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4 The Oligarchization of Liberal Visions
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The Agrarian Reform of the 1820s and the Altiplano Peasantry

The explosive mixture of depressed conditions for livestock estates, strong reactions of peasants to earlier land losses, and the liberal reformist decrees and laws had a great impact on landholding among the altiplano peasantry. Initially, the ignorance of the Bolivarian leaders about the diverse realities in the Peruvian countryside limited the effectiveness of their agrarian reform measures. In the end a law that struck a curious balance between liberal property concepts and Bourbon enlightened reformism contributed greatly to shaping the country's rural property regime for decades to come.

Late Bourbon thinking on rural property regimes had been hampered by insurmountable contradictions. On the one hand, it aspired to a broad distribution of landed property as the most promising path to increased agricultural production. On the other hand, for reasons of fiscal necessity and social order, the Bourbons could never quite relinquish the peculiar relationship between crown and Indian peasantry that they had inherited from the Hapsburgs. Even during the early nineteenth century they depended on the peasantry for the fiscal solvency of the colony and for regulated access to Indian labor. In return, they had to guarantee minimally the continuity of social hierarchies and customs within the Indian communities, even though crown policies became more contradictory in this regard after 1780. As a consequence of this special relationship, symbolized by the tribute nexus, the Bourbons felt constrained in disposing of established usufruct patterns of communal lands that might upset the originarios' capacity or willingness to pay higher tribute rates and hold onerous offices in their communities. As much as they were concerned


about a broad distribution of productive property, the Bourbons saw no way of converting Indian peasants into freeholders with full title to their land, along the lines of liberal property concepts, without jettisoning the special relationship that was the indispensable fiscal and social basis of their colonial regime in the Andes.

Viceroy José Fernando Abascal y Sousa, as critical of liberalism as he was pragmatic about shifting policy options, clearly perceived the linkage between the special status of the Indian and the limits of agrarian reform. Only after the liberal Cortes of Cadiz, much to his chagrin, had abolished tribute and mita in 1812, thus critically undermining the stability of the colonial regime, did Abascal consider a distribution of lands to landless and impoverished families of mestizos, whose condition he blamed for much banditry and crime. In his report of 1816 he suggested that "the property of these lands [previously reserved to the originarios] belongs by right of return to the state; the great amount of surplus lands among them present a most welcome opportunity to settle infinite families of mestizos, liberating them from the misery in which they have been living."[59]

From this perspective the renewed abolition of tribute by José de San Martín by a decree of August 27, 1821, was the crucial prerequisite for the first agrarian measures taken by the republican regime. On April 8, 1824, when the altiplano was still under royalist control, Simón Bolívar decreed from Trujillo that all state lands were to be sold at a price one-third below their assessed value. Indians were to be considered owners of the lands that they then possessed. The decree further ordered the distribution of community lands to those Indians presently without any parcels of land so that "no Indian should remain without his respective plot." Surplus community lands should be sold under the same conditions as other state lands. In every province commissioners should be named in order to distribute land "with the necessary exactitude, impartiality, and justice."[60]

Bolívar's first foray into the maze of Peru's rural property structure pursued a dual goal: (1) to use the sale of state lands below value as a means to raise urgently needed cash for the liberation, and (2) to increase agricultural production through the creation of an industrious class of Indian and mestizo yeoman farmers. This was the most liberal but also the most unrealistic of the major agrarian laws of the 1820s. It placed no restrictions on the resale of distributed lands, thus fulfilling the precept of liberal writings on land according to which only its untrammeled circulation could assure optimal use. But Bolívar and his advisers failed to realize that the sale of state lands, even one-third below market value, effectively excluded those poor, landless Indians and mestizos whom it was meant to benefit. In many provinces, as in the altiplano, there would also be no communal


lands left for free distribution above and beyond granting full title to those presently in possession. Finally, entrusting the distribution to commissioners named in the provinces virtually assured that only local elites and their limited clienteles would benefit. In short, it was impossible for the weak insurgent authorities to achieve an agrarian reform that would at one and the same time produce income for the struggling state, significantly broaden the distribution of land, and assure its free circulation.

