Denomination Date Remarks Mintage
½ Plata unknown clay 450
1 Plata unknown clay 300
2 Plata unknown clay 227
4 Plata unknown clay 200
5 Plata unknown clay 127
2 Plata 1997 wood >60
4 Plata 1997 wood >60
5 Plata 1997 wood >60
2 Plata 2007 3 clay llama types 195
1 Pampapano undated tin 653 est.
1 Pampapano undated copper 653 est.
1 Pampapano undated brass 653 est.
1 Pampapano undated .999 silver 3
Denomination Date Remarks Mintage
1 Plata undated oil paper, numbered 160
2 Plata undated oil paper, numbered 160
3 Plata undated oil paper, numbered 160
4 Plata undated oil paper, numbered 160
6 Plata undated oil paper, numbered 160
8 Plata undated oil paper, numbered 160
2 Plata 1992 oil paper, numbered 1,000
(click image for larger views)
The mountains of the southern tip of South America are ominous and uninviting. The jagged peaks and steep inclines almost guarantee the adventurer will quickly turn back claiming travel across those mountain ranges is impossible. A look at Google Earth will confirm the incredible feat it must be to penetrate these mountains to the inner valleys. Beyond those jagged peaks is a high plateau that is flat as a pancake aside from a few gently rolling hills along it's edges. Several small lakes or ponds are found among the hills and are noted for their rich blue and rich green hues. Some say it looks like the water is loaded with food coloring! The grassy plains and sparsely vegetated rock-strewn areas are the home of Pampapana.
Pampapana remains a distant, almost inaccessible, outpost thanks to the steep inclines of mountain after mountain for miles, blocking this nearly alpine pampa from the rest of the world. There are no roads coming close to Pampapana and no airstrips, although landing a plane in the flat areas is not too difficult. Even so, the area is known as one of the uncharted wildernesses of South America.
Pampapana, covering about 670 square miles is a pretty lonely outpost void of roads and modern conveniences. The population raises herds of vicuña, guanaco, llama, alpaca and sheep. The area is rural open ranching land.
Even though the population is far flung, it is a tight knit community that enjoys socializing. The extended family resides in separate homes on the family's land.
With an elevation ranging from about 11,500 to 16,400 feet above sea level, this high plateau in the Dry Puna region is a windy and cool place. Little rain falls here but the winds are almost constant. The year-round temperature averages range from 46 to 52 degrees and the wind speed is 15 to 30 miles per hour at any time. Snowfall is very rare and rainfall is in short downpours lasting only a few minutes. During the summer temperatures may rise to around 70 degrees F. Even so, a low at or below freezing is not unusual almost any time of the year. The high elevation and dry climate allow for impressive atmospheric cooling after sunset Rainfall average is 6 inches a year.
Some 50 families inhabit Pampapana, all living on their ancestral lands and working cooperatively for the good of the family. While population figures are not available, it is believed about 300 people live in Pampapana with estimates ranging from 250 to 375.
The people of Pampapana have a sense of community and eagerly volunteer to help sick or elderly neighbors and make sure the community as a whole is without need.
Families gather for a trip in to market every Saturday. Most have a small home at the center of Pampapana where there is a small plaza that doubles as a market.
The families are all at the plaza by around 1 or 2 in the afternoon where a market is held until about dark. A communal meal is served and generally a dance goes well into the evening with some folks gathering in small groups until late in the night. Once the festivities are done, families retire to their one or two room homes around the plaza. On Sunday morning, Church Services are held and the families return to their land to prepare for the next week. The routine varies little through the year although a few special events highlight some Saturdays.
Religion is important in the lives of the people. There is a Church Pastor and the services lean toward Catholic beliefs although the church is not a member of any denomination. The pastor is a local considered to be ‘devoted to God’.
Ranch homes are typically four rooms: a kitchen, a common room, a room for children to sleep and one room for the parents to sleep. At the plaza, the homes tend to be one or two rooms. All the homes are void of windows. Some think this is because of the lack of glass in the area while some claim the constant wind is the main factor.
Schooling is handled by the mother of the children. No other form of education is available, however the population seems far from illiterate.
Transportation is by animal or animal drawn wagon.
Pampapana rates as among the poorest locations on earth with the average per capita income of only about $25.00 US, per month. Since bartering is still a major factor in the economy, the per capita income is actually around $112.00 US per month., estimated by visiting members of S.U.P., an organization that teaches living self-sufficiently on native foods.
A small regional organization, S.U.P. has adopted the folks of Pampapana. The group is concerned with teaching folks to grow and utilize traditional foods and teaching self-sufficiency. Every year or two a person or family from the organization lives several months in Pampapana, learning and teaching along the way. S.U.P. is responsible for much of this information.
