The Aymara people live mostly in Peru and Bolivia. The Aymara have been around for at least 800 years, and they live around Lake Titicaca. About 2 million people speak the Aymara language today but, but it has lost fluent speakers to Quechua and Spanish over time.
The Aymara culture is considered a precursor of the Inca culture. The Aymara used the Ayllu social system, which became the basis of Inca society. The Aymara also used terraced farming, like the Incas. The areas where the Aymara lived were conquered by the Incas, but the date of the conquest is unknown.
It is thought the architecture that the Incas are famous for was not originally Inca, but was taken from the areas where the Aymara live. The Aymara were influenced by the Incas in many ways, and they also influenced the Incas. Many words in the Quechua language are of Aymara origin.
Although the Aymara people and the Quechua people are similar in many ways, and have long been influencing each other, they are also different from the Quechua speakers in many ways, and have different beliefs, customs, and clothing styles among other things.
Today the Aymara have been influenced by Western culture brought to South America by the Spanish. Many of their religious practices are a mix of Catholicism and native religion. Although many Aymara people still turn to shamans for healing or magic.
Qulliri means "healer"; it comes from the Aymara word "qulla." While the "yatiri" and the "ch'amakani" work with the spiritual dimensions of human existence and health, "qulliri" cures bodily diseases with natural medicine.
Qulliri is an "Aymara doctor" who performs remedies and treatments for disease based on Andean worldview. These therapies, restore the body and spiritual balance, are performed with the knowledge of plants, herbs and ointments used by their ancestors. They also use the knowledge of bone composition and understanding of natural childbirth.
Yatiri are medical practitioners and community healers among the Aymara of Bolivia, Chile and Peru, who use in their practice of both symbols and materials such as “coca” leaves. Yatiri are a special subclass of the more generic category Qulliri, a term used for any traditional healer in Aymara society.
The Aymara perceive 'health' to be a relationship with nature, members of the community, and connection with ancestors. The Yatiri play a vital role in strengthening and repairing these relationships, Western medicine treats health as an isolated problem within an individual and does not have a place for the role of community healers.
However their special roles do not relieve them from the social and agricultural duties shared by all community members. They never solicit healing, they wait for someone who has a complaint or a problem to consult them. They can treat the patient in person, or travel to a ritual place in order to give an offering.
Are Yatiri Shamans?
Yatiri and Shamans are healers. However the role of the Yatiri differs markedly from that of the Central Asian shamans. Shamans typically live and practice in isolation, undergo private and individual initiations to their roles, and practice ecstatic techniques in conjunction with their work. They also typically learn to heal by learning to heal themselves after a near-death experience. In contrast, the Yatiri are full members of Aymara communities who participate in the regular lifestyle of the Aymara, and learn their trade from Masters. Like Shamans, Yatiri can be both female and male.