Workers in the Fields of the Inka
Mitimaes of Cochabamba, Adriana Salcedo, 2018. "Workers in the Fields of the Inka", The Bolivia Reader: History, Culture, Politics, Sinclair Thomson, Rossana Barragán, Xavier Albó, Seemin Qayum, Mark Goodale
Download citation file:
The valley of Cochabamba was perhaps the richest agricultural region in the highland Andes before the Spanish conquest. One of the most revealing sources for understanding Inka systems of territorial control and demographic relocation comes from a legal dispute in 1556 between the caciques and Indians of the Paria region in Oruro and their rivals from the Sipesipe region in Cochabamba, both of whom claimed lands in the valley. The documents show in intricate detail the profound transformations wrought by the Inka rulers Tupac Yupanqui (1471–93) and especially Wayna Qhapaq (or Guayna Capac, 1493–1527), the last great Inka ruler before the Spanish conquest. Wayna Qhapaq relocated local residents to the eastern frontiers in order to devote the lands in the central valley of Cochabamba to large-scale, intensive production of corn. Five primary grain farms (called chácaras in these extracts), such as Yllaurco and Colchacollo, were allotted to 14,000 colonists “of many nations,” such as the Col-las, Soras, Quillacas, Carangas, Charcas, Qaraqaras, and Chichas. Most would have been seasonal corvée workers performing their labor turns, or mita, under the supervision of their own lords, here termed caciques, but also under the general authority of two Inka governors. Each chácara was divided into quarters, and each quarter subdivided into strips of land, called suyos in Quechua. Almost all the impressive surpluses were claimed by the state and exported by llama caravan for redistribution, with a small share preserved for the local field hands. The tambo, or way station, in Paria was the key storage site and transportation link on the royal road to Cuzco. Witnesses noted that many mitimaes took flight and sought refuge back in their altiplano homelands during the tumultuous time of Spanish conquest in Cochabamba.