History of Sucre and Chuquisaca

ESPAÑOL This is a detailed summary of the history of Chuquisaca. You can learn more about Chuquisaca, and Bolivia’s capital city Sucre, by looking up information on points that are of special interest to you.

The Pre-Hispanic Charcas

This region was originally inhabited by indigenous peoples whom the Spanish conquistadors called the “Charcas”. As with most of the Western and valley peoples, they were colonized by the warriors of the Tawantisuyo around the middle of the 14th Century. Because of this, they still speak Quechua, even though ethnically they are not descendants of the Incas. Over the years, and thanks to archeological excavations near the city of Sucre (capital of the department of Chuquisaca) more is now known about the prehistoric past of this region (from fossils found at Cal Orcko), along with vestiges of human settlements that may date back as far as 10,000 B.C. (from excavations at Quila Quila, Maragua and Punuilla), although few traces were left by any one greatly flourishing culture. Currently the Charcas are known as the Yamparas and Mojocoyas, and they inhabit the entire central and northern areas of the department of Sucre.

To the South, the provinces of Luis Calvo and Hernando Siles are inhabited by an ethnic group called the Chané who were absorbed by the Guaraní as the latter expanded through the entire Chaco region of what is now Bolivia. The Charcas resisted the many Guaraní incursions and others by the Incas and eventually Europeans, until they were unable to resist any longer. The Incas gave them a more disrespectful name, calling them Chiriguanos. Today they call themselves Ava_Guarani, which means “the people” or “the men”.

The “La Plata” Conquest

This region was included in a territory that was put under the command of Diego de Almagro when, after the conquest of Peru, territories were being divided up. However, when Diego de Almagro was defeated and executed in a civil war that broke out among the conquistadors, the governor of Peru, Francisco Pizarro, sent one of his younger brothers to colonize the area Almagro had initially explored. Thus, Gonzalo Pizarro arrived in Potosí first (in 1538) and then advanced toward a valley with softly undulating hills and a temperate, dry climate inhabited by various indigenous groups, called Cochabamba, where the natives did not exactly welcome him cordially. He entered into combat with them and, near defeat, sent work to his older brother (Francisco Pizarro) who sent a third Pizarro brother, Hernando, to his aid.

The indigenous chieftain, Ayaviri, was forced to surrender and this opened the way for Gonzalo Pizarro to travel toward Choquechaca where he entered into an alliance with Aymuro, a chieftain of the Yamparas, who gave him a piece of territory called Pacha so he and his brothers could settle there. But Pizarro did not stay long enough to enjoy his new land. He continued to advance, taking up residence shortly in Chaqui and Porco (in Potosí) as well. Later, when his brother Francisco Pizarro died, the King of Spain named a new viceroy to take his place who passed several laws the conquistadors opposed. Gonzalo Pizarro headed a rebellion against the new viceroy, but he and his men were defeated and executed in 1548.

Previously, Pizarro had commissioned the Marquis of Camporedondo, Capt. Pedro de Anzúrez, to go to the territory of the Charcas peoples and found a settlement there in order to stave off hostile indigenous peoples, safeguard existing silver mines, and provide support to the mining towns in Potosí. Captain Anzúrez selected a site near Pacha known as the Colina de Chonchupata near the foot of a pair of mountains called Sica Sica and Churuquella (this is the present site of the Mirador de la Recoleta in the city of Sucre, which is frequently visited by tourists). There, on 16 April 1540 (although some dispute this date, stating it was actually 29 September 1538) he founded a town which he called Villa de la Plata de la Nueva Toledo. He named it after the silver (plata) mines that existed in the area and after an area he had already named Nueva Toledo to the south of Lima, Peru which also belonged to him.

