of Colombia, accounting for about one quarter
of the national industrial output and trade volume respectively. Bogot is also the leading cultural centre of the country with a number of universities, museums (among them
the famous Gold Museum, the Colonial Museum and the
Anthropological Museum), theatres, libraries, publishing
houses and other cultural institutions.
The past political turmoil and the real or perceived
insecurity notwithstanding, Bogot and its surroundings
are rewarding destinations for tourism. In addition to the
attractions of the city, the salt cathedral of Zipaquira, or
the 157m high Tequendema Fall, draw national and international tourists. The Sabana and the cordillera are also preferred destinations for urban recreationists, and a number of
resorts, among them Fusagasug and Melgar in the Valley
of Sumapaz, and weekend retreats (fincas) for affluent people of Bogot, dot the countryside, especially in the vicinity
of the highway to Honda and Girardot. Quito, EcuadorUNESCO World Heritage

The capital city of Quito is no longer the largest urban centre of Ecuador. With a 2010 population of 1.61 million residents, it lags behind Guayaquils 2.28 million people. But
these two cities, the traditional mountain capital of Quito
and the coastal metropolis of Guayaquil, are the dominating complementary and competing centres of Ecuador.
The comparatively less dynamic development of Quito and
a more traditionalist attitude of its governing class have
contributed to the preservation of a large, attractive and

6.3 Urban Development

well-kept old city centre. This colonial core (casco colonial) was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978
Quito lies in the northern part of the Ecuadorian sierra;
the centre of the city being located only some 20km
south of the equator. The monument and museum of
Mitad del Mundo is a major tourist attraction. At an altitude of 2,850m, the capital city of Ecuador extends as an
urban agglomeration band in a north-southerly direction
on a higher terrace of the Guayllabamba Basin. The urban
space is topographically restricted by the steep slopes of
the volcanic mountains of the Rucu Pichincha (4,690m)
and the recently active and threatening Guagua Pichincha
(4,794m). To the north and east, a sharp drop towards the
Guayllamba Valley represents a major natural barrier for
the expansion of Quito. Nevertheless, in recent decades
the city space has spilled over into the warmer and drier
Guayllabamba Valley, about 400m below, which today is
connected with Quito proper by modern highways. In this
climatically favoured valley the new residential districts of
the urban middle- and upper classes, modern businesses
and shopping areas and a high-class private university are
located. Since February 2013, the new International Airport
Mariscal Sucre has replaced the former rather dangerous
inner-city airport.
Quito is characterized by an inner-tropical highland climate. This means that the amplitude of the average monthly
temperatures is insignificant (0.4C) in contrast to the
variations between day and night (1012C, in some situations up to 1518C). Because of the moderate tropical
climate, Quito has been labelled the city of eternal spring.
Average annual precipitation is 1,250mm, with pronounced
rainy periods (invierno) from February to May and October
to December. During the rainy seasons, showers, heavy at
times, are a regular afternoon feature. Because of the high
elevation and the proximity to the cordilleras, cold fall
winds (paramitos), hail and even snow on rare occasions
may affect the city. These at times rapidly changing weather
conditions have prompted some people to observe that
Quito can experience all four seasons within one single day.
With the long-term intensive human use of the land,
hardly anything of the original natural tropical mountain
vegetation is left in the vicinity of Quito. Around the city,
generally on small plots, maize, barley, wheat, vegetables and fruit of a temperate climate are cultivated; in the
warmer Guayllabamba Valley also tropical fruit and vegetables. In addition, products of the Costa and Oriente find
their way to the markets of Quito (Fig.6.25).
In spite of the colonial character, Quito was originally
founded within a territory occupied by aboriginal people
since about 1,500 BCE. Around the middle of the 15th century CE, the Incas started to occupy the area, culminating
with the final conquest of Huayna Cpac around 1480. At


Fig. 6.21Marginal hillside settlements of Bogot (photograph by


Fig.6.22Barrio de invasin in Bogot (photograph by M. Mergili)

that time the place was one of the most important religious,
economic and political centres of the northern part of the
Inca Empire. In 1534 Sebastin de Benalczar founded
the colonial city of San Francisco de Quito. In contrast to
Cusco, few remnants of the Inca city have survived, even on
the old volcanic hill of the Panecillo, the site of the former
sun temple.
From the 3,050m high Panecillo a splendid view opens
over the colonial city with its numerous churches, monasteries, palaces, the rows of colonial houses, the rectangularly arranged narrow streets and squares (Fig.6.26). In the
heart of the old city lies the Plaza de la Independencia with
its popular park (Fig.6.27), flanked by the cathedral, the
city hall and the palaces of the bishop and the government.
Radiating from Plaza de la Independencia are the major


Fig.6.23Barrio cerrado in Bogot

Fig.6.24Section of the colonial centre of Quito, Ecuador, UNESCO

world heritage site

roads of the historic centre with the formerly elegant houses

of the ruling class, today some of them in a state of blight,
others beautifully restored. The colonial core is still a busy
and vibrant urban environment of shops, restaurants, small
hotels, entertainment venues and street markets, visited by
both local people and tourists. The narrow streets represent
a major problem of congestion and pollution for the ever
increasing urban traffic. This has been alleviated to a certain
degree by the construction of a new urban highway with
two tunnels, circumventing the core city to the west and by
the introduction in 1995 of modern electrified trolley buses
linking the northern, central and southern parts of the city.

6 Rural and Urban Settlements

However, the authors could observe that the foundation of

the roadbeds may have not been sufficiently fortified for the
heavy trolley buses, as became evident in a number of road
deformations only a few years after the introduction of the
new transportation system (Borsdorf and Stadel 1997a: 20).
The view from the Panecillo, and even more so from the
4,100m high platform of the Pichincha, since 2005 reached
by a cable car, offer impressive panoramas of the urban
morphology and also of the nearer and more distant mountain topography. Clearly discernable is the dual character
of Quito with its traditional Casco Colonial and the skyline
of the modern CBD (Mariscal) with the Avenida Amazonas
as its major commercial axis and the new residential districts further south. The two parts of the city are linked by
the large Ejido Park. The urban duality is complemented
by a ring of hillside settlements, in the south mostly residents of the urban middle and upper classes; in the south,
generally more modest homes and even shantytowns. This
physiognomy reflects the socio-economic disparity of Quito
between a generally wealthy southern part and the poorer
northern districts. The view reaches further over the rugged
mountain landscape of the sierra to the glacier-capped volcanoes of the Cayambe and Cotopaxi. Figure6.28 is schematic sketch of the duality of colonial and modern Quito,
and the shape and rapid expansion of the urban space in the
20th century. It also shows how the urban agglomeration
leapfrogged into satellite communities in the Guayllabamba
Valley to the east.
While Quito does not show the same dimension of large
shantytowns, the dichotomy between the housing of the
poor and the affluent is still very evident. In some cases,
like for example in Fig.6.29, illegally erected shanties may
even, at least temporarily, appear in the modern city, in
close proximity to modern apartment buildings. In most situations, though, the marginal settlements are found spatially
separated from the housing of the upper classes. In contrast,
in Ecuador as in other Latin American cities, barrios cerrados, like this example from Guayaquil (Fig.6.30), offer the
wealthy population real or perceived privacy and security.
While Quito is the political and cultural centre of
Ecuador, its commercial and industrial function is lagging
behind the dynamic development of Guayaquil. Moreover,
for a long time Ecuador pursued a regional planning policy that stimulated the growth of other regional centres
like Cuenca, Ambato or Ibarra. Nevertheless, Quito has
also greatly benefitted from the oil boom since the 1970s,
attracting a number of national and international banks and
other businesses and giving the city a modern appearance. Lima, PeruGolden and Monstrous Coastal

Unlike Bogot, Caracas, La Paz and Quito, Lima is a
coastal lowland metropolitan centre. As the successor to


6.3 Urban Development

highland Cusco, the former capital of the Inca Empire

and dominant metropolis of the Andean state of Peru, it
deserves to be included in this portrayal of capital cities.
With a population of some 8.4 million people (2007) living in the Metropolitan Area of Lima, this agglomeration is
the dominating primate city of Peru, encompassing almost
30% of the national population and concentrating about
50% of the economic activity of the country. In contrast,
Arequipa, the second largest city, has only around 0.8 million residents.
Limas location at 12S would suggest a warm subtropical climate. Its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and
the influence of the cold Humboldt (Peruvian) Current,
however, make for a relatively cool and very dry climate.
In the Kppen-Geiger classification of world climates, it
is designated as a BWn-climate, a subtropical desert climate. The average annual temperature in Lima is 22.1C,
with the monthly mean temperatures varying between 15.9
and 23.0C. If we compare these temperatures with those
of Salvador da Bahia in Brazil, located at about the same
latitude as Lima but being influenced by the warm Brazil
Current, we can appreciate the climatic contrast between
the two cities: in Bahia, the average annual temperature
is 28.2C, and the average annual precipitation total is
2,100mm. In contrast, temperatures in Lima on rare occasions may drop below 10C, and rarely rise above 30C.
Total yearly precipitation in Lima averages only 13mm,
but there are even many years without any measurable
rainfall. This is the consequence of the combination of
the cool Pacific waters and a rather stable Pacific anticyclone. Mean precipitation of around 5mm occurs only in
March and September. In some years, these arid conditions change rather dramatically during El Nio events,
when a warm equatorial current with sea temperatures of
over 20C replaces the cool Humboldt Current with its
average 1719C water temperatures. These conditions
generate warm air temperatures on the coast in the high
20s and even low 30s, combined with significant rainfall
amounts. At the 1998 El Nio event, air temperatures in
Lima reached an all-time high of 34C and water temperatures went up to around 25C. On these occasions heavier
rains may create havoc in Lima as a deficient urban drainage system is unable to cope with such downpours. During
La Nia years the opposite happens when the cold offshore
ocean current is becoming reinforced.
In spite of the generally arid conditions, especially during the southern winter months (May to late November),
the sky over Lima is often covered by a layer of low cloud
and fog. The residents of Lima are not only afflicted by the
persistently dull, grey skies, but are also suffering from the
aggravated problem of air pollution and smog. At times the
low cloud generates some wet fog or slight drizzle, locally
called gara, llovizna or camanchacas. When this occurs,

Fig.6.25Agricultural market in Quito, Ecuador

Fig.6.26Colonial centre of Quito, Ecuador

the desert environment in and around Lima turns green

within a short period of time. In the hills around Lima the
gara is a more regular feature, resulting in a particular type
of fog vegetation, called loma.
The royal city of Lima (Ciudad de los Reyes) was
founded in 1535 by the Spanish conquistador Francisco
Pizarro. It was the most important colonial foundation of the
Spanish on the Pacific coast, and developed into the leading political and cultural centre of the Viceroyalty of Peru;
in 1543 Lima became the capital of the Real Audiencia. The
dual foundation of the port of Callao and the city of Lima,
some 12km inland at about 150m in elevation, was very
much in line with the objective of the Spanish to link the


6 Rural and Urban Settlements

Fig.6.27Plaza de la Independencia, Quito, Ecuador


4 km


Fig.6.29Illegal shantytown in the modern district of Quito, Ecuador




San Antonio


Historic centre

Fig. 6.28Spatial growth of Quito, Ecuador, 19302000, and location of the historic centre, CBD and satellite communities of the urban

Fig.6.30Barrio cerrado Nueva York, Guayaquil, Ecuador

capital with an ocean port and in this way to establish an

efficient transportation connection between Spain and its
colony. In addition, the Rimac Valley permitted relatively
easy natural access to the settlements and silver mines of the
sierra. Callao, located on a rare sheltered bay, was declared
the sole colonial port on the South American west coast


6.3 Urban Development

with the monopolistic privilege of maritime transportation

and trade (puerto habilitado; refer also to Sect. 4.3.6).
Therefore Lima had a trade monopoly and was the site
of a viceregal mint. The site of Lima on the broad and level
alluvial fan of the Rimac River provided very advantageous
conditions for the construction and expansion of LimaCallao. The river oasis of the Rimac offered the settlement
an excellent potential for agricultural activities and a good
supply of drinking water.
The foundation of Lima followed the scheme of a Spanish
colonial city, with its chessboard arrangement of streets and
house blocks, built around the central square of the Plaza de
Armas (Fig. 6.31). The 17th century historian Bernab Cobo
(published in 1882), described the plaza as the finest and wellformed (one) that I have ever seen, even in Spain. The Plaza
de Armas is flanked by the cathedral (completed in 1622) and
the Archbishops Palace with its magnificently carved wooden
balconies, the Municipal Palace, and the Government Palace,
also known as the House of Pizarro. The latter was first constructed in 1535 and in 1938/1939 renovated in a neo-classical
style. The building material for the representational structures,
especially the magnificent portals of the cathedral and palaces,
were in part imported natural stones from Panama and Arica,
which were preferred to the local granitic and volcanic tuff
materials. Timber for the beams and balconies of the houses
also had to be brought into the city from distant regions, for
example from the rainforests of the northern Ecuadorian coast,
high-grade timber even from southern Chile, Central America
and Colombia. The rich architectural heritage of the colonial
core of Lima was recognized in 1988 by the UNESCO designation as World Heritage Site.
In 1551 Lima became the site of the first university in
Latin America, the University of San Marcos, which at the
time enjoyed the same privileges as the venerable University
of Salamanca, and developed into a major cultural focus of
the colony. Limas wealth and importance reached its apogee between the 16th and 18th centuries as an administrative,
ecclesiastical and commercial focus of the Spanish colonies
in South America. The affluence of Lima in turn favoured the
emergence of a diversified and sophisticated class of craftsmen. The incredible wealth of Lima may be illustrated by the
account of the welcoming ceremony of the new viceroy de la
Palata in 1680. The rich merchants paved two principal streets
with silver bars and the horses of the vice-regal carriage had
golden horseshoes. Lima was indeed a golden city, as it
has been called by German poet Bertold Brecht. But eventually, in the 18th century, with the decline of silver mining and
growing economic competition from Buenos Aires and other
rising cities, Lima lost some of its former glory.
However, another side of Lima was sketched by Father
Wolfgang Bayer in 1751. He was horrified by the life of
licentious indulgence of rich Limeos and described the
city as a Sodom and Gomorrha. Maybe the residents of

Fig.6.31Plaza de Armas in the colonial centre of Lima, Peru

Fig.6.32Callejn near San Francisco Church, Lima, Peru

Lima had this unrestrained thirst of life as they realized

how much their city was threatened by regular earthquakes.
Indeed, powerful earthquakes severely damaged Lima and
Callao in 1687, 1746 and more recently in 1940, destroying
a large part of the city.
Around the colonial core the more modern administrative and commercial centre of Lima developed, especially
around the Plaza San Martn, five city blocks southwest of
the Plaza Mayor. These two principal squares are linked
by the pedestrian street mall Jirn de la Unin and the less
elegant Carabaya. In contrast, some inner-city slums (callejones or tugurios) are found close to the San Francisco
Church northeast of the Plaza de Armas (Fig.6.32). On the
other hand, processes of rehabilitation and gentrification
can be observed in the colonial city centre of Lima. In contrast to other Latin-American metropolitan centres, the core
of Lima has continued to be a residential area for at least
some high-income social classes.


Different and highly divergent axes of urban expansion

can be observed in the Metropolitan Area of Lima. The
modern affluent districts developed to the southwest in the
direction of the Pacific Ocean. Miraflores and San Isidro
are today major upper-class commercial and residential
areas considered safe and elegant urban districts. In addition, newer high-class barrios developed on hillsides on the
southeastern periphery of the city. Many of these residents
live in gated communities. In some cases, these homes of
the urban elite are found in close proximity to the marginal settlements of the hillside barriadas (Fig.6.33). In
the competition for space, walls have been erected to constrain the illegal and uncontrolled expansion of shantytowns (Fig.6.34). The barriadas on the urban margins of

Fig.6.33Informal hillside barriada on the northern periphery of Lima,


Fig.6.34Wall around a hillside barriada on the southern periphery

of Lima, Peru

6 Rural and Urban Settlements

Lima emerged in the 1950s in the wake of massive migration of people from the Andean highlands to the cities on
the Pacific coast. Some of these so-called cones encircling
Lima to the north, east and south have matured since then
into more organized and better equipped settlements and
have become an integral part of the urban fabric.
In a succinctly expressed contribution on the spatial and
socio-economic development of Lima and its recent trends
of integration and disintegration, Fernndez-Maldonado
(2007: 112) describes the urban dichotomy thus:
A process with two different spatial logics, not mutually exclusive but rather highly interrelated. One is the process led by the
real estate market, a regulated and supposedly formal process.
The other is the result of an informal process of urbanization
of the periphery, shaped by the collective action of the poor,
who have been systematically denied access to affordable land
and housing. (Fernndez-Maldonado 2007:1)

In the development and organization of the urban space,

both integrative and disintegrative forces can be observed.
These are driven by the two contrasting main urban actors,
the socio-economic elite and the barriada settlers. The
planned and well-serviced residential districts and the highrise office buildings and shopping centres form islands of
modernity and globalization. These reflect the wealth, economic development and growth in international trade of
the country and manifest themselves in sophisticated working, shopping and recreational urban environments. The
new and elegant hypermarkets, among them the Jockey
Plaza close to the hippodrome or the Larcomar Centre in
Miraflores, the entertainment centres, expensive hotels and
restaurants are geared to the tastes and lifestyles of a cosmopolitan population.
The informal barriadas in the nearby hills, along the
Rimac River or close to the city centre, have sub-standard
housing characteristics and are deficient in the number,
range and quality of urban infrastructures and services.
While the financial sector in formal Lima determines and
shapes the urban landscape, spontaneous, often illegal and
collective, actions of new settlers characterize the large
expanses of barriada communities for some 2.53 million Limeos. But self-help initiatives, some forms of local
political autonomy, and collective communal efforts are a
very positive feature of most barriada communities.
Informal developments are not limited to housing
aspects. In and around the barriadas, a wide range of trades,
manufacturing and commercial activities have emerged.
Gamara, the largest informal economic cluster, by now concentrates some 70% of the textile industries of the whole
country. In addition, the furniture manufacturing district of
Villa el Salvador and the shoe production in San Juan de
Lurigancho are industrial clusters of metropolitan and even

6.3 Urban Development

regional importance. Large shopping centres have now also

emerged in seemingly less attractive locations, along busy
highway arteries and in the vicinity of the barriadas in the
northern and southern cones. These shopping centres promote the incorporation of the newly emerging barriada middle-class into a new form of urban consumer market and
they are also geared to a city-wide, less affluent population.
In the Northern Cone, Mega Plaza looks very much like
any shopping mall, with its smart boutiques, big department store, a multiplex cinema and a huge gym. Next door
stands a second mall, Royal Plaza. What makes these duelling malls unusual is where they are: on a congested and
dusty stretch of the Pan-American Highway, in what once
were shanty towns and today form part of Limas northern
suburbs. (The Economist, 15 May 2004: 52).
In sum, life for the Limeos has become more differentiated and polarized than before, and major economic, social,
cultural, political divides and contrasting urban landscapes
have formed. Peters and Skop (2007) have measured and
mapped the socio-spatial segregation in metropolitan Lima.
Fernndez-Maldonado (2007: 7) calls this uneven development and its urban impact a process of two speeds. This
has resulted in an intensification of urban disintegration. On
the other hand, new trends of urban integration and democratization can be observed. Today, the informal sector of
the urban economy is providing a wider and easily accessible range of affordable services to lower-income sectors
of the entire Metropolitan Area. In addition, different socioeconomic groups share the use of some urban facilities and
amenities. In particular, informal processes and economies
can be considered major forces towards urban integration.
In the words of Fernndez-Maldonado (2007: 7), the new
Lima is more complex and contradictory than ever before,
while its urban development exhibits a combination of integrative and disintegrative trends. La Paz/El Alto, BoliviaA High-Elevation

Dual Urban Agglomeration
With a population of 835,000 (2010) for the city proper,
La Paz now ranks only third in population size behind the
dynamic, eastern foothill city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra
(population: 1,116,000) and the booming Altiplano city of
El Alto (population: 953,000). But the urban agglomeration of metropolitan La Paz, including the cities of La Paz,
El Alto and Viacha numbers close to two million people.
It is the highest metropolitan conurbation of the world and
nominally and de facto the worlds highest national seat of
government and administrative centre. The official capital
and seat of the Supreme Court is still Sucre, the old colonial
city of La Plata.
La Paz, at an average elevation at the city centre of some
3,650m, is located in a wide highland basin, some 400m
below the surrounding 4,0004,100m high Altiplano,


where the new satellite city of El Alto and the international

airport are situated. Visitors arriving at the airport of La
Paz frequently suffer from initial attacks of altitude sickness (soroche), which can be alleviated by coca tea (mate
de coca) served at the airport. The lowest, climatically
most favoured and most affluent, districts extend downwards to about 3,100m. Therefore, the altitudinal range
of the Metropolitan Area is more than 1,000m (Fig.6.35).
Overlooking the city in the south is the triple-peaked
snow-covered Illimani (6,439m) behind the Sajama, the
second-highest peak of Bolivia and highest summit of the
Cordillera Real.
The steep and highly eroded slopes of the La Paz basin
are composed of different, generally soft and easily erodable rock and debris material of an array of colours. The
unstable terrain is a substantial natural risk factor for
the city in the case of earthquakes and flash floods. Most
threatened are the marginal settlements built on extremely
exposed slopes (OHare and Rivas 2005; Nathan 2008). The
rugged and dissected slopes also represent a major natural constraint for urban mobility and the urban transportation system. For this reason La Paz-El Alto has embarked
on an ambitious project to build an urban cable car linking
the centre of La Paz with El Alto. The estimated cost of the
project with the Austrian company Doppelmayr Ropeways
is USD 235 million. The cable network of three lines will
have a total length of 10km and include 11 stations. This
new transportation mode should alleviate the chronic traffic
congestion within and between the cities of La Paz and El
Alto, where about 200,000 people commute daily between
the two cities. The first stage of the cable car system was
inaugurated in 2013, and the authorities hope that the whole
system will become operational within the next few years.
The high elevation of La Paz-El Alto makes this urban
agglomeration the coolest metropolis of the Andes. The
mean annual temperature of El Alto is 9.3C, with average
daily minima of 4.7C in July, and average daily maxima
in December of 17C. Average total precipitation in El Alto
is around 600mm, with rainfalls concentrated in the southern summer months of December to February. Occasional
snowfalls may occur in the southern winter months of July
and August. The climate in La Paz is generally warmer and
also drier than in El Alto, especially in the lowest lying
Zona Sur at 3,250m. With the steep terrain and scarce vegetation, heavy summer rains frequently result in destructive
Nuestra Seora de la Paz was founded in 1548 according to the architectural principles of a Spanish colonial city.
La Paz soon developed as a prosperous city benefitting from
the rich gold and silver mines in the vicinity and a thriving trade in coca cultivated in the yungas. After the victory
of the Republicans in Ayacucho, Peru, the citys official
name was changed to La Paz de Ayacucho. In 1898 La Paz


6 Rural and Urban Settlements

Fig.6.35Central parts of the city of La Paz, Bolivia

became the de facto seat of the national government, while

Sucre retained its function as the judiciary capital.
From the beginning of Bolivian independence, La Paz
has always been affected by the political instability of the
country, highlighted by a succession of some 100 presidents
and juntas, and by repeated political turmoil and conflicts.
As in other Latin-American metropolises, La Paz presents
great social contrasts which are evident in the urban landscape. These socio-economic discrepancies became exacerbated by the huge influx of rural migrants after the 1952
revolution, which freed about 250,000 campesinos from
their bondage to large landowners. In the ensuing decades,
with the continuation of pervasive rural poverty, migrants
continued to flock into the cities of La Paz and particularly
El Alto. The rural origin of many Alteos is still reflected
in the name of different barrios of El Alto, and rural traditions and links with the home communities of the migrants
often remain strong. The urban infrastructures and services
could not cope with this massive increase of marginal populations and serious housing, water, sanitation and electricity
deficits, as well as shortages in health care and education
This situation became most serious in El Alto, where the
problems of unemployment and underemployment, poverty and appalling living conditions triggered numerous
urban protests. These escalated in 2003 into a major revolt
and El Alto became the focus of a popular mobilization
against the government of president Snchez de Losada.

Disillusioned with their hitherto virtually non-existing

political representation, the people of El Alto established
basic democratic neighbourhood alliances (juntas vecinales). In the meantime, some 700 juntas, each representing
between 1,300 and 1,400 residents, assume largely autonomous political, administrative, economic and judicial functions. Juntas also try to mediate personal conflicts between
neighbours and control the selling and buying of plots. In
the almost complete absence of formal urban planning, El
Alto developed into a wild maze of small housing blocks,
fragmented neighbourhoods and narrow, crooked pathways,
some of them dissected by the major traffic artery La Ceja.
Sian Lazar (2008) calls El Alto a rebel city, an urban setting where citizenship in the Aymara tradition is regarded
primarily as communitarian and distinctly local. In many
respects, El Alto is characterized by a grassroots administrative and social organization and political structures which
are distinctly different from those of the capital La Paz.
In addition to its national administrative function, La
Paz is a cultural and education hub of highland Bolivia,
with several private and government universities, the most
prestigious being the Universidad Mayor de San Andrs.
La Paz and El Alto today are also major economic centres. La Paz houses a variety of different markets, among
them the famous Mercado de las Brujas (Witches Market),
where a variety of crafts for tourists, traditional herbs and
teas, amulets and ritual items, such as the famous dried
llama embryos, are offered (Fig.6.36). La Paz is also a

6.3 Urban Development

Fig.6.36Mercado de las Brujas, La Paz, Bolivia

centre of manufacturing, especially the production of consumer goods and the processing of agricultural and mineral
products. It is moreover the financial heart of the countrys
extractive industry, especially of the tin economy. In contrast, El Alto is the centre of a flourishing informal economy of a large and diversified number of craftspeople,
merchants and traders. In addition, thousands of Ateos
commute daily to La Paz in search of regular or periodic
forms of employment. Santiago de ChileA Metropolis with

aEuropean Flair
In its urban appearance, the green and elegant Santiago
offers a striking contrast to Lima. Yet in the colonial
past, the Peruvian Ciudad de los Reyes in its glory and
wealth clearly outshone Santiago and most Andean cities. Being located outside the tropics, Santiago enjoys a
Mediterranean-type climate characterized by both thermic
and hygric seasons. In the southern summer, a pleasant
dry and warm climate prevails with a nice nightly cooling
effect by the fall winds from the cordillera. Precipitation
is concentrated in the southern winter months from May
to August. About four fifth of the 360mm average annual
precipitation falls between late April and September. Mean
daily temperatures range from 20.7C in January, with
average highs of about 30C and average lows of 712C


in July (average maxima of about 14C and average minima of only 2.5C). Although Santiago has a moderate climate, frost may occur during the southern winter months.
One of the major environmental concerns of the city is the
smog and air pollution concentrated in the Central Valley
during the winter months, a consequence of both the prevailing thermal inversion and the pollution caused by automobiles and industries.
Santiago de Chile lies in a large bowl-shaped basin
which measures approximately 80km in a north-south
direction and 35km from west to east. It is flanked by
the towering Andean cordillera to the east and north and
the Chilean coastal range to the west. In the south lies the
Angostura de Paine, an elongated spur of the Andes. The
city lies at an elevation of about 400m and reaches over
500m further east. The Mapocho River with its source in
the Andes flows through Santiago and into the Maipo River.
The foundation of Santiago was closely related to the Ro
Mapocho, as a river island at this place was considered a
good defence site against the indigenous Mapuche people.
The attractiveness of the urban landscape of Santiago
manifests itself on nice clear days by the breath-taking
view from the 847m high Cerro San Cristbal. The visitor overlooks the impressive skyline of the urban centre and
admires in the background the impressive mountain scenery
of the San Ramn Cordillera (Fig.6.37), snow-covered in
spring. On the western horizon, the coastal cordillera rises
to maximum elevations of approximately 3,000m. To the
east, beyond the San Ramn Cordillera, one might even
see the glacier-capped peaks of La Paloma (4,910m) und
El Plomo (5,424m). At their foot, Chiles major ski resorts
of Farellones and La Parva (2,4003,400m) are located.

