Between the Andes and Chaco
Although relatively few systematic archaeological studies have been conducted in Tarija, remains of pottery and metal items discovered in this territory show signs of human presence since the Archaic Period, namely 5.000 years B.C. One of the first "cultures" to be identified as such would be the so-called "Tarija culture", a post-Tiwanaku regional chiefdom whose territory, according to authors like Arthur Posnansky and Edgar Ibarra Grasso, would have comprised the temperate central valleys of Tarija between the years 1.000 and 1.480 A.D.
During the 15th century, before the Europeans' arrival, the western mountainous section of the department would have been occupied by the Lipe or Lipez people (a partiality of the Atacameño or Lickan Antay), the Omaguaca, and the Chicha, the former two would have settled in the south and the latter in the north. The Lickan Antay had their main settlements in northern Chile and in north-western Argentina, while the Omaguaca occupied present-day Jujuy province (north-western Argentina), and the Chicha, the south of present-day Potosí department (south-western Bolivia). The descendants of all these peoples are part of today's Colla or Kolla people and some Quechua-speaking groups in Bolivia.
Further to the east, the fertile valleys of the department's central section would have been inhabited by the Tomata and the Churumata, whose origins remain unclear, though for some authors both would be societies native to the region.
The Chaco was inhabited by several indigenous peoples, such as the Wichi or Weenhayek, the Tapieté, the Avá or "chiriguano", the Qom, the Yofwaja or Chorote, the Nivaklé or Chulupí, etc.
Chicha communities offered resistance to both the violent attacks perpetrated by the Avá warriors on the east and the pressure exerted by the army of the Tawantinsuyu (Inca Empire) on the north and west sides of their territory. Towards 1470-1478 A.D., in the time of Inca leader Túpac Inca Yupanqui (Tupaq Inka Yupanki), the Chicha were finally defeated by the Incas and forcibly displaced as mitmaqkuna (settlers) to different places in the Andes (Ecuador, north-western Argentina and northern Chile). The Avá, for their part, first fought against the Inca troops and later against the Spanish conquistadors, never being defeated nor conquered.
Lipe (Atacameño), in Wikipedia [es].
Omaguaca, in Wikipedia [es].
Chichas, in Wikipedia [es].
Wichi people, in Wikipedia.
Avá guaraní, in Wikipedia [es].
Article. "La arqueología", in Proyecto Arqueológico Altiplano de Sama [es].
Article. "La Tarija que descubrieron los españoles", by José Luis Claros López [es].
In 1535, Diego de Almagro was the first European to reach the valley of Tarija. Almost forty years later, in 1574, Luis de Fuentes y Vargas, accompanied by Spanish and Chicha settlers, founded the town of San Bernardo de la Frontera de Tarija, on the Guadalquivir River bank, to hold back the attacks from Avá warriors. The fertile surrounding lands, which they found to be excellent for growing wine grapes, olive trees, citric trees and cereals, as well as for raising livestock, made it a good settling place for colonizers coming from Andalusia (south of Spain) and the Basque country (north of Spain). The mestizo chapaca culture that characterizes Tarija today was originated from a mixture of local cultures (from the Andes and Chaco regions) and Spanish.
Known for its farming and stock lands, Tarija had gained early fame for its wines and liquors in colonial times. Franciscan and Dominican missionaries significantly influenced the main towns' architectural development, resulting in the building of many religious structures.
Tarija had been under the jurisdiction of the Viceroyalty of the Río de La Plata and in 1807 was set under the control of the intendency of Salta del Tucumán. In 1810 Tarija supported Buenos Aires when the city formed its own ruling council during the "May Revolution", as it came to be known, and became part of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata. Between 1811 and 1825 Tarija was scenario of some of the bitterest battles between the "realistas" (royalist) and "libertadoras" (liberating) forces during the War of Independence. Fighting on the side of the South American forces were the local Tarija guerrilla forces (known as the "Republiqueta de Tarija") led by famous leaders such as Eustaquio "El Moto" Méndez.
Not long after the liberation of Tarija from Spanish rule, another conflict was underway: the so-called "Cuestión de Tarija". A dispute between Bolivia and Argentina broke out over the ownership of this territory and the year 1837 marked the beginning of the war between the Argentine and the Peruvian-Bolivian Confederations. The war finished with the signature of a peace treaty two years later. According to this treaty Argentina renounced to Tarija's territory, which then become part of Bolivia, the country's smallest department.
Tarija Department, in Wikipedia.
Province of Tarija, in Wikipedia [es].
Eustaquio Méndez, in Wikipedia [es].
Tarija's dispute, in Wikipedia [es].
War between Argentine and Peruvian-Bolivian Confederations, in Wikipedia [es].