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The annals of Potosí composed by Bartolomé Arzáns de Orsúa y Vela (1674–1736) occupy a blurry literary domain between history and fiction, edifying morality tale and titillating scandal sheet. Like an Andean Cervantes, Arzáns’s narrator claimed to write from first-person knowledge, credible rumor, and his reading of learned chroniclers. The city that emerges from his picaresque stories is inhabited by a remarkable cast, including warring parties of Basques and other Spanish immigrants; trapped Indian mineworkers rescued by a miraculous Virgin; an Indian social climber rebuffed by the Spanish upper crust; a fortune seeker who entered into a pact with the...

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