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The Pikunche people

Grabado de Huaman Poma de Ayala

The Pikunche people lived in the Chilean Central area.

The Spanish chronicles provide abundant information about this people. They called them Pikunche. They spoke the Mapuche language, the same as Araucanians and Williches, but culturally they were more developed due to the acquisition of more evolved techniques due to their contact with peoples from the north.

They bury their dead under tumulus; they had carved stones that, with handles, could be used as agricultural tools; they carved holes in big stones known as piedras tacita that may have been used as mortars or for ceremonial offerings.

They created a ceramic decorated with trident shapes (trinaquio), distinctive from all pre Hispanic cultures in Chile.


Grabado de la conquista

Three hundred or more people lived in the same village, under the rule of a chief or Cacique, a hereditary position autonomous from other chiefs.

Each of these units exercised property over cultivable land; however, woods and pastures were held in common for the flocks of llamas and guanacos. Inside the village, work was collective. They used to invite people from other communities to work with them, giving them food, drink and party in exchange. This social activity was known as mingaco.

The Pikunche were very different from northern peoples. The abundant water and the good quality of the land did not press them to rejoin in larger groups or to engage in heavy agricultural constructions, or to unify under a central authority.

They just build irrigation canals, a task that could be performed by the villagers; during the plantation they just needed a digging stick, the coa, to sow the field.


Clava de mando, tallada en piedra

The Pikunche people cultivated corn, beans, teak, pumpkins, pepper, quinoa, oca, peanuts and potatoes. Excepting the potato, all these crops were introduced from the north.

The diet was complemented with meat (cuy, guanaco, llama), and fish and seafood exchanged with the coastal Changos people.

There were two grupos that revealed more social than economic differences.

Chiefs, or caciques, and machis, or shamans, enejoyed the highest ranks.

In contrast with the northern peoples, they did not evidenced a transformation into chiefdoms, mainly due to an agricultural system that demand no bureaucracy for organizing and directing tasks that imply high energy investment, as it happened in the desert.


Foto: Arívalo Estilo Inca

The Pikunche people also experienced the Inca domination. Although they were a Mapuche people branch, they were not as belligerent as the Mapuche people.

With enough good land, expansions wars were few.

The lack of resistance towards the Inca invited no great changes in the social structure; on the contrary, they were integrated to the Empire through their own caciques, recognized as noblemen of the Inca society (incanato).

To exercise a better control, the Inca brought to their colonies indigenous Quechua. They were called the Mitimaes and their presence is confirmed by cultural vestiges found in burial sites, mainly ceramics, such as arrívalos, and other features of the Inca civilization.

Pormocae People

Sacrificio de un niño, en el altar del sol. Cerro El Plomo. Santiago

Indigenous people living south from the Maipo river were known by the Inca as Pormocaes or Purumaucaes what in Quechua is meant as insurgent people. However, it is believed that they may be a subgroup of the Pikunche people.

Due to miscegenation and cultural assimilation, the Pikunche lost their ethnic identity and, by the end of the XVII century, its population had heavily declined, and the remaining groups were under the influence of the Spanish language and culture.

The province of the Pormocaes, as suggested by Vivar, « begun seven leagues south to Santiago, in a place were the mountains create a strait (he refers to the Strait of Paine) and reach the Mauled river. The Inca gave them this denomination because, seen in their way of life, they called them Pormaucaes, meaning mountain wolves, so they remain as Pormocaes.»

They worshiped, as said by the same chronicler, the sun and the snow because it gave them water to live.

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