The aim of this article is to provide a preliminary estimation of the size, distribution, relative wealth, and composition of the Spanish landed elite, or hacendados, in a representative region of the Andean world. I have selected for this survey the late eighteenth-century province (or intendencia) of La Paz. By the last two decades of the eighteenth century, the province was organized into seven districts: six core Andean areas and a newly created seventh frontier zone of recently missionized lowland Indians.1 Within the six Andean districts of Larecaja, Omasuyos, Sicasica, Pacajes, and Chulumani and the three rural parishes of the city of La Paz, there were over 200,000 Indians.

The province was thus the single most important center of rural Amerindian life in the Andes, containing the largest number of Indian peasants in any province of Upper or Lower Peru at this time.2 Some of its Indians were also among the wealthiest in both Perus and thus produced the largest amount of tribute of any Peruvian province. It was a major source of forced draft (or mita) labor for the mines of Potosí. Along with its dense population, the province was also of paramount importance as the core area of Aymara civilization. While Quechua speakers were scattered throughout the pueblos of the districts of Omasuyos and Larecaja, the provincial Indians were predominantly Aymara speakers. In addition, the intendancy encompassed close to half of the known Uru speakers in its lake shore and Desaguadero river areas.3

In terms of economic and social organization, the province combined both a powerful hacienda system and a thriving free community organization. Its Indians were distributed among 491 ayllus, which contained the majority of rural workers, and 1,100 haciendas owned by some 719 hacendados. The intendancy thus constitutes an ideal region for comparing the interaction of these two core institutions of rural Andean life.

In its geographical setting, the province included all of the major Andean ecological zones except the Pacific coastal valleys. A major producer of all the traditional Andean agricultural and animal products, it formed a coherent and relatively self-contained market region, at the same time serving as a key provisioning area for the southern Andean mines of Oruro and Potosí. The six principal districts of the province covered the region to the south and east of Lake Titicaca, in an area of some 138,000 square kilometers.4 From north to south, the intendencia extended along the central highland plateau known as the altiplano, from the southern and eastern shores of Lake Titicaca to the relatively sparsely settled arid planes just north of the city of Oruro. In its eastern reaches, the province included all the major setttled upper and lower altitude semi-tropical valleys of the eastern Andean escarpment.

In pre-hispanic times these districts formed a cohesive economic area which produced both the traditional high altitude root crops, meats, and textiles, as well as more tropical products such as citrus goods and coca, and even such temperate crops as corn. This area had historically experienced an intimate interchange of goods among the different ecological zones, with many of the altiplano communities maintaining colonies in the lower valleys.5 These connections were modified by the Spanish conquest and by the reorganizations of the sixteenth century, but were nevertheless still of vital importance until the end of the colonial period. Throughout the colonial period, the regional variation within the zone continued to provide for a very diversified agriculture. Thus Pacajes and Omasuyos along the southern and eastern shores of Lake Titicaca were classic altiplano centers of potatoes, quinua, and all the derivative root crops, as well as the meat, hides, and wool of the American cameloids (llamas, alpacas) and the Spanish introduced herds of sheep. At the other extreme was the newly created district of Chulumani, a semi-tropical zone completely contained within the steep intermountain valleys of the Andes and Bolivia’s primary coca-producing zone as well as a major source of its tropical fruits.

Sharing some of the altiplano region and some of the more temperate higher eastern escarpment Andean valleys were the two straddling provinces of Larecaja close to the lake, and the region of Sicasica to the south. Both produced all the standard root products, as well as important com and wheat crops in their temperate valleys. These same eastern escarpment valleys were also centers of temperate fruit production, and there were even some vineyards planted in parts of Sicasica. Finally, the three rural parishes (or parroquias) just south of and below the city of La Paz were important centers for the growing of temperate fruits.6