Fig. 6.37View from the Cerro San Cristbal to the urban core of
Santiago and the Cordillera San Ramn, Chile


Fig. 6.38Plaza mayor of Santiago, Chile, with the monument of

Pedro Valdivia and the cathedral

Some 300m below the Cerro San Cristbal extends the

colonial centre of the city with the Plaza Mayor, the cathedral (Fig.6.38) and a large number of other churches, the
Mapocho River flanked by the Parque Forestal and avenues
lined with poplars, cypresses and Chilean palms, but also
dominated by the high-rises of the modern city.
Santiago de Nueva Extremadura was founded in 1541
by Pedro de Valdivia and was initially challenged by indigenous resistance. But despite the threats of attacks and of
the natural hazards of earthquakes and floods, the favourable location and the rich agricultural hinterland were important assets for a prosperous development of the colonial
city. In 1817, after the victory of Jos de San Martn and
Bernardo OHiggins in the Battle of Chacabuco, Chile proclaimed its independence and Santiago became the capital
of the new nation. During the Republican era, the cultural
life of Santiago received a major impetus from a number
of important institutions, among them the two principal
universities, the Universidad de Chile and the Pontificia
Universidad Catlica, several prestigious museums and the
Teatro Municipal. During the second half of the 19th century, Santiago was embellished by the work of European
landscape designers, a magnificent testimony of this being
the OHiggins Park, inaugurated in 1873.
At the same time Santiago became the major hub of the
national railway network and an electric tram system was
introduced in the city. Driven by the impressive economic
development of the country, and fuelled by the growth of
the extractive industry, Santiago reached a population of
close to 200,000 residents during the last decade of the

6 Rural and Urban Settlements

19th century. This urban growth and development continued in the 20th century and Santiago became one of the
most important and modern metropolises of South America.
It attracted large numbers of migrants from all parts of
the country and also immigrants from Europe. As a result
Santiago witnessed a spectacular population increase and a
large spatial expansion of its urban area. Most impressive
was the growth of suburban areas and outlying communities, such as Barrancas west of the city, Conchal in the
north and La Cisterna and La Granja to the south.
Today the Santiago Metropolitan Region encompasses
a large contiguous urban area composed of the municipality of Santiago and 36 additional communes. Its population reached approximately 6.8 million people in 2012,
accounting for almost one third of the national population. This gives Santiago a dominant position as a primate
city in the national urban ranking and makes it the almost
uncontested political, cultural, economic and financial
centre of Chile. As the most southern Andean metropolis
Santiago reflects the current economic and political stability of the country. In its urban physiognomy this manifests itself in the El Golf district, popularly referred to as
Sanhattan, paraphrasing the global economic outlook and
the modern high-rise buildings (Fig.6.39). In 2013 the

Fig.6.39Business district El Golf, the so-called Sanhattan of Santiago,


6.3 Urban Development

Gran Torre Santiago, part of the commercial Costanera

Project with its 300m high tower, officially became the
tallest structure in South America. Modern commercial
and residential parts of Santiago have also developed outside the city centre, especially eastwards in the direction
of the cordillera. To counteract the potential of a physical
and economic degradation and social down filtering process, the heart of Santiago was upgraded with attractive
retail outlets and shopping centres, pedestrian malls, green
spaces, fountains and monuments.
Since the 1990s the authorities have attempted to reorganize and modernize Santiagos public transportation system. As a highlight of these efforts the new transport system
Transantiago was launched in 2007. It combines core services across the city with the Metro de Santiago subway
and a network of main and feeder bus lines, employing a
unified smartcard system of payment. The Metro subway
now operates on five lines, with a total length of 105km.
In 2014 an additional South Express Line with a length
of 15km was supposed to be added to the network. The
metro system is the most extensive one in South America
and carries about 2.4 million passengers a day. In addition,
the Santiago Metropolitan Region is serviced by an electrified southbound rail system, called Metrotren. It has 18 stations and a total length of 138km. This modernization of
the public transportation system has alleviated traffic congestion and pollution, but it still falls short of solving these
pressing problems.
From 2007 to 2011 Santiago became the focus of the
research initiative Risk Habitat Megacity (Heinrich etal.
2012). In this project, the sustainability of the urban
development was examined and analysed with a special
focus on the criteria of land-use changes, the social and
spatial differentiation, the urban transport system, resilience and vulnerability in the face of the treats of earthquakes flash floods, landslides, pollution; energy- and
water supply, and waste disposal. In this context, Borsdorf
and Hidalgo (1995, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008b, 2010, 2011)
have published extensively on the topics of socio-spatial
fragmentation and segregation, gentrification, mobility
and migration of new communities at the periphery of

6.3.2 Trends in Urban Development Urban Development in the Andes
The foundation, choice of location and planning of the towns
in the Spanish colonial realm of the New World, at least
since 1573, followed concise royal regulations (Wilhelmy
and Borsdorf 1984: 73; Bhr and Mertins 1995: 9). Capital
cities were established in a central location of administrative units, generally in climatically favourable basins at


higher elevations. Exceptions were the coastal ports, which

assumed a major economic function but played a subordinate political role.
The focus of the Spanish towns was the central square,
originally conceived as armoury grounds (plaza de armas).
This plaza mayor soon became the towns pride and centre
of social life. Its prestige was clearly reflected in the status
of the residential buildings, with a marked social gradient with increasing distance from the central square. This
socio-economic differentiation resulted in a core-periphery
gradient and a concentric spatial arrangement of different
social districts around the plaza mayor. Around the plaza
lived the elite, initially conquistadores and their descendants, representatives of the Spanish Crown, the bishop and
other high-ranking clergy, and influential large landowners
and key merchants. In the immediate vicinity of this inner
ring were the residential districts of other upper-class people, but they enjoyed a somewhat lower prestige than those
residents directly facing the plaza. At some distance from
this city centre extended the barrios of the middle class,
composed of lower-ranking officials, traders, craftsmen,
etc. Often this section of the town was also the location
of important market halls and street markets. The poorer
white, mestizo and indigenous populations settled in the
peripheral belt of the compact colonial towns. While the
differentiation of the urban society found its spatial expression in the described ring-like pattern, the physical layout of
the original colonial towns adhered to the Iberian tradition
of rectangular housing blocks and a regular grid pattern of
streets (see separate box).
In the wake of the independence movements in Andean
countries in the 19th century and also during the 20th century, the original socio-spatial scheme of the larger urban
settlements underwent some modifications. This was the
result of a major in-migration of rural people (Gans 1992;
Bhr and Mertins 1995: 47) and in the capital cities also of
a significant European immigration. The influx of generally
poor rural people led to pronounced urban sprawl, often in
the form of unplanned and irregularly built peripheral districts. European settlers, many of them quickly climbing
the economic ladder, brought with them the taste for new
European concepts of urban design and embellishments,
for instance manifested in Central European-style villas
and grand boulevards, called alamedas, prados, or paseos
(Fig. 6.40). In this period, the concentric socio-economic
structure of the cities was supplemented or superseded by
a linear principle in the form of distinct growth axes, especially for commercial and industrial enterprises, a sector
arrangement of urban functions and socially distinct residential wedges, as well as by dispersed and diversified residential, commercial and industrial nuclei at the outskirts of
cities. In the 1920s and 1930s the industrialization process
of Andean countries received a major impetus from the


Fig.6.40Tree-lined boulevard, flanked by elegant villas in Santiago

de Chile

Fig.6.41Social housing project in Valdivia, Chile

policies of import substitution and an inward-oriented economic development.

These developments entailed a further polarization
between the rich and the poor city, and a spatial and socioeconomic fragmentation of the urban space. The residential
districts of the affluent population in some inner-city pockets, but increasingly in new suburban or exurban detached
houses or gated communities, led to the development of
fragmented and contested urban landscapes. The heart of

6 Rural and Urban Settlements

the cities was no longer an exclusive domain of the rich

and influential people. In many cases, the casco colonial
was affected by a process of physical and social blight.
Some parts became commercial and residential areas of
lower social classes who by a housing downfiltering process lived in compact inner-city slums (conventillos, tugurios, callejones). Because of the decay of some historic
centres in a number of metropolitan centres, for example
in Quito and Lima, new modern business districts and
apartment blocks developed outside the old colonial centre, giving these cities a dual character. The majority of the
urban poor today live either in less desirable parts of the
city, for example near polluted rivers, waste disposal sites,
or unclean industries, or they settle in sprawling peripheral
squatter settlements and shantytowns. Despite some efforts
by civic authorities to implement projects of social hvousing (Fig.6.41), the massive demand for affordable housing far exceeds the supply. Consequently, illegal land and
house occupations and illegal or semi-legal subdivisions of
plots, carried out by individuals or groups of people, have
become a major feature on the peripheries of large urban
These developments reflect a characteristic trait of the
Latin-American city, the pronounced horizontal and vertical
mobility of the population. The horizontal mobility occurs
in the form of rural-urban migration, for instance by a move
into degraded inner-city dwellings, often on a rental basis,
and from there either into social housing complexes or to
peripheral shanties where the people hope to acquire their
own home and land. In both cases this can be regarded as
forms of an upward social mobility. However, reverse
trends of downward social mobility can also be observed
resulting from a further pauperization of people (Bhr
Major new features in the larger cities making their
appearance since the 1970s are the shopping centres and
later large US-style malls (Fig.6.42). Unlike in North
America and Europe, these new retail complexes were initially geared only to urban middle and upper classes and
many continue to appeal to the more affluent segments of
the urban society. But more recently, as pointed out above
for Lima, a number of these outlets have made their appearance in poorer parts of the city, along major traffic arteries
and sometimes even in proximity to shantytowns attracting
less affluent consumers. These urban retailing trends, while
being welcomed by many urban residents, tend to erode the
traditional commercial structure of small shops and street
markets. In any case, the shopping centres and malls have
become important urban landmarks and new focal components of the citys structure. Other important new features
of the urban landscape are bus terminals, airports, hotel
complexes and recreation and entertainment centres.


6.3 Urban Development

The Andean Colonial City: Foundation and Land Arrangement

The general considerations of the Spanish in selecting the locations for their first cities in the Andes are a reflection
of their mission goals. They arrived as conquerors and fighters for the Christian faith, and founded their cities as centres of military, political and ecclesiastical power, on purpose at the sites of previous foci of indigenous domains and
empires. In this vein, Caracas, Bogot, Quito, Cusco and La Paz were erected at locations of earlier settlements.
Political motives were at the root of the eminent role of cities in classical antiquity and this continued in the tradition of Iberian cities and also in the layout and structure of Latin-American towns. The audiencias, the high courts
and administrative centres, following the medieval-Spanish tradition, became the foci of the colonial possessions and
later of the independent states. They were located in the interior of the colonial territories or at the coast and had the
prime function of effectively connecting the newly founded cities with Spain.
All planned foundations of cities were deliberated and decided in an assembly and were then approved in a solemn ceremony. The conquistador dismounted from his horse, pulled out a few plants from the ground and took the
land into possession for the Spanish king. He then walked around a square which was supposed to become the centre
of the settlement. He marked the corners of this square with twigs or poles, proclaimed the foundation decree and
dedicated the new town to the Spanish Crown. He then drew his sword and asked any potential opponent to this act
to enter into a duel with him. In the absence of any objection, a notary officially confirmed the foundation of the new
town. The laying of a foundation stone for the church at the central square concluded the ceremony.








IIV quintas
AD chacras
ad plots

G gobierno (government building)
E escuela (school)
Ca catedral (cathedral)


P polica (police authority)

M municipalidad or cabildo
(town hall)



Co convento (monastery)
T tribunal (court)

Model of an original Spanish colonial town

Map on the left: urban layout composed of the city blocks of cuadras, solares, quintas and chacras
Map on the right: centre of a Spanish colonial town at an advanced stage (at a scale three times that of the map on the left)
Source Wilhelmy and Borsdorf 1984: 58, translated by the authors

The first settlement foundations were implemented without any concrete direction from the Spanish Crown for the
layout of the towns. Nevertheless, they adhered from the beginning to the principle of a rectangular street pattern as
can be seen in the oldest colonial town in the Andes, Santa Marta in Colombia.
The city blocks (cuadras) surrounding the central square were originally reserved for a Spanish family. Later each
of these large blocks was subdivided into four plots (solares). The land destined to be taken up by the buildings of
the town was surrounded by communal land (ejidos) to be used as pastures or gardens (quintas). These lands also
served as a reserve for a potential expansion of the settlements as soon as the older solares were built up. Outside the
ejidos extended the chacrasfour times as large as the ejidoswhere indigenous people cultivated the land to supply the urban landowners with agricultural products.


Fig.6.42Mall La Florida in Santiago de Chile Models of Urban Development

Since the 1970s many models have been developed to generalize the structure of Latin-American cities (Bhr 1976;
Borsdorf 1976, 1982; Mertins 1980; Griffin and Ford
1980; Gormsen 1981). Bhr, Mertins and Borsdorf emphasized the socio-spatial characteristics of the urban structure, taking into account the mobility and migration trends.
Gormsen (1981, 1990b) and Borsdorf (1982) included a
time frame in their modelling, showing the changes of the
city structure from colonial times to the present. Gormsen
(1990b) presented a four-stage, three-dimensional model
of urban structure and development with a height profile of
urban buildings and their functional attributes (Fig.6.43).
He also included in his model curves depicting the gradients of land values, population densities and the social status of the residents. Modified or improved city models were
proposed by Bhr and Mertins (1981, 1992), Deler (1989),
Gilbert (1994), Crowley (1995, 1998), Ford (1996) and
Barros (2004). Meanwhile the structure of Latin-American
cities has undergone further major transformations. This
was the result of the exogenous influence of globalization
and new socio-economic impacts but also new endogenous
The general trend for these developments is the emergence of new processes and patterns of socio-economic
segregation and a functional fragmentation within the
larger cities. Whereas in the past the district of the wealthy
population (ciudad rica) was clearly separated from the
quarters of the poor (ciudad pobre), today some elegant
districts and high-class enclaves of the affluent may be
found in close proximity to shantytowns. Similar processes of a small-scale spatial fragmentation of the urban
fabric may be observed in the location and distribution of

6 Rural and Urban Settlements

commercial functions and of urban infrastructures and services. Previously modern shopping centres were primarily
constructed in the vicinity of upper-class residential areas
and by and large attracted affluent customers. Some of these
malls were built on open land at the periphery of the cities
and subsequently encouraged the development of new, highprestige residential quarters (Bhr and Mertins 1995: 107).
Today this pattern is only partially valid. Shopping centres
appear no longer closely and exclusively tied to the location
of upper-class districts, as the example of Lima shows.
For quite some time these structural and spatial changes
in the Latin-American cities were not adequately reflected
in the urban models. This changed at the turn of the millennium, when the intensification of small-scale segregation and fragmentation in the cities received greater
attention. Meyer and Bhr (2001) presented a model of
the social structure of Santiago de Chile; Borsdorf, Bhr
and Janoschka (2002) proposed a new generalized model
of the structural development of Latin-American cities in
four stages from 1500 to the present (Fig.6.44). The model
highlights the principal spatial structural elements for each
phase. The initial phase, the colonial era, was characterized
by a compact city and a marked core-periphery gradient
with a concentric spatial pattern of distinct social classes. In
phase two, the first phase of urban growth (18201920), the
city expanded mainly in a linear fashion along some growth
axes. The major traffic arteries started to develop into commercial and industrial ribbons and the attractive boulevards
became a preferred residential choice for the urban upper
class. In this way sector arrangements of residential areas
and other urban functions made their appearance and to a
certain degree overlaid the original concentric pattern. In
the decades after the 1920s, the massive rural-urban migration resulted in an urban population explosion and in a
massive spatial expansion of the major cities. This third
stage of urban development was labelled by the authors
the second phase of urban growth. The linear arrangement
of urban functions was further strengthened within the different sectors of residential and non-residential districts
expanding outwards from the city core. In addition a number of urban nuclei, initially still non-contiguous, sprang
up at the periphery of the urban area. These urban cells,
many of them marginal settlements, but also different commercial, industrial and transport-related nuclei changed the
formerly compact character of the city and reinforced the
socio-economic polarization trend within the urban area.
During the last 50years, in phase four, the city has become
an increasingly large and complex urban settlement. This
stage of spatial, functional and socio-economic fragmentation is blending new structural elements with previous
traits. Particularly evident is the trend of urban in-filling
of the spaces between the former growth axes, the massive development of motorized transport routes and newly
emerging cells of marginal settlements, gated communities


6.3 Urban Development

Colonial period
pre-industrial stage
(to around 1900)





Early modernization
(c. 19001950)

summer residences



workers suburb

(since c. 1950)


subordinate centre





mixed zone

social housing

industrial area

(1980 ?)


high-rise apartment
and office buildings

residential area
apartment buildings
detached houses
marginal quarter



business district
industrial area
CBD central business district


land prices
social status
population density

Fig.6.43Four-stage development model of a Latin-American city (Source Gormsen 1990b, modified and updated)

(barrios cerrados), subsidized housing districts, airports, bus

terminals, shopping centres, industrial or business parks, or
entertainment complexes.
The barrios cerrados tend to be established as condominiums (condominios). Within this legal framework, a
landlord is the sole owner of the entire residential block,
transferring some ownership and/or leasing rights of individual plots to the residents of the housing unit. This allows

the proprietors of the land to plan and lay out the barrios
according to their concepts, for example to surround them
by protective hedges or walls. The barrios cerrados are globally observed forms of voluntary elite segregation (refer to
the segregation theories, Borsdorf 2000), with the principal
pull factors being a perceived greater security, the wish to
live together with people of a similar high status and the
aspiration to pursue a quiet and exclusive lifestyle. Push


6 Rural and Urban Settlements




1970 to today


early urbanization

second urbanization


city and city expansion

mixed zone
upper class
middle class
lower class
traditional industrial quarter
new industrial quarter

central marginal quarter

peripheral marginal quarter
consolidated former marginal quarter
social housing quarter
urban barrio cerrado
suburban barrio cerrado

large-scale barrio cerrado with

integrated infrastructure (only in few
agglomerations to date)
mall, business park, urban
entertainment centre
major transport routes, urban motorway

Fig.6.44Model of the development of a Latin-American metropolis, 1500-present (Source Borsdorf etal. 2002)

Fig.6.45Closed road in Valparaso, Chile

forces could be a growing feeling of insecurity, the fear of

criminal acts, noisy and polluted inner city environments,
the proximity to the districts of lower social classes and in

some cases also insecure land titles. Today barrios cerrados

exist inside the city proper as more densely built residential
districts of apartments, terraced houses or detached homes,
generally surrounded by walls or fences with controlled
access. In some cases, former roads have been incorporated
into these gated communities and have been closed off to
the general urban traffic (Fig.6.45). The peripheral barrios
cerrados tend to be larger and less densely settled, the plots
are generally bigger, there are more generous green spaces
and they are better equipped with recreation and sports
facilities, in some cases even with high-class commercial
services. Recently, larger and sophisticated multi-functional
new towns (ciudades valladas) have emerged in Santiago de
Chile. Figure6.46 illustrates the attractive layout and functional mix of this new form of urbanity.
These new developments notwithstanding, the cityscape tends to retain the two structural principles of a
linear-sectoral and a poly-nuclear spatial growth, albeit in a
modified form. Railway lines as major stimuli for a development of urban axes in the 19th century have lost their
importance to principal arterial roads and highways, many
of them modernized and enlarged in the 20th century. In


6.3 Urban Development

Fig.6.46Physical and
functional layout of the ciudad
vallada Piedra Roja, north of
Santiago de Chile (Source Korby


districts (open-plan
service facilities


EI Sendero

education facilities
future development
last development


urban fringe

Los Candiles

Los Fuente

green areas
bodies of water
other areas



El Refugio
Poloclub de
Las PiedraShopping
San Jos
Bandacenter Los
Las Flores

other road
de Chile

yacht club
equestrian centre
golf club

German grammar Hacienda

school Verbo Divino Chicureo

de Chile

emergency centre


1000 1500 m

Ciudad Vallada Piedra Roja

addition, orbital routes have accelerated the intra-urban

traffic, also facilitating the extension of existing or new
urban growth axes. In this way, suburban and peri-urban
areas were substantially enlarged, rendering them also
attractive as residential districts for the urban middle and
upper classes (Meyer and Bhr 2001: 313). In Chile the
government passed a law in 1980 (Decreto con Fuerza
del Ley 3516) stipulating a minimum size of 5,000m2 for
agricultural plots. While this was intended to protect the
agricultural land, realtors and developers soon discovered
this as a new business opportunity. They purchased large
pieces of land on the urban periphery, subdividing them
into 5,000m2 plots. These parcelas de agrado were then
sold to affluent customers who speculated that this terrain
would eventually be rezoned as residential land and could
be further subdivided. Figure6.47 illustrates this scenario
in the Maipu district of Santiago de Chile. In this case, the
buyers became genuine owners of the land, but the appearance of these developments resembled that of the condominios; Borsdorf and Hidalgo (2007) called them de facto
These processes and developments reflect the dynamic
changes, modifications and multiple overlays within the
cityscape. It is also a physical expression of the progressive
fragmentation of the built-up areas, of urban functions and

Fig.6.47Parcelas de agrado in Maipu, Santiago de Chile

socio-economic districts. This is also evident in the spatial

allocation tendencies of specific functional units, especially
on the outskirts of the cities. Despite some efforts to revitalize the inner-city districts by various forms of upgrading, gentrification and innovation (for example the creation
of pedestrian zones and modern shopping galleries), the


retail sector of the core city in most metropolitan areas can

no longer compete with the attractive force of suburban and
exurban shopping centres, their easy accessibility by car
and ample free parking. This appeal of the outlying malls
is frequently further enhanced by the proximity to new recreational and entertainment facilities. The centrifugal trend
of specifically urban activities to the periphery includes the
market and industrial functions. Traditional inner-city markets and industries can no longer cope with the scarcity of
available space and with congestion. Consequently they have
been moved to the periphery in the form of large integrated
market halls and well-planned business and industrial parks.
Todays marginal settlements are highly differentiated
and represent another physical and socio-economic component of the urban fragmentation process. Many of the older
shantytowns have become consolidated, the huts more solidly built and often enlarged and upgraded. Most of them
are also linked to urban public and private transport systems, they tend to have access to electricity and in some
cases to urban water and sewage facilities. Some of these
improvements have been provided by government authorities, but many also by the initiatives of the barrio residents.
In many cities, inner-city shanties continue to exist in the
form of blighted old residences or pockets of often illegal
occupation of vacant land. Urban authorities have tried to
eliminate these homes, with rather limited success or with
considerable resistance from the occupants of these housing units. At the outskirts of the metropolitan centres, new
and rather rudimentary shantytowns still spring up, often on
vacant undesirable land, for example on steep terrain, near
polluted rivers, adjacent to highways or large waste disposal
sites. These new shanties are often devoid of most urban
services and the residents are forced to purchase water and
other amenities from private entrepreneurs.

6.3.3 Modelling Fragmented Spatial

In his theory of fragmented development, Scholz (2002) presented a model of uneven and fragmented global economic
spaces. This model was based on the assumption that globalization is the principal trigger for the intensifying divergence
and fragmentation of economic spheres. Major drivers of this
development are the neoliberal maxims of unlimited competition, excessive monetization, privatization, deregulation and
free trade. Globalization also greatly weakened the power and
influence of individual states and reduced the barrier effect
of political boundaries (Borsdorf 2000). As a reaction to this,
various expressions of regionalism tended to gain in importance as a counter-movement to homogenizing global trends.
While in theory globalization promised even chances of
development, in practice it often resulted in disparate and

6 Rural and Urban Settlements

hierarchically structured economic spaces. In the Scholz

model, the highest level is occupied by the global players and
the principal action and decision arenas of transnational companies, of technological innovation centres, leading financial
capitals and principal industrial zones of global importance
and influence. The second hierarchical level holds the globalized actors and spaces. These are outsourcing industrial
districts with mass production of goods for a global market,
principal agricultural and mining regions with a worldwide
market position for their products, some service centres with
a global reach and also major international tourist destinations. The New Periphery represents the lowest hierarchical level of the globalization system. In terms of its spatial
dimension and population numbers, it is the largest sphere
but also the poorest and least influential one. The described
global system is not static but highly flexible and dynamic,
giving some regions and players the opportunity for upward
social mobility while threatening others with decline.
By most criteria, no centre of the highest hierarchical
level can be identified within the Andean region. But the
major metropolitan areas of Santiago de Chile, Bogot,
Medelln, Lima, Caracas and possibly Quito can be counted
among the globalized urban spaces. Among the globalized
rural regions, one can single out the agricultural, exportoriented core regions of the coastal lowland regions, the
Sabana de Bogot with its cut flower production, the
Central Valley of Chile and the foothill zone of Argentina
with their wines of world reputation, and the coca plantations along the foot of the eastern cordilleras of Peru and
Bolivia. In addition, the major destinations of tourism, for
example a few selected places on the Caribbean and Pacific
coast, some spectacular mountain sites (e.g. the Ruta de
Volcanes in Ecuador, the Cordillera Blanca or the spectacular peaks and glaciers of Patagonia), the historical-cultural
gems of the Andes, especially the UNESCO World Heritage
sites, can be considered globalized economic spaces.
The model of Scholz is not solely applicable on a global
scale. It can also be used to portray divergent and fragmented economic spheres at the level of hemispheres, countries, regions and even individual large cities. In Fig.6.48
the model has been applied to metropolitan areas, contrasting specific residential and commercial cells of highly globalized development with the New Periphery of marginal
settlements. This model was then adapted to the situation
of Santiago de Chile (Borsdorf and Hidalgo 2009). In the
central parts of the city, Borsdorf and Hidalgo single out
the nuclei of the CBD and other commercial centres, industrial complexes, residential barrios cerrados and inner-city
shanties. The two authors moreover distinguish a suburban
space and a wider urban periphery with distinct nuclei, for
example clusters of social housing, ciudades valladas, and
amenity migration destinations. The case of Santiago de
Chile will be discussed in greater detail in Sect. 6.3.4.


6.3 Urban Development

Fig.6.48Models of
fragmented urban spatial
development. Top:
fragmented urban nuclei
(adapted from Scholz
2002). Bottom: fragmented
urban nuclei in Santiago de
Chile (Source Borsdorf and
Hidalgo 2009)

Fragments (after Scholz 2002):







new periphery
V marginal quarters

central area
suburban space
periurban space

Fragments in Santiago
(Borsdorf / Hidalgo 2009):



barrios cerrados
office towers and clusters
entertainment centres, malls, clubs












barrios cerrados
office towers and clusters
entertainment centres, malls, clubs
marginal quarters
new towns (ciudades valladas)
amenity migration destinations
social housing


6.3.4 The Urban Structure of Santiago de Chile Socio-Spatial Segregation Patterns on
Different Scales
In his book Sabatini (1998) has examined the socio-spatial
segregation in Santiago de Chile on different scales. On the
large urban scale the author contrasts the rich and the poor
city, on a smaller scale the segregation of specific residential barrios. In 2007 Borsdorf and Hidalgo further investigated the multi-dimensional aspect of segregation on the
macro-, meso- and micro-scales. On the macro-scale, in
adherence to Sabatini, they distinguish the rich city from
the poor city. At the meso-scale, they refer in particular to
the barrios cerrados and the new cities on the metropolitan
fringe. Micro-scale expressions of urban segregation are for
example individual socially rather homogenous city blocks
(manzanas), terraced houses of social housing programmes,
elegant bungalow-style residences, high-rise apartment
buildings, so-called vertical condominios (Fig.6.49). These
expensive condominios have seen a major expansion in
recent decades, replacing some older central districts of the
city, emerging especially at locations of attractive physical
attributes or high social prestige (Plger 2006).
Particularly visible is the social segregation in the case of
the upper class in the form of elaborate protection and security measures and devices, among them access control by
security guards or electronic systems, CCTV surveillance,
walls and fences and other controls. These security systems
have made it acceptable for the affluent residents to reside
in spatial proximity to lower-class residential districts while
maintaining the social segregation of the urban dwellers

Fig. 6.49Vertical condominio in the form of high rise apartment

buildings in the Maipu district of Santiago de Chile


(Galleguillos Araya-Schbelin 2007). The proximity of elite

housing units to poorer barrios also allows the affluent people
to easily recruit people from the marginal areas for domestic
services. These observations prove that the former contrast
between a rich and a poor city, while to a certain degree still
evident, has been replaced by a more differentiated, smallerscale pattern of socially distinct residential and commercial
cells. Both the secluded dwelling units of the upper class and
the marginal settlements tend to be dispersed over the entire
metropolitan area (Borsdorf and Hidalgo 2008b). Polycentric Urban Structures

For Bhr and Mertins (1995) the modern shopping centres and malls were generally found in close proximity to
high-class residential districts and may even have acted as
decisive drivers for their development. A good ten years
later, Borsdorf and Hidalgo (2008b) have demonstrated for
Santiago de Chile that the malls as multi-functional shopping and entertainment centres are now distributed across
most of the metropolitan area.
A further feature contributing to the functional fragmentation of the urban space are the new business complexes
(ciudades empresariales) and industrial parks (parques

6 Rural and Urban Settlements

industriales). Whereas previously the commercial and

industrial functions were concentrated in a linear form
along the principal transport arteries of railway lines and
trunk roads, new large commercial and industrial complexes
have emerged in a dispersed fashion, by and large on the
urban periphery and often near new urban freeways and
their intersections (Bhr and Borsdorf 2005).
Similar spatial trends can be observed for the urban service sector. In Santiago de Chile the older exclusive residential districts in the centre have become functionally and
spatially mixed with high-rise office buildings, triggering a
new speculative real estate boom and a dramatic rise in land
prices. This further accelerated the conversion of residential
areas to commercial use. On the outskirts of the metropolitan area, additional fragmented cells comprise the campuses
of newly founded private universities, recreational and
sports facilities and entertainment complexes (Fig.6.50). Social Housing

Social housing has a long tradition in Chile (NickelGemmecke 1991). Some of the inner-city residential districts,
locally called conventillos and cits (Fig.6.51), were basically
social housing projects, some even designed by well-known

> 5000 m retail space
Municipal boundary
Municipality of Santiago (centre)
Metropolitan Area of Santiago

8 km

Borsdorf / Hidalgo 2009

Fig.6.50Fragmented urban development and new functional nuclei in metropolitan Santiago de Chile (Source Borsdorf and Hidalgo 2009)


6.3 Urban Development

architects like the Austrian Karl Heinrich Brunner (Wilhelmy

and Borsdorf 1985; Hofer 2003; Fig.6.52). In the 1950s the
national Corporacin de la Vivienda (CORVI), following the
Brazilian example, was founded with an explicit mandate for
social housing programmes. Since that time residential districts for the lower classes were systematically established on
the urban periphery (Hidalgo 2005a).
During the presidency of Salvador de Allende (19701973)
the principle of establishing planned social housing projects
was temporarily neglected. In this period illegal land invasions
tended to be tolerated and emergency camps (campamentos de
emergencia) of simple wooden shacks (mediaguas) were built
on unoccupied land (Borsdorf 1980). This brief episode came
to an abrupt end under the subsequent military regime. Almost
all the illegal shantytowns (callampas) and campamentos de
emergencia were abolished and their residents resettled in new
social housing units (Galleguillos Araya-Schbelin 2007).
Some of these were located near their former residential areas,
but most of the newer projects were established once again on
the urban periphery, as the value of this land was significantly
lower than that of inner-city districts.
Exceptions to this tendency of peripheral social housing
were the elegant residential areas of the so-called barrios
altos which remained free of social housing units. But overall, social housing became an important component of the
progressive residential suburbanization process of Santiago
de Chile (Fig.6.53). New districts were built at ever
increasing distances from the city centre, at times in distant
non-contiguous locations and sometimes even on ecologically vulnerable sites. Since 1990 more than twice as many
social dwellings have been constructed outside the metropolitan area of Santiago than in the period between 1978
and 1989, and the proportion of peripheral communities has
increased from 8.3% in the period 19781983 to 19.5%
in the period 19962002 (Borsdorf and Hidalgo 2008b).
In the neo-liberal era since the end of the military regime,

however, social housing programmes have lost some of

their former importance (Castillo and Hidalgo 2007).
Social housing in Santiago de Chile, in addition to the
urban transport infrastructure and public services, is the only
domain today where the government has a direct influence
on shaping the spatial urban structure. Overall, the private
sector and neo-liberal economic maxims are largely responsible for the new forms of isolation, exclusion and fragmentation of the urban space, a trend which Bragos and Gamba
(2012: 4) call the archipelagoization of urban space. New Forms of Suburbanization

As is the case in many Latin-American metropolises, the
population growth of Santiago de Chile has considerably
slowed down in recent decades (Borsdorf 2004a). While

a E

Pedestrian walkway
and communal yard
Washing area,
open cooking area,
living room

Private yard

16 m

Ave n i d a d e l a s D e l i c i a s ( A l a m e d

Shop with apartment


Fig.6.52Cit in Santiago de
Chile designed by Karl Heinrich

Fig.6.51Gentrified former cit in Santiago de Chile


6 Rural and Urban Settlements

Since the 1990s new agglomerations have appeared primarily at the northern and western fringe of the metropolitan area. Here a substantial number of the new residents
concentrate in ciudades valladas with an average population
size between 50,000 and 100,000 inhabitants. Figure6.54
portrays the urban layout of a part of the district called
Hacienda de Larapinta of the ciudad vallada of La Lampa.

