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The government of the caudillo strongman General Mariano Melgarejo (1864–71) was the first to expropriate indigenous community lands on a massive scale. It provoked violent resistance in response, and Melgarejo’s creole adversaries teamed with Aymara communities to besiege the city of La Paz and topple the dictator. The documents that follow, originally published in the anti-Melgarejo newspaper El Noticioso, chronicle the militarized campaign of indigenous peasants and their allies, led by Casimiro Corral. Corral had first gained political experience working as editor of the newspaper El Artesano, at the time when President Belzu was encouraging the political participation of the urban plebeian population. Twenty years later, Corral relied on his ties with the indigenous communities around La Paz to stage the coup d’état, termed a “revolution,” that brought to power Coronel Agustín Morales (1871–72).

The community forces were organized into effective battalions under the superior military authority of Corral. But they also had their own objectives, enjoyed relative autonomy—since they were directed by their own captains and commanders—and received their own funding as a result of the pact. Corral thus had limited control over the actions of the indigenous troops, and he feared that their mobilization would lead to “race war.” When he subsequently sought to demobilize them and reestablish order in the countryside, he had to provide assurances that they would regain full possession of their former landholdings. After the victory, a constitutional convention reversed the forced sale of community lands.

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