The center of this important and representative agricultural region was the Spanish-created city of La Paz, with a population estimated at approximately 40,000 persons in this period.7 It was the capital of the intendencia, the home of a thriving commercial community, and the center of an important network of interregional and international trading routes. Here the overwhelming majority of the absentee landed elite resided, and the commerce and royal bureaucracies of this center generated much of the wealth for investment in the rural zones of the intendencia. Finally, given the volume of its commerce, the wealth of its agriculture, and the size of its Indian population, the capital and its provincial hinterland represented one of the wealthiest tax-producing areas in all of the Andes.8

Before analyzing the patterns of hacienda distribution and control over peasants of the La Paz latifundia class, certain limitations of the data upon which this study is based should be clarified. The origins of the systematic royal tribute census lists derive from the earliest times of the Spanish conquest. The crown demanded a tribute payment, or head tax, from every adult Indian male living in a free Indian community, requiring the maintenance of up-to-date tribute lists. Since only original ayllu males aged 18-50 were subject to this tax until the beginning of the eighteenth century, most early lists simply provided the age and names of the Indians, given by the name of the ayllu in which they resided, and its district and pueblo location. But beginning in 1734, both Indians working on the private estates of Spaniards and landless Indians (agregados or forasteros) on the ayllus also became subject to tribute taxation.9 Thus the lists during the eighteenth century became progressively more complex, resulting by the 1770s in a more complete listing which included all female and male adults as well as their children. All the variations in these recording methods were finally systematized in 1784 when a formal census schedule was worked out by royal officials.10 The new system, which went into effect in the Intendancy of La Paz with the census of 1786, required the listing of all Indians in the district, their place of residence, their family structure, their work status, and the age of all males and females to fourteen years. The names of all haciendas and their Spanish owners were to be recorded as well. Unfortunately, while most of the rules of recording were followed in the years after 1784, that of providing the full names of the hacendados was not always observed. Thus in the lists which follow, the data is of necessity taken from several different census years covering the eleven-year period from 1786-1797.11

While the period covered is long, in actual fact, seventy-four percent of the 1,100 haciendas recorded are from the census carried out in 1786. The incorporation of the 1792 census raises the total to ninety-two percent of the estates. Thus the universe of haciendas created for this paper, while obviously subject to some margin of error because of the time spread, is nevertheless a reasonably accurate reflection of the population of haciendas, hacendados, and estate workers in the province of La Paz at the end of the eighteenth century. Where the time factor does have a greater impact is in the relative ranking of the leading hacendados, and in the problem of fully recording their combined interdistrict holdings at any given moment in time.

Another serious deficiency of the censuses is that they provide only the name, location, ownership, and number of Indians living on the hacienda. There is no indication given as to the physical size, monetary worth, or even crops and production of the individual estates. Thus, the number of Indian peasant workers “controlled” by the hacendado, and not the size, value, or productivity of his or her estate, will be used here to measure the distribution of “wealth.”

The use of the number of Indians on the estate as a proxy for the wealth and size of the estate is a reasonable, if very rough, estimate of their actual value in monetary terms. Since land was a relatively cheap commodity, and the investment in tools and seeds was comparatively low, the most important productive element in the farm system was the labor of the Indians. This labor, depending on the zone, was obtained through an elaborate combination of market and non-market incentives. Heavy tribute taxes and corvee labor obligations (especially the mita, or labor draft, for the mines of Potosí), served as important push factors forcing Indians off the ayllus.12 In turn, the latifundistas attracted labor to their estates by paying daily wages, by providing for tribute taxes (always less than those paid on the Indian free communities) and, finally, by a complex arrangement of land leasing in return for free labor. The latter, which gave the Indians usufruct of estate lands, required the Indian and his family to invest both free labor on the lands of the hacendado (known in the contemporary period as colonato) and domestic labor (or pongueaje, a term extensively used in the eighteenth century) in the houses of the mayordomos and hacendados. In addition to physical labor, the estate Indians, known as either agregados or by the pre-hispanic term of yanaconas, provided their own seeds and tools to work the lands of the owner, shepherded the hacendado’s flocks and, finally, even transported all estate goods to market at no cost.13

