By Waltraud Q. Morales
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Extra resources for A Brief History of Bolivia, 2nd Edition
The La Paz yungas sharply descend from the northeastern slopes of the Andes. These are the extremely lush mountain jungles of the narrow valleys and canyons that form part of the traditional growing area for Bolivia’s coca leaf, which is the primary ingredient in the production of illegal cocaine. In the lower tropical valleys at 600 feet the ancient Aymara and Inca grew not only the sacred coca plant but also many semitropical and tropical fruits. Then, as now, crops such as coffee, tea, cacao, cassava (manioc), mangoes, citrus, and pineapples were transported more than 10,000 feet up the precipitous mountain roads to the highland population centers.
Historically, the majority of the population settled on the altiplano, only 80 miles wide and running 500 miles from north to south between two main branches of the Andean range. The sub-Andean region consists of the rich temperate valleys (valles) nestled in the foothills of the Andes and the semitropical valleys (yungas) of the northeastern escarpment of the Andes. The eastern lowlands (llanos, also referred to as the Oriente) of the country include subtropical forests and grasslands, as well as the dense tropical rain forests of the Amazon Basin.
C. It is indisputable from the archaeological evidence, however, that very early Indian peoples lived on the coast and up into the Andean highlands to elevations of 15,000 feet. Coastal villagers fished in the mouths of rivers, and as they gradually developed agricultural skills, they began to grow cotton, corn, and potatoes and to domesticate guinea pigs for meat. In the highlands, the early Indian peoples hunted Andean deer and herded llamas for meat and alpacas for wool. One of the first distinctively identifiable cultures is known as the Chavín, named after extensive ruins found on the eastern Andes of Peru.