As Bolívar and his advisers gained a better understanding of Peru's agrarian structure, they weakened the philosophically liberal contents of their agrarian policies and moved closer to Bourbon reformist positions articulated since the mid-eighteenth century. A decree of July 4, 1825, stipulated limits on the amount of community land to be distributed to landless Indians, according to which caciques were entitled to considerably more land than commoners. The holdings of caciques and tax collectors based on their office, which had caused so much conflict during the late colonial era, were not to be recognized, whereas those of caciques de sangre , the descendants of Andean nobility, were. Indians who had become owners of community lands by the decree of April 1824 could not sell them prior to 1850. The decree also sought to strengthen the central government's control over the selection of provincial land commissioners.[61] While favoring caciques one last time based on their social position rather than on privileges stemming from their office, Bolívar proceeded on the very same day (July 4, 1825) to extinguish the title of cacique altogether.[62]

The dilution of liberal contents in the agrarian legislation became more marked during the following year. Because of mounting fiscal pressure, in August 1826 the Bolivarian council of government, in which Bourbon reformists such as Hipólito Unanue and José de Larrea y Loredo held prominent positions, reintroduced Indian tribute under the euphemistic denomination of contribución de indígenas , a measure that replicated most of the modalities of its predecessor tax. The inevitable consequence for the agrarian program followed on the heels, when in December 1826 Bolívar instructed provincial authorities to prefer originarios, who paid the full rate of the contribución de indígenas, to forasteros in the distribution of community lands.[63]

As things stood by December 1826, the Bolivarians had removed any legally fixed privileges from Indian communities but had recognized existing stratification based on social prestige and wealth, ratifying the greater claims of former caciques and originarios to communal lands. Having understood the scarcity of communal lands in many regions of the country, their concept had reverted to the Bourbon practice of distributing strictly limited amounts of communal lands in a manner reaffirming social hier-


archies within the communities, albeit with the decisive difference that the plots now were to be held in fee simple.

Yet these principles of distribution within the communities clashed with the most liberal plank of the original agrarian decree of 1824 that had been retained, namely, that every Indian was to own whatever land he or she held at the moment without contradiction. This provision could not be applied to land within the communities but only to lands that Indians possessed outside the communities, often under the precarious conditions of the late colonial period. Moreover, for all lands that Indians were to own in fee simple, the Bolivarians now had taken back the key liberal property concept of unfettered circulation by imposing a twenty-five-year prohibition on land sales. Apprehensive about Indian peasants' capacity to compete with powerful provincial elites in the ideally envisioned free market, the Bolivarians had sacrificed the liberal notion of unfettered property circulation in order to safeguard the older Bourbon goal of broad distribution of productive land.[64]

As the Bolivarians understood full well, especially after the Liberator's triumphant tour through the southern highlands in mid-1825, the implementation of their agrarian reform measures depended on power constellations in the provinces. Because their program went beyond the mere conversion of usufruct rights and precarious, insecure tenures of Indian peasants into full property rights, aiming as it did also at the redistribution of community lands, they needed to rely on the willingness of local authorities to carry out these measures "with impartiality and justice." Here Bolívar's agrarian reform measures appear to have floundered completely. The land commissions in the provinces either failed to carry out the measurement and registration of community lands or committed "the most pernicious abuse" of unjustly granting land titles to their favorites, although they lacked authority "to expedite property titles, or to confirm titles of those in possession, and especially to distribute lands or carry out compositions; they were merely authorized to inform [the government]."[65] In August 1827 a congressional resolution reiterated that no community lands should be sold until the land commissions had delivered their reports to the central government.[66] Thus, the realization grew that in order to achieve anything concerning the agrarian problem, the provincial authorities, closely tied to the elites, had to be largely removed from the process.

