The location of the nominated villages corresponds to an area of traditional Andean settlement characterized by small towns and villages of an economy based on strong ties of reciprocity and exchange. This agricultural-pastoral economy is based on the traditional Camelidae stockbreeding and the growing of a large variety of vegetables in terraces.
Ayquina (2,980 meters above sea level) is a village of agglutinated pattern, built at a dry ravine on the northwestern slope of the Salado River Canyon, over a wall of rock 40 to 50 meters high. Its layout consists in a central axis formed by the church-square space, located in a depression, with the houses to both sides of this axis arranged in a stair-like manner.
With regard to environ mental conditions, Ayquina is located at a transition area between the typical desert climate and that of marginal desert at great heights, which manifests itself in the gradual change of landscape. The ravine area where the village is inserted is of paramount importance for its native population on account of the presence of productive lots (vegas), and the abundant riverside vegetation of the Salado River which, at this spot, widens, making possible the construction of growing terraces encircled by stone walls. occupying about 10 hectares.
The importance of Ayquina lies in the fact that for the festivities in honor of its patron Virgin of Guadalupe, on October 8, the town becomes a "Sacred Townn, assembling large part of the communities of the area and of neighboring ones. including Bolivia.
The small village of Toconce, 3,350 meters above sea level, is the easternmost community of the province next to the Bol ivian border. Its su rrou nding area is characteristic of the desert at great heights.
The town is located high up the southern slope of the Toconce River, dominating the Paniri, Leon and Toconce voicanoes. It follows an agglutinated pattern of typical Andean architecture based on stone masonry and roofs of Cactaceae wood covered by vegetable fibers.
It is worth mentioning that the space is divided according to some characteristic Andean criteria based on the principles of duality and tripartition, which are a manifestation of typically Andean cultural features. In fact, the villagers distinguish three sectors: the "Toconce town", the highest area near the church, "Katunmarca", to the center and West of town, and "the Chaco town" in the lowest access area.
Toconce is part of, and associated with, important archeological sites, bearing witness to the presence and continuity of the Andean people's culture.
Toconce is a highly traditional community with regard to its economy, architecture and craftsmanship, cultivating a close relation with neighbor communities which intensifies on the occasion of both religious and economic ritual festivities, such as the ceremonies of the "Cleaning of Irrigation Channels", and the "Cattle Adornment".