Introduction
This book traces the evolution of agrarian society in the region of
Cochabamba, Bolivia, between the sixteenth and nineteenth centu-
ries. It explores the long-term impact of colonial rule upon the for-
mation and development of agrarian class relationships that were de-
fined by European principles of property ownership and reinforced by
Spanish imperial rule. The central aim of the study is to show how
the pressures and contradictions of colonialism and class gradually
gave rise to a distinctive Indian and mestizo peasantry that eventu-
ally became a powerful protagonist in regional society. The study
also explores the consequences of the emergence of this peasant sec-
tor for the nature and balance of local class relations, for peasant-
state relations, and for the regional economy as a whole in the late
colonial and the postcolonial periods.
The region with which the study is concerned is the former colo-
nial province of Cochabamba, which was i~corporated into the vast
intendancy of Santa Cruz de la Sierra in the late eighteenth century.
Located to the east of the
altiplano
(high plains) at about the seven-
teenth degree of south latitude, this geopolitical space had no phys-
iographic uniformity. It represented a cross-section of the vertical
Andean landscape that swept down from the snow-capped peaks of
the Cordillera Oriental, bordering the eastern edge of the altiplano,
past the ancient lake basins and plains lying at middle-range alti-
tudes of some 8,500 feet above sea level, to the eastern lowland
fringes of the tropical frontier. In spite of the region's ecological di-
versity, it was known for its fertile, temperate valleys that caught
the waters tumbling down from glacial lakes in the mountain chains
to the north and west. A cluster of three contiguous valleys com-
posed the unifying feature of the region (see figure 1). Their extraor-
dinary fertility attracted Andean cultivators from the western
puna
who sought warm, moist soil to cultivate maize and other crops that
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