Friday, June 7, 2019

What is the Collao and Were There Pre-Columbian Sheep There?

The Collao, or Altiplano, southwest of Lake Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia

Southwest of Lake Titicaca is a province today named Collao, with the people mainly indigenous citizens of Aymara descent Aymara is also the language which the majority of the population (76.51%) learn to speak in childhood. Only 22.57% of the residents started speaking Spanish, and just 0.65% began using the Quechua language. Callao is from both a Quechua and Aymara word “Qullaw” meaning “Place of the Qulla,” and refers to a place on the Andean Plateau (also Bolivian Plateau) in the Andes where it is the widest.  
    When applied to a people or a culture, the term has reference to “Andean Indian” or “Indian from the altiplano.” The Altiplano is an area of inland drainage (endorheism) lying in the central Andes, occupying parts of northern Chile and Argentina, western Bolivia and southern Peru. It is the most extensive area of high plateau on Earth outside Tibet, and is also referred to as puna or páramos. Here at 14,000 to 15,000 feet elevation, the temperatures are colder than the mountains but not as cold as the highest peaks, and is much wetter in the northeast than the southwest.
    In the south, there are several salares, or salt flats, due to the early drainage of the lake that was formed when the earth rose and trapped sea water among the peaks and within the orogem. Because of the aridity of the area, this drainage formed Lake Poopó and numerous other small pockets of water that have, over the centuries dried up into large and small salt deposits.
    This area has been the site of several pre-Columbian cultures, including the Chiripa, Tiawanaku and lastly the Inca. Anciently the Chincha, part of the Paracas culture occupied the southwest area as far as the coast, and who were prominent as sea-going traders. In fact, Chincha merchants maintained trade routes by land with herds of camelids or Llamas used as beasts of burden reaching the Altiplano and Cusco. They learned seafaring skills, and the ability to make rafts and boats, large enough to carry 20 people as well as large cargo. They knew the sail, allowing them to have extensive maritime trade routes and perhaps traveled as far as Central America. These early mariners held in high regard a star known to them as Chundri, that likely served for navigation.
Meadows on the Altiplano of lush grass and flowering plants

