Production, commerce and transportation in a regional economy


Material Information

Production, commerce and transportation in a regional economy Tucuman, 1776-1810
Physical Description:
vii, 276 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.
Stahl, Jeremy D., 1960-
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Economic conditions -- History -- Tucumán (Argentina)   ( lcsh )
History thesis Ph.D
Dissertations, Academic -- History -- UF
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1994.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 264-275).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Jeremy D. Stahl.
General Note:
General Note:

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 002027939
oclc - 33027225
notis - AKL5545
sobekcm - AA00004728_00001
System ID:

Full Text

TUCUMAN, 1776-1810







I would like to take this opportunity to thank all

those individuals and institutions whose support and

assistance made the completion of this project possible.

Foremost among these, of course, is the chair of my

dissertation committee, Professor Murdo J. MacLeod, whose

patient guidance has been most instrumental to the

successful realization of this dissertation. Other

committee members include Professors David Bushnell, Jeffrey

Needell, Robert Hatch and Allan Burns, each of whom offered

encouragement and valuable guidance as the project

progressed. Professor Jane Landers of Vanderbilt University

added fresh insights, warm friendship and bracing

encouragement when it was needed most. Professor Lyle N.

McAlister merits special appreciation for directing my early

years of graduate study, for sharing the pleasure of Latin

American History and for remaining a source of inspiration.

My debt to each of these individuals is considerable.

The University of Florida Department of History, under

the direction of Professors David Colburn, Kermit Hall and

Fred Gregory, has supported my studies as much as one could

hope; special departmental assistance helped make possible

research trips to Austin, Texas, to Buenos Aires, Argentina

and to Seville, Spain. The University of Florida Center for

Latin American Studies, by providing funding with a grant

from the Tinker Foundation for preliminary dissertation

research, also subsidized research in Argentina. Professor

Samuel Proctor of the University of Florida helped arrange a

fellowship from the Instituci6n de Cooperaci6n Ibero-

Americana that facilitated three months of critical

investigation in the Archivo General de Indias in Seville,


Many other individuals--my friends, family and

colleagues--also merit acknowledgement and my deepest

appreciation for their support during the past years. My

dear friends Joe and Toni Thompson especially have helped

make my graduate years so enjoyable; their warm friendship

and generous hospitality eased the most difficult periods

and created some of the best. Ted and Gwen Snow have long

been supporters, helping whenever they could; Caroline King

assisted during the final push to complete this project and

deserves special thanks. The list of those meriting thanks

goes on and on: the many graduate students and the faculty


and staff of the History Department, the staff of the

University of Florida Libraries, my many friends and

acquaintances in C6rdoba, Argentina, my Duck teammates,

Holbrook Travel of Gainesville. Let me take this

opportunity to thank them all collectively and express my

heartfelt appreciation for their years of assistance and


Finally, I must acknowledge those whose encouragement,

confidence and patience has been most important. My best

friends and brothers Pete, Mark and Doug have always let me

know that I've been doing the right thing all these past

years. My parents Harry and Ann Stahl, however, have made

it all possible. The support they have so generously and so

often provided, the patience they have so long shown and the

love they so completely bestow have been my greatest

inspiration and compel me dedicate this work to them.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS....................................... ii

ABSTRACT............................................... vi

INTRODUCTION........................................... 1



TWO THE TUCUMAN REGION......................... 47

THREE PRODUCTION................................ 79

FOUR COMMERCE ................................. 134

FIVE TRANSPORTATION. .......................... 175

SIX SOCIETY. ................................. 208

CONCLUSION............................................ 255

BIBLIOGRAPHY.......................................... 264

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH................................... 276

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

TUCUMAN, 1776-1810


Jeremy D. Stahl

April, 1994

Chair: Murdo J. MacLeod
Major Department: History

This dissertation presents a study of production,

commerce and transportation in the pre-industrial regional

economy of Tucuman in the viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata

during the last decades of Spanish administration. It

examines sisa and alcabala records from the cities of

C6rdoba, Salta and San Salvador de Jujuy in order to

evaluate the economic adjustments that accompanied the

fundamental commercial changes that transformed this part of

the world. The expansion of the Atlantic economy after 1750

nurtured the emergence of southern Spanish America, a region

well-suited to the production of livestock, hides and wool--

products that all found strong markets in the growing global

system. The economy of the Tucuman region, responding to

this process as well as to the recovery of the Peruvian

silver-mining complex, experienced a series of little-

discussed modifications that are the subject of this study.