My response: from Pampapana roughly translated:
Dear Mr. Turner,
We are in receipt of your letter dated 09/06/07 which arrived here 02/11/08.
We are pleased to respond to your request for additional information on Pampapana, most expressly, our coins and currency.
As you know, Pampapana is a very isolated community with few modern conveniences found in the world around us. Our families live sedentary lives in a simple and uncomplicated manner.
Your contact via S. U. P. is the most efficient means of communication with us. We suggest you utilize this organization as a base for future correspondence. At all times a small group of S. U. P. volunteers reside among us and their means of contact is most reliable.
Your questions requesting details on our way of life and specifically, our monetary system, I shall try now to provide an overview.
Approximately fifty (50) families reside in Pampapana. Our ancestors settled this high puna plateau completely enclosed by the Andean Mountains. Our forefathers established the division of lands so each family might sustain themselves on their own parcel of land. We were successful in herding native animals, providing an attractive habitat for them. In return, we reap the economic gain from the fur of these animals. They also provide food for our population.
Because we live in relative isolation on our ancestral lands, our community has a tradition of social interaction each week revolving around our spiritual nourishment. Each Saturday families travel to the central location surrounding our church. Each family has established a small home for sleeping on Saturday night near the church. Over Saturday afternoon, a brisk trade of items and conversation takes place. The ladies begin working on the evening meal, which is shared among the attendees. Light-hearted entertainment begins around dark, following the communal meal. Generally this is centered around music and dancing with some activities are children. More visiting is common during the entertainment. Finally, once the entertainment ends, families go to their 'church homes' for a night of sleep (most 'church homes' are a room for sleeping with minimal cooking facilities). The following morning, the community assembles once more to satisfy their spiritual needs at the church for worship services.
A few may linger to enjoy a meal following worship, but most families, especially those who reside the greatest distance from the church, return to home to prepare for the week ahead.
In reference to your inquiry on our coins and currency, our forefathers chose to collect gold and silver of each family to be held in a box with the collective sum to be utilized to help the community at large. This wealth has always been stored at the church, a location considered by all to be the best location as spiritual guidance is always sought before our gold and silver is rendered for a purchase and because in Pampapana, the pastor is our most trusted individual from who we seek direction and guidance.
The Pampapana community uses little money. Most arrangements are trades negotiated by the interested parties. Sometimes the trades are not equal, so there is a monetary transaction. For such arrangements, our forefathers utilized coins made from some of our silver coins. These coins were melted, weighed and struck for use in Pampapana.
Since some in our community began to establish a collection of coins, it was decided a paper form of money could insure more silver would be available at the church. In more modern times, paper and coins of metals considered less valuable have been utilized as a substitute for the gold and silver. While a great portion of our silver came from the Potosi mines, we also gathered copper, brass and tin from our numerous trades when our men would venture out of Pampapana. It was these metals we have utilized to mint our coinage. We still have a number of small silver coins traded but no large silver coins are in use. The bulk of our silver holdings and all of our gold are held to guarantee the value our paper and metal coins. At present, our collected wealth is considered between $500,000 and $800,000 in U.S. dollars.
We have no pictures of our area to share with you. Your offer to supply a camera is most generous, however, we should like to suggest you request pictures from S. U. P. as they have methodically documented their work in Pampapana.
We look forward to future correspondence with you in due time. We are honored by your interest in Pampapana and we shall make ourselves available to provide a respectable response to your queries. I trust this letter finds your inquiries favorably met and look forward to your reply.
Luis P. A. Campos, for the people of Pampapana
A small box in a nook at the Church holds quite a few old gold pieces and silver coinage from generations past. Word is it is the collected wealth of the original families. It is assumed this is the reserve to back up the money in use in Pampapana.
Most of the silver, it is told, was used to strike coins for Pampapana. Local coins of silver are used by the locals.
The coins are small and range in silver content from .667 to .900. There are no pure silver coins, so perhaps the melted coins were not of pure silver. This was a common practice of some colonial mints as the mint master would lower the silver content to shave off some silver for the mint master.
Clay-like coins have circulated in Pampapana. It is thought that the people have used virtually any commonly available material to use for money, backed by the chest of silver and gold. It seems their minting is highly controlled to match the value of the gold and silver at the Church.
Pampapana has minted rather large coins for local use, made of more common metals with values of 1 Pampapano. They are thick and some are 4 to 5 centimeters in diameter, or 3/16ths of an inch. The coins are 1.75 inches in diameter or about 44 millimeters. There are three coins made in this size.
Some crude paper notes are circulated with several varieties found among the families in Pampapana.
Since surplus goods are usually traded, the number of coins and paper notes is less than one would think.