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The diary of Drum Major José Santos Vargas (1796–1854) provides a view from below and a feeling for day-to-day life that are exceptional for understanding the Latin American wars of independence. Vargas was born in Oruro in modest circumstances and orphaned as a child. He grew up fluent in Spanish, Aymara, and Quechua and joined the patriots fighting against Spain as a young man. He was a writer by vocation, though his style is unpolished, and his diary, covering the period between 1814 and 1825, is an observant account of provincial guerrilla warfare that sheds light on material economic conditions...

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