Thus, because of the cheapness of the land, the need for intensive labor, and the low level of investment in tools and equipment, production on the estates was based primarily on the number of workers employed and the relative quality of the soil and climate. Moreover, given the high incidence of absenteeism and the relatively fluid migration patterns throughout the province, the failure of the individual farm unit to maintain production always resulted in a loss of workers who sought better opportunities in either the newer frontier zones, in more lucrative haciendas, or returned to their traditional villages.14 Further, since the continued existence on these estates of male tributaries required the payment of substantial taxes on the part of the hacendados, there were few, if any, cases of non-productive estates retaining large numbers of yanacona Indians. All of these factors combine to make the number of workers employed as reasonable a proxy for wealth as can be obtained.15

Examination of the universe of the La Paz haciendas in terms of their spatial distribution reveals obvious zones of concentration. The distribution of the haciendas in the province was clearly related to the quality of soil and the potential marketability of crops. Accordingly, Chulumani with its fertile valleys was unusually well suited for the production of high quality coca leaf and was therefore a major zone of hacendado activity. Most of the lands in these very steep semi-tropical valleys were newly developed, terraced estates which had been open or vacant lands prior to the arrival of the Spanish hacendados and constituted an area for attractive investment without conflicting with traditional Indian community land claims. This plus the proximity of the valleys to the city of La Paz meant that the dominant group of landowners were both absentee and resident in the capital city.16

Chulumani was the zone par excellence of commercial crop agriculture and unquestionably the most highly capitalized agriculture in all Bolivia. While no other partido attained its high level of workers concentrated on haciendas (sixty-one percent), three other zones all had close to half of their Indian peasants living on hacienda estates. These areas either occupied productive lake shore lands (Omasuyos) on the altiplano or a whole series of semi-tropical valleys along the entire easttern escarpment of the Andes (Larecaja and Sicasica). Where the hacienda had least penetrated was the most traditional and densely populated of all zones, that of Pacajes in the heartland of the Aymara nation. Here the ayllus remained dominant and the relative inhospitality of the soil discouraged hacendados interested in creating new farm units.

Whatever the zone, however, it is important to realize that overall, while some pueblos or districts particularly attracted private entrepreneurs and came under their control, the free community still prevailed within the entire province at the end of the colonial period. In fact, this domination would last until well into the nineteenth century; only the advent of the railroads in the 1880s served to break the dominance of the ayllus in controlling the rural population and most of the rural properties in the province of La Paz.17

Just as there was a geographic concentration of the haciendas in the province at the end of the eighteenth century, within the hacendado class there were also clearly defined patterns of concentration of wealth. To begin with, the hacendado class as such was small, probably accounting for no more than six percent of the total number of whites in the province.18 But even within the ranks of this small class, wealth was not evenly distributed. An examination of the 719 individual hacendados in the province during this period discloses that the overwhelming majority owned just one estate. Moreover, this majority averaged fewer yanaconas per estate than the hacendados who held more than one hacienda and thus controlled far fewer workers than its numbers would seem to warrant. Therefore, while single estate owners made up some three-fourths of the hacendado class, they controlled only forty-three percent of the yanaconas living on haciendas. Clearly, the multiple estate owners were the dominant group within the hacendado class. Amounting to only twenty-three percent of the 719 hacendados, they owned fifty percent of the estates and controlled fully fifty-seven percent of the yanaconas.

This skewed distribution becomes even more pronounced when the owners are viewed not in terms of the number of estates which they controlled, but according to the total number of yanaconas on their properties (see Table III). Thus, while those who controlled less than 100 Indians constituted sixty-five percent of the total number of hacendados, they possessed only twenty-three percent of the total Indians working on the estates of the Spaniards in the province. Even when the figure is raised to the poorest eighty percent of the hacendados, the ratio of control only rises to approximately a fourth of the yanacona population (see Figure 1 below). Thus the hacendado class was not an undifferentiated elite, but rather a complex layering of both local resident and absentee landlords, of small single hacendado farmers with relatively few Indians, and of multiple owners whose holdings extended over the vast stretches of the province.