The law that was to have lasting impact on the landholding pattern, at least as far as Azángaro is concerned, was that passed by the congress on March 27, 1828. It again declared Indians, but now also mestizos, to be proprietors of the lands that they presently occupied on the basis of the


periodic distributions of communal lands, or—in the case of land outside the communities as defined by the Bourbon authorities—"without contradiction," that is, without other claimants coming forth to dispute their possession. The only limitation on their right to sell this land now consisted in the stipulation that they be able to read and write. Landless Indians and mestizos were to receive the remaining lands belonging to the state once the Juntas Departamentales had gathered the corresponding statistics. Should there be any surplus lands left after this operation, they were to be assigned to schools to provide revenues.[67]

During the following decades this law must have circulated even in the remotest corners of Peru. Indian peasants considered its provisions as the basis of their title to an estancia. When, for example, on May 10, 1859, María, Carmen, and Sebastián Carcausto sold Estancia Ccatahui Sencca in the ayllu Urinsaya, district Azángaro, to Juan Paredes, they stated that they had inherited the land from their father, "whom the law of the year '28 found in possession and since that time we are owners [of the estancia]."[68]

The crucial difference between the law of 1828 and the preceding Bolivarian measures lay in the influence that commissioners or any provincial authorities could exert over its execution. Now the granting of full property rights to land presently held by Indians or mestizos was to proceed immediately, independent of and prior to any land registrations and assessments by authorities. The distribution of community or other state lands to landless Indians and mestizos was to occur separate from and subsequent to the mere extension of property rights to any lands now held in usufruct or precariously.

In the altiplano this extension of property titles had the effect of an agrarian reform. Besides reaffirming peasants' rights to community lands, it strengthened their title to the lands that they occupied and worked precariously but that had been in limbo during the last decades of the colonial regime: lands that had been claimed by private hacendados, the church, kurakas, or their successors as tax collectors but that the crown had increasingly refused to grant in fee simple through compositions since the 1780s; or lands that had never been claimed as property by members of the colonial elite and that the crown had considered tierras realengas (crown lands) but were habitually occupied by forasteros and others without sufficient access to lands in the communities.

In the face of the weakened position of elite landholders the law of 1828 in Azángaro managed to undo in one stroke the paradoxical late colonial condition of land scarcity among the peasantry in an era of abundant land and low population densities. The national government ceased its attempts to dislodge peasants from lands that they occupied in 1828, as the Bourbons


had done by repeatedly declaring all community lands and much of the land precariously worked by peasants outside the communities to be realengas. Hacendados and the church lost the legal battle over much of the land that they had attempted to integrate into their estates in the decades before 1780 and in some cases even later.

To be sure, the law of 1828 failed, just as the Bolivarian measures had, to redistribute any lands. In Azángaro "there was not an inch of land without somebody in precarious possession, . . . and thus article 2 of the law [referring to distribution of surplus state lands] has been inapplicable."[69] Provincial authorities did manage illegally to sell or reaffirm through composition some state lands considered sobrantes or tierras de oficio after the abolition of the office of cacique and the earlier Bolivarian land measures.[70] But there can be no doubt that in the altiplano the primary beneficiaries of the law of 1828 were the thousands of peasant families who had precariously held lands outside of the communities since the late eighteenth century. It thus legally solidified the temporary stalemate between peasant and hacienda sectors in the northern altiplano. Any future attempts to take control of peasant lands could not be based on colonial title claims. In the decades of a rapidly accelerating land transfers after 1850 notaries routinely recognized the peasants' property titles based on the 1828 law.

This interpretation does not refute the notion that the agrarian laws of the 1820s legally facilitated the onslaught on Indian lands in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but it does demonstrate that the measures of the 1820s did not simply constitute the ill-advised application of abstract liberal property notions. The goals of the agrarian reformers of the 1820s—increasing revenues, a broad distribution of land, and its free circulation—could not be attained at once.

In the political battles over defining a realistic policy, waged between various factions in Lima and provincial authorities and elite groups, the liberal impulse was tempered and modified in such a fashion that in the end the agrarian measures showed as much Bourbon reformist continuities as they showed new liberal departures. The effect that the replacement of confusing land-use rights and precarious tenures by individual property titles was to have on the development of an ideally free land market would become apparent only after 1850. Indeed, this long-term effect was of secondary importance for the reformers of the 1820s. Their foremost concerns were directed at securing state revenue collection among Indian and mestizo smallholders and stimulating agricultural production through a broad distribution of land.


