Problems Faced By Indian Silver Mine Worker in Potosi In 1620

Sophomore (College 2nd year) ・Geography ・MLA ・6 Sources

Problems Facing Indian Silver Mine Workers in Potosi (QN 1) The most productive silver mines are discovered in Potosi, Bolivia, in 1620. In the year 1545, a native named Diego Huallpa found the mines while working as a supervisor for Europeans at the nearby Porco mines, the Inca Empire's primary source of silver. The Inca Empire was deposed. When the news of the new Potosi mines reached Spain, the conquistadors rushed to Porco to claim their rights in 1538, and a year later, they established an administrative capital known as La Plata. Diego Huallpa was the pioneer in the search for the mineral. Potosi city seemed to be among the highest in the world and stood at more than 13,200 feet which was approximately 4060metres above the sea level. It was named Imperial villa by then King of Spain Holy Roman Emperor Charles V due to that fact that it yielded high quantities of silver when it was required. The taxes from the city were Spain’s main source of income to fund its activities like the wars. The silver was the foundation of the Spanish and at its peak in the 17th century ended up making Potosi to be among largest and wealthiest cities in the world. After 1545, the mines underwent numerous series of boom and bust but still, it is impressive as up-to-date they are still producing silver. However, the wealth of the city has been exported over the years to Europe and other Spanish colonies. The wealth of Potosi was as a result of many of the native people, Indians and Africans getting required to work at the mines (Bakewell, 1985).

As an Indian worker, the problems I faced were numerous. Working as coerced mine labor was frequent after the Spanish conquest. These included accidents that led to the death of many workers. The underground mining was dangerous and mines were frequently located in places with low oxygen levels to allow survival of human beings. Additionally, while mining no flashlights were used, but lamps that burn acetylene gas and went off immediately oxygen got used up in the mine forcing the miners to move out to avoid suffocation. Men were forced to enter tiny spaces where they were expected to spend hours hammering a hole that was approximately 20-inch using a metallic bar and a hammer out of the rock. These hard labor made majority die and also the brutal treatment by the colonial masters who could give them corporal punishments.

The miners also experienced poisoning by the mercury which was used in the silver extraction process. Explosions employed in the mines pulverize the rocks and fills the tunnels with dust which is harmful for the miner's inhalation. Lack of protective equipment's by the miners from dust and mercury was hazardous as some die from lung diseases like Silicosis, asthma and also the mines collapse at times claiming lives of the miners. The miners even smoked strong unfiltered cigarettes, and these were believed to fill their lungs with tar resulting to their deaths. During these period estimated 8 million Inca slaves died in the silver extraction as a result of poor health. Therefore, in the unfortunate health and working conditions, the miners worked themselves to death, and very few survived the hard labor. The mines consequently were and are man-eating since they claim lives of many workers since the working environment is extremely dangerous (Bulmer-Thomas, 2003).

Finally, mining is a harmful activity which is destructive even without mercury and lead it is itself source of numerous byproducts. Miners are exposed to significant dangers during their extraction, and the risks of death are high. The slaves who worked in Potosi mines got no rewards regarding salaries and were forced to work for long durations risking their lives. The harsh treatments by their masters made them not get healthcare when they were sick but were forced to work despite their conditions. Despite the minerals being of great importance to the colonial rulers the people who worked in the mines did not benefit as they were treated as slaves. They were despised and their needs not put into considerations. Men, women and small children were forced into hard labor with little or no rest. Since the start of the mining in Potosi, silver that can weigh more than 40,000 tons has been transported from its mines. It’s from the silver the Spanish Empire has been able to make it among the world’s richest empires. However, from the study, the indigenous people and the Indians suffered during the excavation of the minerals. They were made to die as human mules in the mines and with no benefits.

QN 2

Evaluate and Describe the Significance of Mining in the Economic Development of Colonial Latin America

The Latin America is made of many nation states which have various economies. Most these countries are export-based, and during the colonial era, they were controlled by the Spanish and Portuguese empires. The During these time the economy of Latin America boomed as many parts were endowed with precious metals such as silver, the climatic conditions were also favorable favoring the development of large sugarcane plantations. The mining was done by the indigenous people and slaves from Africa. The areas were mining were carried out in the Latin America were Potosi, Peru and the colonial Mexico which had ha numerous mining areas. Due to the presence of minerals in the different areas wealth was in the hands of a few people with majority poor who were mostly the locals. They were also the ones responsible, and they were paid little amounts while the others were not paid as they were slaves. The Spanish enjoys enormous benefits from the minerals as they were the ones in control. Spain economic power was made of mineral exports majorly silver from its colonies. The silver peso was very crucial for both shipping and also was used as the first global money hence helping in foreign. The global capital was essential in the transformation of economies of countries like Europe and even China (Bakewell, 1984).

Mining in Latin America as offered critical raw materials required by the USA and Europe as they were undergoing industrialization. These were one of the main reasons that made increase of exportation among the Latin American countries. These led to economic growth which catalyzed social and political development constituting a new order in the states. Latin America increase in the share of the world's trade, finance and population were at the expense of its colonies. It gained importance and presence in the global economy at the expense of other nations. The funds realized from the mining proceeds were used to make railroads which transformed many regions economically regarding facilitating export in various states. The railroads connected ports, countries and sugarcane plantations thus increasing foreign trade in Latin America. The mining made the states grow economically as money was available for growth and development.

The mining industry was a source of development of the Latin America; it availed resources for growth also opened doors for investment. The country's infrastructure was improved with the better road for transportation and also enhanced communication means. The other sectors such as agriculture were also promoted as people and could be transported from farms and even exported. Sugarcane plantations were the ones that benefited from the improved infrastructure, and since then Latin America remains to be a great exporter of sugar hence gaining huge revenues. It is the major export of Brazil but also expanded to Cuba’s last colonies of Spain, Puerto Rico with the foremost workers in the firms being the African slaves. The Latin America has also had changes in the agricultural productions as finances are available from the sugar to now coffee as demand is high.