But whatever the discrepancies in numbers of yanaconas controlled by hacendados, there was no difference in the relative makeup of the hacendado population. Regardless of whether the farms held 200 Indians or only 50, roughly twenty percent of this total consisted of males between the ages of 18 and 50. The pattern of differing ratios of working age males in the richer as opposed to the poorer estates, common to West Indian plantations, was not the case in Alto Perú. In Bolivian haciendas, the dominance of the family structure among the native population, and the limited number of unmarried adult males, seem to have guaranteed that the relative ratios of adult male workers were consistent across size of hacienda and relative wealth of hacendado. Thus, as can be seen in Table II, both the single hacienda owner, whose holding averaged just 64 Indians, and the multiple estate owner who controlled an average 286 Indians had an almost identical ratio of tributary adult males aged 18 to 50 (21.7 percent among the single estate owners, and 20.9 percent among the multiple estate hacendados). This same pattern obtains for all types of owners, males, titled and untitled, females, Indian communities, and convents and churches (see Table VIII below). Size, therefore, was the only feature which distinguished the rich man’s labor force from that of the poorer farmer.

That size and number of estates were the distinctive characteristics in terms of stratification is evident when examining the very elite of the hacendado class, or those who made up the top 10 percent of the landowning group. Unlike the majority of hacendados, these powerful landowners were predominantly multiple estate owners. Of the seventy-two hacendados who comprised this elite, sixty-one held more than one estate and the average was four estates per person (see Tables IV and V). Moreover, this elite was a powerful one since it controlled fully 42 percent of all Indians on haciendas. In a broader comparative perspective, this distribution of wealth among elite landowners appears to have been similar to other comparable commercial agricultural areas in eighteenth-century America. In 1790, for example, the top 5 percent of planters controlled 27.8 percent of the slave labor force in the five major slave regions of the U.S. South.19 The thirty-seven largest hacendados who constituted the top 5 percent of the La Paz hacendado class controlled 31.3 percent of the landless estate workers in the province. Moreover, when compared in all decennial groups (see Figure 1), it becomes evident that the distribution pattern of wealth in the two societies is almost identical. These figures suggest that the pattern of wealth concentration in the La Paz districts was similar to the patterns found in the most advanced commercial agricultural zones in America, possibly indicating a comparable stage of economic growth and stratification among the landed elite. If such a comparable stage of stratification had been reached, it would in fact challenge the rather generally held belief that Bolivia remained a rigidly stratified “traditional” society until well into the twentieth century. Just as recent research has tended to show a much more stratified pattern of wealth distribution among Indians than previously assumed, this evidence suggests that there was also much more differentiation among the landed whites and cholos than previously supposed.

Analysis of the various levels of wealth among the hacendados reveals that the upper elite not only controlled more peasants than its numbers would warrant, but was also prone to hold more estates per capita and was far more likely than the middling and poorer hacendados to have estates in more than one district of the province. The very ability to hold estates separated by large distances meant that most of these multiple district landowners were absentee landlords, the overwhelming majority of whom lived in La Paz. These individuals clearly had the resources to systematically diversify their holdings and, in imitation of the more advanced ayllus, to diversify their crops with a vertical mix of ecological zones that was so crucial in Peruvian agriculture. Of the sixty-five hacendados who held land in more than one district, some thirty (or just under one-half) were included in the top ten percent of hacendados in the province, and they controlled 174, or fifty-eight percent of the estates in this category. Among these interpartido owners, the same tendency toward concentration noted for the province as a whole prevailed. The lowest category—those owning two estates—made up a third of the sixty-five hacendados, but only controlled sixteen percent of the Indian labor force on the estates.

In examining the location of these inter-partido holdings, the dominance of Chulumani stands out. But even more striking is the high percentage of major landholders in the La Paz-Rio Abajo holdings of the three parroquias. Over half of these haciendas were held by hacendados who owned land elsewhere. Surprisingly, Omasuyos (primarily an altiplano zone, though situated along the best lakeside lands) was the second most important area of multiple holdings. Here the pattern of multi-partido holdings must have been influenced more by accessibility and proximity to the La Paz markets than by any rmusual feature of the soil or climate. In Omasuyos, the secondary farms of La Paz latifundistas produced traditional root crops and stocked animals, especially sheep herds.

