Tinogasta: Fiambala , Belén and Andalgala?
Numerous Calchaquí tribes, which were part of the diaguita nation, populated the valleys, ravines and mountain ranges of present Catamarca and were distributed across the followings sites:
• Santa María: dwelled by the Quilmes, the tolombones, the yokaviles, the ingamanas or incamanas or encamanas and the acalianes, near Amaicha.
• Belén: huafines, faimafiles, culampajaos and quilmes -the latter located by the Quilmiuil or Qinmiuil River. These and other peoples which dwelled the nearby valleys made up the powerful and brave Calchaquí partiality.
• Andalgalá: andalgalas, tucumangastas or tucumanaos, aconquijas, mallis, huachaschis and huasanes.
• Pomán: pomanes, colrenos, belichas, mutquines, sijanes and saujiles.
• Tinogasta: abaucanes, pituiles, huatungastas, mayurucas and fiambalaos.
The arrival of the Incas in this region in the XV century resulted in the replacement of the local tongues by the “official language” - the quichua or quechua.
These primitive dwellers were mainly skilled farmers with such techniques and engineering that they managed to cultivate excellent products practically anywhere, specially in the mountain.
They knew methods to preserve food for a long time. Their dwellings were made of stone, as well as some defensive fortresses for times of war, such as the pucaráes and the ritual centers like the Shincal.
They dressed in costumes woven with camel wool and dyed with natural tinges. They wore ushutas or ojotas on their feet, which were a kind of leather sandals. They painted their faces and felt proud of their splendid hair which they dressed with headbands, feathers and ornaments made of silver, gold and bone.
They were excellent weavers and potters who had neat techniques, such as the so-called Belén style.
The San Francisco Pass, nestled in the Andean territory, was populated by Indian hunters and collectors who received the cultural heritage of the Incas.
This pass became busier when Juan Pérez de Zurita established a strategy to dominate the region by founding Londres, very close to Copiapó, in Chile. The road between Catamarca and Atacama was consolidated from that point.
This pass was used as a trade way to supply the villages on both sides of the mountain range. It gained much importance with the mining discoveries of copper and silver in the North of Chile.
The arrival of the Spanish invaders gave origin to a history of blood and fire for the Indian peoples.
Diego de Almagro and Diego de Rojas, coming from Upper Perú, started the conquest of Chile. After crossing Bolivia and the provinces of Jujuy and Salta, they penetrated the territory of Catamarca through the Valley of Santa María late in 1535.
They continued their journey across Mount Shincal, leaving aside the Belén ravine probably because it was a dangerous place where they could be attacked by the Indians, until they reached the present village of Londres and, once they crossed the Zapata ravine, they got to Tinogasta and, through the San Francisco Pass, to Chile.
In 1561, Gregorio de Castañeda arrived in these lands to replace Pérez de Zurita and not only did he resolve to change the name of Londres into Nuevo Extremo, but he also moved the village to the Valley of Conando, where the city of Andalgalá lies today. Taking advantage of this situation, the diaguitas revolted under the command of chief don Juan de Calchaquí, an Indian hero. They killed the Spaniards and destroyed the city. Afterwards, and for about thirty years (1562-1591), the conquest of the calchaquí region was interrupted.
Andalgalá started as a fort founded in July 12, 1658 and was declared city in 1952.
Belén was founded in December 20, 1681 by priest Bartolomé de Olos y Aguilera.
The original and real name of Belén was Famayfil, not only of the valley but also of the river that bathes it. Its translation would be "of the background hills" or "behind the hill".
Today, this is an important center of vicuña, llama, alpaca, guanaco and sheep wool fabrics.
Fiambala was founded in 1702 by Diego Frites de Carrizo. Located 1,570 m.a.s.l. and 12 kilometers from the city, there are hot springs whose hypertonic and alkaline waters reach a temperature of 54º centigrades and have plenty of green algae with healing properties.
The Valley of Fiambalá, also called “Bolsón de Fiambalá”, has an important hydrographic system that is fed mainly from meltwater from the high summits of the northern end of the Famatina range and gives origin to a main course of permanent waters.
This valley is crossed by the Fiambalá River, which drains the waters of the Chuquisca, Antinaco and Colorado Rivers up to the district of Fiambalá, where it receives the waters of the Chaschuil – Guanchín River, from the West. From that point, it adopts the name of Abaucán River, which flows southwards and passes by Tinogasta.