Essay on Spanish Colonialism and the Indigenous People of Bolivia

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Spanish Colonialism and the Indigenous People of Bolivia

Prior to Spanish discovery of the new world, the area now known as Bolivia was home to three major ethnic and linguistic groups; the Uru, Aymara, and Quechua. The Uru lived on rafts, fishing and foraging along the shore of Lake Titicaca. The Aymara dominated the Uru, reducing their status to poor fishermen and landless workers. Aymara society was built upon a basic social unit of kinship that organized the distribution of labor, and this system, termed “ayllu,” was later adopted by conquering Quechua. The Aymara are known for their practice of ‘freeze drying’ potatoes high in the mountains, for their organized systems of irrigation, and their control of colonies in warm
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Francisco Pizarro, Diego de Almagro and Hernando de Luque lead the discovery and conquest of the Inca Empire. Francisco Pizarro arrived at the Pacific coast of the Inca empire in 1531 via the Panama Canal. He gained support from indigenous peoples who resented Inca dominance. At the time the Inca ruler, Atahualpa, had recently murdered a brother to obtain the throne and was in the midst of attempting to consolidate political power. Atahualpa first encountered Pizarro on November 16, 1532 and was promptly taken prisoner while 180 Spaniards kept an Inca army of 40,000 at bay with cannon, firearms and swords. The Inca were forced to compile upwards of 39,400 pounds of gold and silver to ransom their leader and pay the invaders to leave. When the bounty was assembled Atahulapa was simply ordered to choose his method of death; burning at the stake or strangulation. He chose the later and Pizarro proceeded to conquer the former empire. Although the Spanish conquered the empire with relative ease rebellions by indigenous peoples would plague the Iberian authority throughout their reign of colonial dominance.

Spain effectively ruled the area that is now Bolivia from 1532-1825, yet the crown encountered difficulty controlling the actions of its officials. Initial settlement of the highlands was delayed by a war between Pizarro
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