"CARGUEROS": The Carriers of Prehispanic America

They were the messengers of the kings

Carguero (200-1600 A.D) by FinzenúFundación Aburrá

The carriers

In Pre-Colombian America, there were no beasts of burden, which is why this task was appointed to people capable of traveling long distances while carrying heavy parcels. They had to trek across the sinuous and difficult roads of the Andean mountains, and they served as bridges that connected the different communities.

Carguero (200-1600 A.D) by FinzenúFundación Aburrá

They not only transported precious merchandise, but they would also carry valuable information from one "Cacique" (Chieftain) to another, serving as messengers who they called "Chasqui."

Carguero (200-1600 A.D) by FinzenúFundación Aburrá

This honorable task was carried out by capable men and women.

Carguero (300-1600 A.D) by CatíaFundación Aburrá

Their work was so important that they occupied a high social position in and even governors would take part in this carry on their backs valuable merchandise such as gold or salt.

Carguero (300-1600 A.D) by CatíaFundación Aburrá

Many times these figures were shown in resting positions, as they would normally carry out breathing exercises that would them to adapt to the changes in altitude.

Carguero (400-1600 A.D) by TaironaFundación Aburrá

Some figurines are shown carrying baskets that would symbolize the deities they would pay homage to so they would be protected during their travels.

Canastero (200-1600 A.D) by FinzenúFundación Aburrá


One of the variations of these figurines is people standing upright carrying their baskets on their backs. Today, in the Valley of Aburrá, there is a traditional Flower Festival and the main event is the colorful parade of chairs embellished with beautiful flower arrangements known as "silleteros." The tradition of carrying chairs laden with flowers go back to these ancestral trades.

Canastero (300-1600 A.D) by CatíaFundación Aburrá

The heavy weight of the parcels were sometimes compensated by the ropes they would in their hands.

Canastero (300-1600 A.D) by CatioFundación Aburrá

In other occasions, the weight carried on their backs was lessened with the straps attached to their heads.

Canastero Ylama (-1200/-0100) by Cultura YlamaFundación Aburrá

The iconology

This figurine is wearing a headdress with geometric cuts, as well as a necklace in the shape of a serpent. His eyes are carved out, while his mouth is open as if he were exhaling. His arms and abdomen are also decorated with concentric triangles.

The concentric shapes, his necklace, and his thick legs symbolize the relationship with the earth and with it, his dominion over the roads.

The character and the basket on his back are fused together into a single body and with it, it shows how the figure and his task have become one.

Finally, his headdress shows his high status in society.

Credits: Story

David Acevedo Monsalve

Credits: All media
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