Between 1796 and 1809, an array of pro- and anti-mining discourses unfolded in response to a proposal to mine gold in the former Jesuit mission territories of Chiquitos. In the last years of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries, Chiquitos, in addition to being a region formerly known for its network of Jesuit missions, was a frontier of colonial settlement on a transimperial boundary characterized by an ambiguous jurisdictional status. These geographical particularities molded in significant ways the arguments presented by supporters as well as detractors of gold mining. Whether they inclined to the negative or positive, colonial discourses relating to mines and mineral extraction were tethered to geography and shaped in relation to ideas and beliefs about the characteristics of particular territories.
Karen B. Graubart
Spanish legal organization required that political communities be represented by a concejo or cabildo, which used customary law to determine and enforce the common good. In the Spanish colonial world, this entailed vesting indigenous communities with jurisdiction and political representation, parallel to that of the municipal cabildo, which represented the common good of most Spanish citizens. Nevertheless, the supposed common good of indigenous and Spanish jurisdictions often intersected or contested one another. In these cases, agents of the Spanish Crown might intervene, or the parties might negotiate new relations. Because Andean cabildos were entreated not to keep minutes of their deliberations or actions, historians have had difficulty in recognizing the role of indigenous authorities in self-governance, and given more credence to the acts of Spanish cabildos and the Crown. But Indian cabildos and caciques took meaningful decisions within their communities, as demonstrated by moments where they came into conflict with Spanish authorities, and as inferred from a small number of documents available for the similar Mexican case.
In New Spain, the 18th century was characterized by important political and administrative changes in imperial geopolicy that stemmed from the reforms introduced by Spain’s king, Charles III, which continued under the Bourbon monarchs. These so-called Bourbon Reforms sought to reduce the centralizing power of the viceroyalty’s governments, as well as that of the Royal Audiences in Spanish America. The British colonization of the Atlantic coast and the continued confrontation with Native Americans resulted in changes in New Spain’s territorial structure, especially the consolidating of the northern Provincias Internas (Internal Provinces). The project of structuring a political territory in the north originally emerged in 1751 with the aim of organizing the space into a General Command. The process began in 1776 with the appointment of José de Gálvez as the minister of the Indies. The first commanding general, Teodoro de Croix (1730–1792), who was given authorization to act independently of the viceroyalty, established the command by taking into his jurisdiction the provinces of Sonora, Sinaloa, the Californias, Nueva Vizcaya, New Mexico, Coahuila, and Tejas and, later, the New Kingdom of León and New Santander. In 1787, the Spanish government decided to modify the jurisdictions by creating provincial blocks: the Eastern Internal Provinces and the Western Internal Provinces. The jurisdiction that would experience a number of difficult changes that arose principally from the military control that began during the first years of colonization and lasted until the disappearance of viceregal power. The rest of the Spanish Empire’s territory, meanwhile, was organized into administrations ruled by a general governor or mayor who exercised powers of law, war, the treasury, public works, and the development of local economic efforts.