The Quaternary Tatara-San Pedro volcanic complex (36°S, Chilean Andes) comprises eight or more unconformity-bound volcanic sequences, representing variably preserved erosional remnants of volcanic centers generated during 930 ky of activity. The internal eruptive histories of several dominantly mafic to intermediate sequences have been reconstructed, on the basis of correlations of whole-rock major and trace element chemistry of flows between multiple sampled sections, but with critical contributions from photogrammetric, geochronologic, and paleomagnetic data. Many groups of flows representing discrete eruptive events define internal variation trends that reflect extrusion of heterogeneous or rapidly evolving magna batches from conduit-reservoir systems in which open-system processes typically played a large role. Long-term progressive evolution trends are extremely rare and the magma compositions of successive eruptive events rarely lie on precisely the same differentiation trend, even where they have evolved from similar parent magmas by similar processes. These observations are not consistent with magma differentiation in large long-lived reservoirs, but they may be accommodated by diverse interactions between newly arrived magma inputs and multiple resident pockets of evolved magma and / or crystal mush residing in conduit-dominated subvolcanic reservoirs. Without constraints provided by the reconstructed stratigraphic relations, the framework for petrologic modeling would be far different. A well-established eruptive stratigraphy may provide independent constraints on the petrologic processes involved in magma evolution-simply on the basis of the specific order in which diverse, broadly cogenetic magmas have been erupted. The Tatara-San Pedro complex includes lavas ranging from primitive basalt to high-SiO2 rhyolite, and although the dominant erupted magma type was basaltic andesite ( 52-55 wt % SiO2) each sequence is characterized by unique proportions of mafic, intermediate, and silicic eruptive products. Intermediate lava compositions also record different evolution paths, both within and between sequences. No systematic long-term pattern is evident from comparisons at the level of sequences. The considerable diversity of mafic and evolved magmas of the Tatara-San Pedro complex bears on interpretations of regional geochemical trends. The variable role of open-system processes in shaping the compositions of evolved Tatara-San Pedro complex magmas, and even some basaltic magmas, leads to the conclusion that addressing problems such as are magma genesis and elemental fluxes through subduction zones on the basis of averaged or regressed reconnaissance geochemical datasets is a tenuous exercise. Such compositional indices are highly instructive for identifying broad regional trends and first-order problems, but they should be used with extreme caution in attempts to quantify processes and magma sources, including crustal components, implicated in these trends.