The renewed reliance on an Indian head tax brought with it the recognition of social hierarchies in the Indian communities, albeit without the colonial corporate privileges and associated official powers.[71] Indeed, fiscal interests led early republican governments to keep a watchful eye on the preservation of the Indians' land base. As late as 1847, just two or three years before the explosion of guano revenues, Manuel del Rio, minister of finance during Ramón Castilla's first administration, called for a law that would allow Indians to sell their land only to other Indians. He feared that a widespread use of the Indians' right to sell their land freely to whomever they wished would lead to a serious depletion of revenue collection, as Indians with no or too little land would pay only half the rate of the contribución de indígenas.[72]

The critics of nineteenth-century Peruvian liberalism have asserted that the agrarian laws enacted during the 1820s caused an immediate cycle of land grabbing by hispanized large landholders.[73] Yet between the late 1820s and the 1850s the transfer of land from Azángaro's peasant sector to the estate sector proceeded at a rather slow pace. Indeed, peasant land only trickled into the estate sector during the 1850s (see chapter 6), and there is no reason to believe that during the two preceding decades hacienda expansion had proceeded at a more dramatic pace, particularly given the depressed level of the wool market during most of the 1840s.[74] Although some early republican hacendados—most notoriously Francisco previous hit Lizares next hit in Muñani—did expand their holdings onto peasant lands, these remained isolated cases. During the three decades after independence Azángaro's Indian peasants held their lands, which they had just been granted in fee simple, with fewer challenges and threats of being dislodged than they had faced during the last century of the colonial era.[75]

It has often been assumed that the legislation of the 1820s legally abolished the communities.[76] Yet, although the reforms of the 1820s legally privatized all communally held land, no law or decree went so far as to positively outlaw Indian communities. This remained true for the rest of the century. Not even the civil code of 1852 abolished communities; it merely followed the legislative tradition, well established by then, of disregarding the institution altogether.[77] By the mid-nineteenth century the indigenous community had become, in Jorge Basadre's words, "a submerged juridic patrimony, alive in the soul customs of the peasants, although invisible and strange to the formal mentality of legislators, magistrates and authorities."[78]

Because the national state had withdrawn its legal protection and ceased to enforce the standard functions that had given all communities certain


common characteristics during the colonial era, their continued vitality depended primarily on local circumstances, the most important being the relations of production, type of production (particularly the contrast between stock-raising and agricultural communities), degree of market integration, power constellations between the Indian peasants and the local elite, and the cohesion within the communities. Consequently, after the 1820s the Indian communities in the distinct regions of Peru underwent a process of increasing differentiation, particularly regarding their systems of land tenure.[79]

In many parts of Cuzco department, community lands continued to be redistributed annually and were not treated like private property in terms of inheritance. But in the altiplano the law of 1828 did create individual peasant landholders and reduced communal landholding to a minimum. However, this change did not signify the disappearance of Azángaro's communities. In February 1844, for example, the community Tiramasa accused one Juan Arpita before the justice of the peace of Azángaro of invading the plots called Moroquere, Calasacsani, and Chijurani. The representatives of the community explained that "the lands in question belong to the community and are mandas on which annually at the proper time they planted their crops." Arpita objected that Chijurani was his own property. The justice of the peace settled the dispute by ordering each party, the community and Juan Arpita, not to transgress into the other's property. A dividing line was plowed, satisfying both sides.[80] The community of Tiramasa, then, was alive enough to defend itself against incursions. The land in question served as agricultural plots, the so-called mandas or levas of the community, which formed the surviving nucleus of communal land in Azángaro well into the twentieth century. But these plots were minute—no more than a few hectares—compared with the vast pastoral lands that had come to be considered the private land of the peasant families since the decrees of the 1820s.

