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San Pedro de Atacama

by Anna Hufnagl, Thomas Lohr, Hannah Platt, and Selina Toplitsch

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General information

In the last decades, San Pedro de Atacama has evolved from a small and tranquil oasis amidst the desert to a booming tourist town. The vicinity to internationally renowned attractions such as the Salar de Atacama and the Valle de la Luna, and also its its native character, make today's San Pedro a hot spot of the backpacker scene. Let the llama Pedro and his friend Anna Alpaca guide you through the small town and its surroundings and talk to the people living there.


The llama Pedro from San Pedro

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Explore San Pedro de Atacama and its surroundings together with the llama Pedro. To do so, click on the arrows or into the graphics. Note that Pedro does not speak English, but only Spanish and German which he has learned from some Austrian tourists.

This is Pedro from San Pedro de Atacama. Pedro is a llama. Such as many other inhabitants of San Pedro, also Pedro works in the tourism business. His family has been living in the Atacama Desert for a long time, but originally came from a small village high up in the Andes, which is populated by indigenous people. Decades ago, the family had to move to San Pedro, the booming tourist town in the region, as there were no possibilities to work in their home village. They offer various tours to the attractions in the surroundings, and also sell traditional clothes which they import from Peru and Bolivia, but also from China.

Click on the title symbol to learn more about the camelids of the Andes!


People and tourism in San Pedro

Selina and Thomas conduct interviews with two people who live and work in San Pedro. Join them and thereby test your knowledge of the Spanish language.

Try to answer the following questions, based on the movie:

  1. Where are the lady and the gentleman from, and why did they move to San Pedro? Is their descendance charcteristic for the people in San Pedro?
  2. What is the role of the indigenous population in today's society?
  3. How did tourism change this place?

Interviews: Selina Toplitsch | Movie: Thomas Lohr

Show solution
  1. The lady is from Cuba. She has moved to San Pedro 23 years ago to enjoy the multi-cultural social environment here. The gentleman comes from Patagonia and has been living here for six years. He is artisan who sells his products to tourists. As many others, these two people have moved to San Pedro: today's population is multi-national and composed of people from various countries of Latin America, but also Europe. The lady mentions Russia, the llama Pedro has before met a farmer who has immigrated from France. Many people have moved here due to the possibilities to gain an income through the prospering international tourism. Also numerous Chilean students earn the money needed to do their studies in San Pedro.
  2. San Pedro has a rich indigenous history. The fortress Pucará de Quitor nearby gives evidence of the people of the Atacameños. Today, most indigenous people live in the small villages in the surroundings of San Pedro. Whereas their family names still testify their descendance, their first names are largely hispanicized. Furthermore, most of them are catholics, even though the indigenous traditions are very much reflected in the religous festivities. The same is true for those people who have immigrated from somewhere else: people of Afro-Cuban origin often combine Catholicism with African traditions.
  3. Tourism has both positive and negative effects. On the one hand, the money it directs to the town and the region brings some degree of wealth to the people. On the other hand, it has led to a pronounced increase of the consumption of energy, and both the water supply and waste disposal become more and more challenging. The increasingy multi-cultural environment is partly perceived in a positive, but partly also in a negative way.
References and links

Wikipedia article on San Pedro de Atacama [Access source]

This contribution was revised, extended, and translated from German by Martin Mergili.