• Climate Change & Human Security Publications
  • Social Structures of Local Communities

Social Structures of Local Communities

Aymara. (1996.) Encyclopedia of World Cultures. Retrieved from:


This Encyclopedia article gives a detailed account of the Aymara people describing their identification, location, demography, and linguistic affiliation. It goes in depth on different aspects of their history and cultural relations, settlements, economy, kinship, marriage and family, sociopolitical organization, as well as their religion and expressive culture. The article provides a good foundation for understanding of the background of the culture, the community, and how it functions.

Bolivia Constitution of 7 February 2009. Chp. 7. Art. 30, 289, 292

The Bolivian Constitution of 7 February 2009 centers around the idea of pluralism,  defining their democracy as one that is representative, participatory and communitarian, giving indigenous nations rights and power traditionally held only by the State. The  constitution cements the rights of the indigenous populations to self-government and self-determination. An entire chapter is devoted to indigenous rights, including rights to collective land ownership, traditional knowledge systems and the protection and sharing of benefits from natural resources. The constitution gives indigenous people the right to write their own statutes according to their own norms and procedures, as long as these do not violate any laws or the constitution. Indigenous communities can decide how to manage development—economic and otherwise. Fulfilling a long-standing demand of Bolivia's indigenous groups, the constitution provides the right of autonomous indigenous territories to carry out community justice according to their traditional practices—again, as long as government laws are not violated. This puts power back in the hands of the indigenous peoples and allows them to realize their social structures and communities according to their systems.


Foer, J. (2011, February 25) The island people: The seventh hidden wonder of South America." Slate Magazine. Retrieved from:


This article provides insight about the Uru in Puno, Peru, their history, and possible reasons for why they moved to living man-made islands on the waters of Lake Titicaca. The account is from a visitor’s perspective: the author details how their community functions on being a tourist attraction. They use tourism not only as a way to make a good profit and provide opportunity for their children to go to school in Puno, or even college, but also as a means to preserve their culture. A realization made by the author that clarifies quite clearly the decision of the Uru for taking this stance on tourism is: “They've come to realize that the Disneyfication of their culture—under their own control, and on their own terms—is the only viable route to its conservation [...] The authentic story of the Uros is that they are trying to preserve their unique culture while giving themselves and their children the best possible future. If that means commodifying their culture and selling their unique story, so be it.”


Muth, R. T. (n.d.). Uru: The indigenous peoples of Peru’s Lake Titicaca. History Corps: University of Iowa. Retrieved from:


This essay also offers a brief overview of the Uru people who live on the waters of Lake Titicaca. It talks about the group's origins, language and history in regards to culture, economy, and social structures. The article discusses ways in which their adaptation to “modern” living and involvement in the tourist economy assists their efforts to preserve their culture such as dress, economic practice, and island living, as many indigenous populations across the globe face challenges posed by the external forces of globalization. The author notes that, while it’s not necessarily a model that could be recreated everywhere, the Uru’s ability and willingness to achieve balance between preserving their culture and involving themselves with “modern” society and reap the benefits of both should be duly noted.


Bishop, C. & Macieira, L. (2013, September 11).Uros people of Peru and Bolivia found to have distinctive genetic ancestries. National Geographic. Retrieved from:


This is a National Geographic genetic research report led by the Genographic Project that looks into the unique possible ancestral lines of the Uros people of Peru and Bolivia. Said research shows that the genetic history of the Uros predates the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores and may date back to the earliest settlement of the Altiplano of the central Andes some 3,700 years ago. It notes that despite the fact that the Uros today share many lineages with the surrounding Andean populations, they have maintained their own divergent genetic ancestry. It provides quotes from the authors, the research methods used and a little bit of background on the culture. It also references the extensive report that followed and elaborated on these research findings here:

Sandoval, J.R., Lacerda DR, Jota MSA, Salazar-Granara A, Vieira PPR, Acosta O, et al. (2013) The Genetic History of Indigenous Populations of the Peruvian and Bolivian Altiplano: The Legacy of the Uros. PLoS ONE 8(9): e73006. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0073006 from: