previous chapter
7 Communities, the State, and Peasant Solidarity
next chapter

Communities, the State, and Peasant Solidarity

The history of the Andean peasant community during the century after independence remains largely unwritten.[1] Ignored by the laws, the courts, and the administration of the Peruvian republic, the community took on a bewildering variety of forms and functions. Property regimes, the extent and nature of economic cooperation and of autonomous local cultural and ritual traditions, relationships with hierarchies of authority and power—all developed differently in various regions and shifted over time. By 1920 an observer would have been hard pressed to say what the communities of the north coast, the Mantaro valley, and the altiplano had in common.

In this chapter I focus on the property and usufruct of land, social inequality, and the rise of new communities in Azángaro between the mid-nineteenth century and 1920. During this era the autonomy of the communities faced the greatest challenge since the Toledan reforms of the late sixteenth century. As their resource base came under growing external and internal pressure, the communities readjusted the meaning and scope of communal solidarity. The rise of numerous new communities, based on family descent groups, testifies to the continued vitality of this crucial Andean institution, even in times of adversity.

Land, People, and Animals in the Communities

A first impression of the extraordinary complexity and shifting meaning of the altiplano peasant community can be gained from a discussion of the three terms employed to denote aspects of it during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: parcialidad, ayllu , and comunidad . By far the most frequent term in contemporary usage was parcialidad . Usually the term referred simply to all landholdings within a geographic area demar-


cated more or less clearly along customary lines. Even estates owned by hispanized large landholders were described as being situated within a parcialidad.[2]Parcialidad was also the preferred term for the institutional aspects of the community, the hierarchies of religious and civil offices that gave form to the organization of communal solidarity and articulated the relations with governors, justices of the peace, and parish priests in the districts.

The term ayllu , although less popular with hispanized officialdom, was used with essentially the same meanings as parcialidad . Usages such as "parcialidad Urinsaya, ayllu Cullco" (1869) might be thought to express the ancient moiety structure. However, the prehispanic notion of moieties seems to have largely disappeared; other references to the same communities reversed the two terms. Such encapsulation probably reflected the recent formation of subdivisions within peasant communities.[3]

As parcialidad and ayllu were increasingly used to denote the territorial and institutional aspects of communities, usage of the third term, comunidad , became restricted. Until the end of the colonial period the term usually signified three aspects viewed as widely overlapping: a crown-sanctioned corporate institution, its territorial base, and usufruct of the land controlled in common. This third semantic field set usage of the term comunidad apart from parcialidad and ayllu in the century after independence, leading to its diminished employment in notarial transactions and administrative documentation. Whenever the term was used in connection with land, it referred to common property or usufruct.[4] Whenever parcialidad or ayllu was employed in connection with land after 1850, it was a statement about the geographic location of the land, not its title or use.

After the agrarian reform legislation of the 1820s the community as an institution and whatever common property regimes survived within it had become divorced from each other. As communal property was alien to republican legislation, this notion was reflected in the semantics and the usage of the terms referring to the community. Comunidad , the term signifying common property or usufruct over land, ceased to be used when referring to the community as an institution.

When Peruvian intellectuals, especially in southern Peru but after the 1910s also in Lima, began to espouse the Indian heritage of the country, they were particularly fascinated by the indigenous peasant communities. Here many indigenistas hoped to find the social organization that, without disrupting Andean society, could best move Peru's serrano countryside toward "socialistic cooperativism," as Hildebrando Castro Pozo wrote in 1924. For the indigenistas the most important feature of the communities


consisted in the alleged continued predominance of communal property of land.[5] The growing political strength of the indigenista campaign was first codified in the constitution of 1920, elaborated as a consequence of Augusto Leguía's seizure of power. Article 58 brought the first official recognition of what was now called the comunidad de indígenas since independence. Underscoring the close link between comunidad and property, article 41 proclaimed that "the property belonging to the State, to public institutions and to the comunidades de indígenas is unalienable and can only be transferred by public title in the cases and in the form prescribed by law."[6]

In 1925 the government began to register parcialidades and ayllus that had been granted official recognition. This was the starting point for the emergence of a legally uniform category of communities in which geographical boundaries, internal institutions, and the communal property of the land again coincided as they had during the colonial period.[7] All of the lands within the boundaries of the community constituted communal property, and none could be alienated to outsiders, a legal concept strengthened by articles 208 and 209 of the constitution of 1933 and by the Peruvian Indigenous Community Statute of 1936.[8] But in contrast to the colonial era, only a minority of communities sought and achieved this official recognition. As late as 1958 only 24.6 percent of the 5,986 known communities in Peru had been registered. In the vast majority of communities without recognition the transfer of land remained unrestricted. By 1958 a considerably lower proportion of known communities—only thirty of 1,396, or 2.1 percent—had chosen and achieved recognition in Puno than had done so in any other department of Peru.[9] Their reluctance to seek official recognition suggests how far property regimes and institutional aspects of communities had drifted apart in the minds of the altiplano peasantry.

All this points to a tenuous survival of communal landholding in the altiplano up to the present century. Generally four types of property continued to be subject to some degree of common control by larger groups of community peasants: (1) agricultural land with a fixed crop rotation, the manda, lihua, suyo , or aynoca ; (2) lands set aside for the payment of fees to civil and religious authorities; (3) special appurtenances of communities, such as access to lakes, watering holes, springs, and mineral deposits, as well as customary rights of groups of peasant families (e.g., rights of passage through private plots); (4) communal pastures. Not every community comprised all four types of common property, and their extent varied from district to district. The frequency, extent, and location of the fourth type


of common property, communal pastures, is the critical issue for the pattern of land tenure of agrarian communities dedicated primarily to livestock raising.

The lihua landholding pattern strengthened communal institutions through its fixed obligatory rotation system, much like open field systems in ancien régime Europe. Every family received a strip within the field dedicated to one crop. In the relatively fertile soil of the lakeshore belt around Lakes Titicaca and Arapa, a rotation of three or four different annual crops was practiced. Nearly always begun with potatoes, it continued in years two to four with barley, oats, quinua, ocas, or lima beans in varying orders, after which the plots were left fallow for one or two years.[10] In more arid parts of the altiplano, such as San José's parcialidad Llaulli, lihua plots might be planted only once every seven years.[11] After the harvest the lihua was opened for the livestock of all co-owners to feed on the stubble or remaining foliage.[12]

Lihuas or mandas in which many, but not necessarily all, families of a parcialidad held parcels existed in communities of most districts in Azángaro around 1900. In some communities—for example, the newly formed comunidad San José—annual rituals of distributing the strips of land within the lihua continued until the mid-twentieth century, even if each family always received the same strips.[13] Title belonged to individual families.[14] Lihua plots seem to have been small and unevenly distributed. In a community in Salinas, south of Azángaro, twenty-eight peasants in 1932 owned 101 agricultural parcels of one masa (760 square meters) each, amounting to a total of 7.676 hectares, or 0.274 hectares per person. One comunario held ten masas (0.76 hectares), whereas some only held one masa (0.076 hectares).[15] Besides their parcels in the lihua, most peasants also planted crops on their own estancia lands, usually in the immediate vicinity of their residence.

Some communities set aside special parcels of land called yanasis , "which have to be cultivated exclusively and free of charge for the governor."[16] One of the duties of the highest community officials was to supervise the timely plowing, sowing, weeding, and harvesting of these plots and to see to the care of the sheep that the community maintained on its own pastures for the authorities.[17] Yanasis plots were limited to Huancané province and the adjacent districts in Azángaro, especially Chupa and Saman.[18] But even where no yanasis plots were set aside, local authorities received agricultural and livestock products from communities. Year after year the communal authorities selected some of the best plots of the lands of individual family estancias on a rotating basis for this purpose. One contemporary author estimated that each community in


Azángaro annually dedicated between 80 and 120 masas (6.08 to 9.12 hectares) of private croplands for the governor, which took sixty peasants four to six days to fallow with their digging sticks (tacllas ).[19]

Special resources were often held as common property. Springs, creeks, ponds, and shores of rivers and lakes could be used by many (although not necessarily all) of the peasant families of a community for irrigating garden plots, watering the animals, feeding them on semiaquatic plants, and fishing. Paths to such places, even if they traversed private land, were considered appurtenances of all adjoining lands. These resources, however, do not seem to have been considered common property of communities as institutions; rather, they went along with the ownership of specific plots or residence in their vicinity. When estancias or parcels of land were sold, leased, or transferred in any other way, rights to appurtenances were noted. Adjoining haciendas might share in them.[20]

When such specific resources held a preponderant weight for the peasants' economy, common rights tended to disappear. The outstanding example in Azángaro province was the exploitation of the Lake of Salinas, some twelve kilometers southeast of Azángaro town. Until the 1870s community peasants owned practically the whole lakeshore. It was divided into small, privately owned stretches of shoreline, between twenty and one hundred meters wide, called entradas de sal . Only title to such an entrada gave a family the right to scrape salt from the dried lakebed between June and December, when the water had receded. The amount of salt that a family could gather apparently depended on the width of the entrada.[21] In 1896 the Piérola administration established the state salt monopoly and instituted a tax on salt "for the rescue of Tacna and Arica," occupied by Chile since the War of the Pacific. At Lake Salinas, as at other sierra salines exploited by peasants, these measures led to a price increase of some 400 to 800 percent—from between five and ten centavos to between fifty-one and fifty-six centavos per quintal of salt—and to the peasants' loss of control over its commercialization. The ensuing cycle of militant peasant protests was repressed militarily.[22]

How frequent and extended were pasture commons in Azángaro's parcialidades between the 1850s and 1920? In 1921 Carlos Valdéz de la Torre evaluated land tenure patterns in altiplano communities: "In the department of Puno the evolution of indigenous agricultural property has reached a greater degree of specificity than in Cuzco; in Huancané, Chucuito, Azángaro, Lampa, and possibly in the other provinces every individual is proprietor of his plot and can sell it freely. There are no regularly redistributed plots and property remains undivided only concerning pastures and hills ."[23] This evaluation by Valdéz, a Cuzqueño with limited knowl-


edge of local circumstances in Puno, is paradoxical: while stressing that by the 1920s privatization had advanced further in Puno's communities than in those of Cuzco, he told his readers that "only" pastures and hills remained common property. But over 90 percent of all lands in the altiplano were pastures!

References to "common parcels" or "community properties" appear often in notarial contracts, but in only a few instances are common pastures mentioned. One case concerns the plots Incacancha, Cuncapampa, Patapampa, and Coparciopata in parcialidad Yanico of Arapa district. Around 1870 Melchor Quispe, a fifty-year-old peasant from Yanico, claimed these plots as private property, whereas a large group of other peasants from the same parcialidad considered them as common lands. To terminate the costly legal battle, in March 1871 both sides agreed to an out-of-court settlement. These lands were to be "common usufruct [disfrute comun ] of all persons referred to [Quispe and thirty-three other community peasants] so that they may benefit from its pastures as before without forming cabañas and other obstacles." If for any reasons cabañas needed to be built, construction was to be undertaken only with the approval of all families with rights to the land. Land could be rented out only to one of the contract parties and never to third persons. All agreed to sustain costs for litigation over this land against outsiders.[24]

These lands were undoubtedly an example of pasture commons, and the contract sought to block their internal division, privatization, and alienation. The requirement that permission be sought before constructing residences on the land foresaw the formation of new households from within the group of participating families; however, such permission was to be closely controlled by all interested parties. Each subscriber's rights in these plots hinged on his or her willingness to rally to their defense against potential outside claimants, particularly, if need be, by contributing to court costs. Failure to share in the costs of defending communal property was often considered as forfeiting one's title claims.[25]

The number of peasants who held rights in the pasture commons is crucial for interpreting this case. In 1876 parcialidad Yanico had a population of 764 persons, constituting at least some 150 nuclear families.[26] Even if we assume that each of the thirty-four male peasants holding rights to the pasture commons, subject of the 1871 agreement, represented a different nuclear family, fewer than one-fourth of all families in Yanico shared these rights. In other words, these were not pasture commons of parcialidad Yanico but of a certain group of peasants who, though they lived within that parcialidad, were defined by some other criterion.


A second example helps to identify such specific groups inside communities. In April 1863 twenty-three Indian peasants from parcialidades Choquechambi and Caroneque in Muñani district initiated litigation against the owners of Hacienda Muñani Chico, José Luis Quiñones and his half-brother José María previous hit Lizares next hit Quiñones, for usurping various parcels of land belonging to the community. Among other items they instructed their judicial plenipotentiary to take legal steps against the following loss of land:

Equally he should reject the violent dispossession which the current Justice of the Peace of Muñani district, Don Juan Antonio Iruri, has perpetrated through the border demarcation . . . of the plots Accopata, property of the Ccoris, integral part of the commons where all of us Indians used to peacefully maintain our livestock , and today we suffer very grave damages . . .; the pretext [for the border demarcation was that] Pedro Quispe had sold the lands of Accopata although it was clear that all the other coheirs were owners and through the said demarcation a number of families also suffered dispossession .[27]

When Pedro Quispe married Francisca Ccori, his parents-in-law assigned them part of their family estancia, namely the lands called Accopata, "with perfectly marked borders . . . so that we might live independently." After most of their children had died, "and finding our wealth [fortuna ] in a decadent state after more than forty years of marriage," in February 1863 the couple signed a contract of promise of sale concerning Accopata and two other shares of the Ccori's family estancias now held by the families of Francisca Ccori's brother and sister, in favor of José Luis Quiñones and José María previous hit Lizares next hit Quiñones. Pedro Quispe claimed to have received authorization for initiating the sale of those shares from his wife's family. But soon the Ccoris raised opposition to the proposed sale and demanded a legal division of the three parts of the Ccori estancia. In this situation the border demarcation must have occurred, by which Justice of the Peace Iruri, a half brother of the owners of Muñani Chico, adjudicated Accopata, Quispe's share in the Ccori family estancia, to the previous hit Lizares next hit Quiñones as a consequence of the sales agreement. Although originally all shares of the estancia had been included, because of the resistance of the Ccoris and other community peasants only Accopata effectively became part of Muñani Chico. But the peasants fought even this loss of land. By 1872 the lawsuits, as well as the hatred between the Ccoris and their in-law Pedro Quispe, had not terminated.[28]

What, then, were the pasture commons among which the community peasants counted Accopata? This plot, along with the other parts of the


Ccori estancia, was used by all members of an extended family as pasture for their various livestock herds. The head of the Ccori family had assigned one sector of the estancia to his daughter and her husband Pedro Quispe, probably for establishing a residence and clarifying inheritance rights. Yet this assignment had not ended the practice of herding the livestock of various family members indiscriminately on the different parts of the family estancia. Accopata was thus both individual property and pasture commons for an extended family of community peasants.

Nothing in the documentation suggests that by the second half of the nineteenth century Azángaro peasant communities as corporate entities still held title to pasture commons. In fact, among all categories of property for which some type of common or group holding occurred, only the second category, the yanasis lands, clearly constituted corporate communal property. Rights to lihua plots, although shared by all members of a community in specific cases, were not derived from membership in the community as a corporation but rather through traditional title of families to the usufruct of certain plots. The same holds true for rights to appurtenances and to pastureland.

The Indian community as a clearly defined corporation existed only in relation to the civil and ecclesiastic authorities of the broader society. As long as the colonial state dealt with the Indian peasantry through communities on many levels, their function as corporate holders of property were strong in regard not only to the lands worked by individual peasant families in usufruct but also to the extensive holdings of community chests and cofradías (Catholic lay brotherhoods). In the later nineteenth century only local authorities dealt with communities as corporations, whereas demands of higher-level civil and ecclesiastic authorities largely ceased or were directed immediately at individual families. The corporate function of the communities vis-à-vis the local authorities still found its expression in the survival of specific plots maintained for the governor, priest, and justice of the peace, although even these burdens had been allocated to individual peasant family plots in most communities. Below the level of the weakened corporate community, groups of peasant families continued to use land jointly, even if individual family members were convinced of holding full property rights and were strengthened in this conviction by outside landholders applying pressure to purchase the land.[29]

In an effort to overcome the formalistic juxtaposition of community and hacienda, Benjamin Orlove and Glynn Custred have described one type of southern Peruvian social organization, which resembles conditions in Azángaro between the 1850s and 1920. The "localized descent groups," found among pastoralists of the high slopes of the western


cordillera in Arequipa's Castilla province, consist of three to ten households, which are

linked usually through agnatic ties; frequently the household heads are brothers and patrilateral cousins. The residences are located in named population nuclei separated from each other by distances of over a kilometer. These groups are sometimes three generations deep. . . . Each localized descent group owns some of the scarce permanent pasture land along with huts and corrals located on it; . . . individuals have grazing rights both on these permanent pastures and on the rainy season pastures by virtue of membership in a localized descent group. . . . Each household uses a portion of the land for its own maintenance, but ownership remains corporate with the senior household head acting as executor. In such cases only sons and unmarried daughters may lay claim to the land.[30]

With some modifications, this model can be applied to altiplano communities. The relation between property title and actual land use could vary. A descent group might use some or all of its pastures and agricultural plots jointly, either while holding joint title to the land (pro indiviso) or even after having undertaken a formal distribution of all shares among coheirs. Joint title to ancestral lands did not automatically ensure that usufruct was not by individual families. In the majority of cases where a legal division of the ancestral lands had been carried out, at least some land was used by individual families. In contrast to the pristine social organization of pastoralists of the cordillera, peasant descent groups in the altiplano tended to be more open; built-in mechanisms for self-perpetuation and defense against alteration from outside forces were usually weaker. There is little evidence to suggest that in Azángaro valuable dry-season pastures and arid hilltops were held in common by descent groups more frequently than other types of pasture were.[31]

As in the case of the Ccori family lands, common usufruct of land within Azángaro peasant descent groups was endangered and subverted by outside and inside pressures. In a clientalistic rural society with an accelerating demand for land, individual peasants within descent groups could find themselves forced to sell their rights in the ancestral estancia to a powerful outsider. This situation led to numerous instances of litigation in which a group of peasants fought the sale of one share of the family estancia by one of their coheirs. On one level, they reflect contradictory coexisting concepts of rights to peasant lands: even if nobody doubted that a peasant had inherited title to a specific share of a family landholding, it was by no means clear for the coheirs that this entitled him or her to sell that share to


outsiders. On another level, such legal conflicts demonstrated that the degree of economic well-being could vary strongly within descent groups. Some members became indebted to outsiders by mortgaging their share of the family estancia, whereas others within the group remained economically independent. There is little evidence to suggest that descent groups in Azángaro attempted to prevent the transfer of a share of the family land to outside peasants by marriage to a female heir.[32] Such transfers constituted another source of external pressure on the joint usufruct of land by peasant descent groups.

Many potential causes for tension within such groups existed. After the death of the head of an extended family who had controlled all family lands, relations between brothers, cousins, nephews, and uncles frequently showed as much competition as solidarity. The senior member of the following generation often lacked the authority of the deceased patriarch.[33] Litigation between altiplano peasants, frequent by the late nineteenth century, was fed not to a small degree by intrafamily conflicts. It was incompatible with the maintenance of joint usufruct of a landholding by a descent group.

Even where land was used jointly by all nuclear families of descent groups, they usually operated their own livestock herds. Inevitably this independence led to a differentiation of wealth. As one peasant increased his herds by marriage, purchased some livestock, and was able to keep down the mortality of his animals, his relative might have lost sheep during a harsh winter or might see himself forced to sell animals to defray the costs associated with a communal office. Differences in the size of herds did not threaten the descent group's joint use of the ancestral land as long as pasture was plentiful, but once the herds pressed hard on the family's pasture resources, tensions were bound to build. In such a situation the more affluent peasants within the group sought to augment usage rights to the land in any way they could. If one parcel of the land had been purchased, or if expenses for its defense had been incurred, the peasants who paid these outlays would claim increased rights to the family lands against those group members who had been too poor to contribute.[34]

But when did pastureland become scarce in Azángaro's peasant communities? Writing in the 1940s, the anthropologist Bernard Mishkin suggested for the southern Peruvian sierra in general that "a sharp increase in the number of livestock, with the resultant competition for pasturage, has removed any vestige of pasture commons."[35] The animal/land ratio in the communities was determined by three factors: the amount of pastureland available, the size of livestock populations, and—a secondary


TABLE 7.1. Development of Azángaro's Community Freeholder
                     Population, 1876–1940





increase, 1876–
1940,  total
population of
each district



















































San Antón





San José















a Excluding Villa de Betanzos, classified as a pueblo in this census.
b Including San Juan de Salinas, part of Azángaro until 1908.
c Excluding Huilacunca-Ayrampuni, classified as a pueblo in this census.
d Excluding mining and construction camps.

Sources: See table 1.1.

factor with a strong bearing on the two primary factors—the population of the communities.

The growth of the human population is the clearest factor. In most districts the overall population grew faster than did its smallholder population (table 7.1). This increase is accounted for by population growth in the "urban" centers, mining camps, and, most important, haciendas. These data nicely confirm findings on the growth of the province's hacienda sector. In districts with a minimal growth of estates, such as Saman and Caminaca, the population growth rates for the whole district and for their community freeholders show the smallest difference. In districts with rapid


hacienda expansion, for example, San José and Chupa, the growth rate for the total population was considerably larger than that for peasant freeholders. These figures, of course, suggest a transfer of population from the communities to haciendas or urban centers.

Some studies have claimed a correlation between hacienda expansion and the spatial distribution of population in the altiplano. A commercial guide to southern Peru for 1920 suggested that "the absorption of the communities and smallholdings of the Indians by the hacendados has much influenced the gradual depopulation of certain areas."[36] However, in most of Azángaro's districts hacienda expansion did not cause depopulation (table 7.1). According to a more specific notion, hacienda expansion would have caused a shift of the altiplano's population toward areas with a high concentration of peasant parcialidades and few estates, principally the belt around Lake Titicaca and the large pampas north and east of Juliaca, including some parts of Lampa province and Azángaro's districts of Achaya, Caminaca, and Saman.[37] But in Azángaro province such a pattern is also not discernible before 1940. Some districts—for example, Chupa—in which the estate sector swallowed much of the peasant lands experienced above-average overall population growth, whereas other districts with rapid hacienda expansion—for example, Potoni—saw their population increase only slowly. Saman and Caminaca, with minimal hacienda expansion, experienced below-average population growth. It appears likely that ecological conditions had a major impact on differential population growth between districts. In particular, the suitability of land for supplementary crop production may have influenced sustainable population levels in the communities.[38] This factor explains above-average population growth in Chupa, Arapa, Asillo, and Azángaro, the district with the most complex land-use pattern.

Community population increased by possibly 50 to 60 percent between 1876 and 1940,[39] but there were great variations from district to district. Lacking a measure for the extent of peasant lands sold to hacendados and intermediate landholders, we can present only a crude index of the increase of population pressure in each district's community sector by considering the combined effect of population growth and loss of land to outsiders. In the districts of Arapa, Asillo, Azángaro, and Chupa population density in the communities grew most since there peasants lost much land to haciendas while their population increased at a high rate. In Putina, San Antón, Caminaca, Saman, San José, and Santiago, communities experienced moderate increases of population density. In San José's communities, for example, a high rate of land sales had a diminished effect on density because of low population growth. Density increased least in the communities of


Achaya, Muñani, and Potoni districts because population growth or the rate of land sales to outsiders were low to intermediate. In Muñnai the rudimentary community sector, which had survived the earlier expansion of estates, saw little change in population density; there density had probably approached its ecological limits even by 1870 or 1880 because of the communities' scanty remaining land base.[40] This case remained exceptional; before 1920 most communities had not reached the limit of their capacity to sustain human populations under prevailing land-use patterns.

Population density in most districts' communities thus increased at widely varying rates during the census interval 1876–1940. But whatever the local differences, the amount of land available to many peasant families diminished, confirming the declining mean size of land parcels sold by indigenous peasants. In many cases, by 1900 ten, twenty, or more related peasants owned shares of a landholding that all recalled having been the property of one common ancestor a few generations back. Fundo Chafani Choquechambi, for example, located in Arapa's parcialidad Ilata, had been the exclusive property of Vicente Ayamamani during the first half of the nineteenth century. It was extensive enough to be sold in 1906 for the considerable sum of 2,000 soles m.n. The purchaser, Luis Felipe Luna, renamed the fundo Hacienda Luisa, even without the addition of further peasant lands. By the time of this transaction the landholding had been parceled into nine cabañas, shared by twenty-five descendants (not counting husbands and wives) of Vicente Ayamamani.[41] Still, even by 1910 or 1920 in some localities large older peasant estancias remained undivided; in addition, sizable landholdings had recently been agglomerated by newly affluent peasants.

What impact did the diminishing size of land available to many peasant households have on the animal/land ratio in the communities? In chapter 3 I estimated that during the early years after independence livestock density lay below the carrying capacity of pastures both in the estate and peasant sectors. Despite unreliable earlier sources, there is little doubt that Azángaro's livestock population underwent long-term growth, increasing by some 300 percent between the 1820s and the mid-twentieth century (table 7.2). Herds could be expected to recover naturally after the repeated decimations between 1780 and the mid-1850s; this recovery was favored by the interests of hacendados and peasants alike in increasing their herds, as demands for wool and live animals increased after the 1850s. In the long run, the most important cause for the growing numbers of sheep and cattle must be sought in the growth of Azángaro's human population. A burgeoning number of families whose subsistence was based primarily on livestock resources attempted to build up their herds to the limit allowed


TABLE 7.2. Azángaro's Livestock Population, 1825–1959


1825/29 a


































Total OMR g







Notes and Sources:
a Choquehuanca, Ensayo , 15–55.
  b Min. de Fomento, Dir. de Fomento, La industria , 15.
  c Mean of high and low estimates, from Jacobsen, "Land Tenure," 871–81, app. 6.
  d Dir. de Agricultura y Ganadería, Estadística . . . del año 1929 , 394–96.
  e Belón y Barrionuevo, La industria , 15–16. The author gives the livestock population for the department of Puno; I calculated the Azángaro figures by applying the proportion of the province's livestock in 1959 to the 1945 figures.
   f Min. de Hda. y Comercio, Plan regional , vol. 28, Informe PS/G/59, Manual de estadística regional , 239–41.
   g Based on conversion rates in Jiménez, Breves apuntes , 63–64
   h Without equines.

by the available pasture.[42] But when did this increasing livestock population begin to exceed the carrying capacity of pastures in communities?

Livestock density in Azángaro's peasant sector reached a level of between 2.76 and 5.04 units of sheep per hectare by 1920, a range appreciably higher than the mean carrying capacity of about two units of sheep per hectare for natural altiplano pastures.[43] To place those values in historical perspective, by 1960 livestock density in Azángaro's peasant communities had reached seventeen units of sheep per hectare. Pastures could maintain considerably more animals than their assumed carrying capacities, and herds did not suddenly stop growing once pastures reached their defined capacities. But it should not be thought that the customary calculations of pasture carrying capacity were fictitious: too many practical ranchers and livestock technicians concurred on the extremely low nutritive value of altiplano pastures.[44] When livestock densities exceeded the carrying capacity of pastures, animals tended to become rickety, mortality rates shot up, and production of wool and meat declined.[45]

Peasants possessed certain means for diminishing these effects of overgrazing. Through limited irrigation works they could increase the amount of pastures that grew year-round. By making careful use of the moist winter pastures (Moyas or ahijaderos ), they effectively increased the car-


rying capacity of their overall pastoral land resources.[46] Moreover, community peasants placed some of their animals with the herds of hacienda colonos grazing on estate pastures, in return for which they would pay the colono in goods or services. This practice shifted livestock pressure on pasture resources from the peasant to the estate sector.[47] Community peasants could also legally rent pastures from neighboring estates, although in Azángaro such rental appears to have been rare. According to Mishkin, "a wealthy herder [from the community] must ultimately seek pasturage in the haciendas," an example of what Juan Martínez Aliér has called the "external siege" on hacienda resources.[48]

My estimate for the animal/land ratio in Azángaro's peasant communities lends weight to the notion that by the early years of this century the use of common lands by localized descent groups was coming under increasing internal pressure through growing conflict over limited pasture resources, in addition to the external pressure exerted by neighboring landholders. As Julio Delgado noted in 1930, landholding in southern Peru's peasant sector was passing through "the transition from family property to individual [property]."[49]

Inheritance patterns among peasants reflect this weakening of the descent group, associated with the diminishing role of a paternal head of an extended family. In 1916 José Sebastian Urquiaga still saw the majority of Azángaro's Indian peasants passing a much smaller share of goods to daughters; the first-born son, viewed as "representative of the family," became universal heir.[50] Nevertheless, peasant wills in which a male heir received all of the family's land to the disadvantage of sisters are exceedingly rare.[51] Children at times were disinherited for "disloyalty" or "lack of respect" against the parents, but male heirs suffered such ostracism just as often as female heirs did.[52] In most wills sons and daughters received equal shares of property. Indian women routinely appear as owners of parental landholdings in all types of notarial contracts, from wills to bills of sale. By the early twentieth century, then, inheritance of land among Azángaro's Indian peasants, at least among those affluent few who left notarial wills, approximated the pattern of equal inheritance among the province's hispanized residents.

Commercial Penetration, the State, and the Shifting Locus of Communal Solidarity

The crisis of common property and joint usufruct of land by descent groups of course did not lead to the disappearance of solidarity within such groups or within the larger parcialidades. Mutual labor exchange, common defense


against outside land invasion, shared rituals and celebrations, and the myriad of everyday activities shared or undertaken jointly—all these continued, contributing to the trust binding such groups together.

Far from being stable, static entities, peasant communities in the altiplano were undergoing a process of complex metamorphosis by the early twentieth century, particularly by branching off or splitting into several new ones.[53] The dynamic elements in such subdivisions were the descent groups. In the 1940 census the term estancia for the first time denotes rural population centers that had developed out of peasant landholdings divided between a growing number of second- and third-generation heirs.[54] Often the "locus of solidarity" was shifting from the old parcialidad to smaller groups even while the scope of that solidarity was becoming more limited through the individualization of land-use patterns. The old parcialidades were not affected uniformly by this process, however, and in 1940 many still held considerably more population than did most of the recently constituted ayllus, parcialidades, or estancias. Of Arapa's eight parcialidades from the 1876 census, six continued to thrive in 1940 with populations of between 182 and 588 persons; one had disappeared totally and another one—the important nineteenth-century parcialidad of Yanico—had shriveled to a population of three. The transfer of solidarity from the older parcialidades to the new units based on descent groups probably began at their geographic rims. There the landholdings of descent groups could span several communities, and intermarriage with members of neighboring communities was more likely.[55] Such marriages contributed to a pattern in which peasants from one parcialidad held land in another parcialidad, weakening solidarity in at least one.[56]

But between the 1880s and 1920 most of the old parcialidades continued to provide some institutional cohesion to the various descent groups, sectors (barrios ), or estancias that had sprung up inside them. This cohesion was engendered through a curious dialectic of exploitation by outside authorities and defensive assertion of autonomy and solidarity within the community. Along with the growing entrenchment of hispanized local and provincial elites, the extraction of labor and resources from the communities through their hierarchy of offices, not new in itself, reached its greatest scope and elaboration in this era. Yet such extraction also became more volatile and unstable; after 1920 this form of tributary exploitation would enter a phase of decomposition.

The number of offices in the communities grew with the variety and frequency of extraction practiced by the authorities. In some districts the governors, local representatives of the central government, had sixty to eighty communal officers at their disposal, apart from those designated to


serve the parish priest and the justice of the peace. Most communal officers were chosen for a term of one year in elaborate ceremonies held each January 1. Every parcialidad chose one segunda , the highest communal authority, who was "obliged to present himself before the governor every Sunday and on days of festivities together with his subordinates . . . in order to give account of the projects carried out since the last meeting." The segunda coordinated all the work and obligations of the whole parcialidad toward the governor, priest, and justice of the peace. He distributed duties to and collected goods from his immediate subordinates, alcaldes and hilacatas , who represented the various barrios, estancias, and descent groups within the parcialidad. They in turn fulfilled the same function within their sector, supervising the lower officers, alguaciles (guards), propios (messengers), pongos , and mitanis (men and women doing domestic service in the authority's household).

The duties toward the governors were broad in scope, time consuming, often costly, and mostly uncompensated. Either personally or collectively, the officers and their parcialidad planted and harvested fields for the governor's private use; rendered fixed quantities of sheep, wool, and other livestock products; spun and wove wool that the governor had distributed among them; disbursed within the communities the money with which the governor purchased additional wool at a fixed price; transported his goods to and from urban markets with their own animals; served in his household; and collected taxes in the communities.[57] The authorities used the community officers to recruit laborers for the faenas (public work projects). In 1893 Azángaro's mayor requested the subprefect and district governors to provide Indians from parcialidades to make adobes for the "urgently needed" construction of a new prison; one year later the mayor requested twenty Indians per week to pave the provincial capital's Plaza de Armas, suggesting that they be paid "the same daily subvention as the prison laborers," ten centavos.[58]

According to Nelson Manrique, this heightened and systematized use of traditional communal authorities meant that in southern Peru "they ended up being reduced to a condition of servants of priests and local functionaries of the central government and unpaid helpmates of the state."[59] Yet the most affluent and respected families in the parcialidades, from whom the highest communal authorities were recruited, were hardly pliable dupes in this apparent subversion of their venerable offices. They were generally willing to play along, in part because this shabby remnant of the colonial "compact" between crown and community might still afford some protection of the communal domain against outside intrusions. In part they were pursuing their own interests against other peasants.


Francisco Mostajo, the eminent progressive liberal intellectual from Arequipa, observed in 1923 that

the Indians of Huancané province gladly work in the construction of roads and the repair of churches, the only public work projects in those parts. They have internalized the social concepts of the Inca Empire or of still earlier societies so much, that they believe that these collective labor projects give them title to the property and usufruct of the land on which they live and plant crops. I build roads, I repair the church—the Indian will tell you when he is drunk or when he perceives a threat of being imprisoned—and this is my land: nobody can take it from me. When Protestant Indians refused to participate in the repair of the church, the other Indians said: you should not have any land then, you may not use "our" roads.[60]

In part this view reflected the indigenista reinterpretation of Andean collective work customs that Mostajo hoped to harness for a "wise social legislation." But the notion that a link existed between fulfilling one's public duties in the parcialidad and the claim to land was alive among some altiplano peasants during the early twentieth century. In a will of 1910 Tiburcio Choquehuanca, a seventy-five-year-old peasant from parcialidad Jallapise with sufficient means to have purchased a dwelling in Azángaro town, espoused this view. He thought that his title to Estancia Parajaya, acquired in part through inheritance and in part through purchase, was reaffirmed because he and his wife had "rendered for this parcel the communal services or offices of mitani, pongo, alquacil, alcalde, and segunda, services that my children have also rendered for the custom that is common in these districts and that gives title to assure the possession of property."[61]

Peasants thus appealed both to notions of private property and to the older notions of reciprocal obligations and rights as legitimizing their possession of land. It was a kind of insurance policy in the face of threats against their land resources arising from various quarters of the local hispanized elite. As long as private property rights to peasant estancias continued to be threatened by neighboring estate owners through their predominance in the courts and use of force, appeal to the legitimacy of possession of land through the "compact" with the authorities of state and church might provide a modicum of protection. The segunda, alcaldes, and hilacatas could rally the whole parcialidad to defend land and to reject demands by outsiders that went beyond customary obligations.

At the same time, however, the communal authorities were involved in the complex contests over political power between the various gamonales,


the provincial and local bosses using patronage and clientalism to advance their family's own interests. Depending on specific local power constellations, segunda and alcaldes in some cases were allies of the governor, receiving a share of the taxes they collected, entering into commercial deals with him, or pursuing common strategies to appropriate municipal or communal land.[62] Such alliances heightened centrifugal forces on the cohesion of old parcialidades, persuading peasants in its various sectors to transfer the "locus of solidarity" increasingly to the descent group or to strengthen the private property claims to the family's land.

In 1900 the contribución personal, the disguised Indian head tax that President Castilla had abolished in 1854 but that continued to lead a spurious life during the second half of the nineteenth century, was abrogated for good in the department of Puno, five years after its abolition by Peru's national congress. This ended the long history of tribute and its various successor taxes, which had formed one of the key links between the state and the Indian communities.

For the national congress and the executive in Lima, increasingly under the sway of coastal financiers, merchants, and agro-exporters after the revolution of 1895, the tax had become a dispensable embarrassment, too reminiscent of the crude extractions by the Spanish crown. The Indian community had ceased to be important for the financial well-being of the central government. For the notable citizens and authorities in the sierra, however, the abrogation of the contribución personal was a matter of concern, since it was the major source of income of the departmental councils. Established in 1886 by President Andrés Cáceres to oversee fiscal decentralization, these bodies demonstrated the political power of the serrano gamonales and hacendados during the decade of Peru's "New Militarism" after the War of the Pacific. The tax's abolition weakened their political autonomy, making them more dependent on the treasury in Lima. Puno's Prefect Manuel Eleuterio Ponce, himself a notorious land grabber in Arapa, lamented that departmental tax income had plummeted by two-thirds in 1901. But far from helplessly accepting this shrinkage of regionally controlled funds, authorities in the altiplano reacted by shifting the tax burden on the Indians to increased collection of property tax (contribución de predios rústicos ) on their estancias.[63] During the following decade the mean tax assessment grew more rapidly in districts with relatively few estates and a predominant peasant sector, such as Saman and Achaya, than in those with high concentrations of estates (table 7.3).

For Puno's peasantry, the meaning of the shift from contribución personal to the property tax was ambiguous. During the 1880s and 1890s communities in Bolivia's altiplano had successfully resisted this shift,


TABLE 7.3. Mean Property Tax Assessment per Landholding, 1897 and 1912 (Ranked by Rate of Change)


(soles m.n.)

(soles m.n.)


San Antón








San José












































Provincial average




a This figure excludes Salinas.

Sources: Matrículas de contribuyentes, 1897 and 1912; BMP.

designed by that nation's liberal oligarchy as the cornerstone of a radical policy of breaking up communal property by administrative fiat. The communitarian ideology of Bolivia's altiplano peasantry saw "both the 'servicios forzosos' and the payment of tributo, in accordance with traditionally accepted norms, . . . [as] the communal counterpart of a pact of reciprocity with the state."[64] But in Puno no tear was shed by community peasants when the contribución personal was finally abolished, and by 1900 they had accepted payment of property tax in principle . Here the tax was applied to peasants gradually, with a few appearing in matriculas as early as 1850. Instead of imposing a completely alien notion of property, the slowly advancing incorporation of the department's peasantry into the property tax rolls paralleled rather than preceded the advance of notions of private property. The connection of this shift with changes in the institutional corporate character of Puno's parcialidades is crucial. The abolition of the contribución personal weakened the position of the tra-


ditional communal officers, who had collected the tax from every adult male in their jurisdiction for the district authorities.

The increasing collection of the contribución de predios rústicos among the communal peasantry coincided with the establishment of a new tax collection agency, the Compañía Nacional de Recaudación, independent of district and provincial authorities. Because many families in the communities did not have to pay property tax, the Compañía's agents may have dealt directly with the heads of those households that did.[65] They may also have approached the hilacatas of relatively affluent descent groups or barrios, where many families were entered in the tax rolls. In any case, tax collection ceased to be an issue for the parcialidad as a whole. Descent groups opposed to the impositions by communal authorities now grasped the opportunity to strengthen title to their own land by willingly cooperating with the collection of property taxes, in the process furthering the transfer of solidarity from the old parcialidad to their own smaller groups.[66]

This is not to say that Puno's peasantry did not resist the increased collection of property tax. The massive revamping of Peru's tax structure under Presidents Nicolás Piérola, Eduardo López de Romaña, Manuel Candamo, and José Pardo in the decade after the revolution of 1895 coincided with a new wave of peasant mobilization in the altiplano. The salt tax and monopoly introduced in 1896, the new excise taxes on sugar and alcohol of 1904, and the increases in property taxes amounted to a completely new program of fiscal extraction from the country's still mostly rural population. The tax system was now based on a notion of individual consumers rather than on corporate groups of producers. But in contrast to Bolivia, in the Peruvian altiplano property taxes, which strengthened a landholding regime based on private title by individuals and their families, never became the dominant issue of peasant resistance.[67]

At least two-thirds of all landholdings enrolled in the property tax registers between 1897 and 1912 belonged to peasants. It was public knowledge that assessed peasants paid a proportionally higher rate than did most hacendados. Not only did estate owners frequently underreport their livestock capital, resulting in a low assessed tax rate,[68] but tax commissioners also liberally estimated stocks for many landholdings of illiterate peasants, who had little chance to do anything against this abuse. The 600 to 1,200 peasants enrolled in the tax registers between 1897 and 1912 represented only a small share of all peasants owning land in the province. By legislative resolution of October 30, 1893, all landholding units producing income below 100 soles m.n.—equivalent to a livestock capital of up to 500 head of sheep—were exempted from paying property tax.[69] Most peasants owned smaller livestock herds. Nevertheless, until 1907 tax com-


missioners entered many peasants with annual incomes of below 100 soles m.n. in the rolls; in the 1897 rolls more than 80 percent of all assessed peasants fell into this category. Even so, most peasants were not assessed for the property tax. Nobody paid who had an estimated annual income below 20 soles m.n., equivalent to a livestock capital of 100 OMR; in some communities, and even entire districts, hardly any peasants were entered.

A law of December 4, 1908, reaffirmed the exemption of property producing less than 100 soles m.n. in annual income, and this time it stuck in Azángaro. It had the curious effect that the presumed livestock capital of many peasant holdings, from which the estimate of annual income was calculated, doubled or tripled in subsequent tax rolls, from 200 or 300 OMR to 500, 800, or even 1,000 OMR. At the same time the number of peasants assessed declined by half from the 1902 rolls. Although tax assessments clearly reflected widely different levels of income derived from livestock operations among the peasants, who paid and how much he or she paid evidently depended in good measure on power constellations and on the client networks of the tax commissioners.

Social differentation in Andean communities is not a new phenomenon of the past century. Even the often repeated claim that it has increased immensely with advancing commercial penetration or the "transition to capitalism" is difficult to prove because of the lack of comparable income and property statistics for the nineteenth and earlier centuries. Migration and the need to pursue income-earning activities outside of agriculture have characterized generations of Andean peasants in previous centuries as well. All we can say is that these phenomena became more massive (and thus more visible) during the twentieth century and that the criteria and mechanisms for social differentiation gradually underwent important changes.