Fig.6.53Social housing in Santiago

Fig.6.54Hacienda Urbana de Larapinta, part of the commune of Lampa

on the periphery of Santiago de Chile

Chiles population grew by 12.8% between 1992 and 2002,

Santiago de Chiles increased by a mere 8.6% in the same
period. Nevertheless the spatial expansion of the city continued unabated. During the last decade, the urban area of
Santiago de Chile grew twice as fast as its population. This
increase in built-up area was concentrated in the peri-urban
communities with a substantial growth in population
numbers. For example, Lampa and Collina grew by 60.2
and 47.1% respectively. In contrast, almost all central city
communities lost residents. Gentrification
The preservation of the architectural heritage of a number
of historical city centres received a major boost with their
designation as UNESCO World Heritage sites. While this
had not entailed a major spatial change in the overall socioeconomic pattern of the cities, it was often an impetus for
gentrification, physical upgrading of buildings and blocks,
an influx of younger and more affluent population segments and the emergence of more sophisticated commercial
Urban revitalization projects in the centre of Santiago
de Chile were rooted in the legislation of the year 1987 and
in government funding (Subsidio de Renovacin Urbana,
SRU) in 1991 (Bertrand, Figuera and Larran 1991).
Between 1991 and 2005, an amazing 20,000 applications
in 17 communes within the Metropolitan Area of Santiago
de Chile were approved; 7,500 of them in the Comuna
Santiago alone (Arriagada etal. 2007). The subsidies were
administered by the Corporacin de Desarrollo de Santiago
(CORDESAN) which also promoted the revitalization projects by pro-active marketing efforts (Contreras 2009).
These government-sponsored revitalization programmes
notwithstanding, the projects of private enterprises make up
a much more important component of modern urban building
initiatives, both in the residential and the commercial sectors. This development is not unproblematic as, for instance,
the regulations for building heights or minimum quality and
safety standards are often very lax or not adequately controlled. In order to maximize the economic return, high-rise
buildings may be erected on very small plots. Concepts and
principles of aesthetic, historical or cultural considerations
are frequently ignored or neglected. The earthquake of 2010
would have provided the opportunity for a well-planned and
regulated rebuilding process in the centre of Santiago de
Chile where some 100 buildings were severely damaged, but
this opportunity was also largely missed.
However, the gentrification of the urban core received
significant impulses from the construction of an integrated
mall and a new multi-ethnic flair in the form of Peruvian
restaurants and shops. This physical and economic upgrading of the city centre appealed especially to a young and
sophisticated clientele. In a more indirect fashion, the creation of new private universities has also contributed to the
gentrification of nearby districts. While the universities
are distributed throughout the metropolitan area, they do


6.3 Urban Development

Fig.6.55University locations in the city centre (left) and in the metropolitan area (right) of Santiago de Chile

have a focus in the inner parts of the city and stimulate the
functional upgrading of these districts (Fig.6.55). In some
cases, the large, elegant mansions of the former elite in
the centre of the city were converted to administrative university functions, and other buildings in the core became
favourite housing units for students, and also commercial
outlets appealing to this clientele (Fig.6.56).
In sum, the combination of central location, revitalization of the city centre, proximity to universities and diversified upmarket commercial outlets and cultural facilities
have given the centre of Santiago de Chile a new appeal and

6.4 Medium-Sized Cities in the Andes

Unlike in Europe, where urban places with a population
between 20,000 to 100,000 tend to be classified as mediumsized cities, that category of city in the Andean space may
have up to 400,000 inhabitants (Blitzer etal. 1988), outside the Andean region even many more (Rondinelli 1983).
Medium-sized cities are also called secondary cities, intermediate urban centres, mid-level cities or regional urban
centres. In the Spanish terminology, the terms ciudad mediana, ciudad intermedia or ciudad regional are common.
Apart from the population size, Mertins (2000) lists the following functional characteristics of a mid-level city: regional
capitals with a second-tier administrative function; regional
economic centres with a substantial service area; alternative

Fig.6.56Gentrified Barrio Brasil, Santiago de Chile

growth hubs; urban places with a specific function contributing to their population growth; transportation nodes
of regional or national importance. In many countries the
medium-sized cities are considered viable alternatives to the
molochs of the metropolises with their problems.
In Latin America since the 1980s, medium-sized cities
have often experienced proportionally higher growth rates
than the metropolitan centres. This was the result of their


real or perceived greater attractiveness, national decentralization policies, alternative industrial locations, more
dynamic economic hinterlands and much improved accessibility and regional transport infrastructures. Mertins (2000)
has also pointed out that medium-sized cities may be characterized by less extreme social disparities and fewer and
less impoverished shantytowns, and by much better health,
education, cultural, recreational and commercial infrastructures than in previous decades. Many observers and residents also point out safer living conditions and a superior
Fig.6.57Urban sustainability:
basic conditions, objectives and
strategies (Source Stadel 2000,
translated from Spanish and

Fig.6.58Temporal and
spatial dimensions of urban
sustainability (Source Stadel
2000, adapted from Coy, and
translated from Spanish by the

6 Rural and Urban Settlements

urban ecology with less pollution and congestion than in the

metropolitan areas.
Stadel (2000) has presented a summary on the role,
opportunities and limitations of medium-sized cities in the
Andean region. Taking into account the five dimensions
of sustainability,the environmental, cultural, economic,
social and political componentshe discussed the basic preconditions of urban sustainability, its major objectives and
a number of specific implementation strategies (Fig.6.57).
Furthermore, with the aid of a conceptual model (Fig.6.58),


6.4 Medium-Sized Cities in the Andes

he outlined the temporal and spatial dimensions of the sustainability parameters of medium-sized cities and their relevance for the natural environment, the economy and the
quality of life (buen vivir) of individuals and society.

6.4.1 Medium-Sized Cities in Peru and Ecuador

Policies of import substitution and economic decentralization in the 1960s and 1970s have greatly stimulated the
development of regional growth poles in Peru. As a result,
the population of the medium-sized cities has grown substantially in recent decades (Table6.2). The industrial
coastal boom town of Chimbote (cf. Caviedes 1975), for
example, grew to almost six times its population between
1961 (59,990 residents) and 2007 (334,568 residents).
Crdova (2000: 225239) has portrayed the different
aspects of the Andean city of Cajamarca (2007: 162,326).
Factors of strength in its urban development were the
favourable location and the ensuing important role as a
central place, plus low levels of social disparity and spatial
segregation. Problematic were, however, the infrastructural
deficits of the historic centre and the large spatial expansion
of the city into its fertile agricultural hinterland.
Haller and Borsdorf (2012) have examined the development and structure of Huancayo (population in 2007:
323,054; Fig.6.59), located in the inner-Andean Mantaro
Valley. Here too, population growth and urban spatial expansion occurred mainly in the peripheral areas of the city.
Whereas the inner city population grew rather modestly
between 1981 and 1993 by around 1% per year, the communities at the periphery of Huancayo experienced population
increases of 57% between 1981 and 1993, and even 12.4%
between 1993 and 2007. Huancayos functional strength
relies on a strong commercial and manufacturing basis with
dynamic entrepreneurs but possibly even more on its role
as a principal regional administrative and educational service centre. Contrary to the observations of Mertins (2000),
Huancayo presents a marked socio-spatial segregation. The

Fig.6.59Huancayo, Peru

rapid development of the city has also resulted in grave environmental problems, especially a latent water contamination.
In Ecuador, the development of medium-sized cities follows a differentiated pattern (Table6.3). On the one
hand, the dynamic economic development of the coastal
region has stimulated the population growth of Guayaquil
and the medium-sized cities of Santo Domingo, Machala
and Puertoviejo, and to a lesser degree in flood-prone
Babahoyo. On the other hand, the demographic development of the highland basin cities of Loja, Ibarra and
Riobamba has been less spectacular, although Cuenca and
Ambato grew quite dynamically.
Schenck (1997) has presented a detailed urban study of
Cuenca. The colonial city was founded in 1557 on the site
of the old Inca town of Tomebamba. Until the mid-18th century, Cuenca was an important centre of the textile industry, especially for the production of flannel. But economic
crises and natural disasters had severe negative impacts on
the city. In 1825, shortly after the proclamation of Ecuadors
independence, Cuenca counted just 11,000 residents but

Table6.2Population development of medium-sized cities in Peru, 18762007







Source Crdova (2000), Fischer Weltalmanach (2013) and Der neue Fischer Weltalmanach (2013, (2014))




6 Rural and Urban Settlements

Table6.3Population development of medium-sized cities in Ecuador, 19502010

Santo Domingo










Source Hidalgo Aguilera (2000), Fischer Weltalmanach (2014)

Cuenca is an attractive and successful multi-functional

city.It is a major regional market place, a lively commercial
and cultural centre, a transport hub for southern Ecuador,
and a city with a great tourist appeal. In 1999 the large historic centre of Cuenca was designated a UNESCO World
Heritage Site.

6.4.2 Medium-Sized Cities in Chile

Fig.6.60Historic centre of Cuenca, Ecuador

was still the second-largest city of the new nation. A consequence of the rather modest economic development is the
well-preserved historic centre (Fig.6.60), today one of the
major attractions of Cuenca. In the second half of the 19th
century, the city acquired some fame for its production of
the so-called Panama hats. In the 1930s the pace of economic development and population growth accelerated. In
the 1950s the distribution of selected categories of trade still
followed a rather traditional spatial pattern, with the persistence of a commercial centre, while specific other activities
located to the more peripheral areas of the city.
With the development of an improved transportation
system, Cuenca was able to become a regional growth hub
and the principal centre of the southern Ecuadorian sierra
region. The city became a magnet for rural in-migrants but
also experienced an out-migration, especially to the United
States. The influx of remittance funds from the emigrants
has contributed to investments in and around Cuenca. Today,

In Chile, as in the other Andean countries, many mediumsized cities now have higher proportional growth rates than
the metropolis of Santiago. This is particularly true of the
northern coastal cities of Antofagasta, Iquique and La
Serena. In the southern part of the country, Puerto Montt
and Temuco have also grown more strongly than the average of Chilean cities. In contrast, the West Patagonian cities
of Punta Arenas and Cohaique have lagged behind in their
population growth (Table6.4).
Borsdorf etal. (2009) have shown that the high rates of
urban growth are related to specific economic specializations, especially when these sectors had linkages with a
global market. In the northern Chilean cities, the urban
development can be primarily attributed to the export of copper; in the central Chilean city of La Serena to that of fruit;
in Puerto Montt to the export of salmon from fish farms. As
a consequence, a number of the medium-sized cities of Chile
have undergone major changes in their urban fabric, with a
growing trend for socio-economic and spatial fragmentation.
As a particularly interesting case, Borsdorf (1976, 2000)
has examined the development and the changing structure
of Valdivia, located in the Sur Chico of Chile. The settlement was founded in 1552 by Pedro de Valdivia in the
basin of the Calle Calle and Cruces rivers, at a distance of
15km from the Pacific coast. During the colonial period,
the citys development was hampered by the fact that it
was only accessed from the ocean, as the land route was
controlled until the 1870s by the rather hostile free territory of Araucania. Valdivia received a major impetus


6.4 Medium-Sized Cities in the Andes

Table6.4Population development of medium-sized Chilean cities, 19822002
Puerto Montt
La Serena
Los Angeles
Punta Arenas
San Antonio
Los Andes
San Felipe




Agglomeration 2002




from immigrating Germans. Karl Anwandter, for example,

whose house on the Isla Teja is now a German immigration museum (Fig.6.61), founded the first brewery in South
In its subsequent development, Valdivia became a principal industrial centre, with the first steel mill in Chile and
wood processing, textile and shoe manufacturing plants, as
well as shipyards, liquor distilleries and the production of
railway rolling stock. In the 20th century, the citys development was hurt by a disastrous fire in 1909, by discriminatory acts against the German population during the First
and Second World Wars, and by a devastating earthquake in
1960 which rendered nearly half of the citys buildings uninhabitable. But the city was able to recover from these setbacks. It became the capital of the newly created Regin de
los Ros, and the city has acquired an excellent educational
and cultural reputation by the Universidad Austral de Chile.
Borsdorf etal. (2009) have demonstrated the importance
of good transport connections for the economic development and population growth of Chilean cities. With the
construction of the new Carretera Panamericana through
the Central Valley of Chile, Valdivia was bypassed by

Fig.6.61Residence of Karl Anwandter, Valdivia, today museum of

German immigration


Fig.6.62Valdivia waterfront, Chile

Fig. 6.63Monument to German immigration, Puerto Montt, Chile.

A Mapuche shows the colonists the way

this modern highway and finds itself today in a somewhat

peripheral location on the transport network. As a result, the
more dynamic centres of Osorno, and even more so Puerto
Montt, have outpaced Valdivia. Nevertheless, the city conveys the image of an attractive and physically appealing
city with a modern flair (Fig.6.62). While in Valdivia, as
in Osorno and Puerto Montt, the socio-economic segregation and its spatial impacts become increasingly noticeable,
the emergence of marginal settlements is less pronounced in
Valdivia than in the other two cities.
Puerto Montt has clearly overtaken Valdivia in economic
terms and, with a population of 218,858 (2012), is the most

6 Rural and Urban Settlements

important centre of the Chico Sur. The city is located at the

southern end of the Central Valley of Chile and the northern
tip of the Reloncav Sound of the Pacific Ocean. Today it
is effectively linked with the central and northern parts of
Chile via the Carretera Panamericana and by regular air services. Puerto Montt is comparatively young. It was founded
in 1853 by German colonists and received its city status in
1861. The Protestant church, the old German school and
an impressive monument honouring German immigration
(Fig.6.63) are important historical landmarks in the city.
Rovira (2000, 2009) has documented the reasons for
the rapid development of Puerto Montt in recent decades, which has resulted in a population increase of 28%
between 1992 and 2002 and of close to 26% between 2002
and 2012. Major stimuli for the growth of Puerto Montt are
its strategic transport location, a modern reconstruction of
its seaport after the 1960 earthquake and its dynamic development. Economically, the expanding export of wood chips
to Japan as a raw material for the pulp and paper industries, and especially the impressive growth of aquacultures
for salmon fisheries (Fig.6.64), have greatly contributed to
the citys success. In the 1990s and the early 2000s, Puerto
Montt became the second largest salmon producer and principal salmon exporter of the world. Every day, fresh salmon
is shipped by plane, frozen salmon by boat, to major global
consumer markets. Another pillar of the regional economy
is the pulp industry, which also employs a large labour
force. But late in the year 2000, the Chilean salmon aquaculture crisis resulted in higher unemployment rates, with a
major negative impact on the city. Other important sectors
of the economy are the growing tourism industry and the
role of Puerto Montt as a regional service centre.
In addition to the potential vulnerability of economic boom
cities that rely heavily on one or two industrial sectors, Puerto
Montt also had to face the effects of an exploding motorized
traffic, such as urban congestion and air pollution. In addition, latent land scarcity, real estate speculation with excessive
price levels for land, housing and office buildings, and a widening socio-economic gap in the urban population represent
major challenges for the city (Haeffner 2005). To counter the
latter trend, the satellite city of Nuevo Alerce was established
at a distance of 7km from Puerto Montt. In 2005, around
10,000 housing units had already been built for lower-class
populations. Also, inner-city shanties of some 2,800 families
were demolished and replaced with new residential quarters.

6.4.3 Argentine Medium-Sized Cities in the

Andean Region and Its Foothills
In Argentina the Andean medium-sized cities are located
in the foothills of the sierra. While no comprehensive geographical portrayal of these urban settlements exist to

6.4 Medium-Sized Cities in the Andes

date, case studies on Mendoza (Schmidt 2002; Peyke and

Schneider 1998), San Miguel de Tucumn (Benedetti 2003;
Mller 1994), Salta (Popp 1996), San Salvador de Jujuy
(Fournier 2002), and Ushuaia (Fras and Maia Gessaga
2010; Wenz 2008; Braumann and Stadel 1999) have been
published. Table6.5 gives a summary of the population
development of the piedmont medium-sized Argentine cities
in the population size range of 50,000300,000 residents.
Most of these intermediate cities experienced a significant population increase during the last three decades,
many of them more than doubling the number of their residents. Particularly spectacular was the growth of Las Heras,
adjacent to the urban area of Mendoza, which witnessed
an increase from some 10,000 people in 1980 to almost
190,000 in 2010. Other boom towns are Ushuaia, located at
the southern tip of Tierra del Fuego, with a fivefold population increase, and the Patagonian seaport of Puerto Madryn,
quadrupling its population between 1980 and 2010. In
contrast, some other cities had more modest growth rates.
The reasons for the uneven development are to be found
in locational attributes and different economic potentials.
Las Heras benefits from its proximity to Mendoza; Puerto
Madryn is an important seaport, industrial centre and tourism foothold; Ushuaia is a booming seaport and commercial hub with a duty-free zone, and a tourism gateway city
for Antarctic cruises; La Rioja is a service centre for the
flourishing agricultural economies of cattle, horticulture and
wine production; San Carlos de Bariloche is a popular destination for summer and winter tourism (Fig.6.65).
In their 1999 paper, Braumann and Stadel asked the question whether Ushuaia can be called a boom town in transition. Considering its dynamic development in recent decades,
the answer is definitely, yes. Within the national territory of


Fig.6.64Salmon farm in the Reloncav sound of Puerto Mott, Chile

Argentina, Ushuaia occupies a peripheral but strategic frontier

position. Located on the Beagle Canal at 55S at the southern tip of Tierra del Fuego, it has been referred to as Ciudad
al Fin del Mundo (Fig.6.66). The city also proudly proclaims
itself as the southernmost city of the world, although the small
Chilean town of Puerto Williams is contesting this, as it is
located marginally further south than Ushuaia. Ushuaia also
marks the southern terminus of the Pan-American Highway,
which also is the Argentine National Route 3.
Ushuaia looks back on a varied history with a number
of distinct phases in its development reflecting the changing

Table6.5Population development of medium-sized Argentine cities

San Salvador de Jujuy
Godoy Cruz
Las Heras
La Rioja
San Juan
San Carlos de Bariloche
Lujn de Cuyo
Puerto Madryn
San Martn (Mendoza)
San Ramn de la Nueva Orn
San Pedro de Jujuy





Fig. 6.65San Carlos de Bariloche with Lake Nahuel Huapi,


political, social, and economic fortunes. The settlement was

first established as an Anglican mission station in 1869 and
was founded as a city in 1884. Located on the border with
Chile, drawn in 1881, it quickly assumed the strategic role
as a stronghold and administrative centre (subprefectura)

6 Rural and Urban Settlements

of the Provincia Tierra del Fuego, Antrtida e Islas del

Atlntico Sur, although the federal government officially
did not recognize Ushuaia as the capital of this province
until 1904. Unlike many boom towns, the initial influx of
settlers into this remote and harsh region was rather slow:
in 1895 the settlement had just 225 residents; it could not
compete with the more successful Chilean Patagonian town
of Punta Arenas.
Ushuaias early history is closely linked to its function
as a prison camp. This role increased the towns population
and provided a valuable labour force. Indeed, the prisoners
could be considered forced colonists, building many of the
timber houses and later also the local railway line, which
today is a major tourist attraction as the Tren al Fin del
Mundo. The prison was closed in 1947, became part of the
naval base and eventually the Museo Martimo de Ushuaia.
In the period after World War I, Ushuaia experienced
a period of stagnation. With the opening of the Panama
Canal, the waterway of the Strait of Magellan and its port
cities declined. From the late 1920s, the Great Depression
ended Argentinas so-called Golden Era. Things changed
again during World War II, when Ushuaia was placed under
direct military control and resumed its role as a strategic
place. The military became the most important employer

Fig.6.66Ushuaia, located at the Beagle Canal and bounded to the north by the Martial mountain range, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina (photograph
by Ilya Haykinson, Wikimedia Commons)


6.4 Medium-Sized Cities in the Andes

and investor in housing and infrastructure, improving transport and communication links with Buenos Aires.
During the 20th century Ushuaia experienced a substantial influx of immigrants from Europe, initially mostly male
settlers, especially from Spain and France. With the growing population the settlement became more urban in function
and appearance. The street system was improved, the harbour
facilities expanded, water and sewage disposal systems were
introduced, some representative public buildings erected and
the town expanded along the seashore and onto the adjacent
hills. In addition, transport links with mainland Argentina
were strengthened. Work on the road to Patagonia and the
Argentinian heartland was started in 1912, but it took until 1960
for the Ruta Nacional 3 to be completed. With the arrival of the
first aeroplane in Ushuaia in 1928, a new era began; regular
flights in and out of the city started in 1935 and today the international airport is a major transport hub of southern Argentina.
In 1956 Tierra del Fuego was declared a duty-free zone
(zona franca), in an attempt to stimulate the regional economy and industrial and commercial growth. In 1972 the
Ley de Promocin provided the legal framework for creating a special free-trade zone (area aduanera especial).
These government incentives led to an industrialization

boom, commercial expansion and unprecedented growth in

population and built-up areas. The tax incentives attracted
not only Argentinian industries, but also international ventures. No longer were the industrial activities limited to processing local resources; a number of footloose industries
included producers of textiles, electrical appliances and
electronics. These industries were established primarily in a
new industrial park in the east of the expanding town.
Other factors enhancing the economic potential were the
discovery of oil on Tierra del Fuego and a growing national
and international tourism. Today Ushuaia has become a
prime destination of national shopping tourism as well as
a major anchorage place for cruise ships in international
tourism and a springboard for excursions to the Antarctic.
To satisfy these demands, many hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops have sprung up alongside various other tourismrelated commercial activities.
While the economic recession in Argentina restricted
the industrial development of Ushuaia somewhat, its
population growth has continued unabated. This has triggered a corollary of land-use problems and social crises.
Particularly serious is the problem of largely unplanned and
uncontrolled residential areas, with an increase in self-built

Fig.6.67Layout of the centre of Ushuaia, Argentina (Source Braumann and Stadel 1999)


shanties (viviendas precarias), and the shortage of adequate

and affordable housing, plus insufficient urban infrastructures. In addition, serious violations of green space laws
and ordinances can be observed. In sum, there is a social
crisis triggered by heavy uncompromising positions of
social groups that support and do not support the irresponsible use of land, (Fras and Maia Gessaga 2010: 16). Fras
and Maya Gessaga call for greater social solidarity and consensus among the residents and other urban stakeholders to
cope with this crisis and to alleviate the housing shortage,
and they recommend raising environmental awareness.

6 Rural and Urban Settlements

In the urban structure, the chessboard layout of the original settlement with housing blocks and streets (Fig.6.67)
has long been broken up by a more irregular, and in some
cases uncoordinated, pattern of residential and commercial districts. By and large, Ushuaia has shed its character
as a pioneer settlement. It has become a city with a modern commercial centre and some fancy residential areas,
especially in attractive hillside locations, but also of poor
marginal zones, once again reflecting a growing socio-economic fragmentation of the urban space.

Economic Structures and Regions

A. Borsdorf and C. Stadel, The Andes, Springer Geography, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-03530-7_7

Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015



Economic Structures and Regions


Smelting works in La Oroya, Peru


7.1 The Economy in a National, Continental

and Global Context
One legacy from colonial times in the Andean states is
the ongoing dependence on agricultural and raw materials
exports. During the period of import-substitution policies
from about 19301980, industries did develop, but they
were mainly oriented on national markets and not competitive on the world market.
The agrarian sector still plays an important role. In
Bolivia, Peru, Paraguay and Colombia, around 30% of all
jobs are in this sector, in Chile, Venezuela and Argentina
their share is nearly 20%. The agrarian structure is highly
imbalanced. Small farmers (minifundistas) often only have
land of little fertility in unfavourable climate zones. Many
minifundios are run purely as subsistence farming for basic
foods (cassava, maize, beans and vegetables), few are oriented on the local markets (Fig.7.1). Some large haciendas have succeeded in the shift from rent-capitalist to
productive-capitalist structures in the wake of globalization and now work more productively for the national and
the world markets. In Chile this process is most advanced
as the country enters a growing market as producer of
wine, fruit and vegetables (Fig.7.2). The wine and fruit

Fig.7.1Mixed culture in subsistence farming, southern Colombia

Economic Structures and Regions

cultures in the foothills of the cordillera in Argentina (esp.

in the Mendoza region) are also gaining in importance on
international markets. Peru has realized new export opportunities with poultry farms in the Atacama, Colombia and
Ecuador have become leading flower suppliers. Cattle
farming remains oriented on the national market, which is
also true for the Andean regions of Argentina. The tropical
lowlands and the tierra templada are only suitable for keeping zebus, whose meat is not competitive. In the highlands
and in the ectotropics, however, the climate is perfect for
European cattle breeds. Their dairy and meat products are
valuable complements to the food supply. The plantations
in the coastal foothills and on the alluvial soils of the large
rivers have been producing sugar, bananas, rice, cocoa, cotton (Fig.7.3), soy beans and tobacco for the world market
since colonial times. Coffee production in the tierra templada is also oriented on these markets. These days, however, the high-quality Arabica varieties have been replaced
by hybrid varieties (Coffea caturra, bourbon, castilla and
others), which are also grown in the new coffee producing
countries in Asia, putting the Andean coffee economy under
increasing pressure. Only Colombia has succeeded in holding its position, albeit with an uncertain future. Former coffee fincas in other Andean countries, notably Bolivia, have
switched to lucrative coca growing, in Bolivia today partly
Forestry has gained in importance with globalization.
Reforestation is done with eucalyptus and with Californian
pine. In Chilean ports in particular, wood chips are piling
up, shipped to Asia as raw material for their cellulose industry. In middle and higher elevations of the Peruvian Andes,
pine forests were created under the Fujimori government
Coastal waters in the Pacific, esp. in Chile and Peru,
which are favoured by the cold Humboldt Current, represent plentiful fishing grounds for these Andean countries.
Both states are among the leading eight fishing nations of
the world. They are also rich in crustaceans, and Chilean
salmon from the aquatic cultures in the south has achieved
a secure place in the world economy. In Ecuador lobster
breeding and shrimp production have grown in importance.
Much more important for the trade balance of the
Andean states, however, is mining. As early as colonial
times, the main economic aim of the Spanish was exploiting the Andes for precious metals (gold and silver). Later,
tin (Bolivia), copper and saltpetre (Chile), coal and iron
(Colombia), and bauxite (Venezuela) were added. Today
mineral oil is also very important. Venezuela, Ecuador,
Colombia and Peru all boast rich deposits in the subAndean forelands, with less productive deposits in Chile
and Argentina. Venezuela alone achieves 90% of all export
earnings from mineral oil, financing more than 50% of the
state budget from this source. The fifth largest mineral oil


7.1 The Economy in a National, Continental and Global Context

producer in the world has 78% of the mineral oil deposits

and 67% of the natural gas deposits on the subcontinent.
The petrochemical industry is an industrial sector with sustained high growth for years.
As in Bolivia, the socialist government of Venezuela pins
its hopes on nationalization, including that of banks. Since
the OPEC country has failed to invest the revenue from
this sector in diversification of the national economy, the
country has to import essential products and even food. Oil
revenues guarantee a high balance of trade surplus and yet
there is little improvement in the poverty rate and Venezuela
is suffering from one of the highest inflation rates of all
Andean countries (Table7.1).
In recent years Colombia has pursued a dedicated policy of encouraging foreign direct investment in the country with tax breaks in so-called zonas francas (free-trade
zones), which has greatly increased the volume of investment. Tariffs were reduced in a free-trade agreement with
the EU, the second most important trade partner after the
US, and the market for services was thrown open. Main
exports are industrial goods at 47% of the total volume,
followed by mineral oil and its derivates at 31%, and coal
at 17%. Coffee these days plays a minor role at just 5%
of total exportsa result of Vietnam, India and Indonesia
entering the market, as well as a plunge in quality through
the introduction of hybrid varieties (Fig.7.4).
Despite a mining boom and general growth, Peru has not
succeeded in significantly alleviating poverty. Especially in
the Andean mining regions, which generate Perus export
success, the poverty rate is particularly high. Mining produces 61% of export earnings, another 7% come from the
mineral oil sector (2009). New establishments of mines and
the expansion of existing mines have triggered massive protests. In the Ro Tambo Valley the population opposed the
Ta Maria copper mining project of the Southern Copper
company, an affiliate of the Grupo Mexico. But in 2014 the
Peruvian government was expected to approve the stalled
one billion dollar project after having received the commissioned environmental impact study.
In Ecuador the population also opposes water-intensive
mining as well as the sell-out of mineral deposits, esp. mineral oil, and environmental pollution by mines and industry.
A large proportion of export earnings in this OPEC country (and second most important oil-producing country in the
Andes) come from mineral oil and its derivates, followed by
plantation produce, of which bananas alone make up 15%
of foreign earnings (Fig.7.5). The important status of the
banana sector made itself felt when banana exporter Alvaro
Noboa won the first round of the Ecuadorean presidential
elections in 2006 against Rafael Correa who was elected in
the end. Even so, the economic power of the banana oligarchyand of the Costabecame very clear in the election

Fig.7.2Intensive land use in the Chilean Longitudinal Valley

Fig. 7.3Workers on a cotton plantation, Valle de Cauca, Colombia

(photograph by M. Mergili)

Bolivia is the poorest Andean state. In contrast to the

states pursuing a neoliberal doctrine, Bolivia has opted for
a dedicated nationalization policy. This affects mainly electricity production and mining. In 2009 Bolivia started mining the largest lithium deposit in the world. It is assumed
that 50% of the globally known deposits of lithium are
located in the Salar of Uyuni 50%. The price per ton of
this precious metal, which is used in high-end batteries,
has risen fourfold between 2004 and 2010. Bolivia also has
large natural gas deposits, out of which it supplies neighbouring countries (except Chile) (Fig.7.6). Natural gas
makes up 37% of export earnings and make Bolivia an even
more important gas exporter in the region than Venezuela.

