The Contemporary History of Latin America by John Charles Chasteen (auth.)

By John Charles Chasteen (auth.)

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Around the mines, in sheltered comers of the highlands such as the Cochabamba district, Aymara- and Quechua-speaking Indians cultivated the soil to feed the mining centers and wove fabric in various forms of forced seasonal labor. Mining itself consumed tremendous amounts of labor from . Indian communities, which the Crown and the mine owners sought to defend against landowners in need of workers. The burden of Indians who lived in indigenous communities was in some ways heavier than the burden of peons or tenants on a hacienda.

In addition, the continued importation of African slaves until the middle of the nineteenth century made Africa a living presence for Brazilians far more than for the people of Jamaica or the United States, for example. In the Brazilian fringe regions to the north, south, and west of the sugar lands, a different sort of society developed, ethnically more a mix of Indian and Portuguese. The cattle-herding people of the arid sertao fit this description precisely. Ironically, the slave hunters who roamed the tropical forests of the north and the savannas of the south were also mestizos and speakers of an Indian language.

The imperial reforms had also aimed, at least in part, to collabo- 29 30 THE CONTEMPORARY HISTORY OF LATIN AMERICA rate in the economic development of the colonies. Thus centralizing administrative reforms were accompanied by others that encouraged the initiative of local organizations such as guilds for mine owners, artisans, or merchants. The guilds (called consulados in the case of merchants) represented the interests of their members but also disciplined them and raised money through taxes authorized by the Crown, which was invested in local development projects.

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