During the colonial period, and to a certain degree even during the decades immediately following independence, wealth and prestige in the communities had been closely tied to lineage. The families of kurakas and many originarios maintained a higher level of access to community resources by birthright, even if they increasingly used the privileges of their offices and the opportunities in the marketplace to enhance their position vis-à-vis commoners. Although they had lost their privileges during the agrarian reforms of the 1820s, the descendants of minor kurakas remained among the wealthiest peasant families as late as the 1850s. Some owned estancias with a thousand head of sheep or more, not unlike small to mid-sized fincas. This was the case with the Puraca family and their Estancia Buenavista de Conguyo in parcialidad Moroorcco, or the Zecenarro Mamanis' landholding San Antonio de Lacconi.[70] Without relin-


quishing their Indian identity, affluent community peasants during the middle decades of the past century still had enough social standing to be called on as guarantors in contracts between hispanized landholders, pledging their estancias and livestock capital as security.[71]

In the more complex and fragmented economic and political environment of the altiplano around 1900, social differentiation within the peasant communities also became more complex, and families relied on a broader range of strategies to ensure reproduction of their household economies. A cautious interpretation of the 1897 property tax rolls, raised before political and fiscal pressures introduced the massive distortions of the subsequent decade, allows us a glimpse of the more affluent peasant families of that time. Perhaps as many as 8 to 10 percent of the families in the communities, between 600 and 800 families, owned livestock herds of 100 or more animals.[72] The wealthiest among them, possibly 2 percent of Azángaro's community peasantry, had herds of 500, 1,000, or even 2,000 animals. They were prevalent especially in cordillera communities on the northeastern rim of the province, between Putina and San Antón, where few crops could be grown. Population pressure tended to be lower there, and perhaps communal institutions remained stronger, blocking competition by new families for scarce resources such as moyas.[73] The wealthier descent groups thus could fully benefit from increased demand for sheep and especially alpaca wools.

In communities with stronger pressures from neighboring landholders or from internal population growth, especially in the plains and valleys and on lakeshores, accumulation of wealth required additional strategies. In some cases prominent families in the parcialidades relied on political assets to get more land, pay less taxes, and avoid being hindered in their commercial activity. Such ends could be achieved through patronage with the local authorities or a powerful hacendado. In districts with a weak elite of hispanized large landholders and traders, the dividing line between mistis and affluent community peasants was quite fluid, and here prominent comuneros might become justices of the peace or serve on the town council.[74]

Purchase of additional land from other peasants or, less frequently, from hispanized large landholders became increasingly important for families with large herds. Whereas for the whole period 1852–1910 purchases by peasants accounted only for 14.4 percent of all sales transactions by number and 5.5 percent by value, between 1913 and 1919 they constituted 24.9 percent by number and 6.9 percent by value. The boom of the wool export economy propelled affluent peasants in the altiplano to expand their landholdings, secured by notarial title deed.


Figure 7.1.
Annual Income of Peasants in Chupa in 1897, by Age.
Left: 49 years or younger. Right: 50 years or older.  Source: Matrículas de contribuyentes, 1897, BMP.

In many cases peasants were buying from relatives parcels of lands that had formed part of the estancia of the descent group.[75] Thus, the pattern so frequent among hacendado families repeated itself among a minority of affluent peasant families. The most entrepreneurial son or grandson attempted to reunite the original holding, increasingly splintered through equal inheritance. Possession of land was also linked to the life cycle of peasant families in the altiplano, something first suggested by A. Y. Chayanov for Russia. In 1897, in three districts with numerous affluent peasants, Arapa, Asillo, and San José, nearly 60 percent of peasant landholders paying property tax were in their fifties, sixties, or seventies, a much higher proportion than in the population at large. In Chupa the proportion of peasants with a relatively high annual income, an expression of the amount of livestock and ultimately of the land they possessed, was considerably higher among older peasants than among the younger ones (fig. 7.1). In other words, over the years well-to-do peasant families were often able to expand their landholdings as the labor power of the grown children allowed them to keep larger herds. But in contrast to Chayanov's model, no automatic shrinkage of the family domain occurred during the parents' old


age. To be sure, old age presented a crisis for many peasant families. Adult children established their own households based on parcels of the family estancia. Aging parents were often swayed to accept dependence on a neighboring hacendado in the hope of receiving protection and material benefits, from food supplements to payment of funeral expenses. But among affluent peasants in the tax rolls, many were in their seventies, veritable patriarchs controlling the family domain. After their death the heirs continued to operate the estancia jointly (pro indiviso), manifested in the tax rolls by dozens of entries such as "heirs of Juan Quispe" or "Andrés Maldonado and co-owners." Where descent groups continued joint ownership of the family estancias, the Chayanovian down phase of the landholding cycle of peasant families could be avoided.

But such traditional family strategies do not suffice to explain growing land purchases by peasants. In many communities transfers of land among peasants remained negligible as late as 1910. For the entire sixty preceding years a total of nine land sales between the peasants of Saman's five parcialidades were recorded by the notaries of Azángaro and Puno. By contrast, the ten parcialidades with the greatest sales activity between peasants accounted for nearly half of all such land transfers in Azángaro. Most of these parcialidades were not identical with those that lost a great deal of land to hispanized large landholders. For some parcialidades the correlation between strong peasant purchase activity and numerous affluent peasants in the tax rolls is striking. Families such as the Callohuancas, the Sucaris, and the Huaricachas in Asillo's parcialidades of Sillota, Anoravi, and Hila or the Sacacas and Quenallatas in Putina's Huayllapata appeared as owners of five hundred head of livestock or more in the tax rolls and as active land purchasers in the notarial registers. There were, then, a few communities in which the land market was considerably more active than in the rest and which had a particularly vigorous group of kulak peasants.

Commercial activities played an important role for many affluent peasants. The sale of rural crafts and of livestock products from their own estancias were part of the survival strategies of most peasant households, an expression of their precarious subsistence. But real trade, with goods acquired from neighboring peasants, from other traders, or from producers in distinct regions, could be more than that. It allowed dozens of affluent peasants to accumulate funds for the purchase of additional lands or livestock or for social investments in outfitting festivities in the communities. Although rural crafts largely remained an expression of peasant poverty, trade often was associated with affluence. Peasants were especially active


as traders of livestock, coca leaves, and alcohol; some worked as itinerant wool buyers. Just as with land purchases, peasant traders were concentrated in a few districts and in specific communities.[76]

In the absence of detailed ethnohistorical information, we can only conjecture about what distinguished communities with an active land market and numerous peasant traders. No single factor can account for all communities in which market forces seem especially strong. Some, such as those in Asillo, Putina, Chupa, and Arapa, benefited from a broad mix of resources, with relatively plentiful croplands, riverine, or lakeshore pastures propitious for cattle grazing and sufficient higher pasture grounds to maintain numerous sheep and alpacas. The social differentiation in these communities was more complex than it was in the cordillera or on the broad plains in the center of the province. The intensity of peasant trading owed much to the location of communities. For example, many families were active as coca leaf traders in Chupa and Putina communities, from where peasants regularly undertook barter trips across the nearby cordillera to Larecaja province in Bolivia, an old center of coca estates. Livestock trade, by peasants as well as by hispanized traders, was strong in Saman and Arapa, strategically located for driving herds to market in Juliaca and Puno.

