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Mizque, region of the eastern Andes. The present-day province of Mizque is located in central Bolivia. At the eve of the Conquest this once extensive region was populated by the Cotas, Chuyes, Chiriguanos, Guarayos, Moxos, Atacames, and Chiquitos other groups whom archaeologists are still seeking to identify.

Spain conquered Peru in the 1530s, established its viceroyalty, and in 1559 created the Audiencia of Charcas (today Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, and part of Brazil). The colonial jurisdiction of Mizque was located in this sub-puna region of the eastern Andes, with Santa Cruz to the east, La Plata (today Sucre) toward the southeast, and Potosí to the south. Before the arrival of the Spaniards, the Incas had incorporated this large, fertile, ecologically multizoned province into their expanding empire. By the late fifteenth century, the Inca leadership had rearranged local ethnic groupings and moved the Cotas and the Chuyes from the northwestern Cochabamba area into the eastern reaches of Mizque (specifically Pocona and Totora) to defend the empire against the aggressive, tropical lowland Chiriguano people. These invaders—a hostile, seminomadic, allegedly cannibalistic nation of the Guaraní language group—had also entered the area in the fifteenth century. Although they were often repelled by the Inca defense and later by Spanish settlers, considerable time passed before full pacification, and they continued to raid and massacre into the early seventeenth century. Other Indian groups inhabiting the lowland area were the Guarayos, Moxos, Atacames, and Chiquitos.

Before the arrival of the Spaniards, the Incas had also reorganized native agricultural practices and assigned groups of highland workers to the fertile eastern valleys. Thus, the state had established agriculture as a collective enterprise to serve the empire and its military operations, imposing its own stamp on existing concepts of reciprocity and exchange. Similarly, after the Conquest, Spanish imperial policy called for relocations of Andean people into Repartimientos (specified groupings) in order better to control draft labor and agricultural production for tribute purposes. Long before the Conquest, Andeans had produced coca in Mizque's tropical zones. After the Conquest, they continued coca cultivation, now to fuel mine workers—silver was discovered in Potosí in 1545—rather than the Inca elite. Repartimiento Indians also became prolific wine producers.

By the mid-sixteenth century, disease introduced by the Europeans swept through the region and reduced the native population by perhaps 87 percent, which in turn affected repartimiento production. Concurrently, private entrepreneurs recognized this fertile zone's potential. As early as 1558, Spaniards established agricultural estates, enticing repartimiento Indians to join as Yanaconas (dependent agricultural laborers). With its ecological advantages, Mizque soon produced all manner of European grains, fruits, vegetables, sugar, livestock, and wine, as well as native foods and coca.

By 1630, Mizque served as an important trade and transport link, connecting distant Santa Cruz to the La Plata—Potosí network. By 1787, however, Intendant Francisco de Viedma lamented that Mizque, once a productive region, had suffered a major economic decline, blaming the local population for the relapse. In 1882 another author expressed similar criticisms, contrasting the region's former productivity to its present decay and abandon. We can only speculate as to the causes of this dramatic economic reversal.

See alsoAndes; Bolivia: The Colonial Period; Incas, The; Repartimiento; Yanaconas.


Francisco De Viedma, Descripción geográfica y estadística de la provincia de Santa Cruz de la Sierra (1836), pp. 80-106.

Eufronio Viscarra, Apuntes para la historia de Cochabamba; Casos históricos y tradiciones de la ciudad de Mizque (1882), pp. 50-54.

Josep M. Barnadas, Charcas: Orígenes históricos de una sociedad colonial (1973), pp. 23-24, 351, 427.

Brooke Larson, Colonialism and Agrarian Transformation in Bolivia: Cochabamba, 1550–1900 (1988), pp. 25, 28, 30, 31. "La dinámica de la historia regional: Mizque y 'la' puente de 1630," in Historia y Cultura (Lima, 1994).

Additional Bibliography

Brockington, Lolita Gutiérrez. Blacks, Indians, and Spaniards in the Eastern Andes: Reclaiming the Forgotten in Colonial Mizque, 1550–1782. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006.

Querejazu Lewis, Roy. El arte rupreste de la cuenca del río Mizque. Cochabamba, Bolivia: Sociedad de Investigación del Arte Rupestre de Bolivia, 2001.

Rojas Vaca, Hectór Luis. Población y territorio: Una perspectiva histórica, Mizque y Ayopaya. Cochabamba, Bolivia: Centro de Comunicación y Desarrollo Andino, 2001.

                         Lolita GutiÉrrez Brockington