Table7.1Economic indicators of Andean countries, 2012
Balance of
Per Capita GDP
(purchasing power economic
growth rate (%) (bill USD)
parity, USD)
Argentina No data
Colombia 10,110
Venezuela 13,120

Economic Structures and Regions

rate (%)

Rate of
inflation (%)

Foreign debt
(% of GDP,

Position in
World Human
Development Index

Source Fischer Weltalmanach (2014) plus calculations by the authors

Fig.7.4Coffee transport in Colombia

Fig.7.5Banana plantation Ecuador

In 2010, Chile, the paragon of neoliberalism, was the first

South-American country and the 31st member state to be
admitted into the Organization for Economic Cooperation
and Development (OECD). This makes Chile economically one of the leading nations in South America. In recent
decades it had on average the highest growth rates of the
national economy, the most stable currency and the lowest

Fig.7.6Natural gas production in Bolivia

unemployment rate of the Andean countries, mainly as a

result of diversifying its exports. Until 1973 around 90%
of exports stemmed from copper and semi-finished copper


7.1 The Economy in a National, Continental and Global Context

products. By 2008 this had fallen to 54%, with fruit, fish

and seafood, pulp, wine, timber and cork each contribute between 2 and 5% of export earnings. And yet Chile
remains the largest copper producer by far, with about a
third of global production, i.e. five times more than the US.
Like Bolivia, Chile has rich lithium deposits (cf. Fig.2.16).
While the economy in all Andean states stagnated or
shrunk during the crisis years at the end of the first decade
of the 21st century, Chile managed impressive increases in
its GDP, albeit alongside increasing national debt, the highest per capita among the Andean countries. Inflation, too,
has picked up and currently matches that of Argentina or
Ecuador. The rise in the price of mineral oil and natural gas
has been a contributing factor here, as the country is still
dependent on foreign imports.
Argentina declared bankruptcy in 2001. Difficult years
followed this national default and the recovery is faltering. More than ten years later, access to international capital markets is still difficult. The country ended 2009 with
a large national budget deficit. This has forced the government to sell some of the state property, such as 50% of the
Argentinian oil company Bridas to a Chilean corporation.
Main exports are animal feed and soy (18%), cooking oil
(10%), cars and automotive parts, cereals (9% each), fruit
and vegetables (4%) plus meat, iron and steel at 3% each.
Climate change and the growing demand for energy have
led to a reassessment of the energy potential of the Andes
(Linkohr 2006; Rudnick etal. 2008). Volcanism and the low
geothermal depth hold great reserves for expanding geothermal energy production, the steep relief of the Andes, in combination with the glaciated summits promises hydropower
(Fig. 7.7). In Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Chile the forecast
Andean glaciers melt has been recognized as a longer-term
threat to water and electricity supply. The intense sun, esp.
in the arid and semi-arid climate zones holds potential for
heating and photovoltaic, Biomass and extensive forests
are additional reserves for expanding energy production
from renewable sources. The Andes and their forelands are
also rich in fossil fuels, such as mineral oil (9% of global
reserves) and natural gas (4.4% of known global deposits;
data source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2008).
In Venezuela, which has large deposits of mineral oil,
the chronic electricity crisis has deepened dramatically. The
Guri hydropower station supplies 70% of the countrys
electricity demand. Persistent drought, increased demand
and lack of investment in facility maintenance led to an
almost collapse of electricity supply. In Chile, too, electricity had to be rationed after periods of drought. Plans to
expand hydropower production, however, met with considerable resistance (Borsdorf 2010a). In view of these problems it is surprising that the expansion of energy production
from other renewable sources, such as wind and solar power,
geothermal energy and biomass has only just started in the

Fig.7.7Hydro-power station Alicur, Neuqun, Argentina (photograph

by Claudio Elias, Wikipedia Commons)

Fig.7.8Solar kitchen in Pisco Elqui, Chile

Andean countries. The solar kitchen in the Chilean Atacama

(Fig.7.8) is thus the exception rather than the rule.
Except in Chile, the tertiary sector in the Andean states
is overshadowed by other sectors. The shadow economy, in
the shape of an informal sector whose earnings do not enter
the domestic economic balance, is the main source of earnings for the poor in the central and northern Andean countries. They work as travelling vendors, tradespeople, small
producers, domestic helps, garbage collectors and waste


Fig.7.9Waste separation, an informal source of earning in Ecuador

separators (Fig.7.9), elevator operators and newspaper vendors, they wash car windows at traffic lights and generally
are very creative in exploring new sources of income. The
informal activity ensures a minimum existence for them and
in this way props up the social security system. The remaining tertiary sector is dominated by administrative services;
in the tourist destinations services to the tourists are the
economic motor. Other tertiary activities in the private sector are related to wholesale and retail trade.

Economic Structures and Regions

Of the Andean countries Chile is the most developed in

terms of offering business services, even on international
markets. Chilean financial institutions and insurance companies, real estate companies, but also supermarket chains
are omnipresent today. Air carrier LAN-Chile Airlines and
its subsidiary companies control a large part of air traffic
in Peru, Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia and the Dominican
Republic. In 2012 LAN merged with the largest Brazilian
airline TAM. LAN will be renamed LATAM and, at least
according to the companys own, probably overoptimistic,
statement be the second-largest airline in the world after Air
Until the 1980s any efforts at economic integration
across the Andes were largely unsuccessful. Argentina,
Venezuela and Bolivia have joined the South-American
free trade zone Mercosur. It was not until 1991, when
the formation of Mercosur (Mercado Comn del Sur, created a common market of more
than 260million people on some 72% of the area of
South America. The economic and political integration
process is aimed at expanding markets, improving infrastructure, boosting the economic role of South America
on the world markets, as well as promoting scientific
and technological development, and in the longer term,
a political union of the member states, based on the
model of the European Union. To this end, the exchange
of goods and services has been liberalized, a common external tariff introduced and internal tariffs abolished, and political and economic strategies harmonized

A Solar Village in the Argentinian Andes

Since 2005 a solar village has been operating as a pilot project in the Argentinian Andes, in the area of the Colla people, with international aid. For the indigenous people native shrubs and trees had been the major source of energy.
More than 150tons of firewood is used by a medium-sized village for cooking alone. Warm water or heating is hardly
available at an altitude of 3,500m. Electricity is at best available for a few hours. Yet even this modest energy consumption, in combination with overgrazing and increasing demand has had a considerable impact on both society
and environment. The strong year-round solar radiation at that altitude made it feasible to install solar panels on the
roofs and solar cookers on the ground. This is the idea behind the EcoAndina foundation, which is supported by
Greenpeace and installs technical systems that are easy to handle by the locals to improve the economic situation
and the quality of life in many highland communities. The earliest projects were partly funded by the Gelsenkirchen
Agenda 21 in Germany. Today more than 800 people live in five well-equipped solar villages. The use of solar
technologies reduced firewood consumption by more than half. Solar power allowed irrigation of the fields and facilitates education and communication for the rural population (


7.2 Andean Agriculture

tierra nevada
snow line

grass moss

tree line


5,000 m
tierra helada

4,400 m

oca, quinoa, bitter potatoes

3,800 m

wheat, millet, vegetables, potatoes, milk

tierra fra
2,500 m












coffee, coca

cocoa, yucca, coco nut

tierra templada
1,000 m
tierra caliente
sea level

Fig.7.10Altitudinal crop zones in the tropical Andes

7.2 Andean Agriculture

In most mountains settled by humans, agriculture is a
major source of livelihood and a dominant force that
shapes the cultural landscape (Fig.7.11). In contrast to
many mountain regions in industrial countries, agriculture in the tropical highlands remains the most important
form of resource utilization. Mountain agriculture takes on
many different forms (arable farming, market gardening,
grazing), under different relief situations and in different
ecologic zones, e.g. the variety of land-use forms at different altitudinal zones and relief niches; oasis agriculture,
dependent on irrigation; rain-fed arable farming or agricultural use of woodlands. In many mountain areas, agriculture is characterized by the dichotomy of small-scale
structures alongside large agricultural businesses. In the
cultural landscape we also find traces of manifold anthropogenic factors, from cultural groups and their heritage,
through modernizing trends and resistance to them, or the
impact of spatial and socioeconomic isolation from and/or
access to towns and markets.
For Jodha (1997: 314-318), mountain agriculture
is shaped by the following factors: limited accessibility, fragility and marginality, diversity and utilization of
ecological niches. The difficult topographic situation, limiting weather and climate conditions and the destructive
force of natural hazards often impair mountain landscapes
(Fig. 7.12). At the same time, esp. in the tropics, favourable climate conditions and fertile soils have enabled many

generations to use the agricultural resources, mostly in

careful adaptation to the natural geographic conditions and
in different complementary forms of arable farming and
animal husbandry.
Agriculture in mountain regions has always been subject
to varied and often dramatic changes as a result of natural
or anthropogenic impacts. These changes and the adaptation of the mountain agriculture have many causes: environmental changes, demographic processes, cultural changes,
economic constraints or new opportunities, political interventions, e.g. through agrarian reforms or agricultural subsidies. In recent decades these changes have intensified
and the spatial disparities between agrarian regions as well
as the socioeconomic contrasts between peasant communities have widened. Today many agrarian spaces in the
highlands are closely integrated with urban centres and the
adjoining lowlands or even with global economic relations.
Such interaction has expanded and improved the economic
options of many mountain dwellers, but it has also had negative implications.
Biodiversity has often suffered from intensified agriculture, narrow orientation on special cultures, massive use
of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, as well as from the
construction of new access roads, all of which have also
caused severe environmental damage. Demographic change
in the high mountain areas have also affected agricultural
structures. While some regions were largely abandoned by
the population and the agricultural areas left fallow, growing populations in other areas have led to shortages of


Economic Structures and Regions

Fig.7.11Ibarra basin, Ecuador

water and agricultural land, environmental degradation and

impoverished the local population.
In the tropical Andes, agriculture has been the backbone of the rural economy and employment and was also
the basis for ancient Andean civilizations. Agriculture in
the Andes is thus influenced by the cultural traditions of the
indigenous population with their rich experience, rites and
Nevertheless, we must not understand the agricultural
activity of the population as rigid and unchangeable. The
campesinos have known how to adapt to changing natural
conditions as well as to changing economic and social circumstances. The physio-geographical and ecologic diversity of the Andes has provided the rural population with all
kinds of options and opportunities for greatly varied arable
farming and animal husbandry, and traditional agricultural
strategies and efforts to minimize risk have benefitted from
it. Utilizing vertical archipelagos, i.e. using land in different
altitudinal zones and spatial niches, has always been central
to Andean agriculture.
Agriculture has also been affected by other factors, in
addition to the highly diverse natural landscape: accessibility and closeness to the market, issues of ownership
and lease of land, different cultural influences, as well as

exogenous political and economic processes and actors

have contributed to great differentiation. One example for
the diversity and market orientation of agricultural production is the marketing of fresh milk and dairy products or the
specialization in chicken and egg production.
In general, Andean agriculture includes a great variety
of production systems, land use, types of cultivated plants
and domestic animals. Due to the great heights, the relief,
the climate, soil quality and forest cover, only a limited
amount of the total Andes are used for agriculture. For
Cunill (1981: 155157) only a small part of it is used for
permanent or seasonal arable farming or hay meadows;
the majority of the land is extensively used grazing land
or forest. Cunill comes up with a total of just 10% of the
potentially available areas in the Andes used for arable
On many fields the traditional ard plough is still in use
(Fig.7.13), an ecologically sensible method as the nutrients
are locked in the upper soil.
The agricultural core zones are situated in the tropical
Andes, esp. in the longitudinal and transverse valleys, e.g.
the valleys of Magdalena and Cauca in Colombia, of Patate
and Pastaza in Ecuador; of Maraon, Santa or Mantaro in
Peru; the Ro Grande in Bolivia, or the Valle Central in


7.2 Andean Agriculture

Fig.7.13Traditional ard plough in field cultivation, Bolivia

Fig.7.12Marginal fragmented arable farming in the Peruvian central


Chile. In the semi-arid and arid areas of Peru and Chile the
most important river oases are those along the transverse
valleys that open towards the Pacific.

Other favoured agricultural regions are the numerous larger and smaller highland basins, e.g. the Sabana de
Bogot, the cuencas or hoyas in Ecuador, and esp. the wide
Altiplano in southern Peru, in Bolivia and northern Chile.
The shores of Lake Titicaca enjoy a particularly favourable
climate. In addition, the inner flanks of the cordilleras in the
tierra templada and the tierra fra are intensively used agrarian regions.
These favoured agricultural zones in the Andes have
been settled for a very long time. Newer agrarian colonizations focus on the pioneer spaces at the foot of the cordilleras. Main areas in this respect are the valleys along the
eastern flank of the Cordillera Oriental in Colombia, the
outer flanks of the Ecuadorian cordilleras, the Peruvian valleys that run into the Amazonas lowlands and the yungas at
the eastern rim of the sierra in Bolivia.

Categories of Andean Agriculture

Andean agriculture can be divided into different categories:
on a large spatial scale by geographical position and climate zone: innertropical humid areas, semi-arid to arid
regions on the tropical rim, seasonally humid to always humid extratropical zones;
vertical differentiation by altitudinal zones;
differentiation by orographic criteria, esp. between agrarian areas on the western and eastern outer and/or inner
flanks of the cordilleras, and their inner-Andean basins and valleys;
hygric differentiation, esp. the different forms of rain-fed and irrigated arable farming;
arable farming and forms of animal husbandry influenced by anthropogenous factors: different cultural traditions
(particularly indigenous and non-indigenous agricultural systems); different ages of cultural landscape development, esp. differences in agriculture between old, pre-Hispanic, rural settlement areas and colonial areas, on the
one hand, and newly developed pioneer zones, on the other; different ownership, lease and inheritance systems;
different approaches to modernization, new technologies and capital by exogenous processes and varying degrees
of acceptance of innovation by the local population; differentiation by accessibility via roads, rivers or by air, and
access to regional national or international markets through market processes and prices under external control.


Economic Structures and Regions

Agricultural Oases in the Cuyo Region, Argentina

The city of Mendoza and the surrounding, intensively used agricultural land are situated at the foot of the
Argentinian cordillera at altitudes between 500 and 800m. The continental-type climate, with warm summers and
cool winters, the favourable soil conditions and good irrigation potential are the basis for agricultural use. Together
with the neighbouring provinces of San Juan, San Luis and La Rioja (the latter is not included in the Cuyo Region
in some sources), the province of Mendoza makes up the larger Cuyo Region (Regin del Nuevo Cuyo). Its centre is
the city of Mendoza, founded in 1551, today an urban agglomeration of about one million inhabitants.
Three large oases can be distinguished in the Cuyo Region: a northern one, which includes the city of Mendoza;
a middle one around the towns of San Rafael and General Alvear; and a southern one around Malarge. These three
oases are the dynamic core areas of the region. This is where more than 90% of the population lives, the degree of
urbanization is high and these are the economic core zones of Cuyo. In agricultural-geographic terms, wine, fruit
and vegetable growing dominate, albeit with varying regional focus. In the late 1980s, these three types of crops still
made up over 80% of agricultural land in Mendoza Province. Meanwhile the wine-growing acreage has decreased,
even if it still makes up more than half of the agricultural land. Fruit growing takes up about a quarter of the agricultural land, regionally concentrated in the southern and western parts. In the southern oasis, peach and lately plum
growing have become the dominant agricultural form (Schmidt 2002). Vegetable growing as market gardening to
supply the urban population is mainly concentrated around Mendoza. In recent decades, however, even vegetable
growing has become more export oriented, with garlic showing good market potential.
Different phases, changes and restructurings in agrarian land use, esp. in wine growing, can be distinguished since
colonial times. When commercial wine growing established itself in the late 16th century in San Juan Province, it supplied the local market at first, and from the early 18th century onwards other Argentinian regions as well, particularly
Buenos Aires. The construction of the Buenos Aires to Mendoza railway gave a significant boost to the trade of agricultural produce between the western provinces and Buenos Aires. Top priority at the time was supplying the booming
domestic market with large quantities of cheap table wine. This led to a sharp increase in wine-growing acreage. In the
course of various economic and political upheavals in Argentina in the 20th century, domestic consumption dropped,
structural crises broke out, companies went bust and wine-growing acreage decreased. From the 1980s onwards and following the example of Chile, efforts started to reorient wine growing on improving quality and on exporting wine.
The rapid growth of wine exports into a wider range of countries testifies to the increasing globalization of the
wine sector in the Cuyo Region. Schmidt (2002: 21) observes that exports in Mendoza Province grew about sevenfold
between 1988 and 2000, exports of quality wines even 15-fold. At the same time, total wine production shrank by
some 40%, and wine-growing acreage decreased as well. Globalization also manifests itself in changes in the company structure, with a trend towards larger enterprises and foreign investment. Fundamental transformations have also
reached the technological infrastructure, for instance in new drip irrigation replacing the traditional furrow irrigation,
or improved methods of hail or frost protection.
The regional example of the agricultural oases of Cuyo at the foot of the Argentinian cordillera illustrates the natural favourable conditions of topography, climate, soil quality and high irrigation potential through groundwater and
the rivers originating in the Andes. At the same time the economic development of these oases exemplifies the role
of anthropogenous influences and changes in them. Such transformation processes manifest themselves in changes in
the economic and social structures, in forms of modernization and ultimately in a reshaping of the cultural landscape.

7.2.1 Traditional Andean Cultivars

The traditional Andean cultivars are well adapted to the
topography, elevation, climate and soil conditions (Fig.7.14).
Given the great altitudinal range and the extraordinary biodiversity encountered in the Andes, and also the millennia of
human utilization, the rich diversity of cultural crops is not
A significant number of cultivars were domesticated
in the Andean space. In the Almanecer de los Andes
(Comisin del Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo de Amrica

Latina y el Caribe, no year: 1819), a total of 39 varieties of crops with an origin in the Andes are listed. Among
them, we encounter a number of cultivars which today
are also commonly found in other parts of the world, e.g.
potatoes (Solanum tuberosum), beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), or tobacco (Nicoteana rustica). Other cultural
plants were first domesticated in Mesoamerica, but they
have been cultivated in the Andes for a long time and have
also been complemented by new varieties; for example
maize (Zea mays), avocado (Persea americana), papaya
(Carica papaya), or agave (Agavaceae sp.). In Andean


7.2 Andean Agriculture

agriculture, maize and beans are often grown in a mixed

form of cultivation, as beans provide a vital supply of
nitrogen for maize (Fig.7.15).
Some authors mention both Mesoamerica and the Andes
as source regions for the domestication of some cultivars
(Blouet and Blouet 2005: 5960), among them manioc
(Manibut esculenta), various types of bean (Phaseolus
sps.), tomatoes (Lycopersicum esculentum), or guavas
(Psidium guajava). In addition, certain crops are cultivated in the Andes which either are particularly adapted
to the specific environmental conditions of the cordilleras of South America, or are largely ignored by consumers in other parts of the world; for instance the tree tomato
or tamarillo (Cymphomandra betacea), babaco (Carica
esp.), or the high-altitude tuber crops of oca (Oxalis tuberosa), olluco (Ullucus tuberosus), and mashua (Tropaeolum
tuberosum). Some of the Andean crops have recently found
new niche markets in Europe and North America and
are appreciated as a rich source of protein and vitamins,
for example quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) or amaranth
(Amaranthus causatus).
Many of the cultivars are characterized by an impressive variety of different types. In their vertical extension,
crops can be grown in virtually all ecological zones, from
the foot of mountains close to sea level, to the upper limits
of field cultivation, which in the semi-arid tropical mountains extends to elevations in excess of 4,000m. In the
tierra caliente, we find the characteristic cultivars of manioc, guava or pineapple; in the tierra templada especially
maize, beans, passion fruit (Passiflora liguralis), chirimoya (Annona cherimola), as well as fruit trees of papaya
(Carica papaya; Fig.7.16) and mango (Mangifera); in the
tierra fria mainly beans, tomatoes and potatoes; and in the
tierra helada, quinoa and a number of native varieties of
tuber crops.
Many cultivars extend over several altitudinal zones;
some can even be cultivated over almost the entire vertical
range of the sierra. In addition to their altitudinal zonation,
the cultivated plants are further differentiated by the specific
topographic and edaphic conditions, and the microclimate,
but also by the cultural traditions and preferences of local
In the colonial period, the genetic wealth of traditional
cultivars was severely impaired or neglected. In spite of
their nutritional value, some of these crops were judged as
inferior; in some instances their cultivation was even forbidden. As a consequence, the newly imported cultivated plants
superseded the endemic species, especially in the case of
wheat, barley and some types of vegetables (for example
cabbages, lettuce, or spinach). At the same time, many of
the traditional agricultural techniques with their specific
forms of crop and field rotation, terracing or irrigation systems were disregarded or lost. This resulted in a profound
restructuring of agricultural and land tenure systems, as

Fig.7.14Traditional cultivars, Bolivia

Fig.7.15Beans and maize grown together: maize, as a heavy feeder,

benefits from the beans nitrogen production


Economic Structures and Regions

potential, it may also displace the minifundios with their

variety of cultivated plants, and also the traditional highland
Given their importance for Andean agriculture, some of
the major traditional cultivars will be portrayed below.

Fig.7.16Papaya (Carica papaya)

well as land and water rights. There was a distinct trend

for monocultures with an export orientation of agricultural
products; in some regions also a substitution of traditional
field cultivation by extensive pasture lands.
In recent times, local families and rural communities,
agrarian experts, development organizations and national
and international agencies have rediscovered the value
and the potential of the traditional cultivars. Today distinct
efforts are being made to protect the genetic pool of the old
cultivated plants by institutions and also by rural communities who proudly display and celebrate the richness of traditional cultivars in special agricultural fairs and fiestas. With
the growing popularity of some of the traditional crops, for
example quinoa, with external consumers, a trend can be
observed in some highland regions to increase their acreages. While this may enhance the local market and export Potatoes and Other Tuber Crops

It is assumed that the cultivation of potatoes began some
8,000years ago in the vicinity of Lake Titicaca, when early
farmers embarked on the domestication of a vast array of
wild varieties of tuber plants. There are also some theories which locate the origin of the potatoes on the island of
Chiloe (Chile) or in Colombia (Egger 2008: 114).
The cultivation of potatoes was one of the major pillars
for the development of early Andean civilizations. An artistic testimony to the great economic and cultural significance
of potatoes is their representation on pre-colonial ceramics.
According to Alejandro Argumedo (cited by Henkel 2008: 2),
vice-president of the NGO Andes, potatoes are far more than
food; they are part of the Andean culture. For example, in
traditional communities, from the more than 1,000 varieties
of tubers, some are served exclusively at wedding banquets,
others at funeral meals.
For the Incas, the papas nativas were the principal staple
food for the growing populations and the nutritional basis
for the development of this high civilization. Potatoes were
cultivated by traditional forms of crop rotation (often in a
seven year cycle) with a variety of tuber plants and quinoa.
Later these cycles were often modified and shortened; this
tended to result in diminished soil fertility and a greater
susceptibility to plant pests and diseases.
The tuber crops are traditionally grown in highland
regions at altitudes between 3,000 and 4,000m. In the highest locations, especially around Lake Titicaca, tubers are
even cultivated at elevations above 4,000m, especially the
bitter potatoes (Solanum x juzepcukii). The papas amargas,
in contrast to most other potato varieties, have a high frost
tolerance. As they are not edible in untreated form, peasants extract the bitter substances of the potatoes in an elaborate procedure. They are exposed to the night frosts; with
the thawing of the tubers, the bitter matter is being washed
or squeezed out, often by the bare feet of the campesinos
(Fig. 7.17). This process is repeated for several nights and
days, and eventually the dry starchy chuo is obtained (refer
also to Sect.4.2.3). Other important endemic varieties of
tuber crops are oca (Fig.7.18) and olluco (called lisa or
papalisa in Bolivia, chugua or rubas in Colombia, ulluma in
Argentina). They were major food crops since pre-colonial
times and still contribute significantly to the diet of highland
campesinos (Arbizu and Tapia 1994: 149163). These tuber
crops are grown in the cordilleras at preferred altitudes of
3,5003,800m; in the semi-arid Andes of Peru and Bolivia
also at higher elevations. In traditional agriculture they are


7.2 Andean Agriculture

often cultivated in a mixed form or in rotation with other

tuber crops, at lower elevations also with maize. Like the
bitter potatoes, oca can be transformed by a freeze-drying
process into the dry and easily conservable khaya flour.
The cultivation of tuber crops requires major labour
input and also an application of fertilizers and pesticides.
At the high elevations, the growth period is long and lasts
between seven and eight months. In the extreme situation
of the cold and humid pramos, for example the Pramo de
Sumapaz in Colombia, potatoes need 1113months from
planting out to harvesting. On the other hand, the yields of
tuber crops can be substantial and the market revenues tend
to be quite high.
In order to counteract the genetic erosion of tuber plants,
the Centro Internacional de la Papa (CIP) was founded
in Lima in 1971. The primary goal of this institution is
to protect the many varieties of tubers from extinction,
to safeguard their genetic pools and to promulgate their
acceptance and cultivation by rural communities. The CIP
now has a collection and genetic data base of some 4,000
potatoes, 1,500 sweet potatoes, and a further variety of
approximately 1,000 other tuber plants. The centre also supplies rural communities with selected seed tubers most suitable to specific environmental conditions and with a high
resistance to plant diseases (Comisin de Medio Ambiente
de Amrica Latina y el Caribe, no year: 23).
Quinoa is one of the oldest cultural crops of the world; it
has been cultivated in the Andes for about 6,000years
(Fig. 7.19). The harvested grains are the seeds of the
Chenopodium plant. Similar to the tubers, an extraordinary
variety exists of almost 1,800 types of quinoa. Various seed
banks in different countries try to safeguard this genetic
heritage. Together with the tuber crops and maize, quinoa
traditionally is the major food staple for Andean people. For
the Incas it was a sacred plant (chisaya mama) and a gift
of the gods. The Spanish conquerors initially tied to forbid
the cultivation of quinoa, as they believed it would give the
Incas special strength. This is not so unfounded, because
quinoa is rich in protein, iron, zinc, magnesium, calcium
and amino acids. Being used by the American military in
World War II, it was commercially introduced to the United
States in 1982 and has now gained word-wide popularity
as an alternative and healthy grain. Recently, it has even
been tested by NASAs Controlled Ecological Life Support
System Program (Schlick and Bubenheim 1993).
Quinoa is grown in the tropical Andes at altitudes of
3,6004,000m; in the Lake Titicaca region even higher.
The principal cultivation area is the Altiplano of southern Peru and Bolivia, but it is also grown in other Andean
regions, and because of its enhanced market appeal, the quinoa acreages tend to expand throughout the sierra (Schlick
and Bubenheim 1993: 16).

Fig.7.17Indgena squeezing out the moisture of the bitter potatoes

in the Bolivian sierra at 3,500m

Fig.7.18Oca on a market in Popayn, Colombia


Fig.7.19Quinoa cultivation in Ecuador Maize
Maize is one of the oldest cultural crops of the world;
its origin in the Americas is supposed to be located in
southern Mexico. But it is also assumed that the old
Valdivia culture in the northern part of the Andes knew
mahiz and cultivated it (Otzen 1991: 50). In the Andean
sierra, the millennia old maize culture is a basic element
of old myths and rituals and finds its material expression in ceramics and other forms of artistic expressions.
For the indigenous population, maize has always been a
gift of the gods and has served in turn as a sacrificial
offering to the gods. In many festivals and traditional
ceremonies, maize occupies a specific position and
importance. In many forms, maize and maize flour have
always been highly appreciated sources of food. The
Incas in particular recognized the vital importance of
maize to feed a growing population and they developed
an extraordinary wealth of maize varieties. In early colonial times, the Spanish introduced maize into Europe.
Until today, Andean communities have excelled in developing new types of maize and in experimenting in specific cultivation techniques and crop rotation cycles. In
addition to maize as a staple food, a big jar of maize
beer (chicha) is found in most rural households and is
a favourite beverage at festivals and ritual ceremonies.
Maize is also extensively used as fodder for domestic
Today, maize is cultivated not just in the Andean
space but around the world, in many varieties, climates
and altitudes. In the New World, the cultivation of maize
extends over some 80 degrees of latitude, from the
Canadian prairies to the southern Andes at about 35S.
In the Andes, the cultivation of maize spans a wide
altitudinal range, from the foothill zone and the valley floors of the sierra to altitudes at places in excess of
3,500m; however, it is considered a typical cultivar of
the tierra fra.

Economic Structures and Regions Coca
For more than 4,000years, coca (Erythroxylum coca) has
been grown in the cordillera regions (Fig.7.20). Coca
forms an integral and most significant part of Andean identity, tradition and culture. To this day, this sacred plant has
a very important place in the myths, legends and rituals of
indigenous communities. According to the Inca legend,
mama coca is the daughter of pacha mama, Mother Earth.
When faced with the coca tradition of the native population, the Spanish conquerors distrusted this plant, as they
thought it would give the people extra energy and strength.
Missionaries, in turn, rejected the traditions of the coca
leaves as sacrificial gifts to the gods and as major ingredients of cultural manifestations as backward rituals, or
as competing with Christian symbols and rites. Later, the
Spanish recognized the consumption of coca leaves as a
means to dull the hunger of the native population; they used
it as a payment mode and hoped to increase the productivity
of native workers by distributing coca widely.
Coca is a food supplement rich in vitamins and an
energy stimulant (Bolivia even markets a national energy
drink under the label of Coca Colla). Coca leaves and coca
tea (mate de coca) are a prophylaxis for hypoxia, cold stress
and other ailments, e.g. headaches, rheumatism and circulatory disorders, tooth ache and abdominal pains. For these
reasons, farmers and mine workers chew the coca leaves,
in combination with a herbal alkaline substance (llujta), to
better tolerate the hard working conditions.
The major regions of coca cultivation are found in
the valleys and on the eastern slopes of the cordilleras in
Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. In Colombia, the cultivation of
the coca bushes is concentrated in the southeastern departments of Meta-Guaviare, Putumayo, Nario, Cauca and
Bolvar. In Peru, the principal cultivation areas are the upper
Huallaga Valley and the region of Apurimac Ene. In Bolivia,
the production centres are the Chapar region to the east of

Fig.7.20Freshly planted coca bushes on terraces. Coroico, Bolivia


7.2 Andean Agriculture

Cochabamba, and the Yungas east of La Paz. These are humid

and warm environments, where the coca bushes are planted
at elevations ranging between 300 and 2,000m. According
to data published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and
Crime (UNODC;, the registered acreage
of coca cultivation has declined in recent years. In 2012 it
amounted to 60,400ha in Peru; 40,000ha in Colombia; and
25,300ha in Bolivia.
Coca bushes are well adapted to difficult environmental conditions. Often they are grown on steep slopes
(frequently on terraces) and they can tolerate marginal climatic and edaphic conditions. They have a short growth
period and the leaves can be harvested three or four times
a year. This and the fact that they fetch high market prices,
combined with few other agricultural alternatives for small
farmers, make their cultivation attractive to the cocaleros.
However, as the bulk of the coca harvest finds its way into
the illegal production of cocaine controlled by an international drug mafia, national governments, the United States
and the United Nations have tried, with at best mixed
success, to curtail the planting of coca. Particularly problematic was the massive spraying of the forested areas in
Colombia (Plan Colombia) with defoliating chemicals,
which contaminated the bases of rural livelihoods and
generated a flow of coca refugees. It even affected the
rainforest environments in neighbouring Ecuador. These
drastic external measures generated considerable resistance and turmoil among local populations, and the emergence of new political movements, for example in Bolivia
the powerful movimiento cocalero, which allied itself with
other parties into the ruling Movimiento al Socialismo
(MAS). As president of Bolivia, Evo Morales emphasized
the spiritual and material importance of coca, arguing
that coca is not cocaine, and that it is a traditional food,
a medicinal plant and a ritual symbol for the indigenous
population of Bolivia. Consequently, in the new constitution of 2007, approved by a referendum in 2009, article
384 states: The State shall protect native and ancestral
coca as cultural patrimony, a renewable natural resource
of Bolivias biodiversity, and as a factor of social cohesion. In its natural state it is not a narcotic. Its revaluing,
production, commercialization, and industrialization shall
be regulated by law.
Fourth part, title II, Chap. 7 of the Nueva Constitucin
del Estado (2007: 89)

the forms of settlement and economic activity, esp. the

Andean agrarian systems (Lauer 1987). Following the ecological altitudinal zonation of the tropical Andes into tierra
caliente, tierra templada, tierra fra and tierra helada, the
following main agrarian zones can be distinguished. Lowland Rain-fed Farming (Campo

de Lluvia) in the Tierra Caliente (to About
In the innertropical humid areas, permanent cultivation
with several harvests dominates, mainly of cassava, cocoa,
rice, sugar cane, bananas, in addition to extensive pastoral economy. Depending on the seasonal distribution of
the precipitation, arable farming is permanent or seasonal,
the latter mainly in the alternating wet-dry tropics. On the
tropical rim and in the subtropics, the risk of variable precipitation, drought and bad harvests increases. The average
dry limit for reliable seasonal arable farming in the tropics
is between three and four months (Bremer 1999: 243).
There is considerable variety in terms of farm size and
type as well as crops. The biggest contrast is between small
farm subsistence economy and market-oriented large farms,
plantations or cattle ranches. In the pioneer zones, the first
phase of development is often shifting cultivation following slash and burn clearing (Fig.7.21), while in longer settled areas agriculture takes on the form of permanent arable
farming requiring less land.
In German terminology, shifting cultivation is further differentiated into Wanderfeldbau and Landwechselwirtschaft.
In the declining form of Wanderfeldbau, both the agrarian land and the settlements are moved following a certain
schedule. In the Landwechselwirtschaft the settlements
remain stationary, only the arable land shifts, but less often
and the fallow phases are shorter.

