Bolivia State, Church, and Society
Source: The Library of Congress Country Studies
Figure 2. Three South American Viceroyalties, ca. 1800
Source": Based on information from A. Curtis Wilgus, Historical Atlas of Latin America, New York, 1967, 112.
A convent in Daniel Campos Province, Potosí Department
The longevity of Spain's empire in South America can be explained partly by the successful administration of the colonies. Spain was at first primarily interested in controlling the independent-minded conquerors, but its main goal soon became maintaining the flow of revenue to the crown and collecting the tribute of goods and labor from the Indian population. To this end, Spain soon created an elaborate bureaucracy in the New World in which various institutions served as watchdogs over each other and local officials had considerable autonomy.
Upper Peru, at first a part of the Viceroyalty of Peru, joined the new Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata (whose capital was Buenos Aires) when it was created in 1776 (see fig. 2). The viceroy was aided by the audiencia (council), which was simultaneously the highest court of appeal in the jurisdiction and, in the absence of the viceroy, also had administrative and executive powers. The wealth of Upper Peru and its remoteness from Lima convinced the authorities in Lima to create an audiencia in the city of Chuquisaca (present-day Sucre) in 1558. Chuquisaca had become particularly important as Potosí's administrative and agricultural supply center. The jurisdiction of the audiencia, known as Charcas, initially covered a radius of 100 "leagues" (179,600 hectares) around Chuquisaca, but it soon included Santa Cruz and territory belonging to present-day Paraguay and, until 1568, also the entire district of Cuzco. The president of the audiencia had judicial authority as well as administrative and executive powers in the region, but only in routine matters; more important decisions were made in Lima. This situation led to a competitive attitude and the reputation of Upper Peru for assertiveness, a condition reinforced by the economic importance of the region.
Spain exercised its control of smaller administrative units in the colonies through royal officials, such as the corregidor (see Glossary), who represented the king in the municipal governments that were elected by their citizens. By the early seventeenth century, there were four corregidores in Upper Peru.
In the late eighteenth century, Spain undertook an administrative reform to increase revenues of the crown and to eliminate a number of abuses. It created an intendancy system, giving extensive powers to highly qualified officials who were directly responsible to the king. In 1784 Spain established four intendancy districts in Upper Peru, covering the present-day departments of La Paz, Cochabamba, Potosí, and Chuquisaca.
The Spanish crown at first controlled the local governments indirectly but centralized procedures as time went on. At first, Viceroy Francisco de Toledo confirmed the rights of local nobles and guaranteed them local autonomy. But the crown eventually came to employ Spanish officials, corregidores de indios, to collect tribute and taxes from the Indians. Corregidores de indios also imported goods and forced the Indians to buy them, a widely abused practice that proved to be an enormous source of wealth for these officials but caused much resentment among the Indian population.
With the first settlers in Upper Peru came the secular and regular clergy to begin the conversion of the Indians to Christianity. In 1552 the first bishopric in Upper Peru was established in La Plata; in 1605 La Paz and Santa Cruz also became bishoprics. In 1623 the Jesuits established the Royal and Pontifical Higher University of San Francisco Xavier of Chuquisaca, Upper Peru's first university.
Indian reaction to colonial rule and conversion to Christianity varied. Many Indians adapted to Spanish ways by breaking with their traditions and actively attempting to enter the market economy. They also used the courts to protect their interests, especially against new tribute assessments. Others, however, clung to their customs as much as possible, and some rebelled against the white rulers. Local, mostly uncoordinated, rebellions occurred throughout colonial rule. More than 100 revolts occurred in the eighteenth century alone in Bolivia and Peru.
Although the official Incan religion disappeared rapidly, the Indians continued their local worship under the protection of local Indian rulers. But as Christianity influenced the Indians, a new folk-Catholicism developed, incorporating symbols of the indigenous religion (see Religion , ch. 2). Whereas early Indian rebellions were anti-Christian, the revolts at the end of the sixteenth century were based in messianic Christian symbolism that was Roman Catholic and anti-Spanish. The church was tolerant of local Indian religions. In 1582, for example, the bishop of La Plata permitted the Indians to build a sanctuary for the dark Virgen de Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca (Copacabana has been a traditional Aymara religious center ever since).
The conquest and colonial rule were traumatic experiences for the Indians. Easily susceptible to European diseases, the native population decreased rapidly. The situation of the Indians worsened in the eighteenth century when Spain demanded higher tribute payments and increased mita obligations in an attempt to improve the mining output.
These profound economic and social changes and the breakup of native culture contributed to the increasing addiction of Indians to alcohol. Before the Spanish arrived, the Incas had consumed alcohol only during religious ceremonies. Indian use of the coca leaf also expanded, and, according to one chronicler, at the end of the sixteenth century "in Potosí alone, the trade in coca amounts to over half a million pesos a year, for 95,000 baskets of it are consumed."
Increasing Indian discontent with colonial rule sparked the great rebellion of Túpac Amaru II. Born José Gabriel Condorcanqui, this educated, Spanish-speaking Indian took the name of his ancestor, Túpac Amaru. During the 1770s, he became embittered over the harsh treatment of the Indians by the corregidores de indios. In November 1780, Túpac Amaru II and his followers seized and executed a particularly cruel corregidor de indios. Although Túpac Amaru II insisted that his movement was reformist and did not seek to overthrow Spanish rule, his demands included an autonomous region. The uprising quickly became a full-scale revolt. Approximately 60,000 Indians in the Peruvian and Bolivian Andes rallied to the cause. After scoring some initial victories, including defeating a Spanish army of 1,200 men, Túpac Amaru II was captured and killed in May 1781; nonetheless, the revolt continued, primarily in Upper Peru. There, a supporter of Túpac Amaru II, the Indian chief Tomás Catari, had led an uprising in Potosí during the early months of 1780. Catari was killed by the Spaniards a month before Túpac Amaru II. Another major revolt was led by Julián Apaza, a sexton who took the names of the two rebel martyrs by calling himself Túpac Catari (also spelled Katari). He besieged La Paz for more than 100 days. Spain did not succeed in putting down all of the revolts until 1783 and then proceeded to execute thousands of Indians.
In the late eighteenth century, a growing discontent with Spanish rule developed among the criollos (persons of pure Spanish descent born in the New World). Criollos began to assume active roles in the economy, especially in mining and agricultural production, and thus resented the trade barriers established by the mercantilist policies of the Spanish crown. In addition, criollos were incensed that Spain reserved all upperlevel administrative positions for peninsulares (Spanish-born persons residing in the New World).
The Enlightenment, with its emphasis on reason, questioning of authority and tradition, and individualistic tendencies, also contributed to criollo discontent. The Inquisition had not kept the writings of Niccolò Machiavelli, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Locke, and others out of Spanish America; their ideas were often discussed by criollos, especially those educated at the university in Chuquisaca. At first the criollos of Upper Peru were influenced by the French Revolution, but they eventually rejected it as too violent. Although Upper Peru was fundamentally loyal to Spain, the ideas of the Enlightenment and independence from Spain continued to be discussed by scattered groups of radicals.
Data as of December 1989
NOTE: The information regarding Bolivia on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Bolivia State, Church, and Society information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Bolivia State, Church, and Society should be addressed to the Library of Congress.