Download Coercion and market: silver mining in colonial Potosí, by Enrique Tandeter PDF

By Enrique Tandeter

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Additional info for Coercion and market: silver mining in colonial Potosí, 1692-1826

Example text

The above tasks were all accomplished by free laborers with varying degrees of expertise. 8 Transporting the ore to the mills was the task of small-scale entrepreneurs using teams of mules or llamas. At the refinery, ore was ground in a large machine consisting of wheels that operated a certain number of sledgehammers made of copper and tin, or iron. These machines were operated by mita workers assigned to the mill, who also would shake the crushed ore through a wire sieve designed to separate the finely ground ore from that which needed to be ground again.

The more I focused on the fundamental problematic of Potosí's relation with indigenous communities, the more I was drawn into the growing field of Andean studies. 2 It took me ten years to present the principal results of my research as a doctoral thesis, and a similar period to decide upon offering to a publisher another version of this work. Naturally, in twenty years I have accumulated more debts to teachers, colleagues, and friends than I could acknowledge here. Ruggiero Romano suggested the initial theme for my research, supervised my doctoral thesis, criticized and stimulated, toler- Page xiii ated my delays, and, above all, from near and far, offered me his invaluable and constant friendship.

For the following four to five weeks, this mass was stirred each day by repasiris, free laborers who worked with hoes and bare feet to mix the amalgam. At the end of this period, the concoction was washed through a canal with a series of holes in the bottom from which hung animal skins that caught the amalgam of metal and mercury. The mercury was then separated out from the amalgam, first with pressure, then with heat. The end result was a chunk of pure silver called a piña. The rise in production during the eighteenth century cannot be explained by any technological innovation, nor can it be attributed to the discovery of new mineral deposits or bonanzas in existing mines.

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