When describing the gradual process of privatization of communal lands in Peru, most authors claim that pastures remained communal property longer than agricultural fields did.[81] In Azángaro, though, the opposite occurred. Why did the land tenure pattern of communities evolve so differently there than in other Peruvian regions? The answer to this question lies in the economic basis of particular communities. As the concept of private property penetrates traditional community structures, it will find acceptance first for that part of the peasants' economic operation that constitutes their primary income-earning activity, particularly if it links them to the market. The concept of individual gain, which a long-term interaction with the market fosters, will strengthen the peasant's desire to


have exclusive and irrevocable control over the land that enables him or her to produce a marketable surplus. Competition will be keen for the lands employed in the production of these goods. Conversely, those lands used for the production of goods consumed only by the peasant families within the community will be less subject to the pressures of privatization because no market value will be attached to those goods. Hence, individual competition for these resources will tend to be weaker. In Azángaro Indian peasants first began to abandon communal landholding patterns on the pasturelands since animal husbandry was the economic activity of overwhelming importance for every family. Although competition for pasturelands was keen, the peasants left the small agricultural plots to be worked under a communal regime.

Just as in the land question, the effectiveness of labor recruitment, taxation, and various schemes to exploit Indians' resources ultimately depended on power constellations at the provincial and local level.[82] In August 1821 a decree by San Martín had abolished all types of forced labor services, including mita and pongueaje (domestic service).[83] But such decrees could not automatically change long-entrenched practices of the landholders and the civil and ecclesiastic authorities accustomed to dominating provincial society. In December 1828 the Junta Departamental of Puno, with José Domingo Choquehuanca and José Ignacio Evia as representatives for Azángaro province, denounced the "infractions of the constitution" by which Indian peasants were routinely victimized. The long list of abuses included forced labor for civil and church authorities, arbitrary and excessive fees charged by judges and priest, levy of illegal local taxes, and requisitioning of peasants' livestock and other property without compensation. Such abuses had been routinely practiced under the colonial regime, but Puno's Junta Departamental found it particularly deplorable that "under a liberal government the injustice of the stronger should prevail [my emphasis]."[84]

Yet, while lamenting the "illiberal" practices of local authorities in Puno's provinces, the Junta Departamental almost simultaneously, in December 1828, agreed on a draft of a departmental mining code (Reglamento de Minería) that included an elaborate scheme for recruiting labor almost identical to the colonial mita. District governors were to determine the number of vagrants and "harmful" (perjudiciales) persons in their areas. A supervisory committee on mining, elected by all mine owners in the department, would apportion labor contingents to be sent to each mine. Subprefects were to be responsible for delivering the workers to the mine operator, who had to pay the workers a salary and a mileage fee for their trips to and from the mines and provide them with "comfortable and


healthy" accommodations. The code contained a provision for contracting "voluntary workers" through district governors against advance payments. The Junta Departamental thus proposed to entrust the recruitment of Indian mining labor, an operation that by definition and necessity involved force, to the same local authorities whom they had just accused of serious abuses against the freedom and property rights of the Indians.[85]

We do not know whether this mining code ever became effective. The small numbers of mine workers that the silver and gold mines in the various districts of the department of Puno required for their struggling operations in the decades after independence were certainly recruited by some type of coercion.[86] Yet until midcentury such measures were of limited success. During the brief mining flurry of the early 1850s authorities complained about the scarcity of mining labor in the Cordillera de Carabaya. Azángaro's peasants refused to work in the gold-washing operations in Poto belonging to Señora Rivero vda. de Velasco, even though there they could "earn substantial wages."[87] The machinery of coercion, now lacking the sanction of the central state, had become more haphazard. With the opening of export trades in wool and cascarilla, the peasants had alternative means of generating the cash they needed to pay the various taxes and fees and to acquire Manchester shirting cloth.

After its reintroduction in 1826 the contribución de indígenas continued as the second most important source of revenue for the central government until a few years before its abolition in 1854 by Ramón Castilla.[88] Although collection of the tax was higher, in absolute terms, by 1850 than tribute revenues were during the 1790s, the amount taken in per tributary was lower.[89] For the department of Puno collection per Indian tributary declined by one-fifth, from an average of 5.29 pesos during the 1790s to 4.22 pesos in 1846.[90] In Azángaro province the mean amount owed per tributary according to the tax lists declined from 5.92 pesos annually during the late 1820s to 5.55 pesos in 1843. The nominal rate of the head tax remained unchanged between its reintroduction in 1826 and its abolition in 1854, ten pesos annually per originario and five pesos per forastero.

