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Focusing on three time periods—early colonial (mid-1500s), early republican (after 1825), and postrevolutionary (after 1952)—this chapter traces the conjoined constitution of patria (nation) and patrimonio (patrimony) in Bolivia. During these periods, subterranean property law was established in conversation with forms of expertise that naturalized a nationalist interpretation of the subsoil as shared inheritance. Most important among these forms of expertise were religious theology, in which the subterranean was envisioned as a God-given gift to the Spanish Crown, and scientific geology, in which the subterranean was envisioned as an ordered set of strata that preserved the past and yielded future wealth. The chapter argues that the contemporary legal split between Bolivia’s subsoil and surface realms can be traced back to the codification of theological and geological knowledges, which naturalized an association between the subsoil and the state while relegating divergent visions of the nation to the surface.

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