Overall, the distribution of estates and landless peasants among the hacendados was quite unequal and exhibited evident biases. Can these same biases be found when the hacendado class is broken down into its basic components of sex, education, and institutional affiliation? As could be assumed from what is known about colonial hispanic society and the nature of its sexual division of labor, men clearly predominated in the landholding elite. But, surprisingly, we find that in the La Paz hacendado class, not only were women an important minority, but their relative wealth quite closely approximated their representation in the class. Thus the 124 women hacendados accounted for seventeen percent of the total number of landlords, owned seventeen percent of the estates, and controlled fifteen percent of the yanaconas.20 From these figures it could be argued that there was no special discrimination against women as landowners since they held approximately as many estates and peasants as their importance within the class warranted. This analysis is strongly corroborated by the evidence of the padrones and the notarial records. Women were listed as estate owners over many censuses and bought and sold estates in their own names, demonstrating that they were not temporary owners who occasionally held control as a result of the death of male kin. The La Paz pattern is in sharp contrast to the very temporary and quite limited role assumed by women in controlling merchant wealth in the viceregal capital of Buenos Aires during this same period.21

In assessing the relative importance of other groups within the hacendado class, the distribution of resources is found to have been less uniform than it was for women. One group, males with titles, deriving from a university education, the Church, the military, or the nobility, clearly distinguished itself beyond its numbers. Though accounting for only fifteen percent of the hacendados, and just nineteen percent of the farms, these titled males controlled twenty-three percent of the total yanaconas. On the whole, then, a title conferred by government, Church or university gave one something of an advantage in the race for wealth and power in eighteenth-century Alto Perú. In contrast, untitled males, on the average, while constituting the largest single group in numbers of yanaconas controlled, accounted for fifty-five percent of the hacendados, held a respectable fifty percent of the farms and just forty-three percent of the yanaconas. Thus possession of titles (especially that of Doctor which mostly referred to individuals with degrees in canon or civil law) gave something of an advantage in controlling larger estates. But given the limited supply of such titles, and their very small share of estates and Indians, it can be argued that overall there was surprisingly little differentiation of access to yanaconas based on one’s sex, educational or professional title, or even institutional affiliation. This relatively open quality of access to resources among different types of owners would seem to imply that more purely economic criteria had the most dramatic effect on wealth distribution. Thus there were rich and poor women hacendados as well as rich and poor lawyers and untitled males, with no one particular designation favoring or hindering mobility. This suggests that the entire rural landed elite was to an extent open to whites and some cholos within Bolivian society, again a finding not in accordance with the usual assumption that a rigid status system primarily governs access to resources in a “traditional” pre-modern society.

Still further surprises attend the examination of other groups within the hacendado class. To begin with, eleven ayllus owned their own haciendas. Those of Pacajes were especially noteworthy, holding haciendas in both their own local pueblos and in distant semi-tropical lower valleys, especially in the partido of Larecaja. Apparently these sixteen haciendas were the much diminished residue of a far larger collection of farms held by the community cajas and used as sources of revenue to meet tribute obligations and to provide alternative goods— especially corn and tropical fruits—unavailable in the home communities. At one time early in the seventeenth century, these haciendas numbered well over 100 units and were subsequently either usurped as private property by the local caciques, or sold by the caciques to Spaniards.22

Another institutional landowner whose role is somewhat different than might have been expected is the Catholic Church. Although the Church, like the titled males, controlled more yanaconas than its numbers would warrant (four percent of the hacendados and ten percent of the yanaconas), it was nevertheless much less important than is usually assumed. After the fourteen local parish churches which held only local haciendas for their benefices are withdrawn from consideration, the Church’s number of major, intra-provincial landholders diminishes to thirteen. Except for two monasteries in Oruro, all the rest of these were monasteries and convents located in La Paz. Given the important role played by the Church in providing mortgage money for the hacendado class and the penchant for the latter to create capellanías, or permanent rents on their lands which were destined to the Church for masses or benefices of clergy, the fact that the Church possessed so few estates (75 out of 1,100) suggests a relatively healthy economic state for the La Paz hacendados.

Multiple owners of single haciendas constitute a final landed group worth noting. The estates owned by two or more hacendados were concentrated in Sicasica and to a lesser extent in Larecaja. Without detailed local records, the nature of this type of holding is difficult to assess and appears to have been a response to both economic growth and economic crisis. Thus, in Yungas, or Chulumani where such multiple ownership also appeared in other periods, they seem to represent initial investment in undeveloped lands by newly expanding hacendados who bought a parcel of non-terraced land at low cost, brought in the workers to terrace the hills and plant the coca bushes, and quickly raised production to profitable levels. Once all the parcels on the estate were developed, one individual owner usually seems to have bought out the rest. In other cases, these lands were set aside for relatives to be used for their maintenance or to provide an opportunity for their investment in a family enterprise. In poorer zones such as Larecaja and Sicasica, however, it is possible that once quite wealthy estates, while retaining their borders intact, were slowly dividing up the parcels of land because of the economic failure of the initial owner.23 Nevertheless, this type of holding accounted for only four percent of the farms, suggesting that in most cases this was a temporary or transitional form of landholding that tended to end in the permanent division of the estates into smaller haciendas, or the complete takeover by one of the several landowners.

It should be stressed in this context that there were cases of haciendas without Indians, often so listed in the padrones. These represented no more than another two percent to five percent of the farms beyond the total 1,100 and were clearly failed haciendas which had gone out of production or were in the process of becoming small freehold farms run by their own white or cholo owners. In most cases, either the names of these haciendas disappeared from the census in later years or appeared with new owners and with Indian laborers.

In terms of organization, multiplicity of patterns and changing structural features, the hacendado class of the province of La Paz emerges from this study as a relatively enterprising and thriving group. Persons with interregional holdings—and therefore a mix of complementary commercial agricultural activities—were important leaders of this class. Although the size of this elite was quite restricted, even by contemporary standards, its patterns of wealth concentration point to an internal class structure similar to other advanced commercial agricultural zones in America. Women exercised an important and independent participation in this class in contradistinction to their contemporary role in commerce. The Church, although an important source of credit and active through a few powerful convents, was nevertheless a small sector of the hacendado class, indicating the ability of the lay society to maintain a flourishing and independent leadership in agriculture despite its financial dependence on the Church. Although title seems to have conferred some slight advantage, overall status played little role in determining access to wealth. In spite of a clearly unequal distribution of wealth, no one social group had any particular monopoly. All of these features point to standard economic forces as the primary determinants of hacendado wealth in eighteenth-century La Paz.


This latter zone of Caupolican, or Apolobamba, was in the montaña region far from traditional settlement areas and because of its recent conversion from missions to settled villages contained no haciendas. For this reason, I have excluded this zone from all the following tables.


In the padrones of 1785-1787 and of 1803-1807, the number of Indians of the province of La Paz was estimated at 199,003 and 219,842, respectively. This meant that La Paz was the most populous Indian province in both Upper and Lower Peru in the late colonial period. See Daniel J. Santamaría, “La propiedad de la tierra y la condición social del indio en el Alto Perú, 1780-1810,” Desarrollo Económico (Buenos Aires), 17 (July-Sept. 1977), 254, cuadro 1; and Günter Vollmer, Bevölkerungspolitik und Bevölkerungsstruktur im Vizekönigreich Peru zu ende der kolonialzeit, 1741-1821 (Bad Homburg vor der Höhe, 1967), p. 265. By 1827 it was estimated that the province’s total population (including whites and cholos) consisted of some 375,000 persons, making it the most populous province of the new republic of Bolivia. Joseph Barclay Pentland, “Report on the Republic of Bolivia, 1827,” Public Record Office (London), F.O. 61/12, fol. 81.


