This dissertation explores a period between the 1570s and 1620s when the Audiencia of Charcas (Modern Bolivia) was beset with problems. During this time, the Eastern Andean frontier emerged as an idealized space where the chaotic social elements that plagued Charcas, both within and without, might be more effectively placed under royal authority. The discovery and exploitation of resources in the Viceroyalty of Peru, particularly silver mines, had set in motion new patterns of human migration and mixture that would fill Spain’s Peruvian cities with a rabble that some would parse as la gente suelta: the Empire’s loose or lost peoples. This growing throng, including ambitious immigrants and disaffected children of the conquistadores, seemed to threaten the fragile order that Spanish officials had established. Moreover, Spanish control of Peru remained incomplete and tenuous. Just east of Potosi, raids of the Chiriguano and other unconquered indigenous groups crippled the development of the region’s emerging agrarian hinterland. In the frontier, idealized cities and their jurisdictions were seen as sites where royal authorities would knit together the region’s growing Spanish and mixed-race transient population, fugitive African and indigenous slaves and servants, and unconquered peoples, into an orderly republic, a community bound together under the rule of law. Over six chapters, this dissertation explores how a diverse set of actors applied Iberian ideas about vagrancy, urban planning, racial difference, and frontier geopolitics to the specific conditions of Potosí and its eastern hinterlands. I find that royal officials and prospective city founders often weighed the social reputation of frontier settlers against the realities of recruitment, allowing for social mobility by people of African descent. Unlike previous studies, which have analyzed either tensions within Potosí itself or Spain’s often violent relationships with unconquered peoples, this dissertation redefines the Eastern Andes as a contested internal space, shaped by the localized aspirations of the many people who strove to possess the region’s land and resources. In the frontier, low-status colonists elaborated new notions of collective honor, rooted in a shared heritage of frontier service, to pursue individual rights and privileges unavailable to them in Charcas’s urban core.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2017. Major: History. Advisor: Sarah Chambers. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 487 pages.
Weaver Olson, Nathan.
A Republic of Lost Peoples: Race, Status, and Community in the Eastern Andes of Charcas at the Turn of the Seventeenth Century.
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