Vicuña Country

Presumably Jack DouglasJ
Production Date: 
1959; airdate January 31, 1959 on ABC-TV Bold Journey (Season 3, Episode 22)
Julian Lesser
Jack Douglas, host
Run Time: 

Establishing shot: elephants at the Griffith Park Zoo, Los Angeles
Named locations: Griffith Park Zoo (00:4); San Clemente, CA (multiple times early in film); Lima, Peru (5:00); the Puna (7:00); Lake Titicaca (8:40); Cuzco (11:30); Machu Picchu (11:47); the Andes (throughout).

Major themes covered: Eric Pavel travels to the high altitudes of Peru in search of the vicuña, a shy camel-like animal famous for its soft fur—encounters Indians and their culture—from the Bold Journey television series (1959). The various Aymara and Q’ero domestic and occasional practices encountered by a family in search of Vicuna wool.  Indigenous practices featured or discussed include, but are not limited to: family life, music, marriage customs, fiesta ceremonies and dances, history of Spanish conquest of the region, and cooking techniques.

Native activities shown:  Aymara activities depicted in the film: a woman, presumably Aymara, identified as Inca, riding a horse and looking at the camera (7:33); Aymara woman on a reed boat in Lake Titicaca harvesting underwater grasses (9:05); a woman wearing embroidered bowler hat weaving cloth out of alpaca wool on a loom (9:50); young woman, said to be earlier woman’s daughter and also wearing embroidered bowler hat, sorting potatoes (10:00); Aymara man, “father Antonio,” said to be father of young woman, harvesting wheat (10:08); “father Antonio” threshing wheat by leading oxen around by their tail (10:19); young man playing a charango (10:38); infant holding a rag doll (10:50); man playing quena (10:58); woman braiding her hair (11:02); long sequence of multiple shots of preparation and cooking a pachamanca feast (14:15 – 15:52), includes building pyramid of hot stones, laying meat and potatoes on hot stones, burying and uncovering pyramid with dirt, and women’s involvement in preparations and cooking; long sequence of multiple shots of diablada festival (17:27 – 18:47), includes discussion of symbolism and history of dance, effeminate depiction of Spanish conquistadors, women in traditional pollera skirts and bowler hats dancing.

Aymara activities implied or alluded to in the film: Taking Alpaca herds out to the mountains for grazing (13:35); effeminizing Spanish conquistadors in diablada dance/not forgiving the Spanish (17:55)

Q’ero activities depicted in the film: old man pulling leaves, presumably coca leaves, out of bag made of vicuna fur, chewing on leaves (19:25); child getting rite of first hair cut from each member of the family (20:14).

Q’ero activities implied or alluded to in the film: descendent from Incas (23:45); relationship with Polynesian indigenous peoples (24:05)

Individuals Named:  Atahualpa (Inca), Antonio Family (Aymara).
Native language spoken:
Print Resources: 

Allen, Catherine J. The Hold Life Has: Coca and Cultural Identity in an Andean Community. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1988.

     *Influential ethnography about Q’ero life in the Andes.  Includes descriptions of divisions of labor between Q’ero men and women, discussions of Q’ero rituals and ceremonies, and insights into the social function of coca in the Q’ero community.

Buechler, Hans C.  The Bolivian Aymara.  New York: Holt, 1971.

          *This fairly comprehensive overview of Aymara culture is based on ethnographic research conducted in the Compi community on the shores of Lake Titicaca.  Books includes sections on economic and land management, family customs, carnival, and religion. 

Eisenberg, Amy. Aymara Indian Perspectives on Development in the Andes.  Tuscaloosa: U Alabama, 2013.

       *This new book presents the findings and oral testimonies of a collaborative research project between the author and the Aymara people of northern Chile.  From the book’s press release: “Within a multidisciplinary framework and with a detailed understanding of issues from the Aymara point of view, together we explore the enduring reciprocal relations between the Aymara and the elements of land, water, and the supernatural amid exogenously imposed development within their holy land.”

Ferreira, Cesar and Eduardo Dargent-Chamot.  Culture and Customs of Peru.  Westport, CT:Greenwod, 2003. 

      *Fairly broad overview of religious and social customs of Peruvian peoples.  Includes discussion of pachamanca and of the diablada festivities featured in the film.

Johnsson, Mick. Food and Culture Among Bolivian Aymara: Symbolic Expressions of Social Relations. Uppsala: Uppsala University, 1986.

     *This volume explores the symbolic and social functions of food and food sharing.  Johnsson shows how food and food sharing expresses core Aymara values of independence, reciprocity, and equality, and works to impart a collective sense of Aymara identity.  Includes chapters on fiesta and compadrazgo.

Kuenzli, E G. Acting Inca: Identity and National Belonging in Early Twentieth-Century Bolivia.  2013.

       *Recently published book in University of Pittsburgh’s Latin America Series analyzes historical relationship between Inca and Aymara people.  Discusses Aymara ethnic identity in relation to Bolivian politics.

Lecount, Cynthia. "Carnival in Bolivia: Devils Dancing for the Virgin." Western Folklore 58 (1999): 231-252.

     *Thorough first-hand ethnographic account of Carnival in Oruro, Bolivia.  Discusses history and folklore of carnival, myth of the Virgin of the Mineshaft, Aymara involvement in Oruro Carnival, and the history and significance of the diablada dance.

McFarren, Peter, Sixto Choque, and Teresa Gisbert. Máscaras De Los Andes Bolivianos: Masks of the Bolivian Andes. La Paz: Editorial Quipus, 1993

     *Photography book by Aymara photographer Sixto Choque featuring a wide variety of Aymara carnival masks, and including bilingual essays by Teresa Gisbert on symbolism and function of masks.

Mitchell, Winifred.  “Aymara.”  Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender: Men and Women in the World's Cultures.  Ed. Carol and Melvin Ember. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 2004.  274-282.

      *Authoritative encyclopedia entry discusses Aymara history, cultural construction of gender, and conceptions and customs of marriage.  Includes information on hair-braiding traditions amongst Aymara women.

Online Resources:

Native Planet page on the Aymara:


Statistics on population, lifestyle, classifications and language of the Aymara. 

Ethnologue site on Aymara language:***EDITION***

Includes statistical information on language usage and development.

Encyclopedia Britannica entry for “Aymara:”

British Museum page for “Diablada Dance Mask:”


Includes detailed look at more contemporary diablada mask, along with some historical background and context.

Nacion Q’ero Blog:

Very helpful Spanish-language blog discusses current social and political events related to the Q’ero, and includes a plenitude of links to other websites, films, articles, etc.  The blog describes itself as a “network for information and awareness of the people, organizations, and institutions that are responsible for alternative development in the five communities of the Nation of Q'ero, wanting to promote its unique culture” (my translation).

Centro de Estudos y Desarollo Andina Q’eros Blog:

Blog is no longer in use but was ostensibly created and written by Q’ero people and includes some great photographs of civic events that featured Q’ero participation.

Community of Q’eros Site:

Q’ero-curated website features media and development projects along with historical information and social and political issues related to Q’ero communities

Other notes: Bold Journey 1/31/1959: Vicuna Country, Season 3, Episode 22

--Adam Iddings, 2013