La Plata During the Colonial Era

In 1555, Carlos V (King Charles the 5th), Emperor of Spain and Germany, gave La Villa de la Plata the official rank of “city” by means of a royal seal. By then it was a prosperous town with a bishop and a courthouse. A few years later, King Charles the 5th decided to organize the chaotic colonies which were administrated from Lima and basically under the authority of each conquistador at will. Thus, he created the Real Audiencia de Charcas on 18 Septemer 1559, putting the the Audiencia de Lima under its jurisdiction. It became the highest court in the Americas, as any legal appeals had to be sent all the way to the Cortes de India in Sevilla, Spain. The Audiencia de Charcas had five “oidores” (judges) and one chairman and began to function official as of 1561. The first chairman was Don Pedro Ramírez de Quiñones, and it had only three judges at first: Juan Matienzo, Pedro López de Haro, and an attorney whose last name was Recalde.

Soon La Villa de la Plata began to acquire fame as an educational center when the Royal University of San Francisco Xavier was founded in 1624. The priests of the Compañía de Jesús created it in March of that year, naming the university in honor of one of their canonized members, the Jesuit priest Francisco Xavier, on land that today is the northern sidewalk of the city’s central plaza. It’s main assembly hall was built on the plot that today is occupied by the Casa de la Libertad. Only the majors that were typical of the era were taught: theology and medicine, and throughout the continent was considered a very prestigious university. So many students came from other colonies that at one time 1 of every 20 inhabitants was a student.

While Spain was in what seemed would be an unending war with Flanders, its colonies flourished throughout the 17th Century until they reached sizes that rivaled even the largest European cities. The Audiencia de Charcas was administratively divided into four “intendencias” (administrative centers): the Intendencia de Potosí, Intendencia de La Paz, Intendencia de Chuquisaca (Sucre), and the Intendencia de Santa Cruz. The Intendencia de Chuquisaca (named after a mispronounced version of Choquechaca, as the indigenous peoples of the area were called) was further divided into six sections: Yamparaez, Tomina, Pilaya y Paspaya, Oruro, Paria and Carangas. Its economy centered primarily on agriculture and the mining of minerals.

During the silver mining crisis that took place near the beginning of the 18th Century, which affected the areas of Potosí and La Plata, the Audiencia lost some of its luster. It was removed from under the jurisdiction of the Viceroy of Lima and incorporated into the jurisdiction of the new Viceroy of Rio de la Plata, which was headquartered in Buenos Aires, in 1776. Despite this, in 1783 it was awarded fairly autonomous status as the governors of each of the “intendencias” were still allowed to make their own decisions regarding administrative, public order, and even military issues, with consent from the Viceroy.

La Plata During the Revolutionary Period

It is said that the first cry for freedom (from Spain) had less to do with a true desire for freedom and more to do with this colony’s loyalty to Spanish King Fernando the 7th. His rivals, the Portuguese and French, wanted to depose him and get their hands on “the goose that laid the golden eggs” for the Spanish crown. In any case, some of the protagonists of the revolution, graduates of San Francisco Xavier University who frequently discussed the French Revolution and North American independence, did seek freedom. One of them was attorney Jaime de Zudáñez. It was his imprisonment that led to the popular revolt that eventually expanded throughout the rest of the Audiencia and, over the years, finally ended Spanish dominion over the colonies.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Audiencia de la Plata was governed by Ramón García de León y Pizarro (commonly called García Pizarro) as of 1797. He was not a very popular person and he continually entered into conflict with the court judges and citizens of the area and quite frequently aired his disagreements publicly by passing out incendiary pamphlets. By this time the motherland (Spain) had been occupied by Napoleon, emperor of France, who, in an attempt to teach the Portuguese a lesson, decided that Madrid, Spain and its silver and gold-plated colonies were worth much more than arid Lisboa (Portugal). He deposed King Charles the 5th and kidnapped his son, Fernando the 7th, obligating him to abdicate the throne. But the people of Spain were not content to watch the French parade around. Instead, they rebelled and in several cities they formed a governing “junta”. The Junta Suprema de España e Indias, in Sevilla, sent José Manuel de Goyeneche to the colonies to obtain support from the viceroys of Lima and Buenos Aires in order to overthrow the French monarch Napoleon Bonaparte had put in place and return the king to his throne.

