CONCLUSIONS
A
neconomicandsocialinstitutionfromthesixteenthcenturyon,
the Gato de las Indias successfully held off a challenge in
theseventeenthcenturybynunswhowantedtoputacon-
ventthere.Peoplehadgatheredtoexchangegoodsandsil-
verintheGatowellbeforeViceroyToledoimposedasenseoforderonthe
space in the 1570s.The marketplacewas the centerpiece of commerce for
metal, coca, food, and cloth. It revealed the economicvitalityof the bur-
geoning silvercity—and a unique blend of local indigenous and Spanish
trading customs that challenged Crown mandates. But the Gato did not
survive to the end of the eighteenth century. In 1758 the vendors moved
their stalls to make way for construction on a new Casa de la Moneda.
Whentheworkersfinallyputawaytheirtoolsin1773,thenewmintcom-
pletelycoveredthesiteoftheformermarket.Thevendorsandtheirgoods
hadbeendisplacedontothemuchsmalleradjacentPlazaSanLázaro.The
volume of trade had alreadydeclined remarkably in the seventeenth cen-
tury;thelateeighteenth-centuryexchangeofthemarketplaceforthemint
symbolicallyconcluded an era of urban trade history in Potosí.
Thesilvermines,Potosí’sraisond’être,broughttolifeoneofthemost
dynamic colonial cities in the history of the world. It is these mines and
theirhome,theCerroRico,thathistoricallyhaveheldtheattentionofPo-
tosí’sobservers.Herewehaveshiftedourviewfromtheminestothemar-
ketsinordertoglimpsetheprocessbywhichcityresidentscreatedurban
societythroughtransactionsoftrade.Nonetheless,theminesremainboth
contextandbackground.Thelaborandeconomicrelationshipsof indige-
nous, African, and Spanish Potosinos in the center of town were unique
becauseofminingandmita.Theworldofmininginfluencedworkingop-
portunities, conditions, and identities for men and women who labored
outside the mines. In this historical context, the seemingly simple act of
a Spaniard using pesos to buy bread from an Indian woman in the mar-
ket plaza requires detailed analysis. Information about economic forces
and social identity is revealed by where such transactions take place,who
engages in them, what colonial rules govern them, and what objects ex-
change hands. Potosí’s urban economy was a site in which indigenous
vendors had come to sell products like bread that were originally known
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