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The Bolivian Silver Frontier: Case Study

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Unlikely its many frontier counterparts, the Bolivian silver frontier is exceeding unique for its duality in form. Characterized as fundamentally responsible for ushering in a new era where capitalism reigns as king, the frontier also makes an exceptional case study in the expansive commodification of nature that defines the anthropocentric regimen. Prior to the Spanish’s 1545 invasion of Potosi, located in modern day Bolivia, the indigenous tribes of the region primarily practiced an agricultural way of life, similar in character to their 12 and 13th century European counterparts. Geographic location had also blessed the indigenous population of Potosi, though, as they had established a community at the foot of Cerro Ricco, “the mountain of silver.” A…show more content…
However, the ecological consequences tied up in the regime shift were as devastating as they were obvious. As one early 17th century observer of Cerro Ricco noted, “because the work done on the mountain, there is no sign that it had ever had a forest, when it was discovered it was fully covered with trees… On this mountain, there was also a great amount of hunting…There were also deer, and today not even weeds grow on the mountain, not even in the most fertile soils where trees could have grown.” Standing in solidarity, the forests and fields of all of modern day Bolivia suffered with Cerro Ricco, as the height of the Spanish silver frontier necessitated expansive, unsustainable agriculture and 200 mile ring deforestation centered on Potosi itself. Eventually, the rich veins of Cerro Ricco dried to a trickle though, forcing the Spanish to skip town. However, Potosi’s borders were unable to contain the legacy of resource commodification that laid it to waste. Simply the first frontier of a new era, the silver of Potosi paved the way for a new global epoch, the capitalistic
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