7.2.2 Altitudinal Differentiation of Agriculture

The clear altitudinal segmentation of agriculture is particularly striking in the tropical mountains because of their thermic, hygric and edaphic differentiation. The geoecological
foundations of this vertical zoning have essentially shaped

Fig.7.21Slash and burn clearing in Oriente, Ecuador


Agricultural colonization of forests and savannahs is

partly the result of national policies and partly of spontaneous squatting. Agrarian pioneers developed hitherto unused
natural areas but also invaded traditional settlements of
indigenous communities and damaged or destroyed traditional forms of land use. These traditional land-use systems
combined food crops with tree cultures, various forms of
crop rotation and intercropping. In recent times, changes
in the agrarian land use were mainly triggered by increased
market orientation, changes in the farming enterprises and
the application of new agrarian technologies. Tropical Lowland Irrigation Farming

(Campo de Riego) in the Tierra Caliente
Periodic or permanent irrigation allows cultivation in areas
of insufficient or failing precipitation. The arable land is
irrigated through irrigation channels (acequias), irrigation
from wells or through various forms of sprinkling.
The best known irrigated farmlands are the large river
oases of the transverse valleys ending in the Pacific coastal
plains of Peru (Fig.7.22) and northern Chile. The external
rivers, fed by precipitation and glaciers in the Andes, and
the tunnel and canal systems have paved the way for agrarian landscapes that are thousands of years old. With sufficient irrigation, intensive cultivation of tropical lowland
products is possible, for instance, sugar cane, cotton, rice
(in standing water) and various types of fruit, esp. bananas,
passion fruit, strawberries, and vegetables, e.g. asparagus.
While irrigated desert soils allow rich agricultural production, standing water or high levels of groundwater in
river oases may encounter salination problems for the soil.
Outside the irrigated areas, only extensive grazing or largescale chicken farming are possible.

Fig.7.22River oasis north of Lima, Peru

Economic Structures and Regions Agrarian Foothill Zones

These favoured agricultural areas are mainly found at the
foot of the central Chilean cordillera and on the eastern
slopes of the Andes in northwestern Argentina. The seasonal and rather sparse precipitation means that year-round
arable farming is only possible with additional irrigation.
Core zones of a productive and market-oriented agriculture have emerged in the Valle Central of Chile and in the
areas around San Salvador de Jujuy, Salta, San Miguel de
Tucumn and Mendoza in Argentina. The intensive and
productive wine, fruit and vegetable growing not only supplies the nearby cities but also national and international
markets. The Chilean Longitudinal Valley up to Chilln is
one big irrigated area (Fig.7.23). To the south of it, agrarian
production is less intensive, gradually shifting to grazing
regions, particularly in Argentinian Patagonia. Agrarian Areas of the Tropical Andes in the
Altitudinal Zones of the Tierra Templada
and Tierra Fra (1,000m to c. 4,000m)
This altitudinal zone provides favourable ecological conditions and has been settled for a long time, which makes it a
core zone of agricultural use. The hydrological conditions
vary greatly, as do those of relief, temperature, precipitation and soil. In addition there is great diversity of local
history and cultural traditions, plus varying influences of
demographics, distance to markets and accessibility, as well
as exogenous impacts. All these factors have produced a
mosaic of diverse small-scale agriculture (Fig.7.24).
A general subdivision can be made by temperature into
the lower zone of the tierra templada plus the lower part of
the tierra fra (c. 1,100 to c. 2,500m), and the upper tierra fra
(c. 2,500 to 4,000m). The two altitudinal zones are separated
by the temperature limit (12C annual isotherm) and the lower
absolute frost limit (Lauer and Erlenbach 1987: 88). These climatic limits separate the warm tropics from the cool or cold
tropics and are highly relevant for agriculture (cf. Sect.2.4).
In the tierra templada mainly tropical, thermophilic and
non-hardy crops are grown. This is where mangos, papayas,
citrus fruit, chirimoya, pineapples and coca, but also bananas,
maize, sugar cane and various thermophilic vegetables are
grown. The tierra templada is often associated with coffee
growing, but it also does well in the tropical lowlands today.
In the tierra fra we find cereals, vegetables (Fig.7.25)
and the fruit of the tropical-temperate climate. In the lower
parts of this climatic belt, the so-called cereal level, main
crops are wheat, maize and barley, plus peas and beans,
often in different rotation cycles. In favourable locations various (European) types of fruit and vegetables, plus alfalfa,
do well, In the middle and higher altitudinal areas, the major
zone of tuber cultivation, main crops are various types of
potato and other tubers, such as oca, ollucu, papalisa and
isao. Barley and quinoa are also grown at these altitudes.


7.2 Andean Agriculture

A significant agrarian produce in terms of cultural history is the starch concentrate chuo. Chuo, plus maize cultivation and domestication of llamas and alpacas were the
basis for early Andean civilizations (Lauer and Erlenbach
1987: 92). Overall, however, arable farming at the upper
limit of the Andean ecumene faces many challenges and
risks of relief, erosion, low temperatures and frost, plus
occasional droughts or heavy rains. Upper Pastoral Zone of the Tierra

Helada (4,000m up to Nearly 5,000m)
In the inner tropics, these high mountain pastures above
the dominant cultivation zones fall into the humid
Pramos, on the tropical rim they are part of the ecological puna zone. Dominant grazing animals in the northern
Andes from Venezuela to Ecuador are sheep, in the central Andes of Peru and Bolivia often llamas (Fig.7.26),
alpacas, sheep and goats. Another camelid species, the
vicuas, could not be domesticated, but their fine wool is
very sought after. Animal husbandry produces meat, wool
and milk, with dairy production still playing only a minor
role in most regions. Even though the pastoral economy
is largely extensive, there is considerable ecological damage in some places as a result of overstocking or grazing
on unsuitable, fragile land, particularly by imported ungulates, such as cattle, sheep or goats. The pastoral economy
in the higher Andes also suffers from reduced accessibility of permanent settlements and inadequate transport
routes to the market locations. While arable farming on
small farms is predominantly run by families, the higher
pastures of the indigenous communities are often used
The drier climate in the semi-arid zone of the puna
means that the upper limits of the various agricultural
production zones, cultivars and mountain pastures rise
from the inner tropics to the tropical rim. They reach their
peak in the semi-arid Altiplano of southern Peru, Bolivia
and the extreme north of Chile. While arable farming in
the humid Andes of Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador
reaches its upper limit around 4,000m, it extends to altitudes of 4,5004,800m in the semi-arid higher Andes of
Peru and Bolivia, particularly in the climatically favoured
area around Lake Titicaca. In both cases, however, there
are only isolated fields in favourable locations at these altitudes, interspersed with the dominant pastures. The high
pastures in the humid pramo go up to about 4,200m,
in the semi-arid puna they can reach almost 5,000m.
However, local landscape and anthropogenous conditions
sometimes make for considerable differences. Moreover,
agricultural land use and its hypsometric reach have repeatedly changed over time.

Fig.7.23Irrigated wine-growing in the Longitudinal Valley, Chile

Fig.7.24Minifundio strip farming in Tungurahua Province, Ecuador

7.2.3 Rain-fed Agriculture and Irrigation

Water supply for agricultural areas in the Andes is a top
priority. Even in pre-colonial times, managing the water
resources was the basis for productive agriculture and
sustainable livelihood of the population. Water supply
came from both the available precipitation and from using
groundwater stores, rivers and lakes. Depending on the
duration and intensity of precipitation, arable farming and
intensive grazing are only available for certain periods and


Economic Structures and Regions

Fig.7.25Vegetable growing in the tierra fra, Cordillera de Mrida,


Fig.7.27Soil erosion on a steep slope in the Patagonian cordillera

Fig.7.26Llamas in the tierra helada, Bolivia

within limits in areas with seasonal rains. In year-round

humid regions, however, both activities can be carried out
Seasonal arable farming without irrigation dominates the
regions of the tropical rim, but also the innertropical basins
and valleys. In the semi-arid and arid higher reaches, rainfed arable farming is only possible in the highest altitudinal parts of the ecumene. Agriculture there is rather limited
by the shortness of the rainy periods, the small quantity of
the precipitation and the unreliability of the rains. Frost is
another problem for non-hardy crops.
In contrast, the humid innertropical highlands and the
humid outer flanks of the Andes allow arable farming and
grazing without irrigation throughout the year. To maintain

fertility, however, various crop rotation cycles are being

practised in these areas. In the higher reaches of the pramo
the permanently cold-humid climate impairs agricultural
On the humid, steep mountain flanks, susceptibility to
erosion (Fig.7.27), dense forest cover and difficult access
present the main obstacles for agriculture. On many innertropical slopes, intensively irrigated and rain-fed areas are
often interspersed with marginal areas and fallow land
(Stadel 1985). Agricultural use without irrigation can also
be found in the humid extratropical regions of southern
Chile and southern Argentina, in Argentinian Patagonia
mainly as extensive pastoral economy.
Various forms of irrigation agriculture can be found in
nearly all areas of the Andes, even if the irrigated land takes
up the form of niches or bands along rivers (Fig.7.28). In
most regions, access to water is a precondition for yearround and productive agriculture. This is why water rights
are closely linked to land ownership and leaseholds. In
many indigenous grazing regions of the pramo and puna,
land-use and water rights are usually controlled by the

7.2 Andean Agriculture


Fig.7.29Community construction of an irrigation channel in Bolivia

Fig.7.28Irrigation channel near Cayambe, Ecuador

community. In the non-indigenous areas, such rights are

owned by individuals, often giving rise to controversies in
areas dominated by smallholdings. In the Andean agrarian
landscape, well irrigated traditional haciendas and modern, market-oriented large enterprises contrast sharply with
inadequately or non-irrigated plots of smallholdings with
subsistence farming. The large fruit, vegetable and flower
plantations, in Chile and Argentina also the wine-growing
areas, are the main users of the water resources, often to the
detriment of small farms.
The water resources are used in various ways. The common type of slope and valley irrigation is a network of main
and subsidiary channels (acequas) branched off from rivers, lakes or reservoirs, using the natural gradient. In some
areas, subterranean water resources are tapped using wells.
In the river oases of Peru various irrigation systems are in
use, depending on the water supply. They are fed by rivers,
groundwater, springs or filtrate (Mikus 1988: 7677). In the
indigenous regions the system of acequas to this day is constructed and maintained on a communal basis (Fig.7.29),

with every user receiving a certain amount of water in a

strictly regulated rhythm (turno). Acequas may also be constructed and maintained by individual families, state bodies (e.g. the Instituto Ecuatoriano de Recursos Hidrulicos
or the Direccin General de Riegos von Bolivia), regional
corporations (like the Corporacin del Valle del Cauca in
Colombia or the Proyecto Chira-Piura in Peru) or by large
enterprises. ChimborazoOriente: A Three-Dimensional

Landscape Profile in Ecuador
An impressive example of a three-dimensional ecological
and agrarian differentiation is the landscape profile from the
foot of the Chimborazo in Ecuador, via the highland basin
of Ambato, to the foot of the Cordillera Oriental. It can be
subdivided into the following zones:
1. The sparsely settled pasture regions of the cool humid
pramo at the upper limit of sporadic settlement and
extensive agricultural land use (3,2004,200m). The
year-round, often collectively run pastoral economy is
almost exclusively dedicated to sheep. Both the wool and
the dung are marketed. In niches and on small patches
of land, rain-fed arable farming takes place on family farms, with long growth periods of the crops (tubers,
barley). Natural risks are the frequent night frosts and a


pronounced soil and wind erosion through overgrazing.

The mostly indigenous population is disadvantaged by
climate stress of the almost permanent cold humid conditions, inadequate infrastructure and poor access to the
markets of Guaranda and Ambato. However, the local
population controls most of the water resources and with
it irrigation in lower-lying regions (Fig.7.30).
2. The upper zone of intensive arable farming in the tierra
fra (2,8003,200m). The cultural landscape here is
characterized by minifundios, with the narrow plots
sometimes running downslope, a cultural heritage of
this region (Fig.7.31). A wealth of products is cultivated
here, mostly in seasonal rotation, mainly potatoes, barley, oats, onion, garlic and alfalfa. In the lower reaches
precipitation is not always adequate and irrigation is
3. The Cuenca of Ambato with adjoining lower slopes
(2,5002,800m). This region is characterized by an innerAndean, semi-arid climate (annual precipitation 300
500mm) and the contrast between irrigated, intensively
used minifundios and mostly steep, non-irrigated areas
prone to erosion and of little agricultural use. The rural

Fig.7.30Woola product from Zone 1

Fig.7.31Minifundio arable farming in Zone 2

Economic Structures and Regions

population lives in dense settlements from productive

fruit and vegetable growing and from job opportunities in
Ambato city. Problems are inadequate irrigation, incomes
and municipal infrastructure.
To the southeast of Ambato and part of the highland
basin is the cultural landscape of the Salasaca people.
This area presents similar physio-geographical features
to the mixed urban-rural zone around Ambato, where
mainly mestizos live, but has retained its own cultural
identity. With modest irrigation, agriculture in the area
is subsistence oriented. Better market potential comes
from the traditional textile trade, particularly from the
favourable location on the main road between Ambato
and Puyo. The Salasacas also benefit from the proximity
to Ambato and its market and job potential. Main stress
factors are periodic droughts and water shortages, inadequate additional earning options and insufficient agricultural measures and means.
4. The core zone of agricultural production in the long settled region around the market of Pelileo (2,0002,700m,
Fig. 7.32). The city was reconstructed on the road from
Ambato to Puyo after old Pelileo had been completely
destroyed in an earthquake in 1948 and has since grown
into an important central place. In recent decades, Pelileo
has developed into a centre of jeans production and textile
trade. The agricultural areas reach from the valley floor of
the Patate River, along the sometimes steep slopes to the
upper limit of arable farming. With increasing altitude,
the agrarian landscape changes from well irrigated areas
of intensive arable farming to the mostly steeper, non-irrigated slopes, which often are prone to erosion and landslides and provide only marginal potential for cultivation.
5. The valley floor of the Patate River with favourable temperatures and the river oasis around the city of Patate
(2,0002,600m). Here well irrigated and productive
areas of minifundios and haciendas are found and citrus fruit (Fig.7.33) and avocados are grown. Along

Fig.7.32Intensive field cultivation near Pelileo, Zone 4


7.2 Andean Agriculture

Fig.7.33Citrus fruit growing on the valley floor of the Ro Patate,

Zone 5

the adequately irrigated lower slopes there is intensive

minifundio agriculture, with a rich diversity of vegetables and cereals, plus alfalfa for animal fodder.
Cultivation is often in the form of mixed culture in
various traditional rotation cycles. Above 2.600m, the
year-round irrigated agriculture gives way to seasonal
rain-fed farming, in part supplemented by irrigation in
dry periods. Typical for the smallholding agriculture in
this region is its strong market orientation. Problems
stem from the high population density, which forces
families to overexploit the land or to expand cultivation
into ecologically unsuitable areas. As land ownership
or leasehold often does not provide an adequate livelihood, many have to look for additional work and earning options in the agricultural (e.g. as peones, seasonal
migrant workers on the coastal plain) or non-agricultural
sectors. The main problems perceived by the campesinos
in this zone are the high costs of irrigation, fertilizer,
pesticides and tools, inadequate irrigation and lack of
support from government programmes.
6. The temperate humid part of the Pastaza Valley (1,200
1,800m). Below the confluence of Ro Patate and Ro
Chambo the climate becomes distinctly warmer and
more humid. The humid air masses from the Amazon
lowlands progress this far, creating an intermeshing of
ecological and cultural landscape features of the sierra
and the Oriente. This zone is part of the tierra templada,
the uppermost settled and cultivated slopes at the foot
of the Tungurahua Volcano reach into the tierra fra. On
the narrow valley floor, dominant crops are citrus fruit,
naranjillas, babacos (mountain papaya), sugar cane and
vegetables, in the higher reaches of the slopes replaces
by vegetables and cereals. The steep mountain slopes are
covered with humid montane forests. The regional centre is Baos, named after the thermal springs, popular
with tourists for its mild climate and attractive landscape

Fig.7.34Pioneer settlement in Zone 7

as well as being a major national place of pilgrimage.

Perceived problems here are the cost of agrochemicals, a
lack of infrastructure, poor access to the markets and the
humidity of the climate.
The young colonization area (below 1,200m).
Annual precipitation in this zone can reach 3,000 to
over 4,000mm, with average annual temperatures of
1825C. Typical tierra caliente crops, such as bananas,
sugar cane, tropical fruit and cassava, are grown here.
The mountain forelands include extensive areas of tropical rainforest, with islands of pastoral economy and individual coffee, cocoa and tea plantations. It is a sparsely
populated area, with settlements concentrated as linear bands and small central places in Ro Negro, Shell,
Madre Tierra and Mera (Fig.7.34). The whole lower
Pastaza Valley is oriented to the booming multifunctional
city of Puyo, which is situated at an altitude of 950m at
the boundary between sierra and Oriente. Main stressors
are the inadequate infrastructure, lack of agritechnical
training and equipment as well as a shortage of agricultural labour.
Alongside the dominant channel and furrow irrigation,
today on larger farms sprinkle and drip irrigation are used
more and more. Chiles booming wine export has turned the
previously dry slopes of the central region green (Fig.7.35),
a feat achieved through drip irrigation. In the Small North,
avocado trees fed in this way grow up the slopes. The
newer reservoirs in the meltwater areas of the glaciers, in
the upper headwaters of the rivers and in the lower valleys, have undoubtedly boosted agricultural production
in the surrounding regions, ensuring the livelihood of the
rural population. However, the construction of these reservoirs has often impaired the natural geographic stability and
meant an export of water resources from the areas of origin Moreover, there have been substantial controversies and
conflicts between the people affected by the construction of
large water reservoirs and the various stakeholders promoting the water projects.


Economic Structures and Regions

Changes in the agrarian systems came about as a result

of out-migration, new market opportunities and forces, an
expansion of the irrigation systems and the introduction
of new, more productive potato varieties with an increased
input of fertilizers and pesticides. In the higher regions
that depend on precipitation, the considerable distance to
villages and market centres, low productivity and lack of
labour have led to extensification, in some places even to
the abandonment of marginal fields and pastures. In contrast, land use has often intensified in areas with irrigation
agriculture. The changes in the agrarian systems manifest
themselves in the cultivation of new potato varieties that
depend on irrigation and year-round cultivation of alfalfa
to feed more animals, as well as in reduced fallow periods.
These changes are particularly marked in the immediate
vicinity of the municipalities and along the roads.

7.2.4 Highland Pastoral Economy

Fig.7.35Wine growing with drip irrigation, central Chile

Zimmerer (2011e, f) demonstrated this using the Laka

project in Bolivia as a case in point. Damming the highland water transformed the valley into an irrigated landscape and gave a new agricultural development boost to
areas of water scarcity. At the same time the traditional
livelihood base and the interests of some 2,000 inhabitants of the surrounding regions affected by the project were
largely ignored. This accentuated the ethnic and economic
divisions and combative attitude between the indigenous
highland communities and the non-indigenous valley populations. In many mountain areas in the tropical Andes, a
combination of rain-fed cultivation and irrigated pastoral
economy is typical. This complementary agricultural system, however, is not static, rather it undergoes repeated
modifications. Wiegers etal. (1999) demonstrated this with
reference to the upper Caete Valley in the western cordillera of Peru. This is how the municipalities of Miraflores
(3,660m) and Huantan (3,290m) used the following production zones:
1. Irrigated agripastoral zone (potrero), 3,0003,800m,
mainly cultivation of maize (maizal), potatoes and barley, in rotation with alfalfa;
2. Rain-fed field cultivation and pastoral economy (aisha),
3,4004,000m, rotational cultivation of native potato
varieties (year 1), oca, mashua and olluco (year 2), and
barley (year 3), followed by several fallow years (barbecho), during which the land is collectively used for
3. Upper pastoral zone (puna), 3,0004,800m, cattle, sheep,
goats, llamas and alpacas.

Animal husbandry on highland pastures in the Andes goes

back thousands of years. In most parts of the sierra it still
is a main pillar of the rural populations livelihood, often
combined with arable farming. While animal husbandry can
be found in most regions and elevations in the Andes, the
pastoral economy is concentrated in the highlands of the
pramo and the puna.
In the tierra helada, at the upper limit of the human
ecumene, these zones are usually thought of as fragile ecosystems and as marginal economic and settlement areas
(Genin 1997: 141), especially given the low temperatures
and the isolated location and limited access of many areas
(Fig. 7.36). In the puna seasonal precipitation deficits and
periodic droughts present major additional risks. The
regular severe night frosts during the dry period (May
December) are a big challenge for people and grazing animals. During the precipitation period (DecemberMarch/
April), they occasionally have to grapple with heavy rain,
hail and even snow.
Even so, the grassland and shrub formations with their
wealth of plant species present great potential for extensive animal husbandry. Cattle and sheep are grazing on the
permanently humid pramos up to elevations of around
4,200m; mainly llamas, alpacas, sheep and goats are kept
in the drier puna areas up to just under 5,000m. In the
semi-arid Altiplano region of southern Peru and Bolivia,
indigenous cultural traditions based on a pastoral economy
date back to pre-Hispanic times and persist to this day,
albeit with numerous adaptations.
Contrary to the puna region, animal husbandry in the
pramo did not start until the colonial period. A major difference between the two grazing zones is the fact that in


7.2 Andean Agriculture

the pramo grasslands the same areas are used as pastures

all year round (Hess 1990, Sarmiento 2012), while in the
puna seasonal movements are necessary to cope with the
water situation. Molinillo and Monasterio (1997), however,
were able to demonstrate on the example of the Cordillera
de Mrida in Venezuela that both the short grasses in the
valleys with more intensive grazing and the rosette shrub
societies in the upper mountain reaches are used relatively
extensively in a type of transhumance (Fig.7.37).
In many parts of the puna, grazing is practically the only
form of agricultural use, except for the region around Lake
Titicaca with its favourable climate. There, arable farming
of mainly quinoa and tubers is possible even at very high
elevations. With year-round precipitation and much less
danger of frost, potato cultivation in the pramo plays an
important role. A limiting factor, however is the long ripening period of 1214months.
While potato cultivation is growing, the pastoral economy in the pramo is extensive and produces both meat
and milk. The increased demand for dairy products in the
nearby towns has boosted the economic status of the highland pastures. The typical rotation cycle starts with one year
of intensive potato growing, followed by several years of
grazing. Decisive for the success of the pastoral economy in
the pramo are easy access to urban markets, quality management of the milk in production and transport, and where
possible the creation of local dairy processing facilities. This
is also important to boost small-scale dairy farming in the
higher Andes in their competition with the larger enterprises
in the valleys and adjoining lowlands (Bernet etal. 2001).
The Cayambe Region (Queso de Cayambe) in Ecuador
(Breuer 1992) is an example of a successful dairy and cheese
production that has succeeded on the national market.
The pastoral economy in the puna regions of Peru and
Bolivia never were a rigid system but always a combination
of proven economic and social traditions with processes of
adaptation. Top priority for the pastoring communities has
always been to minimize the risks to securing the livelihood of the families and aylls in tune with the rhythm of
the seasonal changes in climate and vegetation. Seasonal
movement of animals and their shepherds has always been
and still is a characteristic feature. During the rainy season,
the families and their animals remain at their main location,
the estancia. There the freshly grown grasslands (mainly
pajonal and gramadal grasses) provide good grazing. In the
course of the eight months long dry season, the animals are
moved to topo-hydrological niches. Some of these highland
basins (bofedales) are groundwater-fed, some are also irrigated. Often the estancias are left during this period and the
shepherds camp out in huts near their animals. This cyclical movement is in some ways similar to the transhumance
in other mountain regions. Charbonneau (2008) points out,
however, that here we have primarily a movement towards

Fig.7.36Settlement in the tierra helada, Peruvian Altiplano

Fig. 7.37Sparse rosette vegetation in the pramo of Venezuela,

a consequence of grazing

the best pastures and not necessarily into different altitudinal zones. Often the bofedales are situated between half an
hour and five hours walk from the estancias.
Charbonneau (2008) identifies climatic and anthropogenous changes in the traditional pastures and the related seasonal movements in recent times. Declining water resources
as a result of temporary droughts and reduced snowfall and
glacier meltwater may shrink the total hydrological balance
and with it the grazing areas for the pasture communities in
the longer term. In many regions, the Altiplano population is
growing in the wake of sinking mortality rates. This has led to
a reduction and further subdivision of grazing areas. Attempts
at adapting to the changed situation include additional investment in expanding irrigation and changing the mobility pattern. Charbonneau (2008) has identified new forms of spatial


movements, which are more frequent and more complex than

the former simple dry season/wet season migrations.
Other changes and adaptations to current circumstances
are new breeding technologies and a stronger orientation
on the market for wool products, esp. of alpacas. One such
example is the Alpaca Project of the Asociacin Integral
de Ganaderos in Cmelidos de los Andes Altos in Bolivia,
which mainly aims at boosting alpaca productivity through
improved grazing and through marketing the alpaca wool
(Buttolph and Coppock 2005).
Agricultural use of the pramo and the puna grasslands,
their expansion and intensification today often runs into conflict with conservation aims and strategies. On the one hand,
these grasslands are particularly fragile ecosystems and valuable biotopes worthy of protection, on the other hand, they
are the space in which the indigenous agrarian communities live and work. The degradation phenomena that occur at
these elevations can often be traced back to natural geomorphological and climatic factors. Today efforts are being made
to fight degradation with reforestation (Fig.7.38).
The heavy use of the land or the vegetation by humans
can always intensify such degradation processes or even trigger them in the first place as a consequence of agricultural
or infrastructural measures. Inappropriate arable farming on
steep slopes, the use of heavy agricultural machines, massive
use of chemical fertilizers, interventions in the natural hydrological regime or overgrazing of certain areas can all impair
soil and water quality. The same goes for the expansion of
the road network and particular for mining activities.
Conservation efforts aim at counteracting such threats
and to maintain or recreate these unique natural landscapes,
water resources and biodiversity. When establishing protected areas, however, the interests and traditional livelihoods

Fig.7.38Reforestation in the Bolivian sierra (in the background of

the picture)

Economic Structures and Regions

of the indigenous population cannot be ignored. The creation

of a protected area must not marginalize the local population
or force them to migrate (cf. Chap.3).