The most detailed linguistic survey of the region available is the Church language survey of 1580. See Thérese Bouysee Cassagne, “Pertenencia étnica, status económico y lenguas en Charcas a fines del siglo XVI,” pp. 314-316, cuadro 1 in Noble David Cook et al., Tasa de la Visita General de Francisco de Tolede (Lima, 1975).


Luis S. Crespo, Geografía de la República de Bolivia (La Paz, 1910), pp. 145-146. This figure excludes Caupolican.


Thierry Saignes, “De la filiation à la résidence: les ethnies dans les vallées de Larecaja,” Annales, E. S. C., 33 (Sept.-Dec. 1978).


Contemporary descriptions of these districts can be found in Antonio de Alcedo, Diccionario geográfico-histórico de las Indias Occidentales o América (1786-1789; reprint ed., Madrid, 1967); for a modern analysis of this region see Jorge Muñoz Reyes, Geografía de Bolivia (La Paz, 1977).


Pentland, “Report,” fol. 82.


The province was the second wealthiest in Alto Perú and thus in the entire viceroyalty, generating over 280,000 pesos in 1790. It was also consistently the most profitable (in terms of producing revenues over costs) of all the viceroyalty provinces. Herbert S. Klein, “Structure and Profitability of Royal Finance in the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata in 1790,” HAHR, 53 (Aug. 1973), tables IV, V, and appendix table I.


Nicolás Sánchez-Albornoz, Indios y tributos en el Alto Perú (Lima, 1978), p. 43n.


This was formally developed by the Lima treasury official Jorge Escobedo y Alarcón in July of 1784. For a printed version of this “Instrucción Metódica” as it was commonly called, see Instrucción de revisitas ó matriculas formada por el señor Don Jorge Escobedo y Alarcón . . . en cumplimiento del artículo 121 de la Real Instrucción de Intendentes (reprint ed., Buenos Aires, 1802) and found in Archivo General de la Nación, Buenos Aires (hereafter cited as AGN), Biblioteca, Folletos Varios, 87, no. E.


The censuses (or padrones y revisitas de indios) are found in the AGN, Sala XIII, in the following locations: Chulumani (1786) in 13-17-6-5, libro 2; Omasuyos (1786) in 13-17-5-4, libros 1, 2 and 3; Pacajes (1803) in 13-17-9-4, libro 1 and 13-17-10-2, libro 3; Larecaja (1786) in 13-17-6-3, libros 1 and 2, 13-17-6-2, libro 2, and 13-17-7-1, libro 1; Sicasica (1792) in 13-17-7-2, libros 1 and 2; 3 Parroquias de La Paz (1786) 13-17-6-3, libro 1 for names of hacendados, and (1792) 13-17-7-3, libro 1 for population.


This analysis of the creation of a free labor market is based on ideas developed in Sánchez-Albornoz, Indios y tributarios, chap. 2.


For a detailed contemporary description of pongueaje, see the analysis of the Subdelegado of Omasuyos, Apr. 23, 1792, in AGN, 13-17-7-4, libro 3. Here, in Chulumani, and in most parts of Peru, the term yanaconas was used to designate landless estate Indians who served as pongos and colonos. While yanacona was a preconquest term used to designate the personal servants of the nobles and the Inca, in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries it may still have been used to designate such serfs of the Indian nobility. By the eighteenth century, however, it was exclusively used as an equivalent to landless peasants who were sometimes called pongos, agregados, or forasteros in other regions. For an analysis of this class in Peru, see José Matos Mar, Yanaconaje y reforma agraria en el Perú (Lima, 1976), chap. 1.


This was the consistent pattern seen in the special census of “ausente” male tributarios carried out in Chulumani in the period from June of 1786 to December of 1790. See Padron de Ausentes y Muertes, AGN, 13-17-5-3.