Several factors might account for this declining effective taxation of Indians in the altiplano—indeed, across the nation—between the late colonial period and the mid-nineteenth century. As Nicolás Sánchez Albornoz has argued for the Bolivian altiplano,[91] the ratio of originarios to forasteros (or sobrinos ) might have continued its long-term decline through the mid-nineteenth century, thus increasing the weight of the lower tribute rate for forasteros in the mean rate. But in Azángaro and neighboring provinces of the northern altiplano the decline in the number of originarios bottomed out as early as the tribute recounts undertaken by


Visitor General Mariano Escobedo during the mid-1780s in the wake of the Túpac Amaru Rebellion.[92] As the total number of Indian peasants enrolled in the tax lists grew during the early independence period, the number of originarios grew proportionately. In the tax lists of the mid-1820s the number of originarios grew more rapidly even than that of forasteros, suggesting that some of the forasteros who had long held less than the full allotment of land within the communities temporarily switched to the category of originarios, perhaps in order to maintain the distinction from those peasants, who only now received title to land through agrarian reform measures.[93]

Confusion reigned among the provincial commissioners charged with drawing up the tax lists for the contribución de indígenas. After each peasant's land had been confirmed by the laws of the 1820s, how much sense did it still make to differentiate between originarios and forasteros? Although the distinction might still reflect different amounts of land held by members of the two groups within the old communities, there now existed many forasteros with as much land outside the colonial communities as originario families held within them. The tax list of 1830 for Huancané province lumped all Indian tributaries under the category "con tierras "; the same province's list for 1850 again differentiated between originarios and forasteros, stressing, however, that the members of both groups held land. The lists for Lampa, Carabaya, and Azángaro provinces differentiated mostly between tributaries "con tierras" and "sin tierras," with the latter category holding between two-thirds and four-fifths of all tributaries. And the last list for the contribución de indígenas drawn up for Chucuito province in 1853, a year before the abolition of the tax, adopted a much more differentiated categorization of tributaries into originarios, forasteros, uros, sacristanes , mestizos, and yerbateros , an atomization of categories that also characterized Indian tax lists across the border in Bolivia during the mid-nineteenth century.[94]

These various categorizations no longer reflected different access to land by various groups of Indian peasants: the land tenure patterns of neigh-boring provinces such as Huancané and Azángaro were much too similar to lend credence to figures in the tax lists according to which all peasants in Huancané owned land, whereas some three-fourths of those in Azángaro owned none. Rather, the lists now reflected deeply ingrained status differences among Indian community peasants, coupled with the interest of the treasury to keep up the number of peasants paying the full tax rate as originarios.[95]

The major cause for declining per capita collections of the Indian head tax lay in the quiebras , the failure of provincial and district authorities to make all Indian tributaries pay. In 1846 Indians in the department of Puno


failed to pay more than one-fourth of the head tax they owed; this was no isolated incident, as debts of more than 450,000 pesos had accumulated for previous years by then.[96] During his tenure as prefect of Puno between June 1834 and March 1835, Ramón Castilla pleaded continuously with subprefects in the provinces to submit long overdue taxes to the departmental treasury, apparently with little success. After Castilla had repeatedly reminded the subprefects since late June that they should speedily remit the sums still owed on the tax for the San Juan term (to be collected on or around June 24), by October 18 he threatened that they would be deposed if they had not rendered the accounts for that term by the end of the month. But by November 17 he was cajoling them, saying that "displaying all [their] energy, influence, and authority in the province," they should now undertake the collection of the head tax for the Christmas term and start remitting "the greatest possible sum" to the departmental treasury "without omitting any measure to effect the payment of outstanding past tax debts."[97]