7.2.5 Agrarian Reforms

In Latin America, agrarian reforms manifest themselves in
a complex manner. In the course of history, they have pursued diverse objectives and strategies with heterogeneous
effects on the rural societies and on the economy. Agrarian
reforms are informed by economic, social and political
Economic priorities are extending or intensifying the
land used in agriculture and increasing agrarian production, strengthening both the small and medium-sized farms
and the export-oriented large enterprises (land-use reform).
In the course of extending agricultural acreage, complex
colonization programmes have been carried out in pioneer
regions. Efforts to increase production focused on employing new agrarian technologies, plus financial and technical
support and measures to improve infrastructure.
In social terms, the agrarian reforms mainly tried to
reduce the enormous contrast between a rich rural oligarchy and the masses of marginalized smallholders and the
landless underclass (land ownership reform). At the same
time, such efforts should dampen social protest and possible revolutionary movements. Agrarian reforms were carried out by all kinds of governments, military regimes (e.g.
General Velasco in Peru), elected governments (e.g. those
of Eduardo Frei sen. and Allende in Chile, or more recently
the Morales administration in Bolivia) and socialist revolutionary movements. In all these efforts it has transpired that
pure land ownership reforms without concurrent land-use
reforms are bound to fail. There has been no case where the
land ownership reform went along with a true restructuring
of the rural areas in terms of functionality and productivity.
For centuries the rural areas in the Andes have been
characterized by poverty, marginality, disparities and injustices in the access to land, water and other resources. First
calls for reform date back to the end of the colonial period.
From the mid-20th century onwards, demands for agrarian
reforms came mainly from leftist governments.
In Bolivia president Paz Estenssoro signed a land reform
act in 1953, which broke the rule of the haciendas over the
smallholders, introduced a redistribution of
land and put the municipal administration into the hands
of rural trade unions. The previously landless farmers were
organized in new municipalities. In the following years,
the Instituto Nacional de Reforma Agraria redistributed
about three quarters of the agricultural land in Bolivia. In
the 1960s and 1970s, a land colonization programme was
initiated to venture into the eastern lowlands and tens of

7.2 Andean Agriculture

thousands of marginalized families from the highlands

emigrated into the new pioneer areas.
These reforms came to a standstill in the years that
followed and afterwards little changed in the enormous

socio-economic gap between impoverished minifundios in

the highlands and rich large land owners in the eastern lowlands. Jemio etal. (2009) identified a series of reforms and
counter reforms in this context. Many lands of indigenous
communities without a recognized title to the land were
apportioned to influential families during the dictatorships
in the 1970s. Not until 1996 was a new agrarian reform act
passed that recognized the collective title to land of indigenous communities. However, the boundaries of these lands
were often inadequately defined and the new owners did not
have enough access to loans and agricultural technology.
In 2006, president Evo Morales, supported by the mobilized indigenous population, pushed through another land
reform. It expropriated unproductive latifundios that did
not fulfil any just socio-economic function or which had
been appropriated unjustly. Individual land ownership was
limited to 5,000ha. The reforms declared aim was to recognize indigenous community land (tierra comunitaria
de orgen). By 2009, 72 such communal titles to land (of
143 suggested in total) had been attributed in the Andean
highlands. The state reforms and the recognition of indigenous rights were mainly made possible through the work
of the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia
(Confederacin de Pueblos Indgenas de Bolivia), founded
in 1982, which has organized marches for territories,
resources, political participation, sovereignty and development since 1990.
In the course of this reform the land distributed to smallholders was however mainly state-owned land. Over time
the threat to the economic interests of the large agricultural
businesses intensified the conflict between the sierra with
its indigenous rural population and the eastern lowlands
with their white and mestizo populations. For the first time,
a special coca section (Section384) was entered into the
Constitution, stating that the state shall protect the indigenous and traditional coca as cultural heritage, as renewable biodiversity resource and as a factor of social cohesion
(translated by the authors).
Reform efforts in Bolivia focus on creating decentralized
political structures through strengthening the municipalities, through redistribution and local control over natural
resources. The traditional principles of collective ownership
and work are being especially recognized.
In Peru under general Velasco Alvarado an agrarian
reform act was introduced in 1969. Its main aim was to calm
down rural unrest and to strengthen agricultural productivity
by supporting the farmers. The reforming efforts were met
with considerable resistance by the ruling class of older land
owners, even those of medium-sized and small farms. Soon


the landless rural peoples movements became more radicalized and in 1974 many plots were taken illegally by squatters. In Andahuayalas Province alone, 78 haciendas were
occupied. Some of the newly formed cooperatives were also
threatened by spontaneous rural invasions.
The writer and former presidential candidate Vargas Llosa
(1998: 2723) reports the confiscation of the haciendas on
the Peruvian coast. They were turned into cooperatives and
the enterprises owned collectively. In practice, however, the
new owners were not the farmers but the administrators of
the new state enterprises who exploited the farmers exactly
like the former patrons had done. What made matters worse
was the fact that the directors of the cooperatives and stateowned enterprises did nothing except administer them politically, often being content with plundering the businesses, so
that soon there were no more profits.
In this climate of insecurity and unrest and with the
reform being limited to redistributing land ownership, agricultural productivity went down. Moreover, the majority of
smallholders had been ignored and so the objective of pacifying them had not been met. In the 1980s the continuing
economic and social crisis of the rural areas in the sierra
led to the emergence of the guerrilla organization Sendero
Luminoso (Shining Path) and great political unrest, economic decline and a mass exodus of the rural population
into the big cities, esp. Lima. After economic failure and
sinking acceptance of the cooperatives by the rural population, most of them were parcelled up into private ownership
in the 1980s. The rise of neoliberal trends since the 1990s
have brought most of the reform movements in Peru to a
Colombia passed an agrarian reform act as early as 1936
and yet it had practically no effect in the following decades.
Minister Lleras Restrepo, later president, initiated another
reform in 1961, which was revoked in 1973 under president
Pastrana. In 2003, 63.6% of the agrarian land was still in
the hands of 0.4% of land owners, while 86.3% of smallholders owned just 8.8% of agricultural land.
In Colombia the issue of agriculture and the fate of the
rural population were linked most strongly to domestic policy crises and civil-war type conflicts. During the years of
Violencia from 1948 to 1953 and in the later civil-war type
conflicts between revolutionary movements, government
troops and paramilitary groups, tens of thousands of farmers were killed or driven off their land. These internal refugees sought security in the big cities or emigrated abroad,
draining the country of hundreds of thousands of people.
Often violence and expulsion were linked to the economic interests of large land owners, corporations or illegal
activities like drug smuggling. The latest reform efforts of
the government are aimed at restituting the land to the displaced campesinos and indgenas (restitucin) and to secure
their title to the land. Land that has been appropriated


unjustly, esp. by drug cartels, is to be expropriated. In addition, the acreage used for cattle ranches is to be reduced to
benefit arable farming. Currently, however, it seems difficult
to implement these measures.
In Ecuador a land reform act was proclaimed in 1964.
It abolished the traditional huasipungo system of smallholder serfdom and freed unused land and land where the
owner had been absent for a long time for redistribution.
Land ownership in the sierra was limited to 800ha of fields
and 1,000ha of pastures. Newly distributed agrarian plots
should have a minimum size of 4.8ha.
The regional focus of the agrarian reforms in the 1970s
and 1980s, however, was the agrarian colonization of the
valleys and lowlands of the Oriente. New settlers normally
received plots of 4050ha from the Instituto Ecuatoriano de
Reforma Agraria y Colonizacin (IERAC). One main problem, esp. in the beginning, stemmed from the fact that the
migrants, who mainly came from the sierra, met with ecological conditions that were foreign to them and received
little technological support. In 1994 president Durn signed
a new act to bestow and/or secure titles to private land. This
met with fierce resistance by the indigenous communities as
it allowed subdividing and selling community owned land,
which at the time made up 58% of the rural agricultural
land in Ecuador.
Since the 1990s, two main trends have dominated the
rural areas: the neoliberal paradigm and a strengthening of
indigenous culture and its political organizations and influence at national level. Neoliberal strategies supported a
myriad of integrated rural development projects aimed at
modernizing rural regions and encouraging agrarian production on market and export economic principals.
A particularly striking example of this development is
the replacement of traditional agricultural landscapes with
greenhouses for export-oriented flower growing and sheds
of chicken farms. Martinez Valle and Barril (1995) make a
highly critical assessment of this type of rural development:
Rural development indeed turns into an elitist policy that
allows the middle class and even the rural bourgeoisie to
establish themselves comfortably in areas that were meant
for the rural poor. There are a great number of agrarian
producers who do not participate in this because they have
been deliberately excluded: the rural poor. (Martinez Valle
1995: 195, translated by the authors).
This new orientation clearly leaves the efforts from the
1970s and 1980s for structural change through national
land reforms behind and replaces it today with a large-scale
privatization of the agrarian sector. The new oligarchy and
large corporations play an important role in this development. Bretn Solo de Zaldvar (2008) is also critical of the
role of non-government organizations in this process of
rural development. For him, their massive engagement, esp.
in the Quechua regions of the sierra amounts to a wealth

Economic Structures and Regions

and duplication of projects informed by diverse ideologies

and perspectives as well as competition between organizations, which only confused the local population: The world
of non-governmental organizations is singing from different
hymn sheets, directed by different conductorsa strange
symphony without a clear objective and incapable of cooperation. (Bretn Solo de Zaldvar 2008: 599, translated by
the authors).
Another trend in Ecuador since the 1990s has been an
ethnicizing of rural development (Bretn Solo de Zaldvar
2008). Since the UN declaration of the rights of indigenous
peoples and supported by the World Bank and other institutions, esp. non-government organizations, indigenous elites
received massive support for projects within their sphere of
influence. The majority of poor indgenas with little social
prestige or political clout, however, were hardly able to benefit from such development initiatives. The areas inhabited
by mestizos and white rural people were also overshadowed
by the indigenous regions when it came to development aid
(Bretn Solo de Zaldvar 2008: 600609).
In Venezuela, too, early efforts at an agrarian reform date
back to the 1960s but were undermined by the rural oligarchy and remained largely unsuccessful. Not until 2002,
in the course of the Bolivarian Revolution under president
Chvez was a land reform act introduced with the slogan
Vuelta al Campo (Return to the Countryside). It limited the
size of an agricultural property in dependence of soil quality and type of use and freed unused or fallow land owned
by large private owners since 2005 for expropriation, often
by paying something to the previous owners before redistributing it.
Such efforts met with fierce resistance from agrarian corporations and private land owners. The government
also provided state-owned land for redistribution to more
than 100,000 farming families and supported the establishment of cooperatives. Communal self-organization of the
campesinos, however, turned out to be problematic. In its
Zamora Plan the government promised the farmers advice
with agrarian technology and with marketing their produce.
Where owners could prove their title to the land, expropriation was rare. With these measures the government hoped to
break up the large haciendas, certify existing titles to land
and redistribute land, as well as counteract the migration of
the rural population into the cities.
In Chile early attempts at a land reform go back to the
1960s (1964 Land Reform Act, Arturo Alessandri administration) and were intensified during the presidency of
Eduardo Frei (19651970). Main aims of these reforms
were improving the living conditions of the smallholders and
their access to the market, increasing agricultural production and counteracting social unrest in the country. Salvador
Allende (19701973) continued these efforts with new vigour, albeit only in terms of land ownership. Under Allende


7.2 Andean Agriculture

the former cooperatives were nationalized (Weischet 1973).

The socialist government, informed by dependency theory,
acted on the assumption that the industrial nations, led by the
US, would exploit capital and mineral resources and make
Chile dependent on them (Fig.7.39). By nationalizing the
land through the agrarian reform and the mineral resources
through expropriation of foreign corporations, Chile should
regain self-determination.
Approximately half of the usable land was affected by
the agrarian reforms. In some places illegal but tolerated
squatting (toma) took place (Fig.7.40). A top priority for
the reforms was the abolishment of feudal structures. From
1971 onwards, however, food shortages started in the cities,
and the population of Santiago protested every evening by
gathering in the streets and hitting on their empty cooking
pots. Even generous food aid from China was not enough to
cope with the food shortages.
After the military coup by the junta in 1973 many of
Allendes reforms (land reform, nationalization of mining and
industry) were revoked. Expropriated land was restituted to
the former owners if they were prepared to take on any debts
accrued, otherwise they were auctioned. Smaller farms were
also redistributed to new owners, in the Small South limited to
a maximum of 80ha. Cooperatives were encouraged to subdivide their land into private plots. The governments main aim
was to support market-oriented farms and increase agricultural
production and export in this way, esp. of fruit and wine.
In economic terms this policy was highly successful.
Chiles agrarian sector has since played an important role
in exports, albeit to the detriment of the smallholder sector.
This is where the majority of the rural population works but
it only includes a third of the agricultural land and agrarian
production. So the Chilean example also shows that economic progress and increased national production has not
solved the social problem of pronounced disparities.
The objectives and regulations of these reforms in the
Andean countries were indeed ambitious and, at least in the
beginning, encouraging, but they all fell much behind the
high expectations of economic or social success. The governments did not pursue land use reforms to complement
the redistribution of land ownership. In some cases they
failed because of resistance from oligarchies with political
clout. In cases like Peru or Ecuador the reform efforts were
radicalized by militant campesinos or revolutionary movements, which were answered by repressions from police,
the military or paramilitary groups.
To sum up: the objective of the agrarian reforms, i.e.
increasing agricultural production and boosting both
domestic food security and agrarian exports, have by and
large not been met because the land redistribution programmes were not or inadequately complemented by agrotechnology and financial support. Moreover, the socialist
ideals of collective farms and cooperatives turned out to be

Fig.7.39Graffiti on a wall in Valdivia, Chile, 1971

Fig.7.40Toma of a fundo in southern Chile

difficult to implement in practice. Reasons for this failure

were corruption, lack of management know-how and an
inadequate adoption of collective cultivation.
The strong hand of the state in these reforms also led to
exaggerated centralism and bureaucracy with little regard
for local circumstances. Neither the social objectives of a
more just distribution of land, reduced poverty for the campesinos and less migration to the big cities nor the economic
objective of a full-scale sustainable development of the rural
Andean areas were met. In many cases, the reforms never
reached the smallholders, the landless or the indigenous communities. It has also become clear that the economic situation
of women improved little through the reforms, but at least the
political participation of women in communal gatherings and
their education and training (capacitacin) have often progressed remarkably (Fig.7.41).


Fig.7.41Bolivian women at a rural training event

Despite all the drawbacks the agrarian reforms provided

an impulse for a new rural awareness of economic cooperatives and local farming communities in many regions.

7.2.6 Changes in Andean Agriculture

At first glance the Andean agriculture presents a picture
of traditional farming and a rural cultural landscape. But
the rural regions in the Andean countries have undergone
repeated changes, not just recently but as far back as precolonial and colonial times and again since obtaining political independence. Some of the new orientations came in
response to changes in the natural conditions, but most are
the result of changes in the economic, social or political
Here we want to focus on processes of change in recent
decades and today. One physical-geographic phenomenon
with great impact on agriculture are the El Nio/La Nia
cycles with their extreme precipitation anomalies. Climate
warming exerts a longer-term influence. The complete or
part meltdown of the snow and ice cover in the summit
areas will in the longer term have a detrimental effect on
water resources and the irrigation potential of the adjoining
agricultural areas and will require considerable adaptation
efforts for arable farming and the pastoral economy. The
warming of the higher altitude climate may also trigger an
upward shift of the cultivation zones and a vertical expansion of the land available as pasture.
While changes in climate are at the centre of global
changes, anthropogenous changes are often more immediate.
Agrarian structures have changed greatly under the influence

Economic Structures and Regions

of the ubiquitous economic and social modernization

processes in the rural population. Agricultural forms of production have changed in many Andean regions, encouraged
by capital and market-economic goals set by governments
and corporations. Market orientation has been encouraged
by improved road links as well as by technical and financial
Such an economic development affects mainly the larger
enterprises with more capital but also acted as a model for
many smallholders. However, only a minority of farming
families benefitted long-term from the agricultural upturn.
The disparity between a largely marginalized majority of
smallholders and the new profiteers in agroindustry and
export-oriented agriculture has remained in place.
The reform movements of the 1960s and 1970s mostly
ended the traditional hacienda system of rent taking land
owners. In the following decades the replacement haciendas pursued productive capitalist farming, followed by privatization and fragmentation of agricultural land. Under
the influence of neoliberal economic policies productivity increased dramatically. In the haciendas of the Llanos
del Orinoco in the forelands of the Venezuelan cordillera
there are dairy farms where European high-yielding cows
are kept in sheds and their bellies and udders sprayed with
disinfectant three times a day to make them more resistant
against the tropical climate. Feed crop fields are flattened
using laser and GIS technologies, the harvest is calculated
and adjusted to the needed amount by adding fertilizer.
Kay (1999: 283) calls this development the neoliberal response to the agrarian reforms. Most agrarian big
businesses are located in the lowlands, but in the sierra
an orientation towards the market economy has also set
in. Special cultivation of fruit and vegetables in favoured
regions, flower growing and dairy industry have provided
new economic impulses and to a degree have allowed a
medium-sized agriculture and various marketing cooperatives to emerge. In the foothills of the eastern cordillera in
Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, legal and illegal coca cultivation has offered a profitable alternative, which even foreign
investment could not prevent.
Modernization and progress are, however, restricted
to a handful of actors and to regional islands of wealth.
Minifundio agriculture still offers few prospects and forces
the younger rural population into periodic or permanent
migration into agribusinesses, into the cities or into the mining areas, the oil fields of the Oriente and into industry or
other formal and informal occupations.
Many campesinos have emigrated to other countries
and support their families with money transfers and investment in their regions of origin. Kay (1999: 287290) lists
four major changes affecting rural labour: the transformation from rent to paid employment; the trend of employing temporary or seasonal labour; the feminization of rural


7.2 Andean Agriculture

employment, especially in agroindustry; the urbanization

of the rural labour pool along with a certain ruralization of
marginal populations at the edge of the big cities.
Today there is some hope for development initiatives to
improve the marketing of local craft products, especially
textiles. Efforts are also under way in suitable regions to
involve the local population more in nature, culture or
Overall the agrarian structure and the rural cultural
landscape are much more heterogeneous than in the
latifundia/minifundio dichotomy of earlier periods (Kay
1999: 272). However, the landless and smallholder families
remain without economic alternatives in a state of structural poverty and marginality. This dire situation can only
be improved if effective reforms are put into place with the
aim of more just distribution of land, plus financial, technical and organizational support for smallholders, increase,
diversification and marketing of their produce, better education and training, additional earning options in rural areas
as well as substantial improvements in rural infrastructures
and services.

7.3 Mining and Mining Settlements

7.3.1 Mining in Mountain Regions
Deposits of rocks, salts and ores and the mining activities
attracted by them are largely confined to mountain areas
(Fox 1997). Mining has played a major role in the economic development of the Andes, created work and income
for the population, but also exploitation, dependence and
environmental degradation. Humans have made unparalleled efforts exploring forbidding mountain terrain in their
search for valuable ores. Open cast and deep mines have
been operated even in glacier areas at very high elevations,
on inaccessible steep slopes, forest areas or deserts.
The indigenous population succeeded early in exploiting
the deposits, but over time mining was controlled predominantly by external interests and forces, the ores were exported
from the mountain areas and the profits largely diverted away
from the producing regions, often abroad. The local population
has repeatedly protested against such practices and the nation
states have issued measure to combat them, occasionally with
success, for instance recently in Bolivia under president Evo
Morales. In many other instances, however, powerful foreign
corporations, sometimes combined with state interests, have
succeeded in maintaining control over mining.
Mining shapes the scenery in many ways, depending
on the particular stage of the process. There areas of mining exploration, slag heaps, smelting and other processing
centres, workers settlements, transport infrastructure, but
also wastewater lagoons. Mines and what they entail has a

Fig.7.42The mining settlement of La Oroya, Peru

massive degradation effect on the environment. Developing

the resources may mean substantial changes in relief, soil
and vegetation, particularly with open cast mining. Another
great problem is the threat of pollution for ground and surface water, vegetation and air.
In the course of exploiting deposits a special type of
settlement has developed, i.e. workers camps (Fig.7.42),
mining towns and smelter towns. They have a special structure, often dominated by the mine itself, processing plants,
compact workers dwellings (often terraced housing),
slag heaps and wastewater lagoons. Demographically and
socially, these places are characterized by boom and bust
cycles as a result of fast exploration and the often limited
economic life of profitable mining. Massive in-migration
and rapid growth may give way within a short space of time
to rapid emigration and the dissolution of these ephemeral

7.3.2 Mining in the Andes

The Andes are one of the richest mountain regions in a variety of deposits. Utilizing the mineral deposits has a long
tradition in the Andes going back to the times of the early
civilizations. Gold and silver were particularly valued and
processed by skilled craftspeople into decorative, ritual and
religious items. And it was this wealth that attracted the
greed of the Spanish conquerors and became a substantial
source of economic support for the Iberian colonial Empire.
The relatively short-lived exploitation of the precious metals was later superseded by one of other ores, mainly copper, zinc, tin and lead. Through the centuries, European
forces and the United States, as well as large transnational
corporations, were involved in these operations.


Recently mining in the Andes has been targeted by

global interests: national interests plus enterprises from
Canada, the United States, Brazil, Europe, Japan and China.
For a long time the ores in the cordilleras supplied most of
the export earnings from mining products in the Andean
countries. This monopoly of the cordilleras weakened with
the discovery and utilization of crude oil and natural gas in
the adjoining lowlands.
The mineral resources are tied to special geologic and
tectonic zones (cf.Sect.2.2). Metal concentrations mainly
emerged along the boundaries of mountain blocks (Herm
2006: 46). In Peru the mineralized zone of the central Andes
is particularly rich in lead, zinc, copper, iron ore, gold and
silver. The main deposit in Bolivia is tin and in Chile copper.

Fig.7.43The Cerro Rico in Potos, Bolivia

Fig.7.44View of Oruro, Bolivia

Economic Structures and Regions

The modern mining boom started in Peru in the early

20th century in Cerro de Pasco with copper, zinc and lead.
Until it was nationalized, the Cerro de Pasco Corporation
operated six main mining places, some of them at elevations of more than 4,000m, and built a large smelting operation in La Oroya. Another important impulse came from
iron ore mining in Marcona since the early 1950s, followed
by iron-processing industry being established in neighbouring Chimbote. Since the early 1960s, copper mining has
been pursued in southern Peru, with the most important
mines in Toquepala, Cuajone, Quellaveco and Cerro Verde,
plus copper processing in Ilo.
In Bolivia metal ores are concentrated in the so-called
tin-silver belt of the Cordillera Real and surroundings.
Silver mining as described in Sect. 2.2 at Cerro Rico near
Potos (Fig.7.43) was important in historical times, later
succeeded by tin mining which is still going on. Today,
however, the most important mines are those between Oruro
and Uncia. The problem for ore exports from Bolivia was
the difficult transport link to the ports. In the War of the
Pacific (18791883), Bolivia did not just lose its access to
major nitrate deposits in the Atacama Desert but also to the
Pacific ports on its national territory. In 1892 a railway link
was built from the Bolivian Altiplano with its mining centre
at Oruro to the Chilean port of Antofagasta, with additional
connections to Sucre and Potos. From 1913 onwards, railway links were built to connect the highlands of Bolivia
with the Chilean port of Arica (Tanner 1978: 212f).
The tin mines of Oruro, closed down in 1990 and 1992
(Fig. 7.44), used to be major sites, but the collapse of the
pewter market in 1985 caused their demise. Today only a
few, mostly private, mines are in operation. After the closure, some mines teamed up and are now operating a mine
on their own.
In Chile, like in Bolivia, the interest initially focused on
precious metals. The Norte Chico experienced a boom in
silver mining in the 19th century, with Copiap as the centre of operations. When the silver mines were exhausted in
the early 20th century, copper mining became the dominant
feature. It was boosted by the development of a profitable
method for obtaining low-grade copper ores from porphyritic rocks.
Copper mining in northern and central Chile developed into
a capital intensive industry dominated by US corporations.
First among those was the Anaconda Mining Company, which
operated the mines of Chuquicamata, Extica, El Salvador and
Potrerillos (long closed). Another big player was the Kennecott
Copper Corporation with the El Teniente mine south of
Santiago, and the Cerro Corporation, which established the
Ro Blanco mine at an elevation of 3,900m.
These corporations created so-called Company States
(Porteous 1973), i.e. territories that mainly consisted of the
functional components of the mine (e.g. Chuquicamata) and


7.3 Mining and Mining Settlements

Pacific ports (here Antofagasta), linked by a railway line. In

the course of Chilenization and later nationalization of mining in the 1960s and 1970s, the mines now are controlled
by the national copper corporations Corporacin del Cobre
de Chile (CODELCO) and Empresa Nacional de Minera
The most impressive mining complex is that of
Chuquicamata, in the Atacama Desert east of the port of
Antofagasta, at around 3,000m altitude. The site includes
the massive open pit hole, processing plants, huge slag
heaps (tortas), a smelter (Fig.7.45) and a former miners settlement. As pollution with arsenic and heavy metals
increased, the workers were relocated in 2004 to Calama,
15km away. Current plans for the Chuquicamata mine
envisage exploitation to continue until 2054. Figures published by CODELCO put the copper production for 2007 in
the district of Chuquicamata at 600,000tons, nearly a third
of global production. A special challenge for the mine and
the inhabitants of Calama is water supply in the desert-like
The worlds largest deep mine, with a total length of
2,400km of tunnels, shafts and galleries on 15 floors, is the
El Teniente mine, 80km southeast of Santiago de Chile in
the cordillera at around 2,300m altitude. Mining started in
1904 with the North-American Braden Copper Company,
initiating the big era of Chilean copper mining. A rock
sculpture acknowledges the achievements of the miners
(Fig. 7.46). During the Gran Minera nationalization, El
Teniente too became a state-owned mine. In 2006 the mine
produced 418,000tons of copper. It is considered the largest copper deposit in the world.
In Colombia mineral oil production in the mid-section of the Magdalena Valley between the refinery town
of Barrancabermeja and Puerto Boyac has gained some
significance but lags far behind the Maracaibo Basin
of Venezuela or the deposits in the Oriente of Ecuador.
Another important raw material for energy production
is coal, mined in ten Colombian Departments. The most
important mine is the Cerrejn open pit mine, located
between the Serrana de Perij and the Sierra Nevada de
Santa Marta (Department of Guajira). Coal exports in
Colombia (Fig.7.47) make up about a quarter of the total
exports of the country. Globally Colombia ranks forth
among the coal exporting countries (Hora 2014).
Mining in Colombia, operated by both state and private
organizations, has often been linked to extremes of violence
and a latent criminalization. This is particularly true of the
smaller and mid-sized mines. The government repeatedly
tried to close down those mines, which were labelled illegal
or informal operations, not least because they were seen as
competition for state-owned and large corporation mines or

Fig.7.45Copper processing in Chuquicamata, Chile

Fig.7.46Los Mineros sculpture in El Teniente, Chile

because they were supposedly controlled by revolutionary

groups. In the Bogot Declaration (2008), indigenous communities and miners of smaller operations protested against
ruthless actions by large corporations and the grave consequences of the mining controlled by them. The main problems listed include environmental degradation, bad working
conditions and safety standards as well as the repression of
any trade union gatherings and actions. In a resolution the
signatories set down 19 points to remedy such abuses and
demanded improvements. However, far reaching reforms
have not materialized to date.


Economic Structures and Regions

7.3.3 Mining and the Environment

Fig.7.47Coal transport from the Cerrejn mine to the port of Santa

Marta, Colombia
Fig.7.48Slag heaps in
copper mining, Mantos
Blancos, northern Chile

One major problem with mining is the dramatic impact

on the natural and cultural landscape, on water resources,
soils and air quality. Such degradation is often evident from
the exploration stage onwards and deepens with the start
of commercial operation. Further problems for the environment are added in the smelter and ore processing. The
fragile topography and ecology of the mountains tends
to exacerbate the environmental problems. Interventions
in the steep relief and the sensitive land cover often trigger ground crawling, landslides, rockfall and mudslides,
destroying infrastructures and settlements, and also claiming lives.
The size of land needed for these operations is also
problematic. Not only are huge areas taken up to mine the
resources but also for the processing plants, the transport
infrastructure and the slag heaps (Fig.7.48). The latter poison the natural and artificial wastewater basins, rivers and
canals. Earthquakes and landslides may also make the polluted water overflow into the surrounding area, causing further damage. Or poisonous substances may filtrate into the
groundwater and contaminate it. Repairing damages, if at
all possible, is a long-term project given the fragility of the
mountain region. A particular problem are the toxic emissions of the smelters, which contaminate the soils, the water
resources and the vegetation and impair the health of the
Lastly, it is the enormous water consumption in mining that
can lead to deficiencies in agricultural irrigation and drinking water supply (Fig.7.49).

7.3 Mining and Mining Settlements


ChuquicamataThe Worlds Largest Open Pit Mine

Chuquicamata in northern Chile is the largest man-made hole on earth. The mine is about 4,300m long, 3,000m
wide and 950m deep, equivalent to c. 13km2 and a theoretical volume of 11km3.
From 1915 to 2005 the mine produced 2.3billion tons of ore with an average copper content of 1.53% by weight.
In the period 20062014 another 700million tons are scheduled for production, with the mine reaching its greatest
depth of 1,100m in 2014. Various scenarios submitted by the operators Division Codelco Norte envisage open-cast
mining to end in 2017 at the latest. An intensive exploration programme has indicated further resources of 2.3billion
tons of ore with a copper content of 0.81% by weight down to a depth of 1,800m below the open pit. Deep mining
is to start in 2014, reaching its full capacity of 45million tons of ore per year in 2020. The open pit will then slowly
be filled with slag material.Chuquicamata copper mine, Chile

Taking the Ro Blanco project in Piura Departamento,

Peru, as a case in point, Bebbington and Williams (2008)
have pointed out the complex problem of mining and water
conflicts. They estimate that more than 50% of rural municipalities in Peru are directly or indirectly affected by mining activities, esp. in terms of water supply. They claim that
mines and metal industries in Peru direct over 13billion
cubic metres of wastewater into the rivers (Bebbington and
Williams 2008: 191). What makes matters worse is the fact
that many mines are situated in the upper reaches of hydrological basins, causing scarcity and degradation of the water
resources in the downstream settlements and agricultural
areas. Most affected are the river oases on the Pacific coast of
Peru (Golte 2004).
Another conflict situation between the needs of drinking
water supply, agriculture and mining arises at the point where
the rivers leave the mountains. The vulnerability of water
resources is also an issue where mining projects, particularly
new gold mines, are established in the immediate vicinity of
glaciers. In recent years this has happened in the headwater
area of the Ro Huasco on the Chilean-Argentinian border of

the Atacama. One fifth of the mining area is in Argentina and

80% in Chile. The Canadian company Barrick Gold wants to
remove parts of the Toro I, Toro II and Esperanza glaciers in

Fig. 7.49Water transport for the copper mines in the Atacama

Desert, Chile


open-cast mining. But these glaciers are an important source

of drinking water for 70,000 people on the Chilean and 24,000
people on the Argentinian side of the project. Resistance to the
project by environmental groups has sprung up esp. in Chile.
They fear grave consequences for the Huasco river oasis,
where 70,000 smallholders work in irrigation farming. They
are concerned about the contamination of the water with arsenic, which is needed to separate gold and silver.
Recently the Conga project in the mining region of
Cajamarca, Peru, and the reactions of the local population
have attracted a fair amount of attention, even internationally
(Achermann 2011). The US Newmont Corporation wanted
to invest 4.8billion USD in large-scale gold mining in the
region. Despite a promised environmental impact assessment, the project met with massive opposition from the local
population, which brought the economic and public life in
the region to a standstill lasting weeks and forced the government to put the project on ice, at least temporarily.
The opposition centred on the pollution and siphoning off
of water resources and the threat to and even destruction of
the Andean environment. The main concern is directed at four
mountain lakes, two of which supply the water for the mining
project. The other two are envisaged as deposits for the poisonous mining residues. Ecologic groups of the local smallholders (rondas campesinas) and anti-mining protesters in the cities
are fighting against the endangerment and destruction of the
environment and the erosion of traditional livelihoods caused
by external interest groups. Occasionally, however, the miners
mobilize in support of the maintaining or expanding the mines.
The population in this northern Andean region of Peru
has been sensitized to these issues in the course of the many
years of conflicts around the Yanacocha mine, situated at
an elevation of 3,5004,000m near Cajamarca. Yanacocha
is seen as the gold mining enterprise described by Golte
(2004: 40) as the most modern and most profitable mine
because of its high productivity. The mines did create thousands of new jobs and brought an economic boom to the city
and region of Cajamarca. The mining companies also supported various health, food, school and technical training
programmes. At the same time, however, the gold boom has
created a latent dissatisfaction in the local population, considerable social problems, an intensification of economic and
social divides and political unrest in the region.
In this situation, the left-wing populist president Ollanta
Humala faces a serious dilemma. Prior to his election he had
repeatedly sided with the protesters who mobilized against
the mining interests in various places in Peru. Now, in office
as president, he needs the considerable investment and mining taxes to fund his ambitious social projects. As a first step
at least, a law has been passed in Peru that requires the consultation of local communities in any new mining projects.
Mining in the Andes not only has grave consequences
for the environment, it also affects the livelihoods of human

Economic Structures and Regions

societies. For centuries, many mountain people have worked

in the mines of the cordilleras, in pre-Hispanic times and during the colonial period partly as enforced labour, since then
supposedly out of their own free will, but more often out of
the necessity to find alternative livelihoods to farming.
To this day the workers face very harsh working conditions, long-term effects on their health and inadequate
safety measures in the mines. In the copper smelting process sulphurous acid is released into the air. When it combines with sweat, it burns deep holes into the skin, which
is why the workers and any tourists visiting the mines must
wear clothes that completely cover the skin.
Again and again, mining accidents cause grave concern.
Often they are the result of non-compliance with statutory
requirements and lack of controls. The rescue of 33 miners at
Mina San Jos in the Chilean Atacama in 2010 was watched
anxiously by the whole world. The miners were buried when
a tunnel collapsed 700m underground, but after two months
they were all rescued alive (Fig.7.50). Mostly though, such
accidents do not end so well and cost lives.
Below ground the workers are threatened by collapsing
tunnels, sudden flooding events, explosions and poisonous
gases. The main dangers in open cast mining are rockfall,

Fig.7.50Rescue of miners in northern Chile, title page of La Nacin



7.3 Mining and Mining Settlements

landslides, mudslides in the pits themselves or on the slag

heaps. The local inhabitants are endangered by sudden leaks
of contaminated water from wastewater lagoons, sometimes
in the wake of earthquakes, heavy rain or inadequate maintenance. The harsh working conditions, the risk of accidents
and the adverse effects of particulates and pollution in the air,
the soil and the water often mean that the workers become
unable to work and have a much reduced life expectancy, a
severe threat to the long-term livelihood of the families.
There are some signs of improvements and progress in
tackling these problems with cleaner and green mining
and smelting technologies and better environmental and
water management, but these are often inadequate. Efforts
are also under way to reduce the susceptibility of mines to
risk and to improve safety measures, mainly in response
to pressure from protest movements of local communities.
These sometimes even succeed in making national governments or international corporations implement certain
measures to counteract the dangers.
This may take the form of stricter environmental requirements, improved working conditions, more effective safety
measures and involving the local population in balanced, sustainable regional planning. Here two diametrically opposed
perceptions of space overlap. One is controlled by investment
and capital, the other by social mobilization and opposition.
A major critical aspect in connection with mining in the
Andes is the issue of land ownership and utilization rights,
land prices, changes in land use and control over natural
resources. Bury (2005) took the Yanacocha mine in Peru as
a case in point to study this issue. He sees mining as one
component of the neoliberal, transnational and export-oriented economic development of the country, in the course
of which the mining sector changed from state-controlled
enterprises to privatization on a grand scale. As a result,
there has been a spatial expansion of mining rights and the
development of new mines, especially in the cordillera. This
means that mining reaches ever further into ecologically
fragile areas as well as into old cultural landscapes, threatening the traditional livelihoods of the local population.
According to Bury (2005), in the Departamentos
Cajamarca, Cusco and Huancavelica, in the year 2000, mining rights had been granted on between 30 and 50% of all
land. This expansion is mainly pursued by large transnational
corporations (TNCs) and has brought increased import of
investment, new technologies and foreign skilled personnel.
In this context, Bebbington etal. (2007) speak of various
forms of disappropriation of natural and human resources.
Bury (2005) identifies a major intervention in the cultural and social traditions of Andean communities in the
weakening of community institutions and land-use rights
through privatization and parcelling of land and water rights
and through growing pressure or temptation to sell such
rights to large corporations. These developments have led to

a sharp increase in land prices, esp. around the mines, land

speculation and in places a decline in agricultural land use.
Andean agriculture traditionally uses different altitudinal zones in a complementary way. Mining in the Jalca
zone at the upper limit of the ecumene thus hit the pastoral
economy and the area of tuber cultivation most, reducing
or compromising available land and damaging the economic self-sufficiency of the campesinos. These tried to use
the remaining land more intensively or, where possible, to
move to lower altitude regions.
In other cases, they abandoned agriculture and looked
for alternative occupations. The ecological, economic and
social effects of mining on the Andean communities in general are complex and differ between places and even families as well as changing over time. While some regions and
certain people benefit from mining, other feel threatened
and marginalized by it.