But the nature of commercial penetration, the relation between communal resources and household economy, and the prevalence of a stratum of kulak peasants also depended on politics and on the effectiveness of solidarity in each and every parcialidad. The correlation between incipient market-based stratification in the communities and ecological, demographic, and commercial factors was never perfect. It should also be stressed that Azángaro's kulaks largely continued to be well-integrated members of their respective communities, drawing advantages from the exercise of high office, relying on relations of asymmetrical reciprocity and clientelage to receive cheap labor services, and prepared to rally the whole parcialidad in defense of "communal" property.[77]

Most peasant families faced a more precarious existence. Perhaps as many as 80 percent of Azángaro's peasants owned between twenty and a hundred sheep, a cow with its calf, and perhaps two or three transport animals. They could sell only a few livestock products before diminishing their herds, with devastating consequences over several difficult seasons. Any crisis could seriously upset their livelihood: droughts or livestock epidemics, increasing the mortality of the animals; crop failures; a protracted fight over land; theft of animals; onerous impositions by the governor or the priest; recruitment into the army; and the expenses and


difficult adjustments required by major events in the life cycle, especially marriages and deaths. The limited amount of surplus livestock products that they could sell made other sources of income more important: crops; rural crafts, such as spinning and weaving, pottery making, cheese making, and rope making; occasional labor for neighboring hacendados or for hispanized residents in the district and provincial capital; seasonal work in the mines in the Cordillera de Carabaya or further down the eastern slope of the Andes in gold-washing camps, coca plantations, or rubber tree forests, or in construction projects and as day laborers in cities such as Puno and Arequipa.

This is an unexceptional picture of a traditional middling and poor peasantry, facing the cyclical crises in their precarious family subsistence with a great variety of strategies. Perhaps "proletarian" forms of seasonal supplementary labor had increased somewhat by 1900 from fifty years earlier, with growing needs for workers during the brief mining boom in the Cordillera de Carabaya as well as the beginning expansion of employment opportunities in southern Peru's cities. But such types of seasonal wage work for altiplano peasants were not totally absent during the early years after independence. In any case, they remained the income sources of last resort; peasants preferred to supplement their farm income through peddling and barter, rural crafts, and occasional labor in nearby towns and estates.

Indeed, it seems unlikely that the average income of Azángaro's peasants declined significantly between the early decades after independence and World War I. A rough estimate suggests that the number of livestock held by every man, woman, and child in the province's communities stayed roughly the same between 1825–29 and 1920 at ten OMR.[78] With prices for animals and livestock products during the 1860s and perhaps again between the mid-1890s and 1917 outpacing the price of comestibles, stimulants, and manufactures typically purchased by peasants, it cannot be ruled out that their real income rose during those years.

Yet the old and familiar cyclical crises of peasant households could take on new and drastic consequences. The heightened volatility of prices for pastoral goods, demographic pressure, and a consolidated hispanized elite with more power and money all contributed to force thousands of poor and middling peasants to relinquish control over their lands and become colonos on estates. In most cases the sale of land was not the consequence of long-term impoverishment but of a relative loss of autonomy. The capacity of many peasants to minimize the effects of the cyclical crises on their household economy through the solidarity of the community was


diminished. An increasing share of their exchange relations were with the hierarchy of hispanized traders, shopkeepers, and commercial agents. The value of their marketable surplus of livestock goods underwent sharper cyclical swings than had been common until midcentury.

The land resources in the communities were often becoming too scarce to provide the buffer that would allow amiable settlements of conflicts arising out of greater pressure of livestock populations on available pastures within the descent groups. In such situations, blurred pro indiviso title rights to the estancia of an extended family became the wedge by which hispanized landholders broke into the land of community peasants. Those avid to expand their estates now had sufficient cash or credit, and often the political backing, to exploit any crisis of a peasant household's subsistence economy. After gradually tightening peasant's dependence through loans of money or foodstuffs, through labor exactions, or through protection before the courts, the police, or the local administration, an estate owner would finally force the peasant to give up title to his or her parcel of land and incorporate it, together with the former owner's household, into the hacendado's estate. This process of increasing dependence often had little to do with impoverishment.[79]

The multiple pressures on the community peasantry thus resulted in a rapid and vast growth of the ranks of colonos in the estates. This status, in which the household economy of the former community peasant remained intact, was an ambiguous and ill-defined halfway point between peasant autonomy and the complete loss of "peasantness" experienced by landless peasants who left their native communities. The hacienda thus functioned as a kind of forced catchment basin, a depository for a peasant reserve army. With the disintegration of some newly formed estates during the decades after 1920, numerous colonos would revert back to a fully autonomous status as community peasants.

But how many peasants lived in the communities without land or even without livestock? Such poor peasants appear in the manuscript census as early as 1862, living as dependents in the households of more affluent peasants, who had often taken them in as young children.[80] Their situation approached that of colonos on estates. Their main task consisted in herding a flock of their patrón. In return they were allowed to keep animals of their own and possibly build a residence in the center of a sector of the patrón's pastures.[81] In such cases landless dependents could form households and families. This may also have been the situation of landless or near-landless rural artisans earning the overwhelming share of their livelihood through their craft. In communities where families relied primarily on craftwork, such as the potter communities in Santiago de Pupuja, the availability of


this alternative helped to keep on the land dozens of poor families who might otherwise have migrated or sought employment in a nearby hacienda.

More frequently, however, a landless peasant would stay as a single retainer in the household of his or her patrón, assigned whatever jobs needed to be done—from herding to spinning or weaving, to construction and repair of the patrón's cabaña and transport of some products to market—against the sole recompense of food and lodging. In this position he or she could not accumulate resources sufficient to form an independent household. This type of retainership probably corresponded to specific phases in the life cycle of poor peasants. As children they were given as dependents into the households of more affluent peasants to strengthen clientalistic ties. When they reached adulthood they attempted to form independent households, either as shepherds on an estate, as artisans, or as muleteers. But some—especially women, for whom the lack of a dowry formed a serious obstacle—might be forced to remain as dependents in their patróns' households throughout their lives. Widowed older peasants without descendants, unable to maintain their own household economy, also attached themselves to more affluent peasant households. The social structure within communities was characterized by clientalistic relations similar to those between peasants and hispanized large landholders, albeit on a smaller scale of exchange between economic resources and labor services.[82]

Landless peasants had a few avenues to establish independent households tied into the agrarian economy. If they owned some animals, they could turn them over to one or more peasants with sufficient pastures. Either the owner of the land would pay rent on the animals and keep all of their products, or owners of land and animals would share in the products, a contract known as waqui in some parts of southern Peru.[83] In 1910 Casimira Mamani, a sixty-year-old widow, owned and lived in half a house in Azángaro town. She possessed no land but had eight cows, two young bulls, one riding horse with two colts, one donkey with its colt, and thirty sheep, maintained on the pastures of six different peasants.[84]

In rare cases landless peasants were granted vacant plots in the communities by a process of petitioning district authorities with the concurrence of communal officers.[85] Some were assigned plots of families extinguished in one of the severe epidemics, such as the typhoid fever epidemic of 1856–58.[86] Of course, theoretically landless peasants could lease, take in anticresis, or purchase land from other landholders. But it is my impression that most peasants buying land or taking up a plot in anticresis were affluent peasants.[87]


Despite growing pressure on land resources landless peasants seem not to have formed an increasing share of community population in the early years of this century.[88] There are two reasons for this situation. Many landless peasants living as retainers in households of other peasants did not found families and had fewer children than did peasants with sufficient resources or income for sustaining households. Consequently, their status tended not to be inherited; rather, this social stratum was renewed from generation to generation. Second, with growing demographic pressures in the communities it became preferable for impoverished peasants to become colonos on estates, where they could maintain their own household economies. Others emigrated to the ceja de la selva, the Cuzco valley system, or Arequipa. But before 1920 the number of families permanently leaving the countryside was dwarfed by those who continued to work as peasants in the estates.


previous chapter
7 Communities, the State, and Peasant Solidarity
next chapter