ABSTRACT

The vicissitudes of the silver mining industry had an equally strong bearing on the process of hacienda expansion. Bolivia’s first major phase of hacienda growth began in the second half of the sixteenth century and was brought to an abrupt end by the calamitous decline in silver production a century later. Under the hacienda system peasant families survived at bare subsistence level and purchased very few, if any, goods from outside sources. Land and liberty were wrested from individual families and ayllus. Enforced labour on the land and in the silver mines deprived peasant farmers of both the time and inclination to continue practising the elaborate, environmentally sustainable agricultural techniques of former times. The landowning influence in government became increasingly powerful and in 1864 estate owners were to find a staunch ally in General Mariano Melgarejo, generally acknowledged as the most despicable and barbaric of all Bolivian leaders.