Chapter One develops the historiographical context for

this study; it presents an explication of four major studies

of the Rio de la Plata economy that best advance the

discussion of the historic processes that determined

regional history. Chapter Two is a brief economic geography

of the Tucuman region with special emphasis on the

demographic characteristics of the seven component

districts. Chapter Three surveys the productive activities

that integrated the Tucuman region with both the Peruvian

and Atlantic markets and simultaneously afforded a degree

of local self-sufficiency. Chapter Four addresses commerce

and the commercial relations that contributed to the

region's relative prosperity and further tied it to

neighboring markets. Chapter Five analyzes the

transportation sector that served Tucuman and physically

linked these three different regional economies. Chapter

Six is a study of some of the economic activities of the

tribute-paying Indian towns of northern Tucuman and of the

commercial pursuits of the region's property-owning




The creation of the Rio de la Plata viceroyalty at the

end of the eighteenth century (1776) signaled the

culmination of a long process that prompted the gradual

emergence of the River Plate region of South America as an

increasingly important part of Spain's American empire.

Both the revival of silver mining in Peru and the steady

growth of European mercantilism after the middle of the

eighteenth century stimulated economic production and

exchange throughout southern South America, a part of the

world ideally situated to benefit from industrializing

Europe's commercial revival and growing hunger for certain

primary commodities. These dynamic forces triggered

dramatic changes in the several component regions of the new

Rio de la Plata viceroyalty and forced adjustments and re-

orientations within the long-established regional economies

of the Interior.

The vast sub-tropical South American Interior,

especially what is today northern Argentina, constituted the

oldest of these regions. A more traditional part of the

viceroyalty than Buenos Aires or other settlements with

easier access to sea routes, the Tucuman region incorporated

the pastoral jurisdictions of C6rdoba, Santiago del Estero,

San Miguel de Tucuman, Salta, San Salvador de Jujuy,

Catamarca and La Rioja, which together established a

corridor of Hispanic settlement that reached from the

Peruvian highlands to the River Plate estuary. Recognized

since the sixteenth century as a region devoted to livestock

production for the supply of Peru, the Tucuman region was

among those facing fundamental changes with the advent of

the viceregal era. Drawn increasingly to two different

markets, the traditional markets of Upper Peru and the

emerging market of Buenos Aires, the region quickly

experienced far-reaching adjustments which marked a clear

break with the past. While the region retained its pastoral

economy, new conditions triggered subtle re-orientations.

Whereas the entire region had once devoted itself to mule-

raising and livestock exports to Peru prior to about 1780,

the decades following 1780 saw a gradual re-orientation of

the southern jurisdictions. An increasing reliance upon the

production of hides and woolens for the Buenos Aires market

marked this process. The northern jurisdictions, on the

other hand, remained closely tied to the Peruvian market.

The once-single orientation of regional production gave way

to a more diversified export economy that now looked in two


The first chapter of this study provides a discussion

of the complex historiographical debate surrounding the

economic aspects of the Rio de la Plata's viceregal history.

Basically an explication of the work of four historians who

provide the fullest analysis of a wide range of questions,

this chapter establishes a foundation for the remainder of

the work by introducing the questions and topics that are

fundamental to any investigation into viceregal economic

history. Subtle differences between the explanations

offered by Carlos Sempat Assadurian, Tulio Halperin-Donghi,

Juan Carlos Garavaglia and Jonathon C. Brown provide the

starting point for this study and its attempt to describe a

little more clearly the adjustments forced upon certain

sectors of the Tucuman regional economy.

The second chapter provides an introduction to the

Tucuman region as a unit of economic geography. While the

region displayed an overall economic coherence, the seven

component jurisdictions each exhibited distinct economic and

demographic characteristics that influenced its position

within the whole. Eighteenth-century descriptions and

relations provide vivid sources for this brief survey;

contemporary census figures allow for a short discussion of

regional demographic characteristics.

The third, fourth and fifth chapters constitute the

heart of this study. Chapter Three presents a survey of the

primary productive activities throughout the region. It

looks first at the pastoral sector of the economy that was

most heavily influenced by the mule-raising and mule-

exporting enterprises that defined the region. The

measurement of annual mule exports uncovers a sudden and

sharp decline decline in the years after 1781 when popular

rebellion in Peru cut deeply into Andean purchases of these

animals. Gradual recovery of this market followed, but the

crisis occasioned by the years of hardship precipitated

significant adjustments within the economies of the southern


Chapter Three then turns to a related sector, that of

the production and processing of pastoral by-products that

included cattle hides, grease, tallow, soap and,

significantly, wool from the large herds of sheep that also

grazed regional pastures. Agriculture, especially the

cultivation of cotton and grapevines that contributed to the


local production of cotton textiles and wine and brandy in

the jurisdictions of Catamarca and La Rioja, also merits

discussion here. Finally, this chapter also examines the

less-important activities of mining and lumber production

which nevertheless figured into the regional export economy.

