Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Native peoples > Colla

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Environment and Location

Communities identifying themselves as Colla are located in the zones of Potrerillos, Inca de Oro, Quebrada de Paipote, San Miguel and San Andrés, and by the Jorquera River, which correspond to the municipalities of Chañaral, Copiapó and Tierra Amarilla, in Atacama Region. The remaining Colla herders and farmers occupy the ravine bottoms and high altitude grazing grounds of these zones, but nowadays most Collas reside in cities, having left behind their traditional herding, farming, mining, and gathering activities. Today, the descendants of that ancient pastoral people work as salaried employees, students, and homemakers.

The Colla’s grazing grounds are situated in the foothills and mountains of the Andes, which has a marginal desert climate characterized by aridity and scant precipitation in the lowland areas where the winter pastures are located. The highlands or summer pastures has a cold mountain desert climate with occasional precipitation in winter and summer. In the ravine bottomlands vegetation is scant, and grows in small clumps alongside wetlands populated by bushes such as cachiyuyo, brea and a few tree species such as algarrobo. At 3000–3500 m above sea level we find the tolar ecological tier, with more varied bushy formations, while from 3600–4300 m above sea level the pajonal tier takes over, characterized by extensive grasslands well suited for pasturing livestock. Hydrographically, the region includes the Jorquera River and its tributaries and the La Sal River, in addition to the freshwater springs and wetlands that emerge from the ravine bottoms and mountainsides.