Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Santurei, the symbol of leaders

In Colonial times, Aymara chiefs, called mallkus or jilakatas, carried a staff of command authorized by the King of Spain as a symbol of their power. This staff identified its holder as the principal authority within the community. Made of South American palm wood (chonta) and adorned with silver rings, these objects were highly revered. To invest them with power and ensure their symbolic effectiveness, the people called the staffs santurei (“holy king” in Spanish) and housed them in a special place in the local church. Santurei staffs are still used today in some parts of the Andes.

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Santurei. Aymara. MCHAP,1810.

Santurei. Aymara. MCHAP,1810.

Santurei, detail. Aymara. MCHAP,1810.