Licancabur, his decapitated brother, and a little boy

Any local Atacameño in San Pedro de Atacama can tell you the legend of Licancabur. Naturally the names in the legend are complicated, as they are native pre-Inca Kunza names, but I think the girl’s name was Kimal. Licancabur and his brother were both interested in Kimal, and for whatever reason, their father favored the brother in terms of having Kimal for himself. My memory gets foggy right around here, and a local would tell it to you better, but ultimately it ends up that Licancabur decapitates his brother, and together they dominate the landscape surrounding San Pedro de Atacama and the Atacama salt flat. According to legend, the brother’s head rolled off into Bolivia, which is just a stone’s throw from San Pedro de Atacama. There is indeed a skull-shaped structure on the other side of the Bolivian border.

While photographing Licancabur and his headless brother, a little Chilean boy was playing in the sand in the foreground. It’s good that he entered the picture, in order to loan some perspective to the vastness of northern Chile.


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