Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Catherine Julien

Second Advisor

Dr. Jose Brandao

Third Advisor

Dr. James Palmitessa

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


The purpose of this study is to evaluate the impact of a European system of mercantile production on the indigenous organization of coca production in the yungas of La Paz in the years immediately following the Spanish conquest until the administration of Viceroy Francisco de Toledo (1569-1581 ). European mercantile ambitions in the earliest years of Spanish rule had an enormous, and often adverse, impact on the people of the yungas and their productive capabilities. The transformation of the yungas was introduced largely through the reorientation of coca production toward a market economy. This contact resulted in a marked increase in coca production after the discovery of silver at Potosi in 1545. Silver output by the indigenous laborers in the mines was contingent upon the availability of coca in the colonial market centers. Thus, coca was a highly valuable commodity in the early colonial economy. Through the use of both published and unpublished primary sources, this study examines the impact of the burgeoning market economy on indigenous peoples and lays out the operation of the colonial economy in the pre-Toledan period from its basis in local agricultural production to the lifeline of the Spanish Empire - the silver mines at Potosi.