The only qualification to this generalization has to do with the important coca-growing zone of Chulumani. Here the physical limitations on hacienda size due to the extraordinarily steep nature of the valleys did keep down the average size of the hacienda labor force and thus reduced the utility of using the number of yanaconas alone as a strict measure of relative wealth. This means that a similar number of yanaconas held in Pacajes and in Chulumani, for example, may not be a comparable index of equal wealth. Since there currently exists no comparable list of market values of the estates, no weighting scheme has been adopted to compensate for this bias in the data.


A partial census of hacendados in the Partido de Chulumani in 1796 found 240 of the local hacendados to be living in the city of La Paz, 2 who lived in Oruro, and 133 who were resident on their estates in the Yungas. See Estado que manifiesta el número de Haciendas . . . en el Partido de Yungas, La Paz, Nov. 17, 1796, Archivo General de Indias, Seville, Audiencia de Buenos Aires, leg. 513.


This thesis of the late growth of the latifundia is well developed in Silvia Rivera C., “La expansión del latifundio en el altiplano norte de Bolivia: Datos para la caracterización de una oligarquía regional,” Avances (La Paz), 2 (Nov. 1978).


In the census of 1846, Dalence estimated the provincial population of La Paz at 90,662 blancos and 295,442 aborígenes. José María Dalence, Bosquejo estadístico de Bolivia (Chuquisaca, 1851), p. 222. Using this ratio for the 207,369 Indians of the province in the late eighteenth century yields a total of estimated whites in the province of 63,635 persons. Accepting an approximation of 5 persons per hacendado family (and including the institutional, cholo, and ayllu owners in this total compensates for the relatively low multiplier used), yields a total hacendado class of 3,610 persons, who thus represent 5.7 percent of the total white population. In the U.S. South in 1790, it has been estimated that 35.3 percent of the free population were slaveholders. Lewis C. Gray, History of Agriculture in the Southern United States to 1860, 2 vols. (Washington, D.C., 1932), I, 482. Thus it would appear that the hacendado class was a much more restricted one than the contemporaneous slaveowner group in the United States, despite their identity—as will be seen below—in wealth distribution patterns.


This figure and those used for the drawing of U.S. Southern slave ownership in 1790 are calculated from data provided in Lee Soltow, “Economic Inequality in the United States in the Period from 1790 to 1860,” Journal of Economic History, 31 (Dec. 1971), 828-829, table 2. The Gini index for both is .57.


This figure appears to be close to the norm for the importance of women among hacendados in other parts of the Andes. Thus in a sample of 705 haciendas in ten districts of the province of Cuzco in 1689, women were found to account for fifteen percent of the 492 hacendados who owned these estates. Magnus Mömer, Perfil de la sociedad rural del Cuzco a fines de la colonia (Lima, 1978), p. 35, table XX.


For an analysis of the quite restricted role of women in colonial commercial wealth, see Susan Migden Socolow, The Merchants of Buenos Aires, 1778-1810: Family and Commerce (Cambridge, 1978), chap. 2. It should be stressed that these findings concern large-scale wholesale merchants. It recently has been observed from a detailed study of colonial Mexican wills that women did play an independent role in small-scale trading and retail commercial activities. See Asunción Lavrin and Edith Couturier, “Dowries and Wills: A View of Women’s Socioeconomic Role in Colonial Guadalajara and Puebla, 1640-1790,” HAHR, 59 (May 1979), 300-302.


Sánchez-Albornoz, Indios y tributos, pp. 105ff. Indian officials testified that the free communities of the Partido of Omasuyos at one time in the early colonial period possessed 170 haciendas which the caciques had subsequently alienated to private Spanish owners, or to themselves. See Informe de 14 marzo 1690, reproduced in ibid., p. 123.


This argument about multiple ownership of single estates being a sign of economic decline or stagnation in Larecaja is developed by Santamaría, “La estructura agraria del Alto Perú a fines del siglo XVIII: Un análisis de tres regiones maiceras del Partido de Larecaja en 1795,” Desarrollo Económico, 72 (1979), 579-595.

Author notes


The author is Professor of History at Columbia University.