Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2020
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Global Economies, Local Landscapes: Colonial Mining, Andean Pastoral Ecologies, and the Making of the Modern World

This research examines the socio-ecological impacts of Spanish colonial mining and indigenous responses along the "Mercury Road" between Huancavelica, Peru and Potosí, Bolivia. Mercury mined at Huancavelica was essential to efficient silver refining through amalgamation; vast quantities of it were transported, via camelid caravan, to the silver mines at Potosí from the late 16th through early 19th centuries. Historians have long recognized the centrality of Latin American colonial silver to the development of global economies. However, Andean pastoral networks, comprising long-term relationships between herders, animals, and landscapes, were central to the movement of raw materials – yet have been marginalized in narratives of early modern development. The historical development of mining economies has thus become divorced from its environmental context. Research has focused on the mines, their hinterlands, and labor organization, with less consideration for how the mines functioned as part of a broader system that radically transformed Andean, and global, landscapes. How did pastoral communities negotiate their involvement in these burgeoning global networks while simultaneously managing the negative ecological impacts of industrial mining and colonialism writ large? The demands of the Spanish mining system likely increased traffic along the Huancavelica-Potosí route. I would thus expect to see an increase in colonial-period infrastructural investment, visible in the form of new settlement, corrals, and hydraulic architecture, along the route. Through archaeological and archival methods focused on Cachimayo, a waystation on the Mercury Road, I will examine these landscape modifications and the extent to which they impacted anthropogenic pastoral landscapes. By foregrounding pastoralism as a highly managed socio-ecosystem, this research will elucidate how pastoral communities engaged with processes of industrialization, globalization, and environmental change.