7.3.4 Mining Settlements

Mining settlements are a characteristic type of settlement
and a special spatial, demographic, economic and social
form of habitation. They spring up in connection with the
exploitation of mineral resources, sometimes in areas generally considered unfit for settlements. In Latin America these
include deserts and mountain areas, sometimes at extreme
elevations (the new mining town of La Rinconada near Puno
in Peru is situated at 5,200m). In many cases mining developed very rapidly and drew a high number of workers in a
very short time. The hope for quick fortunes in the search for
and exploitation of minerals, precious metals and gemstones
occasionally draws hordes of adventurers and fortune seekers.
Once mines become exhausted or unprofitable, settlements may quickly decline or even be abandoned altogether
and turn into ghost towns. In contrast, some earlier mining
towns have succeeded in developing alternative functions,
e.g. tourism and to keep going. While workers settlements,
at least in the beginning, develop unplanned and chaotically, company towns (for clerical staff and workers) of
large corporations are normally constructed to a plan and
abandoned once the site has been exhausted or world market conditions change (Fig.7.51).
There are many old and young mining settlements in the
Andes, a famous one from colonial times is Potos at the foot
of the silver mountain Cerro Rico, at an elevation around
4,000m. In its heyday at the beginning of the 17th century,
Potos was one of the largest cities in the world. Today it has
about 170,000 inhabitants and silver mining at Cerro Rico
has largely given way to tin mining. Potos meanwhile has
taken on important administrative and central place functions as the capital of the Departamento of the same name.
The city is also a major tourist destination, known for its


Fig.7.51Abandoned company town Pedro de Valdivia, a ghost town,

northern Chile

Fig.7.52Cemetery of the Yugoslavia saltpetre mine in the Atacama

Desert, Chile

impressive buildings from the colonial period, and was

included in the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1987.
Other entrants into this list are the Humberstone and
Santa Laura saltpetre mines and the former mining settlement of Sewell in Chile. For about 50years, between 1880
and the late 1920s, these mines in the Pampas Desert in
northern Chile were among the largest saltpetre deposits
in the world. Today all but one building of the former company town are derelict. Deserted cemeteries are reminders

Economic Structures and Regions

of the thousands of people who worked and died there

The former mining settlement of Sewell was created in
1905 by the Braden Copper Company near El Teniente,
then the largest copper mine in the world. During the mining boom the settlement, which is located at an elevation of
2,000m, was home to some 15,000 workers but changed
into a ghost town when the settlement was relocated. The
planned layout of Sewell on an extremely steep slope is
unique and made it necessary to link the railway station
with the terraced living quarters and the mine via a wide
central staircase.
Other mining towns are not included in the world heritage list, but they are of historical interest. Some of these
settlements are abandoned today, either because the deposits had been exhausted or become unprofitable, or because
the air and water pollution threatened the health of the
workers families, as was the case in Potrerillos in the
Chilean Atacama. This mining settlement lost its rationale in the early 1960s to competition from the new mine
and company town of the Anaconda Copper Company El
Salvador. The settlement at 2,800m altitude, which had
been home to some 7,000 people during peak production
of the nearby mine, was abandoned because of severe environmental pollution and the people resettled in Copiap,
Diego de Almagro and la Serena. The colonial silver city
Copiap still counts as the major mining centre in the Chico
Norte of Chile, near the copper and iron mines of Tierra
Chuquicamata also became a ghost town, partly as a
result of environmental pollution and partly to create access
to the copper reserves immediately beneath the settlement
(Fig.7.53). In 2004 the workers were resettled to the town
of Calama, 15km away, where modern barrios cerrados
had been erected for them.
In the case of larger settlements or when mining continued over longer periods, the mining centres often succeeded
in integrating other economic functions and maintaining their status. One such example is Oruro (3,700m) in
Bolivia. Until the closure of most mines in the early 1990s
when the tin market collapsed, Oruro was the most important mining centre in Bolivia. Today only few mines are
active. Even so, the town experiences demographic and
economic growth and currently has about 250,000 inhabitants. It is the capital of a Departamento and the site of
food, footwear, ceramics and metal-processing industries.
Special feast day tourism, esp. the carnival, which has been
included in the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage,
provides the city with additional economic impulses.
The two Peruvian mining centres of Cerro de Pasco and
La Oroya have always held a special place among mining
towns. Cerro de Pasco is the centre of mining in the Central
Andes of Peru (Fig.7.54). It is situated at an elevation of

7.3 Mining and Mining Settlements

4,340m and has about 70,000 inhabitants (Borsdorf and

Stadel 2001: 177), which makes it the highest larger town
in Latin America. The main structural element of the functional structure of the town is the enormous open cast mine
with its roughly 500m deep crater, surrounded by the
town centre and by more recent settlements of workers and
administrative staff, plus a new district. The townscape is
also dominated by slag heaps and waste water lagoons.
The foundation of the silver mining settlement Villa de
Pasco goes back to 1578, but it initially remained a small
ensemble of a few hundred inhabitants. Copper mining and
the more recent development of the town in the early 20th
century are mainly the work of the Cerro de Pasco Investment
Corporation (later renamed Cerro de Pasco Copper
Corporation, and eventually Cerro de Pasco Corporation). In
1974, the Cerro de Pasco Corporation was nationalized and
renamed Centromin Per. Todays modern operations started
in the 1960s and focus on open cast and underground mining
of lead and zinc. The former colonial town quickly grew, with
some older parts of the town being replaced by new estates
in other places as the mines expanded and the spatial pattern of the town changed. In 1997 mining in Cerro de Pasco
was transferred to the transnational Volcn corporation, who
expanded the central mine further and moved the workers
gradually to Villa de Pasco, 20km away.
This goes to show that the economic and urban development of Cerro de Pasco has always been largely dependent
on decisions taken by the mining corporations. Since 1904
a railway that includes one of the worlds highest summit section (4,782m at La Galera) links the town with the
smelting centre of La Oroya and the Pacific port of Callao.
Cerro de Pasco is also a hub of the road network between
the Pacific coast, esp. Lima, and the Amazon lowlands and
the cities of Tingo Maria and Pucallpa.
The ores mined at the open pit mine of Cerro de Pasco
(Fig.7.55) are processed in the large smelters of La Oroya,
at about 3,750m in the valley of the Mantaro, which flows
into the Amazon river system. The town of La Oroya has
over 20,000 inhabitants and three main sections: the old
centre of the settlement on the left bank of the Ro Mantaro;
the smelting works of the North-American owned Doe
Run Per, La Oroya Division (the previously state-run
Centromin) and the new residential area of La Oroya.
The skyline of La Oroya is dominated by the large
smelting works (La Refinera) that process copper, lead
and zinc on the right-hand banks of the Ro Mantaro. Most
striking is the main chimney of the smelters, which measures 150m in height. On the opposite bank of the Ro
Mantaro the old workers settlement with its characteristic
terraced houses winds up the steep, bare slope. Along the
trunk road and the railway line to Lima new quarters have
sprung up. An attractive gated community of 250 buildings,
mainly bungalows, surrounded by generous parkland, has


Fig.7.53The ghost town of Chuquicamata, northern Chile

Fig.7.54Cerro de Pasco, Peru

been created for the higher managerial staff and their families. It includes a guest house, a school and a hospital.
A special side effect of the smelters that made La
Oroya infamous is the problem of severe landscape degradation and massive water, soil and air pollution (see title
page of this chapter). According to figures issued by the
US Blacksmith Institute, in 2006 and 2007 the town was
in the top ten most polluted places in the world in terms
of health hazards from heavy metals and sulphur dioxide. In recent years, however, the situation seems to have
improved somewhat as a result of measures taken by Doe
Run Per.


Economic Structures and Regions

Fig.7.55Open pit mine of

Cerro de Pasco, Peru (Source
Google Earth)

Most dramatic is the destruction of the vegetation

through toxic emissions around the smelters. During heavy
rain this has repeatedly led to dangerous landslides and
rockfall. Water pollution of the Ro Mantaro is also problematic and has severe consequences for downriver settlements and agricultural land.
In short, mining in the Andes has been one of the earliest human activities and a major pillar of the economy. It
created jobs for the local population and a certain level
of income, but the main profits were taken by the ruling
classes, the state or large corporations. While in pre-Hispanic times and during the colonial period the focus was on
precious metals, today a wide range of ores, minerals and
earths are being mined for in the Andean cordilleras. Mining
has widened the economic basis of many rural regions but
has in most cases proved to be incompatible with agriculture
and, in more recent times, also with tourism.
Mining has greatly altered and shaped the scenery and
settlement patters in the Andes. It is also an economic function in which the conflict between national and international

economic interests, on the one hand, and sustainable conservation of landscape and resources for the benefit of local
communities, on the other, show up most clearly.

7.4 The Industrial Sector

7.4.1 Industry in the Andean Countries
During colonial times the Spanish Crown was mainly interested in exploiting the mineral resources and, to a lesser extent,
in producing and importing agricultural products, mainly from
regions close to the export ports. Although the native population was very skilled, textiles and clothing were only produced
in few of the regions, among them the obrajes of Ecuador, a
Spanish production system. Such traditional knowledge is still
felt in textile manufacturing in Otavalo (Fig.7.56).
To this day the Andean countries have not managed to
free themselves from their dependence on raw materials to any meaningful degree, rather this dependence has


7.4 The Industrial Sector

increased with the mineral oil and gas sector. With the coffee boom of the 19th and the banana boom of the 20th century, coupled with increased productivity in the irrigation
areas of Chile and Argentina, the agrarian sector has contributed its share to the exports.
To this day the processing industry in the Andean countries contributes more than a third of annual production of
goods and services. Even so, industry is rather weak and its
contribution to export earnings low, with few exceptions.
Reasons for this situation include the legacy of the colonial
period and the long phase of import substitution. Protected
by high customs tariffs, few goods were produced that
would hold their own on the world market.
Venezuela has mostly become rich through mineral oil,
extracted since 1917. From 1945 to 1960 the country was the
second most important oil producer in the world and its largest crude oil exporter. Lake Maracaibo, an intramontane basin
between the coastal cordillera and those of Perja and Mrida,
is the oldest and still major centre of oil production. This raw
material brings in 90% of export earnings and 25% of state
earnings. Even though industry achieves around 52% of added
value produced, only few manufactured goods make it only
to world market (all figures in this chapter, unless otherwise
stated, are based on Fischer Weltalmanach 2012 and 2014). For
many decades the country has largely missed the opportunity
of building an efficient industry on the basis of such earnings.
The main sites of the processing sector in Venezuela are
located outside the Andes. The Cinturn Ferrifero, the iron
belt of Imataca in the east of the country, holds all iron ore
deposits of the country, some of which are processed into
export-grade steel in situ. In the 1970s large coal deposits
were discovered in the hinterland of Lake Maracaibo, where
major steelworks were established that process iron ore
from the Guayana region.
In Venezuela most electricity is not produced by oil- or
coal-fired power stations but by using hydropower. The
largest hydro-electric producers are located outside the
Andes in the mountains of Guayana.
Under president Hugo Chvez a nationalization drive in
the secondary sector has returned many businesses that were
privatized during the 1980s and 1990s into public ownership.
From 2007 to 2011, 347 businesses from the energy, building materials, mining as well as the tertiary sector (banks and
tourism) were nationalized at market prices.
Colombia is rich in raw materials, but mining has lost its
significance. Only mineral oil production is still important.
The country remains the largest producer of gold and platinum in the Andes. Its coal and iron ore deposits still cover
the countrys demand for iron and steel, only premium steel
needs to be imported. Emeralds from Colombia, created in
hydrothermal seams when plutons penetrated into limestone
sediments, are sought after across the world. Nickel production started in the 1980s (Tanner 1978: 134) and today makes

Fig.7.56Weaver in Otavalo, Ecuador

up 2% of exports. The coal mine of El Cerrejn is the largest producer in the Andean states. Colombia ranks 11th in
the world in coal production, within the Andean space the
21million tons of coal deposit make it the country with the
largest reserves. Three quarters of these deposits are highquality steam coal. Sea and rock salt are also exported.
Political instability has repeatedly dampened efforts to
build up the processing industry. After a period of political calm in the early 21st century, the processing sector
has started to grow steadily (Fig.7.57), making Colombia
the largest growth marked in the Andes after Chile. One of
the oldest still producing operations is the Bavaria brewery, established by German immigrants and now expanded
to become a food producing corporation. The textile industry in Medelln is still important but faced with strong

Fig.7.57Industrial plant near Bogot, Colombia


international competition, esp. from Asian products. Key

industrial players include Manuelita (sugar), Alpina (dairy
products), Coltejer (textiles), Aceras Paz del Ro (steel),
Argos (cement) and Corona (ceramics).
Industry makes up 45% of export volume and 36.5% of
GDP. These figures do not however include the added value
produced by the illegal cocaine industry. In Colombia the
coca leaves from Bolivia, Peru and from domestic production are processed into cocaine, which is estimated to be
twice the volume of legal industrial value added.
In recent decades industrial scale cut flower business
has grown strongly. Colombia is the second-biggest cut
flower producer in the world, and the biggest producer of
Like Venezuela, oil producer Ecuador benefits from
exporting its black gold, which makes up almost 60% of
export earnings. The products of fishery and aqua cultures,
esp. of lobsters, are also sold on the world market, making up 10.2% of exports. Like plantation produce (mainly
bananas, 9.4% of export earnings), flower growing (3.1%),
these count as semi-finished or finished products and are
thus entered into the industrial export statistics. The long
period of import substitution is still being felt, the industry
being focused on the domestic market. This is not true of
the traditional textile industry, which has played an important role since colonial times (Borsdorf and Stadel 1997).
Textiles made in small artisanal businesses in Otavalo
(Fig. 7.58) and Latacunga are welcome throughout the
Andes and increasingly on the world market as well.
Peru and Bolivia also rely mainly on their mining products. For more than two thousand years gold, silver and
copper have been mined in Peru. The country is one of the
worlds major mining nations. Export of oresthe mines
are mostly foreign ownedmakes up more than half of all

Fig.7.58Artisan textile producer in Otavalo. Ecuador

Economic Structures and Regions

export earnings. Peru is the worlds largest silver producer,

the second-largest producer of copper, the sixth largest of
gold. Along the northern coastal area and in the Amazonian
lowland there is oil production but as yet it plays but a
small role in export earnings. More than 60% of energy
demand in Peru is met by hydropower. Industry is concentrated in the coastal towns of Lima, Chimbote, Chiclayo
and Trujillo. The major branches of industry apart from
smelting are food processing, fish meal production, the textile and chemical industries.
In Bolivia earnings from mining have fallen as a result
of some deposits becoming exhausted. New hopes rest on
the iron ore region of El Mutn and even more on increased
lithium mining. Natural gas production is also significant. The country has the second-biggest reserves in South
America and exports 90%, mainly to Brazil and Argentina.
After a wave of nationalization under president Evo
Morales, 82% of natural gas deposits are state-controlled.
The processing sector is comparatively weak, with food
processing, textiles and metal processing the main areas.
The secondary sector makes up only 12% of the value of
exports, yet 38.4% of GDP.
In Chile and Argentina the industrial sector plays a bigger role than in other Spanish-speaking South-American
states. In Chile mining contributes greatly to general
wealth. At 27% of global production it is the largest copper
producer and exporter.
Chile has pursued a very determined export diversification strategy, mainly by expanding its fruit and wine growing as well as its timber and cellulose industry (Fig.7.59).
In addition, food processing has experienced a considerable
upturn. Today Chile is the worlds second biggest exporter
of salmon after Norway.
While wine has been grown in the country since the
colonial period, wine export played hardly any role until the
1980s. Today wine exports total 600million USD, with top
quality varieties being sold at up to 150USD a bottle, e.g.
at luxury winery Lapostolle (Fig.7.60). The Mediterranean
climate is favourable for wine-growing, and irrigation,
today increasingly as drip irrigation that can also be used
on slopes, and improved vinification techniques have
made Chile one of the top-ranking wine-growing regions
in the world. The best-known areas are Colchagua, the
Longitudinal Valley south of Santiago and some basins of
the coastal cordillera.
At 43.8% the industrial sector has the second biggest share of GDP in the Andean countries and is being
increasingly modernized. Innovative industrial and business
parks are improving the locational conditions (Fig.7.61).
The formerly important textile and clothing industry has
almost completely disappeared because Chile, as a neoliberal country, imposes practically no import duties and
production costs at home have become too high given the


7.4 The Industrial Sector

relatively high wages. Like the industrial sector, the tertiary

sector and its internationally tradable services is strongly
oriented on exports.
Like Chile, Argentina benefits from a favourable climate for agriculture. The food industry, particularly wine
and meat production, are dominant branches. Unlike in
other Andean countries, mining plays but a minor role in
Argentina. The main extraction areas are in the Andes,
mainly in the provinces of Catamarca, Jujuy and Santa
Cruz. After the worldwide economic crisis of the 1930s,
Argentina promoted the expansion of a diversified industry. It has a strong automotive production, as well as food
industry, construction, metal processing and chemical
industry, in some regions also textile industry.
The traditional industrial centres are all outside the
Andean space, in Buenos Aires, Rosario, Crdoba and Bahia
Blanca. At the foot of the Andes wine is grown in Mendoza,
sugar cane in Tucumn. In Neuqun and La Rioja, fast
industrial development has taken place since the 1980s. This
is partly due to the proximity to energy and raw materials
but also the result of support programmes by the state.

Fig.7.59Timber and wood chip production in Chiles Little South

7.4.2 Environmental Problems with Industry

Since the beginning of industrialization in the Andean countries, little attention has been paid to environmental protection when it came to promoting the processing trades.
Despite international efforts to promote more environmentfriendly production methods, nothing much has changed
in this respect, because globalization demands low-cost
production at all costs to prevent Asian goods flooding the
market and to maintain the market share of nationally produced goods. Common to all Andean countries is the ubiquitous use of plastic bags in supermarkets that later litter
the roadside. The sewages systems are poor, patchy and use
obsolete technologies. Other problem areas are inadequate
protection of drinking water, esp. in the foothills of the
Andes, air pollution in the big and mega-cities (Fig.7.62),
the overexploitation of natural resources and its consequences for soil and vegetation, the destruction of natural
forests for mining, industry and agriculture and the intensification of agriculture through the use of fertilizers and
Venezuela has put more than 40% of its territory under
protection and yet there are great environmental problems.
These include waste disposal, mineral oil industry with its
risk of water and soil pollution, inadequate protection of
springs, rivers and lakes, as well as the effects of climate
change and its threat to biodiversity.
Colombia has given itself the goal of sustainable development in its 1991 constitution. In its wake numerous institutions for environmental protection have sprung up, but

Fig.7.60Winery Lapostolle in the Valle de Colchagua, Chile

these are underfunded, their operating costs are too high

and many are also corrupt. Armed conflicts in the country
damage and destroy the environment and are a great problem, as the guerrillas do not flinch from blowing up oil
pipelines. The shift to new hybrid varieties of coffee that
need fertilizers and pesticides has also contaminated soil
and water.
In Bolivia mining is a great burden on the environment,
as is the disregard for sensitive ecosystems in agriculture.
In the poorest Andean country, environmental protection is
still seen as a luxury that only rich countries can afford but


Economic Structures and Regions

dead fish and contaminated crustaceans. After a short shutdown by the Chilean government, the plant has resumed
Fishery is suffering from overfishing, some crustaceans
have almost completely disappeared by now, salmon cultures are frequently reporting epidemics in the fish populations and the sea water is being polluted with fish food
and antibiotics. Other problems are the clearing of natural
forests, followed by reforestation with pine and eucalyptus

7.5 Changes in the Role of the Tertiary and

Informal Sector of the Economy
Fig.7.61Parque Empresarial business park in Santiago de Chile

Fig.7.62Air pollution from heavy industry near Bogot, Colombia

which has a lower priority in a country whose population

is struggling to survive. And yet, by impairing or damaging
its own natural resources, Bolivia has put a big obstacle for
development in its own path. Floods, soil degradation and
erosion, the destruction of forests and water scarcity are not
just climate change effects but also the result of unscrupulous handling of the environment.
In Chile paper production has repeatedly sparked off
protests. In 2005 it became known that the paper mill near
San Jos de la Mariquina (Valdivia province; Fig.7.63),
inaugurated the year before, was producing 50% more
paper than had been approved, violating 19 environmental
regulations and had made the nearby water protection areas
practically uninhabitable for black-necked swans (decline
in population from 6,000 to 2,000 animals). The fishers in
neighbouring Mehuin on the Pacific coast complained about

In the Andes, the tertiary sector has undergone dramatic

changes in the course of globalization, especially in the
large cities (Fig.7.64). This development has been at the
expense of classic international transactions such as trade
in goods or processing industries. In the most highly developed countries, these have been overtaken by the rapid
growth of financial services and the new trend towards tertiarization (Menzel 1998). Tertiarization encourages the
division of urban labour markets. On the one hand there is
a demand for highly qualified service professionals, with
only a small part of the urban population being able to benefit from these job openings. On the other hand an increasing number of people lose their jobs for good and without
alternative employment opportunities, especially in the
industrial sector. (Coy 1997: 38, translated by the authors).
In the Andean countries, except for Chile, the so-called
informal sector plays a dominant role in the economic
life. This shadow economy ensures peoples survival but
is less beneficial for the national economy as it yields neither taxes nor social security payments for the public purse
(Fig. 7.58). In 2009, only 60% of Latin-American people
in work were included in the social security systems. The
same is true for the Andean countries. In Ecuador, Peru and
Venezuela, less than half of economically active people are
covered by the social security system (Fig.7.65).
Vargas Llosa (1998: 211) described the informal sector as the peoples capitalism. Soto (1986) was one of the
first who saw this economy, which had emerged outside
the legal framework of the state, as something positive.
He interpreted it as a creative response of the poor to the
discriminating barriers enforced on them by a mercantile,
state-controlled economy.
Recently the traditional informal sectors have been
joined by another form of the shadow economy, i.e. cultivation and trade in narcotics and the plants needed to
produce them. The corruption economy is yet another
type (Borsdorf 1997a). It includes dark transactions by
presidents, ministers and administrators in the shadow of

7.5 Changes in the Role of the Tertiary and Informal Sector of the Economy

political powers or by economic actors (Vargas Llosa 1998:

214). Abuse of a public office for personal gain are part of
politics in many Andean states. Chile has made the greatest
progress in freeing itself from such illegal activities.
Peru and Bolivia are the major suppliers of the raw
material for cocaine, the coca leaves (Dietrich 1998). These
are mainly processed in Colombia and marketed from there,
with the so-called Medelln cartel of Colombia having
become internationally infamous. The drug economy also
has a considerable effect on Colombian society, as Loley
(2009) has investigated.
The share of the informal sector on Latin-American
GDP in the year 2000 was estimated at 41% (Parnreiter
2006). Some micro-businesses are also part of the informal
sector. Only about a quarter of these one-person or family
operations are registered and fewer than 20% are covered
by the social security system. More than half of the people engaged in informal sectors of the economy are traders, a quarter provide services (food stalls, hairdressers, bus
or taxi drivers) and a fifth are active as small producers of
textiles, furniture, metal objects, arts and crafts. Hernando
de Soto called the informal sector a different path (el otro
sendero) to market economy and development (Soto 1986).
Given the range of informal activities, they play an important role in day-to-day survival and beyond that for the production of goods and services within Andean economies.
The neoliberal orientation in Colombia, Chile and
Argentina has exacerbated the economic and social discrepancies in recent years. One mitigating response are social
policies, often accompanied by rhetoric, put forward by the
current leftist-popular governments in Bolivia, Venezuela,
and to a lesser degree in Ecuador and Peru. At the same
time the neoliberal doctrine of the Chilean fans of economists like Milton Friedmann, Ludwig von Mies or Friedrich
Hayek have consolidated the national economy and put
it on an even growth track. A similar feat is possible in
Colombia, only in Argentina this economic policy has not
yet brought the hoped-for economic effects.


Fig.7.63Paper industry near San Jos de la Mariquina, Little South,


Fig.7.64Global financial services in Santiago de Chile

7.6Andean Tourism
7.6.1Mountain Tourism
In many mountain regions today, recreation and tourism play
an important role. The beauty and diversity of the scenery,
but also the cultures and lifestyles of the mountain population fascinate and attract visitors. The recreation options for
visitors and tourists range from stays in attractive mountain
and lake districts, to spa tourism or eco- and agro-tourism,
to various kinds of sports and adventure tourism (mainly skiing, trekking and climbing, mountain biking; paragliding,

white-water rafting (Fig.7.66) or canyoning). While some

visitors, mainly individuals or small groups, have a small
ecological or sociocultural footprint, mass tourism takes
place along well-trodden paths with often serious impact on
the natural and cultural landscape and the local population.
With the opening of many previously isolated mountain regions through the construction of sometimes
highly complex transport infrastructure, growing numbers of visitors penetrated far into remote valleys and
higher altitudinal zones. With them came, on the one
hand, economic development, social progress, modernization and new technologies. On the other hand, critics


Economic Structures and Regions

management. Ecologically, economically, socially, culturally and politically sustainable tourism necessitates the
active inclusion and participation of the local population
in all phases of tourist development and with a spread of
responsibilities and benefits to all segments of the population: Careful use of mountain resources, protection of
unique environments, maintenance of biodiversity, and
safeguarding the needs of local people must be balanced
carefully against the wishes of tourists. The tourism industry has a great responsibility in this regard which, unfortunately, has not always been acknowledged up to now
(Mountain Agenda 1999: 46).

Fig.7.65Informal car mechanic in Lima, Peru

Fig.7.66White-water rafting in the Cajn del Maipo, Central Chile

point to the dangers of damage to the natural and cultural

landscapes, ecological degradation and erosion of local
identities, traditional lifestyles and values in the local
Mountain dwellers, tourism managers and political institutions are faced with the challenge of controlling such developments. While tourism clearly is vital
for many mountain regions, the realization has set in that
mountain areas need special protection and that protection
concepts can be combined with a well thought-out tourist

Mountaineering is a form or mountain sport that goes back

as far as the 16th century but did not really take off until the
late 18th century with spectacular ascents in the European
Alps. After Alexander von Humboldt had attempted to climb
Mt Chimborazo in 1802, the Andes began to attract the
interest of researchers and sport enthusiasts. The first to succeed in climbing Mt Chimborazo were Edward Whymper
and Jean-Antoine Carrel in 1880. Figure7.67 shows the
Whymper hut at the foot of the Chimborazo in Ecuador.
It must not be overlooked, however, that some Andean
summits had already been climbed in pre-colonial times.
The Atacameos used to bury their dead in the zone of permanent ice (Fig.7.68), the Inca had installed a swift message service with smoke signals on the arid summits of the
Andes from Peru to Chile.
The Salesian monk Alberto Maria de Agostini was the
first to climb many of the mountains in Patagonia (Borsdorf
and Kanitscheider 2010). The special challenge of climbing
Mt Aconcagua, the highest summit in the Andes, defeated
German researcher Paul Gssfeldt, who had to turn back
with his colleague Edward Fitzgerald and seven other
mountaineers before reaching the summit. In 1897 Swiss
mountaineer Matthias Zurbriggen had got there first.
Further spectacular first ascents include Monte Pissis,
Argentina, by Osiecki and Szczepanski in 1937, Ojos del
Salado, Chile, by Wojsznis and Szczepanski in 1937 and the
Cerro Torre by Maestri and Egger (unconfirmed) in 1959
and by Ferrari in 1974.
Chile and Argentina are the pioneer countries of
Andinism, which has been essentially pioneered by Austrian,
Swiss and Germano-Latin-American mountaineers. In 1909 a
German hiking association was founded in Valparaso, Chile,
and operated several mountain huts in the Chilean cordillera
(La Parva, Farellones, Lagunillas) and boasts several spectacular first ascents.


7.6 Andean Tourism

In 1924 a similar association was established in

Santiago, later renamed Club Alemn Andino. It created the
first mountaineering map of the Andes in Chile (1929). To
this day the Club Alemn Andino operates the Lo Valds
hut, built in 1932 at the end of the Maipo Valley, and the
Refugio Farellones. Other mountain huts were built on the
Osorno Volcano. The Germano-Chilean associations jointly
publish the bilingual journal Andina.
The Federacin de Andinismo de Chile was founded
in 1942, the Ecuadorian Club de Andinismo Politcnico
in Quito in 1966. In Colombia there is the Federacin
Colombiana de Montanismo, the Federacin Colombiana
de Escalada Deportiva and the Liga Caldense de
Montanismo y Escalada. Today almost all Andean states
have mountaineering associations and European Alpine
clubs and other tourist operators regularly organize guided
tours to the Andean summits (Fig.7.69).
Numerous local tourist offices cater to experienced walkers and mountaineers. They offer trekking tours on Inca
routes, ascents of volcanoes, glacier trips and backcountry
skiing, trips in light aircraft, paragliding, canoe and rafting trips. The infrastructure is also available for individual
Ski tourism is most developed in Chile and Argentina.
During the European summer, when there is winter in the
southern hemisphere, they offer training options for various
national skiing teams. A special attraction are the ski runs
on the Magellan Strait that go down almost to sea level, or
the worlds highest ski run on the Illimani, Bolivia. Anyone
attempting to cross the ice fields of the Patagonian cordillera needs plenty of stamina (Fig.7.70).

