In his account of 1586 Ulloa y Mogollon writes: "The Collaguan ethnic group can be considered to have originated from the frontier zone between Collagua and Vellilli, where there is a worship place marked by a snow covered peak from which these people are said to have come at a very early time in the world's history. The peak is called COLLAGUATA. When they arrived in the region which is today called Collaguas they confronted the natives of the area, conquered them and established themselves as permanent settlers." This legend clearly shows that some of the tribes originated from the high plateau and that water played an important part in their agricultural activities and their survival.
The Collaguas normally deformed their heads in a high elongated form by means of splints which they attached to the new born infants. This differentiated them from the Cabanas who also deformed their heads, but in another form. It is possible that this practice was due to the influence of the Lupaca, an ethnic group which inhabited the high plateau and had their capital at Chucuito.
According to Ulloa y Mogollón, the Collaguas spoke the Aymara language, which they considered their own, although certain small villages such as Pinchollo, Colán and Tapay spoke different dialects of it. For this reason some authorities consider the Collaguas to have originated from Collao.
The territory occupied by the Collaguas comprises the high central part of the Colca valley. There were two principal centers, the seat of political power and the residence of the principal rulers. The most important was Yanque, on the right bank of the Colca. It was made up of two districts or settlements called "Hanansaya" and "Hurinsaya" and governed by their respective "Yanques" or rulers. The second in importance was Lari Collaguas or Recollaguas, also set on the right bank of the Colca, divided into two districts and governed by the "Lares".
The other ethnic group was the Cabanas, said to have come from the snowy covered peak called Gualca-Gualca, which rises in front of the town of Cabana. When the Cabanas came down from the mountain they went in two directions, one group toward Cabana-Colla and the other toward Cabana-Conde. The Cabanas also practiced craneal deformation, theirs of an oblique tabular form, that is to say, wide and flat. The people of this ethnic group could be easily recognized by this head deformation.
The Cabanas spoke Quechua or Runa-Simi with certain regional characteristics. Their capital, Cabana, was the residence of their principal rulers, and divided, the same as the other towns, into two districts called "Hanansaya" and "Hurinsaya".
It is believed that these ethnic groups developed during the intermediary period of the central Andes between 1470 and 1200 B.C. when regional states arose due to the decadence of the Huari culture.
Agriculture was the basis of the Collaguan economy in prehispanic times. This explains the presence of a great number of terraces which still remain in use today. The system of distributing water by means of canals clearly demonstrates the high level of hydraulic engineering they achieved. The agricultural economy was complemented by raising llamas and alpacas which were grazed on the natural fodder found in abundance in the region.
Textile manufacture was another important activity in the economy of the Collaguas. The fiber of the llama and the alpaca was used to weave their clothing, such as ponchos, "pillas", a kind of belt, "llicllas", a kind of vest, shirts and other objects which they exchanged by means of barter with villages from the lower regions. The cloth was of beautiful bright colors since they used cochineal and other vegetable and mineral substances as dyes.
As far as ceramics are concerned, we find them closely related to the Chuquibamba series, possibly contemporary with the Tiahuanacoid styles and, without doubt, immediately before the Inca style and contemporary to the historical imperial period.
The eight pointed star can be cited as the distinctive decoration of Collaguan ceramics. Other geometric motifs represented are squares, circles with points at the center, bands with undulating lines at the center and broken parallel lines, squares forming crosses and circular stars with rays and points at the center.
Evidence from ceramic and architectural remains of the Collaguas in the prehispanic period demonstrates population concentrations of great density, especially in the Colca basin. Thus specialists who consider the large residencial centers as permanent settlements would seem to be right, rather than those of the recent authorities who have suggested that they were floating populations.
It was possibly in the middle of the 15th century that the great political expansion of the Incas began, with the Inca Pachacútec. Thus the Royal Clan "Mayta Cápac", which included the descendents of the Inca of the same name, received the task from the Emperor Túpac Inca Yupanqui of conquering the Collasuyo region. As a result of this one of the generals of the Royal Clan "Mayta Cápac" arrived in the region of the Collaguas and established dominion in the village of Coporaque where he contracted matrimony with the "nusta" Mama Yacchi. In Coporaque he set up the principal ruling center and had a palace of copper built. it was destroyed by Gonzalo Pizarro in 1548 in order to make harness parts for his cavalry. The left overs were used by Friar Gregorio de Ore in the casting of the bells which still exist in the church tower of that village.
From Coporaque the general of the Clan "Mayta Capac" began the conquest and domination of the valleys to the south. Arriving in Arequipa, possibly in the middle of the 15th century, he was captivated by the gentle climate, the abundance of water and cultivatable land and the generosity of the people. He is said to have exclaimed "AREQUIPAY": "Yes, stay!"
The Incan presence in the Collaguas region and in the south of the empire came late, in the middle of the 15th century. Nonetheless, they managed to impose their political organization, religion, economic system, judicial system, military system, educational system, and indeed, their culture in general.
In 1532 Francisco Pizarro conquered the Incan Empire. He put to death the Inca Atahualpa. Then he marched to Cusco and took possession of all the territory dominated by the Incas in the name of the Crown of Spain.
From Cusco, Francisco Pizarro divided the major part of the Andean population among his companions under the system of "encomienda". This system (from the verb "encomendar", to commend) consisted in placing one or more chiefs and the Indians who were his subjects, under the domination of a Spaniard. The Spaniard then acquired the rights of tribute and the services of the Indians "encomendados" or subjugated. In exchange for these priviledges the "encomendero", or Spaniard, assumed the responsibility of indoctrinating the Indians in his charge with the Catholic Religion.
In 1540 Pizarro "commended" the Yanquecollaguas to his brother Gonzalo and the Laricollaguas and the Cabanas to other Spaniards, dividing them according to the districts Hanansaya and Hurinsaya. After the treason and murder of Gonzalo Pizarro in 1548 the charge of the Yanquecollaguas passed for a brief period to Francisco Noguerol de Ulloa, who shortly after returned to Spain, renouncing his rights in exchange for a pension. After 1565 the Yanquecollaguas were subject to the Crown of Spain and paid tribute directly to the "corregidor" or magistrate of the province.
From the first years of colonization the inhabitants of the province were instructed in the Catholic faith by Franciscans. They built churches in the villages and adorned them with gold and silver from the treasures found in the temples on the high peaks. Later, by order of their superior Friar Gerónimo de Villacarrillo, the Franciscans retired to their monasteries in Cusco. In 1570 the viceroy Francisco de Toledo asked that they return to the province because of the many complaints against the priests of San Pedro who replaced them. Some of the friars returned but they took charge only of the Yanquecollaguas and not of all the villages.
A period of change, both legal and as regarded tributes, followed the declaration of independence of Peru in 1821. In 1824 Simón Bolívar abolished the power of the chiefs, the "mita", a system of indian servitude, and the original system of tribute. He decreed that the land of the chiefs, or the "community" land be divided among all the families of each village.