Subprefects changed at brief intervals because of patronage appointments by the revolving national administrations; often they remained in office for less than a year. They had great difficulties in regularizing tax collection in their provinces, and their performance was seldom scrutinized through subsequent residencias , as was prescribed by law.[98] No doubt the subprefects just as frequently appointed new district governors who actually oversaw the collection of the head tax. Instability of local and provincial administration debilitated the authorities' capacity to collect the head tax and gave individual governors and subprefects greater opportunities for cheating the treasury by retaining part of the taxes. On the one hand, in this situation the Indian peasants may have found it easier to evade payment. On the other hand, collection became more arbitrary, for much depended on the attitudes and enforcement powers of each local official, often an affluent Indian or a small mestizo landholder himself.[99]

Although the peasants of the northern altiplano enjoyed greater stability during the early republican era in their control over land and faced less severe and effective labor drafts and declining rates of taxation, the frequent civil wars brought disruption of a type that had arisen only since the campaigns between royalists and insurgents in 1810. As many of these struggles were fought in southern Peru, the department of Puno again and again saw itself as the arena for recruitments and provisioning of both contending sides, especially between 1834 and 1844.

During early 1834 the country was embroiled in the contest for power between the former president Agustín Gamarra and the elected President Orbegoso. In Puno the French traveler Etienne, comte de Sartiges wit-


nessed how soldiers of a regiment supporting Gamarra during the night went out and surrounded the hamlets in the vicinity of the city. In the morning they fetched the fit men out of the peasant huts, tied their hands, and led them to Puno. "There they proceeded to cut their hair and mark their ears so that they could be recognized and executed in case of desertion. The conscripts were locked into a church turned into barracks. They were let out only twice per day for exercises." A few days later, when de Sartiges passed through Lampa, troops belonging to a division under Colonel Miguel San Román "acted as if they were in enemy country: horses, mules, livestock, fodder, foodstuffs—everything they claimed in the name of the patria."[100]

The impressment of fathers or adult sons and the requisitioning of livestock (the infamous chaqueo ) and foodstuff inevitably affected the income of the peasant family, especially when these depredations occurred at crucial periods during the agricultural cycle. It is likely that peasant communities close to the main roads, such as those in Santiago de Pupuja, suffered these abuses more frequently than did the more remote communities in the central and easterly parts of Azángaro province. In general, this type of exploitation at the hands of caudillo armies was marked by its arbitrary and haphazard nature, making it worse for those affected but perhaps affecting only limited numbers of communities during limited periods of time. It was a far cry not only from the more systematic annual recruitment drives of the early twentieth century, during which the army scoured the countryside of the altiplano from one end to the other, but also from the fairly bureaucratic application of the mita during the colonial period. The exploitation of the Indian peasantry by the caudillo armies is further evidence for the increasingly incidental and personalistic structures of power in the rural altiplano during the early postindependence decades.

Some sixty years ago José Carlos Mariátegui flatly affirmed that with Peru's independence "a regime was inaugurated which—whatever may have been its principles—to a certain degree worsened the condition of the Indians instead of improving it."[101] Nevertheless, during the postindependence decades the Indian peasantry of the altiplano enjoyed increased autonomy. Released from the most disruptive colonial measures, such as the Potosí mita and the strict Bourbon limits on the extent of the community holdings, the peasants could consolidate their control over land and rebuild communal institutions in those settlements where forasteros had moved up from being precarious squatters to proprietors. The agrarian legislation merely provided the legal space for this consolidation. The fledgling central state did not automatically back the interests of provincial elites, as the Bourbons had done until 1780. The increased breathing space


of the Indian peasants was the result both of their own assertiveness since the days of the Túpac Amaru Rebellion and of the continued weakness of provincial elites, in the midst of a semisecular commercial crisis and a major social recomposition.[102]

Increasing autonomy did not necessarily bring growing material well-being, however. Peasants were also affected by declining prices for their home-produced textiles. The decrease of surplus extraction had not raised their income above what might be called the subsistence level for all to withstand bad years without suffering. A drought in 1848 immediately produced a famine in Puno because of crop failure, and the typhoid epidemic of the mid-1850s devastated the altiplano's population.[103] But for better years I am inclined to agree with the observation of Modesto Basadre y Chocano, subprefect of Azángaro during the early 1850s, that "the Indian peasantry of Azángaro with their small crop fields and their livestock had enough to cover their limited necessities."[104]

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