Fig.7.67Whymper hut on Mt Chimborazo, 5,000m, Ecuador

7.6.3The Tourism Potential of the Andes

The exceptional diversity of landscapes and cultures
in the Andes holds rich opportunities for tourism.
Ecotourism in particular finds ideal preconditions in the
wealth and variety of vegetation in the tropical areas,
both in horizontal landscape profiles as in the vertical elevation zones. Today a large number of national parks and
other protected areas exist and have attracted nature lovers. Other impressive spheres are the high mountains with
the monumental summits (esp. in Patagonia), the towering volcanic peaks, the high plains of the Altiplano, the
mighty glaciers of the Cordillera Blanca and in Patagonia,
and the deep narrow valleys and canyons (e.g. the
Colca Canyon in Peru), which offer the visitors unique
Add to this the tourist magnets of of Lake Titicaca, the
salares on the Peruvian-Bolivian Altiplano, the lake district

Fig.7.68Mt Licancabur, burial ground of the Atacameos and Inca

message station, Chile/Bolivia

of Chilean Switzerland, the proglacial lakes of Patagonia

with their calving glaciers and the small glacial and crater
lakes at higher altitudes. Really spectacular but rather inaccessible for tourists is the magnificent fjord coast of Chile
with some glaciers reaching almost down to sea level,
and the southernmost point of the continent, Cape Horn


Economic Structures and Regions

Andean Tourism in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru

With the establishment of Huascarn National Park in 1975 and its inclusion in the UNESCO World Natural
Heritage list in 1985, the recreation function and the tourism in the region have experienced a boost. The scenic
beauty of this high-altitude tropical mountain region with numerous peaks over 6,000m, mighty glaciers, attractive
mountain lakes and a diverse high-mountain vegetation, as well as a rich cultural heritage of indigenous communities have drawn increasing numbers of visitors in recent decades (c. 150,000 visitors according to figures from the
Mountain Agenda 1999). This makes the Callejn de Huaylas in Ancash Province the second most important tourist
destination after Cusco/Machu Picchu, and the most important one for mountain tourism in Peru. Tourism (mostly
Peruvian visitors) has become a vital pillar of the regional economy. The growing popularity is fed by the comparatively easy access from Lima, good tourist infrastructure in Huaraz and the improved security situation since the
The massive increase in national and international visitors necessitated measures to counteract the threat to the
sensitive environment and the erosion of the cultural heritage of indigenous village communities and to create positive impulses for a controlled, participatory and sustainable development of tourism. This was the aim of the tourism
management plans of 1995 and 1996 with its dual strategy of combining the protection of nature and culture with
strengthening local and regional development. It was the first management plan ever to be used in a protected area in
Peru. At the heart of it is the challenging task of engaging in a dialogue and cooperation with various indigenous and
non-indigenous groups, which is seen as the foundation for effective protection measures and sustainable ecotourism. The plan is based on the following directives (Mountain Agenda 1999: 7):
(i) leveraging the economic and social potential of tourism and directing them primarily on to the municipalities
around the national park;
(ii) improving cooperation between the institutions and organizations involved in tourism management;
(iii) mitigation of environmental damage and other negative impacts of tourism;
(iv) strengthening of competences and abilities of the national park management;
(v) reasonable control of visitor flows and activities through designation of specific protection and utilization zones;
(vi) improving the quality of the visitor options and minimizing any dangers to visitors.
The Instituto de Montaa in Huaraz provides a major institutional and scientific contribution with planning and
implementing the concept. The motto cuidar la vida en las montaas (protecting life in the mountains) is to benefit
especially the villages and indigenous communities around the national park. In 2009 the RESPONS company was
established to involve the local population in various ways in responsible, sustainable, ecological and rural tourism. To
this end they organize stays and volunteer working holidays in the rural comunidades of Vicos and Humacchuco, north
of Huaraz, as well as trekking tours, walks andin cooperation with the Instituto de Montaaspecial programmes
for pupils and students, plus marketing strategies for local arts and crafts products. The regional management concept
is based on mutual cultural and educational exchange between visitors and the visited. Visitors should get to know the
value systems, traditions, knowledge and practices of the local population. The indigenous families are getting to know
the potential of alternative tourism through formal and informal learning processes. This could be particularly beneficial in the Cordillera Blanca, a region with few economic alternatives. Efforts are also made to restrict and reduce the
impact of mining and hydro-power projects.
There is, however, a range of challenges and problems to be overcome if this alternative tourism development
is to be implemented successfully. These include numerous conflicting interests, requirements and programmes
of different forms of tourism, e.g. motorized tourism, trekking, mountaineering, adventure, agro- and ecotourism.
Sometimes there are also mismatches between the ideas of the locals and the expectations of the foreign visitors.
Involving the local population in tourist management is not easy when different expectations and mutual distrust
come together. Last but not least, even gentle forms of tourism pose a threat of environmental damage and impact on
the cultural heritage.
With their rich cultural heritage and their impressive
pre-Hispanic and colonial buildings, the tropical Andes
also represent a major destination for international tourism. In the tropical Andes and the Pacific coastal plain
at their feet we find the old cities, temples and fortresses of the pre-colonial civilizations. Cusco and the

Valle Sagrado with the World Heritage of Machu Picchu,

Tiahuanaco in Bolivia at Lake Titicaca or the majestic
Chim adobe city of Chan Chan on the Peruvian Pacific
coast and the ruins of Chavn de Huntar east of the
Cordillera Blanca of Peru are main magnets for international visitors.


7.6 Andean Tourism

The Iberian cultural heritage has left behind impressive

buildings. To this day the many smaller and larger towns
from colonial times, with their characteristic plazas and
narrow lanes, their ornate churches, monasteries, palaces
and noble patio houses, have preserved their charm for the
tourists. Rural areas also boast many monasteries, places
of pilgrimage or old haciendas (today often used as elegant
hotels) and hold out historical attractions for tourists. Most
significant in international tourism are places included in
the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list. In the Andes
these are:
Colombia: the old town of Santa Cruz de Mompox
Ecuador: the old town of Quito and of Cuenca (Fig.7.72)
Peru: the ruins of Chan Chan and of Chavn de Huntar,
Cusco, Machu Picchu, the old town of Lima and of Arequipa
Bolivia: Tiahuanaco, the old town of Sucre and of
Potos, the fortress of Samaipata
Chile: the old town of Valparaso (Fig.7.73), saltpetre
mines of Humberstone and Santa Laura and the copper
mining town of Sewell.

Fig.7.69Mountaineers in front of the Torres de Paine, Chile

Fig.7.70Ascent to the plateau of the northern Icefield, Patagonian cordillera, Chile (photograph by T. Hochholzer)


Fig.7.71Tourists at Cape Horn, Chile

Fig.7.72Cathedral of Cuenca, Ecuador

To this day the settlement areas of the indigenous communities are concentrated in the highland regions of Ecuador,
Peru and Bolivia, mainly the Quechua and Aymara peoples.

Economic Structures and Regions

These regions are main destinations for day trippers, esp. to

visit the colourful weekly markets (Fig.7.74). Some of these
ferias have gained an international reputation and are a must
on any itinerary. The most famous ones include the market
of Otavalo in Ecuador, as well as those of Pisac in Peru and
of Tarabuco in Bolivia. The indigenous communities are
skilfully adapting their products to the tastes of foreign customers to best leverage the potential of international tourism.
Travellers of a cultural bend are attracted by the possibility of participating in the economic and cultural life of the
people they visit. In Patagonia, for instance, they can experience the annual sheep shearing with the itinerant labourers on the island of Chiloe. The Uros on a group of floating
totora reed islands in the Peruvian part of Lake Titicaca are
a special case. Although most islands have been abandoned
for some time, many Uro people return to them during the
day to sell their wares to foreign visitors.
Figure 7.75 presents the main tourist regions in the
Andes. These range from Andinism in the peak and glacier regions to recreation tourism (beach and lake holidays,
spas and resorts). The options on offer also include sports,
adventure, trekking and ski tourism, esp. at Bariloche in
Argentina or Portillo in Chile, but also smaller centres, for
instance at the Paso de la Cumbre in Argentina, plus gentle walking tourism, ecotourism (Fig.7.76) or agrotourism,
mainly in the protected areas of the Andes.
Trips to scenic attractions are another important sector, for instance to the chain of volcanoes in Ecuador,
the Cordillera Blanca or the Perito Moreno Glacier in
Argentinian Patagonia. Add to this special monuments
like the equator monument near Quito or various sites and
buildings of historical or cultural fame, e.g. the impressive
terraces of Ollaytatambo, Peru. Over 90% of tourists visiting Peru include a trip to Cusco (Desforges 2000: 178).
Figure7.77 presents visitor traffic by altitudinal zone.
Other highly frequented attractions include spectacular
pass roads, boat trips (especially on Lake Titicaca, Lago
Argentino and in the fjords of Patagonia or on the Ro
Magdalena in Colombia), as well as some railroads, such as
the lines from Alaus to Nariz del Diablo in Ecuador, Puno
to Cusco and Cusco to Machu Picchu in Peru. City tourism
plays a major role, both as visits to famous historic buildings and as educational tourism (e.g. language courses) or
conference tourism. Borsdorf etal. (2012b) have furnished
a detailed study of tourism in Chile.
Pilgrimage tourism is a special case, for instance to
Baos in Ecuador or Copacabana in Bolivia. It is usually
confined to weekends and certain holidays, with visitors
coming mainly from the region.
There are also various instances of combination and
overlapping of different types of tourism. The recreational
tourism of people from the cities into the country at weekends or on holiday differs from the destinations of foreign


7.6 Andean Tourism

visitors. In the 1990s there were regular organized train

trips from Lima up into the green valleys of the cordillera,
which were situated above the line of fog.
Some places attract domestic and foreign visitors for
different reasons. Foreigners love to come to Baos for
its spectacular scenery at the foot of Tungurahua Volcano,
for its climate and broad tourist options. Domestic visitors
come as pilgrims and recreationists to the thermal springs
and excellent restaurants.
The tourist potential of the Andes is, however, not without its obstacles and problems (Stadel 2004a: 243). The
often very high altitudes, extreme weather contrasts, air pollution in some larger cities and the arduous and in places
dangerous journeys on the roads (Fig.7.78) may affect the
health and safety of the tourists.
Extreme natural events are an obstacle to travel. Most
prominent among them is heavy rainfall, which can trigger
floods, rockfall and landslides. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions have dramatic effects, for instance the 2010 earthquake
in Chile and the repeated eruptions of the Tungurahua in
Ecuador in recent years. Tourists may also suffer from health
problems such as pulmonary oedemas (triggered by altitude
sickness), diseases transmitted by insects, such as malaria,
stomach and intestinal problems. The latter are often the result
of food intolerance or inadequate hygiene and insanitary
Other problem areas are the sometimes inadequate transport infrastructures, limited options for accommodation,
catering and other tourist aspects. Communication problems
for non-Spanish speakers and cultural barriers arise from
diverging perceptions and expectations on the part of visitors
and hosts alike. Such problems can be mitigated on the part
of the tourists through good preparation, readiness to learn
and acceptance of other cultures and lifestyles; on the part
of the locals understanding is needed for the motives, expectations and needs of the tourists. Some tourists, of course,
are attracted precisely because of what they see as primitive
options like travelling on the roof of an open bus in Ecuador.
A third problem area is the threat to the personal safety
of tourists from fraud, theft, assaults and other forms of
criminal behaviour, esp. in the cities. Frequently tourism
has suffered from social and political unrest, road blocks
or traffic controls or artificial complications when passing
international borders.

7.6.4Tourism and Development

Governments tend to see tourism as a key sector of the
national economy, as an effective strategy for combating
poverty and marginality and as a substantial contribution
to regional development. In Peru tourism has grown into
the second most important economic sector after mining,

Fig.7.73Street in Valparaso, Chile

Fig.7.74Market scene in Saquisil, Ecuador

with annual earnings of more than 1billion USD and over

1.5million foreign visitors in 2004 (Bury 2008: 312, 315).
Encouraging tourism is tied to the assumption that it could
provide an attractive alternative source of jobs and income
for large sections of the population, esp. in mountain
regions with a limited potential for agricultural productivity
and other economic activity. It should also lead to an expansion of infrastructure and services, thus contributing to education and modernization.
These objectives are shared by provincial authorities and
government offices, international bodies, NGOs, representatives of the tourist industry and many experts. Consequently
investment in the tourism sector has risen in priority, either


Fig.7.75Destinations of international tourism in the Andes

Economic Structures and Regions


7.6 Andean Tourism

to meet the demands of mass tourism or to provide a highquality product. The issue of the degree to which tourism
can be controlled, funded and operated by the state or the
private sector has been treated differently from country to
country and through different periods. Alberto Fujimoris
government in Peru in the 1990s pursued a neoliberal policy that left the development of tourism largely to private
initiatives, while other regimes tended towards more state
Undoubtedly tourism has brought wealth and progress
to a limited number of people in specific areas. Financial
gain from travel activities often have benefitted mostly
people or corporations outside the travel regions and have
made only a limited contribution to the improvement of
the agricultural basis of the village communities. Many
beneficiaries of tourism invested their earnings in the education of their children, in establishing companies outside their community or in buying second homes in town
(doble residencia). Increasing amenity migration, another
form of multilocal living of the upper classes, must also
be mentioned in this context (Borsdorf and Hidalgo 2009;
Cruise tourism in particular must be seen critically. It
includes trips from the ports on the Pacific coast to destinations in the mountains. The profits from this type of tourism
remain for the most part with the organizers and ship owners. The mass assault in sometimes more than 70 buses on
the daytrip destinations can hardly be handled there.

Fig.7.77Altitudinal zones and forms of tourism in the Andes

Fig.7.76Ecotourism lodge in the Ecuadorian Oriente

Altogether, large areas in the Andes and the majority of the

population remain relatively untouched by the effects of tourism or are only indirectly affected. In positive cases the population benefits from road expansion and increased demand for
fruit and vegetables or for craft products. Travel can intensify
capitalism and the market economy to the detriment of traditional values of communal autarchy and reciprocity.
In many cases tourism has intensified economic and
social differences within families, village communities and
regions, depending on whether they benefit from tourism or


Economic Structures and Regions

more remote regions, more and more of the Andean population comes in contact with Western culture, modernization
and a capitalist market economy. This affects the ceremonies, rituals and lifestyle of the indigenous population and
the traditional cultural landscape. Eventually this may
weaken the attraction of these regions for tourists, unless
the old traditions are put under protection or even revived in
connection with tourism.

7.6.5Protected Areas and Tourism

Fig.7.78Bus on a mountain road in Ecuador

Fig.7.79Luxury apartments as second homes in the seaside resort of

Via del Mar, Central Chile

not. In the regions of tourist destinations land prices and the

cost of living tend to rise and water resources may not be
sufficient and this scarcity can cause problems.
Tourism also encourages different ideas and conflicting
cultural assessments between the locals and the visitors.
The daily routine of campesinos usually consists of hard
work and little access to material resources. Visitors often
pity them as poor and underprivileged. The Andean population in turn sees the non-local short-term visitors (hombres flojos) as non-working people of rich monetary means
but who may not enjoy the security and comfort of a culture
of their own, of family and a village community.
Perceptions of landscape, weather and natural events
also differ. With the inflow of foreign visitors into ever

Conservation deserves special attention in connection with

recreation and tourism. The main aim of protected areas
is safeguarding certain landscapes, vegetation or fauna
through laws and other regulations. To this end numerous
national parks, biosphere reserves and protected corridors
have been established. In the Andes as well as in other
Latin-American regions the number of protected areas has
grown considerably in recent decades (cf. Chap. 3). Tourists
in these areas are called upon to behave in an appropriate
manner, to protect the environment and to take nothing but
photographs and memories home with them.
High mountains, glaciers and lake districts, such as the
Cordillera Blanca and the Cordillera Huayahuash in Peru,
the volcanoes in Ecuador or Lake Titicaca, are a major draw
for tourists. Other popular destinations include regionally
typical forests and grasslands like the southern beech forests above Bariloche in Argentina, the pramo highlands in
Colombia or the puna vegetation in Sajama National Park
in Bolivia. Visitors also come to watch special natural phenomena, including the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, the Perito
Moreno Glacier, or the Colca Canyon in Peru.
The strong spatial concentration of tourist flows creates considerable ecological problems for the often fragile mountain regions. It is therefore advisable to mitigate
such threats by establishing suitable protection measures.
Paradoxically national parks, biosphere reserves and other
protected areas are particularly attractive to visitors, as is
evident from the growing popularity of ecotourism. With the
growing demand for new, hitherto largely untouched tourist destinations and the growing popularity of tourist paths
away from mass tourism, as well as improved transport
infrastructure, tourist development has now reached many
attractive peripheral regions, global tourism networks have
been extended into remote areas of Latin America over the
course of the past several decades (Bury 2008: 313).
These regions today often experience an interaction of
conservation and new forms of tourism. Bury (2008) has
called them rather oddly new geographies of tourism and
has studied them in the Cordillera Huayahuash. He found a
varied nexus of protected areas, different forms of tourism
and the complex effects on nature, the environment, culture
and the livelihoods of the indigenous population.


7.6 Andean Tourism

With the Fujimori government in the 1990s, Peru experienced a clear reduction of state influence, plus intensified
decentralization and privatization with a new political and
economic orientation. This also affected the tourism management, which increasingly oriented itself on the private
economy and created new protected areas on the basis of
private initiatives. For instance, the major tourist railway
connection in the Andes between Cusco and Machu Picchu
has been operated by the British/US company OrientExpress since 1999 on the basis of a 30-year licence. In the
Cordillera Huayahuash the mining company Mitsui Mining
and Smelting Peru and a Norwegian hydro-power producer
have built new roads that have led to an expansion of tourism. Today part of the international tourism seems to be
mainly controlled by foreign corporations.
Even so, local communities and the indigenous populations are playing an ever more important role in new, alternative, near-natural ecotourism, walking and trekking schemes,
as well as locally specific agro- and cultural tourism. The top
priority for the communities involved is effective protection
of nature and the cultural heritage, empowerment and participation as well as securing the basis of livelihoods and economic development in a sustainable way.
In many high mountain regions that boast scenic beauty
but are situated in marginal locations, there are few alternatives to arable farming and animal husbandry. Often the
population has no choice but to take up seasonal work in the
cities and the plantations of the coastal regions or to migrate.
Locally tourism provides additional sources of work and
earnings. These include renting rooms to visitors, working
in hotels, hostels and restaurants or as guides (Fig.7.80),
porters, cooks or drivers, or by providing pack animals,
locally produced food or indigenous textile products. Many
other services are triggered by tourism.
Not just families but also municipalities may benefit
from tourism. In some cases they collect entry fees. Those
profits are then used to expand social services in the municipality, to maintain or improve roads, to fund protective
measures and to expand tourist infrastructures.
The example of the recently much increased tourism in the
Cordillera Huayahuash, however, also points to the problems
and negative effects. Many aspects of tourism management
are not yet regulated very well, e.g. a coherent designation of
camping grounds, fire places or trekking paths, fishing regulation or the prohibition of taking plants or minerals away.
Another issue is the inadequately controlled use of water
and the disposal of wastewater and garbage. Negative effects
also include increasing dependence of village communities
on potential vacillations in tourist flows and the competition
from foreign tourist operators. These factors increase the
threat of jobs and earnings flowing out of the region. Last
but not least, the communal harmony may be threatened by
diverging ideas on tourism development and discrepancies in
who benefits from tourism and who does not.

Fig.7.80Colombian tourist guide with European visitors in Tayrona

National Park, Colombia

7.6.6Participatory Tourism
In many regions of the global south tourism is largely controlled externally, by the state or by foreign individuals or
corporations. There are however also signs of a participatory, self-determined type of tourism. In the Andes a growing number of municipalities has tried, with more or less
success, to develop and implement a local tourism concept,
mostly in the sphere of gentle tourism. The concepts of
sustainable and ecotourism build on central and sustained
participation and welfare of the local population as a prerequisite for the protection of the natural and cultural resources
and as an economic mainstay of the municipalities.
In Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Biosphere Reserve,
fincas have formed an association that markets their agrotourism options jointly Asociacin de Fincas del Turismo
(ASOFINTUR). All decisions are taken jointly and the offerings have attained impressive quality over time (Fig.7.81).
The integrative approach of tourism at community level
(Mitchell and Eagles 2001) aims to optimize and harmonize
the objectives of local participation and empowerment, joint
pursuit of economic profit and the implementation of a conservation concept. For Mitchell and Eagles (2001) the degree
of communal integration achieved can be read off the level
of local inhabitants participating in municipal meetings and
in decision making, the proportion of jobs in tourism and the
share of the profits, as well as the involvement of the community in planning, management and control of tourist programmes. In the central Andean states this is relatively simple,
in Colombia today a professional approach is in operation.
For Mowford and Munt (1998: 240) locally based tourism
at municipal level can counteract external domination and


Fig. 7.81Finca Seynekun (Mother Earth), one agrotourism finca

operated by ASOFINTUR, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia

unbalanced development. Initially, however, the often met

indifference or scepticism of the locals needs to be overcome,
a new awareness raised (concientizacin) and the human
potential within the community leveraged. Catalysts for such
development can be local leaders or initiatives from outside.
The harmonious realization of a sustainable cooperative
tourism concept seems to be easier in indigenous communities with a strong tradition of public spirit and joint responsibility than in communities with weaker social coherence.
Still it is essential to convince all families from the start of
the wide range of economic benefits and to involve them in
the tourism initiatives.
One example are the inhabitants of Taquile Island on
Lake Titicaca. Mainly Quechua inhabit the island and they
used to live exclusively from agriculture, fishing and the
sale of woven textiles. And it was the original and beautiful
weaving craft that attracted the attention of tourists from the
1970s onwards and drew a growing number of visitors. At
first such tourism was almost exclusively organized by businesses in Puno. In 1978 the island dwellers founded a boat
cooperative to take the visitors from the mainland to the
island. This must be seen as the starting point for integrative communal tourism on Taquile. Until Fujimori came to
power, the islanders even had a monopoly on boat transport.
In the 1980s the Manco Capac weavers cooperative was
established and includes almost all families on the island.
On Taquile it was the artistic weaving of the Quechua
that started tourism, quite unlike many other places where
local arts and crafts are revived once tourism has set in.
Local regulations forbid the private sale of woven goods to
preserve the communal tradition of equality and fairness.

Economic Structures and Regions

Earnings from restaurants and private accommodation.

however, go directly to the individual families. Local tourism is controlled by an island committee.
For Mitchell and Eagles (2001) the overall positive outcomes in Taquile are due to the following key factors: the
successful development of a tourism-friendly mind-set,
direct personal involvement of the families in discussions,
planning and implementation, a fair share of most households in the activities and earnings from tourism, the pursuit of communal autonomy in tourism management and
the achievement of profits that allow economic and social
developments for the families and the community.
Despite this success the authors also identify some
problems. A dependence on external influences and people remains. Tourism on Taquile is influenced by the general developments in Peruvian tourism and the support and/
or competition for island tourism from the nearby town of
Puno. At the same time there is a decrease in community
spirit alongside increased individualism and consumerism.
As a contrasting example to Taquile the authors present
the municipality of Chiquian in the Cordillera Huayahuash.
Here local tourism under community management was
much less successful. The competition with Huaraz has
turned out to be a big obstacle, the greater part of profits
from tourism flow out of Chiquian. In addition, most trekking tourists only drive through Chiquian or only stay there
for a short stop. Only relatively few people are involved or
able to participate in the democratic processes of community gatherings. The economic and social benefits of tourism
are enjoyed by a limited number of people and the village of
Chiquian can only offer modest infrastructure to date.
Generally tourism in the Andes is quite varied. The
large destinations of impressive mountain landscapes, preHispanic and colonial towns and archaeological sites are
complemented by many examples of more modest tourist
developments, such as special attractions, markets, indigenous
settlements and festivals, increasing mountaineering, trekking,
eco- and agrotourism, as well as weekend and recreational
trips of people within their own country.
Varied and complex are also the effects of recreation
activities and tourism on the environment, the economy,
social cohesion and cultural traditions. It remains a great
challenge for governments, regions and communities to
leverage the opportunities offered by tourism in a sustainable manner and at the same time make it compatible with
conservation and the lifestyles of the indigenous population.
in the long term, the diversity and attractiveness of the
mountains will depend on careful, far-sighted and sustainable management of their resources. If thisrather than
short-term economic benefitis respected as a basic principle, tourism can provide significant opportunities to maintain the diversity of the mountains and their role as a living
space (Mountain Agenda 1999: 46).

The Andes as Transport Space

A. Borsdorf and C. Stadel, The Andes, Springer Geography, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-03530-7_8

Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015



8 The Andes as Transport Space


Road to the Fitz Roy Cordillera, Argentina


8.1 The Andes: Interactive Space

and Transport Barrier
In terms of physical geography, high mountains are seen
as obstacles to (modern) traffic. Such a view depends,
however, on the type of economy and the level of the

civilization. In the Alps the population has come to

view transport as their enemy in the wake of highway

development and ensuing heavy transit and tourist traffic.
This is in stark contrast to the Andes, where transport is
seen as an essential development factor because it enables
access to central places as well as to remote areas (Fig.8.1).
Many regions, villages and farmsteads, however, still have
no access, not even by dirt roads.

Fig.8.1Lorry in the Chimborazo area, Ecuador

Fig.8.2Mountain road with llamas, Bolivia

8 The Andes as Transport Space

International transit and traffic from the sierra to

the continental lowlands have played a minor role in
the tropical Andes and are restricted to a very few road
connections. The close economic relations between the old
settlement areas in the tropical and subtropical sierras and
the Caribbean and Pacific coastal plains, however, have
made for intense traffic in people and goods. The same is
true for inner-Andean traffic, esp. on the by now welldeveloped sections of the roads that link the major urban
centres. In contrast, the roads and paths in the peripheral
mountain areas are still rather rudimentary, often unpaved
and quite unsafe (Fig.8.2).
Traffic in high mountain areas is always risky. In the
Andes it faces active morphodynamics in the very steep
terrain, with frequent mass movements (derrumbes), plus
the risk of flash floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Lava streams and debris or mud flows (lahars) may
disrupt key transport connections. Take the example of the
major highway from Ambato to Puyo in Ecuador, which
was disrupted repeatedly in recent years by eruptions of the
Tungarahua near Baos (Fig.8.3), or the disruption of traffic by blankets of ash after the eruption of the Puyehue in
Chile in 2011. Floods after heavy rain or moving dunes in
dry zones are further obstacles. Add to this the often inadequate technical realization of roads and railway tracks,
the poor state of the vehicles and the inadequate railway
We can distinguish several development phases of
traffic in the Andes. In pre-Columbian times the wheel

was unknown, mule tracks linked the settlement. The Inca

did build roads to develop their vast empire, but resorted
to stairs to overcome rising terrain (cf. Fig. 4.24). Runners
hastened from tambo to tambo, the Inca service stations.
Inca roads fulfilled four purposes: they were marching
and supply routes for the Inca armies, travel paths for the
officials of the imperial administration, connections for the
information runners and transport routes for delivery of the
tributes owed by the subjected peoples or for the exchange
of goods between regions. Transport connections between
the sierra and the Pacific coast were essential even then.
During the colonial period, gravel roads were constructed for horse-drawn carriages and ox carts (Fig.8.4).
Early colonists followed the ox cart tracks. Railroad construction started in the 19th century, often by European
companies from Britain and Switzerland and without a
standardized uniform gauge. Most railroads were terminal
lines connecting mines and large cities with the relevant
ports, but no well integrated regional railroad networks
developed from them. Railroad construction brought with it
the first tunnels, undercrossing mountain spurs, passes and
In the 20th century the expansion of the road network at
first was primarily adapted to the relief conditions. Roads


8.1 The Andes: Interactive Space and Transport Barrier

followed the contour lines and passes had to be crossed

completely. Highway construction started relatively late and
is confined to specific areas, e.g. the CaracasLa Guaira
highway through the coastal cordillera of Venezuela, the
highway linking Quito with Santo Domingo and the Pacific
coastal towns in Ecuador, the motorway from Santiago
de Chile to Valparaso or the pass road from the valley of
the Aconcagua to Mendoza. The construction of pipelines
across the mountains to transport liquid or gaseous bulk
goods from the oil-producing selva to the ports on the
Pacific coast (Fig.8.5) or for supplying the copper mines
with water represent a major progress in the transport system. Unlike in the Alps, where base tunnel construction is
the latest stage of transport development, no such tunnels
have been planned in the Andes.
In the course of the 20th century the railway lost its former significance (Sect.8.2). Where railway lines have been
retained they are predominantly used for freight transport.
Some tracks, for instance in Ecuador and Peru, serve tourism. The Chilean railroad in the Longitudinal Valley, where
there is some passenger demand, today ends in Temuco.
Well into the 1970s it used to run all the way to Puerto
Today national airlines and modern coaches serve longdistance passenger transport. They often are quite comfortable and start from special modern terminals. Travellers now
can expect a complete service on board comparable to that
on aeroplanes. In contrast, remote areas are still only accessible by sometimes quixotic means of transport, such as the
brightly painted chivas (open buses) in Colombia or camionetas (pick-up trucks with open pallet).
Arterial roads are often flanked by numerous repair shops
and tyre fitters. They are established on the intersections
of major transport routes or in stage settlements, close to
restaurants, cook shops, off-licenses and fruit stalls. InnerAndean connections are still inadequate and make travel
very time-consuming. Many of the long-distance roads
in the Oriente, selva and Yungas are still underdeveloped
but traffic on them is on the increase. Landslides, rockfall
and floods often disrupt traffic. Bad roads, plus poorly
maintained vehicles and reckless driving are the cause for
many road accidents with severe consequences.
The construction of the Carretera Austral in the steep
terrain of Western Patagonia was extraordinarily difficult.
Road pioneer Augusto Grosse (Grosse 1955) had conducted
initial studies as early as the 1930s, but construction did not
start until 1979 (Borsdorf 1987). Sections through marshes
had to be fortified with logs (Fig.8.6), explosives were used
in hard granite to clear space for the road.
Cities are determining factors for shaping the
transportation network: urban centres as markets and places
of production attract and create traffic. With the exception
of Lima, Guayaquil, Barranquilla and Maracaibo, all

Fig.8.3Road disruption after a volcanic eruption, Tungurahua, Ecuador

Fig.8.4Ox cart in southern Chile

major cities of the South-American tropics are situated

in the Ande