According to the accounts of early Spanish scribes who traveled with the Conquistadors, these plains, also called the Collao, form beautiful and extensive meadows, the herbage of which is always plentiful, and at times very green, although in the spring it is parched up as in Spain. On this Altiplano, the winter begins  in October, and lasts until April, with the days and nights almost equal, and the cold greater than in any other part of Peru, excepting the snowy peaks, because the land is high, and comes up to the mountains.
    If this land of the Collao had a deep valley like those of Xauxa or Chuquiapu, which would yield maize, it would be one of the richest in all the country. Though, when the wind is blowing it is hard work to travel over these plains of the Collao, but when there is no wind, and the sun is shining, it is very pleasant to see the beautiful and well-flowering meadows.
    However, the climate is so cold that there is no maize, nor any kind of tree; and the land is too sterile to yield any of the fruits which grow in other parts. According to the early recorders, “This description of the Collao is very accurate. South of the Vilcañota mountains the Andes separate into two distinct chains, namely the cordillera or coast range and the Eastern Andes, which include the loftiest peaks in South America, Illimani and Sorata. The Collao is the region between these two ranges. It contains the great lake of Titicaca, and consists of elevated plains intersected by rivers flowing into the lake.”
    The Pre-Inca Culture called Tiahuanaco (Tiwanaku), developed among 400 BC and 120 AC, and inhabited the Collao plateau (surrounding areas of Lake Titicaca, and extending their domain to Arequipa, north coast of Chile and a great part of Bolivia. Its cultural influence reached the coast and North Andean part of Peru. Its cultural center was located in the citadel of Tiahuanaco, in territory of Bolivia.
    The Tiwanaku were quite advanced, and were dedicated to agriculture, specifically the potato and Quinoa, and were herdsmen, with flocks of animals, in which they bred llamas and alpacas, and also involved in fishing in Titicaca Lake. They developed a multicolor artistic ceramic in which they used geometric drawings as decorations, which were outstanding on their big ceremonial glasses. They also developed the sculpture with representations of anthropomorphous divinities, with some characteristics of felines, snakes, and hawks, 24-feet in height.
    It is interesting to note that regarding domestic animals in South America, the “experts” claim that “The influx of organisms from the Old World to the new one was enormous and much larger than the introduction of New World species to Europe. With contact, Europeans introduced a plethora of species to the Americas, including domesticated animals such as horses, cows, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, cats, and dogs, as well as synanthropes (from a Greek root that means “together with humans”) that thrived in humanized Old World environments but did not exist in the Americas before the Spanish arrived” (Alfred W. Crosby Jr., The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492, 30th Anniversary Edition, Praeger, Westport, CT, 2003).
    One such ungulate irruption appears to have taken place in 16th-century New Spain. The Spaniards introduced cattle and sheep into the Valle del Mezquital, northeast of Mexico City. After overstocking their new properties, the animal population crashed. For one historian, this event led to the permanent degradation of what used to be a rich agricultural region into an eroded landscape covered in scrub vegetation. Especially culpable were the animals’ Spanish masters, who according to this account prevented the return of the sheep population to a sustainable number by keeping them artificially high and above the carrying capacity of the region (Elinor G. K. Melville, A Plague of Sheep: Environmental Consequences of the Conquest of Mexico, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1994).
However, despite all the comments made by these “experts,” they should be considered as inaccurate by modern knowledge. It is interesting that Pedro de Cieza de León, the Spanish chronicler and conquistador in Peru, and author of Crónicas del Perú, who wrote his book in four parts, though only the first was published during his lifetime; the remaining sections were not published until the 19th and 20th centuries, was one of those early chroniclers who wrote about the sheep that existed during Inca times.
    In 1536, while in Cordoba at the age of 16, Cieza de León was greatly surprised to learn of the discovery of the land of the Incas, and so decided to go to Seville to embark on his journey to South America, to see for himself the artifacts of precious metals which had been brought to Spain from Cajamarca (Noble David Cook, Introduction to 1998 translation of The Discovery and Conquest of Peru: Chronicles of the New World Encounter, edited and translated by Alexandra Parma Cook and Noble David Cook, Duke University Press, Durham, NC, 1998, p. 25-26).
    In light of the prohibition of entry into the Spanish colonies for Jews and Jewish converts to Catholicism, Alonso López and Luis de Torres attested for Cieza de León that he was not prohibited. Jewish converso Pedro López de Cazalla, secretary of Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro, conqueror of the Incan Empire, was also his first cousin. He reached the New World in 1536, and after participating in various expeditions and helping to found a number of cities, in 1548 he finally reached the “City of Kings” (Lima) where he started his career as a writer and official chronicler of the New World. During the following two years he traveled across the Peruvian territory, collecting interesting information he would later use to develop his works.
    Though his works are historical and narrate the events of the Spanish conquest of Peru and the civil wars among the Spaniards, much of their importance lies in his detailed descriptions of geography, ethnography, flora and fauna. He was the first European to describe some native Peruvian animal species and vegetables.
Among the ancient villages that surrounded the eastern area of Lake Titicaca from Ayaviri to Omasyuos were flocks of sheep before the Spanish arrived cities
Of an incident that occurred nearly 50 years before Columbus reached America, and about 100 years before the Spanish reached Andean South America, de León wrote: “When the Inca conquered this country from Ayavire—another road goes to Omasuyu, which leads round the other side of the great Lake Titicaca, which passes by the large villages of Asillo, Azangaro, and others of less importance, where the country is very rich both in flocks and provisions—it is said the people of these villages had large flocks of sheep (Pedro de Cieza de León, “The travels of Pedro de Cieza de Léon,” 1532-1550 AD, translated by Clements R. Markham, from the first part of his Chronical of Peru, Hakluyt Society, London, 1864 [original 1555]).
    It should be kept in mind that Cieza de Leon kept copious otes of all the he encountered in his years in Andean Peru, and today is considered one of the most reliable of all the chroniclers in the early period of Peruvian conquest. He is called the “Prince of the Peruvian chroniclers,”
    Pedro de la Gasca, President of the Audiencia of Lima, must have been impressed by young Cieza's scholarly capabilities, for he seems to have appointed Cieza official chronicler of events in Peru. During 1549 the young chronicler traveled into southern Charcas (modern Bolivia) under the president's orders. For a few months in 1550 he resided in Cuzco, where he took oral testimony about the Inca past from several Indians, including Cayu Tupac, descendant of the ruler Huayna Capac. Cieza completed the first part of his multi-volume history in Lima on 8 September 1550, which he presented to Philip II, the King of Spain, upon his return in 1551. His works became a 16th century “best seller” in Seville, followed by three Spanish editions in Ameres in 1554 and seven Italian translations between 1555 and 1576.
    If Cieza de Leon claimed the indigenous natives around the eastern belt of Lake Titicaca had sheep when they were conquered by the Inca, then they had sheep there, a least a hundred years before the Spanish arrived.

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