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Charcas, Audiencia of

Charcas, Audiencia of

Audiencia of Charcas, the high court of Charcas, which had its seat in the city of La Plata (now Sucre), in the eastern Andes in what is now Bolivia. It was often known as the Audiencia of La Plata and sometimes as that of Chuquisaca, another name for the same town. Proposals for its foundation date back to 1551, inspired in part by the great silver strike in 1545 at Potosí, 50 miles to the southwest. The resultant rise of local population called for a firmer royal presence. Final arrangements were made in 1558–1559, and the first set of four oidores (judges) took office in 1561.

After 1570 the northern limit of the audiencia's district was set 120 miles south of Cuzco and ran down on the Pacific coast to the Copiapó River valley in Chile. Inland the district extended east to a vague line in the interior, but a projection southward covered Tucumán, Paraguay, and the settlements along the Río de la Plata. Buenos Aires, after its refounding in 1580, became the district's southeastern extremity. This was the largest audiencia jurisdiction in South America, and it remained little changed until 1783, when an audiencia was permanently set up in Buenos Aires to take cases from Tucumán, Paraguay, and Buenos Aires Province.

The Audiencia of Charcas, like others in colonial Spanish America, combined judicial and administrative functions. Constant dispute over the exercise of gobierno (adminstration) took place, however, between the audiencia and the viceroy in Lima, in whose broad adminstrative domain it resided (until 1776, when it passed to the new Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata). The Audiencia's district, in its reduced post-1783 form, was the direct ancestor of the territory of modern Bolivia.

See alsoAudiencia; Bolivia: The Colonial Period.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ernesto Schäfer, El Consejo Real y Supremo de las Indias; Su historia, organización y labor adminstrativa hasta la terminación de la casa de Austria (1947).

Inge Wolff, Regierung und Verwaltung der Kolonialspanischen Städte in Hochperu, 1538–1650 (1970).

Herbert S. Klein, Bolivia: The Evolution of a Multi-Ethnic Society (1982).

Additional Bibliography

Escobari de Querejazu, Laura. Caciques, yanaconas y extravagantes: La sociedad colonial en Charcas s. XVI-XVIII. La Paz, Bolivia: Embajada de España en Bolivia, 2001.

Presta, Ana María. Encomienda, familia, y negocios en Charcas colonial (Bolivia): Los encomenderos de La Plata, 1550–1600. Lima, Peru: IEP, Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 2000.

                                         Peter Bakewell

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