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The following story about the cataclysmic transition from an older time of darkness to a new solar age relates in mythic form the historical emergence of the state and its solar religious cult. It tells of the defeat and demise of earlier peoples, which are conflated symbolically as “Chullpas,” and can be read as a myth of conquest corresponding to the political expansion of the Inka in the southern Andes in the fifteenth century.

The material remains of these earlier societies are evident, as the story notes, in the pre-Inka tombs (chullpares) scattered about the altiplano. The small pockets of Uru peoples are also considered “remnants of the Chullpas” by the surrounding Ay-mara groups, whose ancestors reconstituted themselves under Inka state auspices. The Uru Chipaya, Uru Morato, and Iruitu groups are small communities that still populate the aquatic axis from Lake Titicaca down to Lake Poopó. They are distinguished from Aymara communities by their distinctive Uru Chipaya language as well as by forms of dress and their reliance on riverine and lacustrine resources. For their Aymara neighbors, the Urus are primitive peoples—associated with shadowy, watery realms of the Chullpa ancestors—from the time prior to the emergence of Andean civilization.

The myth is found in many communities that once formed part of Qollasuyu. This version is a synopsis by the anthropologist Tristan Platt, based on his fieldwork in the modern Quechua-speaking community of Macha, in northern Potosí.1

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