Goyeneche first passed through Brazil where he visited the royals of Lusitania who had taken refuge there. Among them was the sister of Fernando the 7th, reigning Queen of Portugal, Carlota Joaquina de Borbón, who was in exile there, and very anxious to reign over her brother’s colonies. She gave Goyeneche a letter in which she suggested this to the viceroys of Lima and Buenos Aires and Goyeneche took them to the colonies. Their reaction was not what she expected.

Her now famous letters caused the already awful relationship between García Pizarro and the Audiencia to erupt with threats of arrests, screaming insults in the courtroom, warnings that the Archbishop would be excommunicated, and the death of the Regidor of the Audiencia during a dispute. The chairman, along with Goyeneche and the Archbishop of La Plata, Monsignor Moxó, declared themselves supporters of Carlota Joaquina’s intentions while the judges and attorneys of the city declared themselves loyal to Fernando the 7th and rejected all authority of the Junta de Sevilla. They made their opposition known in a document stating they would consider annexing to Brazil and they denounced García Pizarro and Viceroy Santiago de Liniers for treason. The chairman counteracted by destroying their document, but they discovered this and the relationship between the opposing sides took a turn for the worse. After a long war of words exchanged by means of newspaper articles, most of which were written by recently a graduated attorney called Bernardo Monteagudo, García Pizarro heard a rumor that the Audiencia was planning to ask for his resignation, and that they were going to meet at the home of judge José de la Iglesia. García Pizarro decided to gain the upper hand by ordering six of the most vociferous of them to be arrested. However, they found out in time to flee; therefore, when the time came to arrest them, only Jaime de Zudáñez was found and taken into custody.

On 25 May 1809, when he was taken to the courthouse jail, they passed through the central plaza followed by a multitude of citizens who had been attracted by screaming (coming from Zudáñez’ sister) as she followed his captors. Soon the crowd found out what had happened and began to throw rocks at the courthouse, demanding his freedom and the chairman’s resignation. They shouted “Death to this bad government and long live Fernando the 7th!” A man named Lemoine convinced the priests at the San Francisco church to let him climb to the belfry where he rang the bell until it cracked. The same soon happened throughout the city as bells began to ring to call for the townspeople to come to the plaza. García Pizarro was unable to move his troops to repress the people because his command officer sided with the crowd and commanded his soldiers not to obey Pizarro’s orders. The multitude demanded that Pizarro give all weapons from the military barracks over to them, along with political and military command. This he refused to do so the crowd blew up the door of the court palace with canons. Defeated, Pizarro gave himself up the next day, on the 26th of May. The history of the colony of Charcas had begun with a Pizarro and ended with a Pizarro.

The revolutionaries gave political command of the Audiencia over to the lead judge, José de la Iglesia, and military command to Coronel Juan Antonio Álvarez de Arenales. Citizen militians were organized to defend the city, and were divided according to occupation. Brothers Joaquín and Juan Manuel Lemoine headed the 1st Infantry and 3rd Silversmiths divisions. Manuel and Jaime Zudáñez headed the Academics and Calvary. Pedro Carvajal headed the Weavers, Toribio Salinas headed the Tailors, Manuel de Entrambasaguas headed the Hatmakers, and Bernardo Monteagudo’s brother Miguel headed the Shoemakers. Diego Ruíz headed a Painters unit, Manuel Corcuera a Miscellaneous unit, and Manuel de Sotomayor, Mariano Guzmán and Nicolás de Larrazábal headed an Artillery unit along with an indigenous corps. They headed out to meet Francisco de Paula Sanz, the royalist governor of Potosí and illegitimate uncle of the Spanish king, who had been sent to fight them. They convinced him to turn back. They then sent secret emissaries to the remaining Intendencias and to Argentina to promote support for independence with the justification that it would be done to support Fernando the 7th. The most successful of these emissaries was Mariano Michel, who helped train Murillo’s revolutionary group in La Paz.

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