One of the most persistent and influential concepts in Andean studies during the last few decades has been that of dualism at different levels of Andean cultural and sociopolitical life. How dualism works and the manner in which it has evolved have been the subject of much debate. Within this context, Jesús de Machaqa in highland Bolivia has been recognised as a region of primary importance for investigation, because of its enduring socio-political structures. However, a study of its ‘traditional’ structure carried out in the 1970s showed that important changes had taken place. New studies of intra-communal structures and recent studies of Aymara spatial organisation, together with information held in colonial documents and oral traditions help to shed more light on the question of dualism. Drawing on all these sources, this article aims to contribute to wider debate by examining key aspects of the ‘traditional’ structure and setting out some of the methodological problems faced by those who seek to reconstruct the past of indigenous communities, in particular problems related to the combined use of colonial documents and oral traditions.