Puno History

& Chronology

The people of Pucara can be considered to be the first relevant organized group that settled in the Region of Puno (also known as "El Altiplano" due to its lat land in the Andes) around l00 BC. This area was previously occupied by the Qaluyo people around 1400 BC. and it is believed that they were organized at a basic level with a ceremonial temple. Alter the presence of the Pucara people in this region,the Tiahuanaco civilization ruled in this area and a ter them the kingdoms of the Kollas and Lupacas. Once the decay ol Tiahuanaco was imminent in the early l200s AD, a group of them traveled to the north to form what later became the Empire of the Incas in Cusco.

"El Altiplano" started to be ruled by the Incas in the middle of the l400s after they deleated the Kollas. The Incas retained control or a century, until Peru was conquered by the Kingdom of Spain ( 1532 - 1821) . From that moment on,"El Altiplano" became a mining region where its natives lived in poverty and very poor conditions. Nowadays the economic situation ol the locals has improved, but a third of them still live in poverty. Below is a chronology of Puno:

Pucara Culture (250 BC - 380 AD)


Main Location in Puno: The main site is located northwest of Titicaca Lake on the Collao Plateau. Today the District of Pucara is part of the Province of Lampa.

Beginning of Presence in the Area: The Pucara people started as an organized society a ter local farmers congregated.

Main Survival Activities: Agriculture based on the construction of Andean terraces known as "Andenes" to produce mainly potatoes,   quinoa, corn, "oyuko," "oca" (sweet potato), and "mashua," which is a tuber. The Pucara people were also Andean live stock farmers, domesticating alpacas and llamas.

Political Organization: Pucara was a theocratic society based on the hierarchical organization of their priests on the top level and then the farmers on the second and third levels. They had several deities.

Decay of Pucara: It is believed that a prolonged drought devastated the area, causing the rulers to lose power.


  • In the City of Pucara, the local museum exhibits monoliths, sculptures, and several pieces of ceramic of the Pucara people.
  • The main site is composed of several structures made out of stone and dirt. The most important structure, known as Kalasaya, is located l kilometer from the museum and can be reached by foot only.
  • It is important to know that the main site and the museum are located at 12,825 feet above sea level (3,91O m.a.s.I.). High altitude sickness is a risk if precautions aren't token.
  • The Pucara people practiced the dehydration of food (potatoes and meat).

Tiahuanuco Culture (100 BC - 1200 AD)


Main Location in Puno: The Tiahuanaco civilization started in what is now Bolivia and from there extended to Puno and other areas in Peru. The main site in Puno had been the area of influence of the Pucara people in the town of the sorne name. (The main site is located in Bolivia.)

Beginning of Presence in the Area: The expansion and consolidation of the Tiahuanaco civilization in Puno and the southern part of Peru started around 650 AD.

Main Survival Activities: Agriculture based on the construction of Andean terraces known as "Andenes" to produce mainly potatoes,   quinoa,   corn, "oyuko," "oca" (sweet potato), and "mashua" which is a tuber. The Tiahuanaco people were also Andean livestock farmers and traders.

Political Organization: It was a hierarchical militarized society with the establishment of Viracocha as the ruling god of the universe. They colonized several territories and controlled their inhabitants through religion and commerce.

Decay of the Tiahuanaco Civilization in Puno: It is believed that the rulers started to weaken and lose power in the region, bringing about rebellions by the local subjugated ethnic groups.


  • The Tiahuanaco architectural style influenced several buildings in the region of Puno. This influence can be observed in the tombs of Sillustani.
  • Their ceramic and textile practices influenced other contemporary cultures (mainly the Incas) on the Andes, coast and in northern Peru.
  • The establishment of a main god known as Viracocha was adopted by the Incas. 

Inca Culture in Puno (1450 AD - 1532 AD)


Main Location in Puno: The Incas ruled in the entire region of Puno once the Kollas were defeated by Inca Pachacutec and his army. Probably the most important Inca site was Inca Uyo in the Province of Chucuito.

Beginning of Presence in the Area: Once Inca Pachachutec was chosen to be the next Inca (king), he started to plan the expansion of his empire. Around 1450 Pachacutec led his army to Puno to defeat the Collas, Lupacas, and all other ethnic groups ruling in"El Altiplano." His defeat of the Kollas led to the Lupacas' and other small groups' swearing obedience to Pachacutec.

Main Survival Activities: Agriculture, fishing, handcrafting (ceramics), textiles, mining, commerce, and construction of roads, temples, water channels, and Andean terraces

Political Organization: The Inca Empire was ruled by an Inca king who claimed to be the son of the Sun (most important deity for the Incas) . This was a tyrannical militarized leadership. The locals were controlled and ruled by upper-class subjects of the empire.

Decay of theInca Empirein Puno: With the arrival of the Spaniards in Peruin 1532, Puno lost Inca presence and was colonized soon afterwards.


  • The Inca site of Inca Uyo is probably the most important Inca site in Puno. lt is believed that this was a temple and the home of the Inca. Sorne historians state that this was a fertility temple due to the existence of several phallus-shaped stone sculptures; however, it has been proven that this is only a coincidence since these sculptures were used in the houses of the locals to build the roofs.
  • The Incas adopted the burial style used by the Collas and also built "Chullpas" to bury their dead. At the Sillustani site, it is possible to observe the evolution of styles from Pre-Inca to Inca times.
  • The people of the Region of Puno belong to the ethnic group known as Aymaras. When the Incas (aka Quechuas) conquered the region, the Aymara language and customs diminished but were not completely lost . 