Mineral exports for any country are lucrative as these commodities prices keep on raising. The county then can get revenues to use in its growth and development. However, the export of the natural resources in most Latin America economies led to the rise of the wealthy elite thus widening the gap between the poor and the rich in the society. The elites control a large number of lands and resources. Poor people have been used as laborers on the farms and in mining. Despite the challenges, Latin America has enjoyed political stability and also economic stability since it is a vast world's provider of various raw materials. Technological advancement in the states has also improved farming, mining, and productions in firms need new ways to enhance efficiency. These have made the people creative and innovative to enhance better services.

Mining in Latin America was an eye opener to the people and made them fight for their independence from the Spanish and the Portuguese. The people were aware of their rights and oppression was high resented. The backbone of the growth and development of the economy of Latin America is mining. It has been crucial in the provision of resources which has built the Latin America economies. Regardless of the mining sector having unstiffening moves, Latin America is still a prominent mining investment target. The region is about one-sixth of earth’s area and amazingly it yields a recommendable amount of some of the main metals in the world, for example, copper, iron ore, etc. (Absi, 2009).

QN 3

Outline the Trading Patterns of Either Spanish America In 1750

The Spanish Empire under the leadership of Spanish Habsburgs was among history’s prominent Empires. The empire managed to achieve the best with regards to political, military and economic supremacy and had great territorial extent. The Empire was foremost global power making it be called "the Empire on which the never sets" due to its significant growth and development. The origin of the Spanish Empire can be attributed the discovery age which was experienced after Christopher Columbus’s voyages. The Empire had territories and colonies in Africa, Asia, America, etc. In Latin America, the province used the indigenous people and the African slaves to extract the minerals in the region, especially in Potosi. Both the Spanish and the Portuguese wanted Latin America because of its economic importance's, and therefore the need to negotiate the “Treaty of Tordesillas” so that the Portuguese could defend their side along the front line of Spain.

Spanish colonial economy was based on the exploitation of both lands and the labor of Native American. Earlier Spanish settlers came up with the encomienda system that required that Spaniards be provided with title deeds of the American ground and were to be owners of the villages which fall under the owned land. The Native American was to be allowed to convert to Christianity. On the other hand, the Spanish had the authority of utilizing the land to their discretion. This system was somehow slavery as the Native Americans were made to work in the mines and farms at low wages –if anything at all. The indigenous were forced to work in the firms and mines under poor working conditions. The mines claimed the death of many people as they were overworked. These resulted in conflicts among the locals and the Spanish regarding the harsh treatments but never changed the situation (Dodoy, 1990).

The Spain trade was mainly focused on the American colonies as there were a lot of products it would get through the exploitation of the regions. The areas targeted were Mexico which was linked with transpacific trade through an overland route and Spain wanted to control it, Cuba and Hispaniola. The Spanish also engaged in the transatlantic triangular trade system which followed the wind and sea currents. The Spanish got the raw materials from the Latin American countries and sold in the USA and Europe. Therefore, trade between Latin American colonies was crucial for enabling European markets to profits from the riches of the now called new world and beyond. The raw materials such as valuable minerals, sugar, and coffee were exported by the Spanish together with the Portuguese hence making then gain great profits to enable them to run their Empires. The exploitation of the resources in the Latin America was good for trade and acted as the raw materials.

The trans-Atlantic trade provided all the items the Spanish Empire needed from the new world. The items included food, weapons, nails, paper, etc. Before 1600 the encomenderos paid all the items, they acquired with gold and silver, and at sometimes they used foodstuffs such as chocolate, corn, and potatoes. However, after 1600 they all met and decided to produce some of the items for themselves. Spain had an objective of continuing to colonize its colonies thus it made it illegal for production of paper. The move was challenging for the government of Spain in the new world given that it has high demand for paper and things got worse making papers reused and legal documents crossed out. This problem resulted to the slavery of the Native American by the Spanish as they had no intentions of doing the work themselves. These were the only way Spain could get more paper and avoid its production in the New World. These resulted in the slave trade with the people who acted as slaves being Africans and the Native Americans. These led to slave economy where precious metals would be exchanged for slaves to work in the mines and the farms in the Latin America states. It is in this trade where the triangle trade emerged where shipping of slaves was done to the Caribbean where they got sold in exchange for sugar and rum that got transported to Europe where it was sold in exchange for guns and nails. The additional goods of trade got sent back to African where they were sold in exchange for slaves. The Spanish colonial economy was supported by the exploitation of the land for minerals and also for agriculture. The laborers were the slaves and the Native Americans who worked under the new Spanish owners. The trade of the Spanish was facilitated by the minerals which acted as a medium of business (Mignolo, 2009).

Works Cited

Absi, Pascale. Los ministros del diablo: El trabajo y sus representaciones en las minas de Potosí. La Paz, Bolivia: IFEA, 2009.

Bakewell, Peter J. Miners of the Red Mountain: Indian Labor in Potosí, 1545–1650. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1985.

Bakewell, Peter. “Mining in Colonial Spanish America.” In The Cambridge History of Latin America. Vol. 2, Colonial Latin America. Edited by Leslie Bethell, 105–152. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

Bulmer-Thomas, Victor. The economic history of Latin America since independence. Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Dodoy. R. Mining and Agriculture in Highland Bolivia. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1990.

Mignolo, Walter D. The Idea of Latin America. John Wiley & Sons, 2009.

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