Puno Colonial (1532 - 1821)


Main Location in Puno: The Spaniards didn't settle in the Region of Puno right a ter their arrival in Peru. Once the first Spaniards arrived in this region, they chose the City of Puno to be the most important location in the region.

Beginning of Presence in theArea: The first Spaniards arrived in Puno around 1550, drawn by the existence of silver in the region.In l573 Viceroy Francisco de Tudela designated Puno as a town, but it wasn't until November 4, 1668 that it was founded as city.

Main Survival Activities: The region of Puno was a mining area for the Spaniards as well as a transport road between the mines in Bolivia and Arequipa and the Pacific Ocean.

Political Organization: Puno was ruled by the viceroy of the viceroyalty of Peru, who ruled through the "Teniente Gobernador" and other subjects of the kingdom of Spain.

Decay of the Viceroyalty: The freedom of Peru was declared in the Main Square of Lima on 1821, and with this Puno also gained its freedom.


  • The Region of Puno during the first l00 years of colonial times was an out law region due to its location and its extreme weather conditions.
  • The existence of valuable minerals in the region attracted several Spaniards who started several bloody lights over the existent mines. In 1660, Viceroy Conde de Lemos arrived in Puno to put an end to these bloody confrontations, and in 1668 the city of Puno was founded.
  • During the colonial period, several churches were built in a Baroque­ mestizo style. The style of the churches in Puno is unique.

Puno Republic - First 100 Years (1821 - 1921)


Capital: The capital of the Department (later on Region of Puno) was the city of Puno.

Role of Puno during the First 100 Years: The Region of Puno continued to be a forgotten region with limited resources. In 1913, the farmers of Puno started a movement to reclaim their rights and improve theirliving conditions, but it didn't prove successful.

Puno's Economy: The economy of Puno continued to depend heavily upon mining; however, the production of wool and alpaca fiber became an important component in the economy of the region. The construction of the railroad from Puno to Arequipa See my note about the railroad below under Highlights in 1870 improved the region's economy. Also, Titicaca Lake started to be navigated by major steamboats, which also improved the economy for the locals.

Puno's Culture: The Region of Puno lacked a relevant and important educational system during this period. Thefirst university was founded in 1856, but it was closed in 1866. The inhabitants of Puno who were able to afford an education had to move out of the region and travel to Arequipa, Cusco, or Lima to obtain a degree.

Puno's Art: Puno is a region where locals stand out in ceramics, textiles, and local music and dances. Pucara was and is still famous for its ceramic bulls. During the Festival of "La Virgen de la Candelaria" in the month of February, the best dances and local rhythms were and are still practiced.


  • Puno remained one of the poorest regions in Peru, with a very low level of education and where the natives didn't hove access to education.
  • Puno remained a mining region where progress slowly arrived in the region thanks to the railroad from Puno to Arequipa and the arrival of steamboats.
  • Puno started to export wool and alpaca fiber. This activity helped the locals to improve their economy.
  • The Aymaras are a large ethnic group who hove lived and still live in this region.

Puno - Nowadays (1921 - 2016)


Capital: The city of Puno continued to be the capital of the Department and later on the Region of Puno.

Role of Puno in the last 94 years: The Region of Puno continued to be a mining region. The high levels of poverty in the region contributed to the emigration of the natives to other regions such as Arequipa, Cusco, and Lima. The Region of Puno contributes ancient customs to Peru due to the existence of the ethnic groups formed by the Aymaras and the Quechuas.

Puno's Economy: Mining continued to be the biggest contributor to the economy of Peru, but agriculture and live stock managed to improve and also contribute on a large scale to the economy of the region. During the last 20 to 30 years, the tourism industry has attained remarkable progress and is also an important contributor to the economy of the region, helping local families who inthe post were immersed in poverty.

Puno's Culture: The first public university, which opened and closed in the post century, reopened in 1962 to provide public and free education to the inhabitants of Puno. Later on, a private university opened, also to provide education to the natives of Puno. These universities still lack quality education; there fore, many people in Puno still travel to Arequipa, Cusco, and Lima to obtain a better  education.

Puno's Art: Puno continues to be a region where locals standout in ceramics, textiles, and local music and dances. Pucara is still famous due to its ceramic bulls. The Festival of "La Virgen de la Candelaria" in the month of February is probably the biggest parade in Peru, where several dancing schools dance and compete to be the best in the festival.


  • The Region of Puno is considered the Capital of Folklore in Peru due to its interesting customs, dances, and local music. The "Virgen de la Candelaria" Festival, taking place during the month of February, is proof of  this characterization.
  • The tourism industry has improved the economy of the locals and especially the economy of the inhabitants of the Titicaca Lake lslands. The islands can be visited daily from the small port of Puno.
  • Puno must be visited if the traveler is looking for first-hand experiences in learning about deep Peruvian roots. The inhabitants of the Taquile, Amantani,and Uros lslands open their homes to visitors; this allows the guests to learn about local customs and practices.

Loremp Impsiom

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