The fourth chapter is a discussion of commercial

patterns within the Tucuman regional economy. Through

analysis of sales tax revenues, it looks first at the

overall trends marking the volume of commercial activity in

each of the seven jurisdictions. These records reveal a

decade-long commercial malaise marking the years 1785-1795,

followed by a strong recovery in Tucumin's southern

jurisdictions and a weaker recovery in the north. Emphasis

then turns to a discussion of the direction and content of

commercial exchanges both within the region and with

neighboring regions.

Chapter Five offers an analysis of transportation, the

third critical component of the regional economy. First

this part presents a theoretical discussion of the

importance of transportation services within a pre-

industrial economy. Next it turns to a discussion of the

road network serving the region, including the heavily-

travelled royal roads that channeled most commercial traffic

from producer to market, and the less-important routes that

served secondary commercial circuits. It turns last to the

carters and muleteers who actually transported the region's

produce and commerce. It considers questions of volumes of

traffic, costs and freight rates for carriage, and the

overall efficacy of the transportation sector in serving the

regional economy.

The last chapter looks at two important social groups--

the tribute paying Indian population and the Hispanic

merchant community. This attempt to describe the economic

activities of these groups, and reach a better understanding

of their economic behavior, builds on treasury records and

tax ledgers that offer penetrating insights into individual

and group behavior. The merchant community especially

exhibited signs of a complex nature, from a few wealthy and

powerful landowners primarily occupied with livestock

exports, to the merchants of either locally-produced or

imported goods, to the small urban shopkeepers who kept the

city-dwellers of the region supplied with their basic


From a broader perspective, this study also addresses

the origins of the Argentine nation and the factors that

helped shape the earliest economic and political crises that

defined Argentina's early nation-building process. The

viceregal era saw considerable economic growth in the

Tucuman region and even more in the River Plate; the

struggle between the conflicting interests of these regions

shaped the political battles of the first fifty years of

nationhood. The production of the Tucuman region

increasingly depended upon the Buenos Aires market for

consumers of its woolen goods and for access to European

consumers of it hides. The last years of colonial

administration, consequently, witnessed the Interior slip to

a secondary position within the viceregal system. The

adjustments that enabled the southern jurisdictions of

Tucuman to benefit from Buenos Aires' prosperity, however,

remained unattainable for the northern and western

jurisdictions. These areas, only marginally linked to the

Atlantic economy even late in the viceregal periods, were to

slip even further behind the prospering areas and become

economic backwaters in the nineteenth and twentieth




This chapter presents a discussion of the scholarship

of four important investigators of the economic structure of

the Rio de la Plata colony as a first step in the

exploration of an especially complex topic. The viceregal

era witnessed profound changes that brought once-isolated

settlements to the front of the colonial economic system.

The work of Carlos Sempat Assadourian, Tulio Halperin-

Donghi, Juan Carlos Garavaglia and Jonathon C. Brown provide

the basis for understanding these changes and their local

manifestations that often differed in nature from one region

to another.

Writing for two decades on the South American past, the

Argentinian historian Carlos Sempat Assadourian gradually

developed an elaborate interpretation of colonial economic

history. In a number of essays and monographs devoted to

the emergence and dynamics of South America's colonial

economy, Assadourian pioneered the study of the economic

spaces, the interprovincial commerce and the internal

sectors that defined the continent's economic development.

His studies of the South American economy not only

constitute a broad field of investigation distinguished by

the elaboration of a regional approach to colonial history,

but also present a useful framework for a closer examination

of Rio de la Plata's commercial history and the role of its

pre-industrial transportation sector.'

Assadourian maintains that by the beginning of the

seventeenth century, Spanish America already consisted of

several large regional economies. The South American or

Peruvian regional economy, dominated by silver mining,

included the regions of present-day Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia,

Chile, Paraguay and Argentina. The formation of this vast

economy created a system of economic relationships that led

to the emergence of regional specializations. By the end of

the seventeenth century the Peruvian regional economy

1. See Carlos Sempat Assadourian, El sistema de la
economic colonial: mercado interno, regiones v espacio
econ6mico (Lima, 1982), a compilation of six essays written
during the 1960s and 1970s developing a model of the
colonial Peruvian economy. See also Assadourian, Guillermo
Beato and Jose Carlos Chiamonte, Argentina: de la conquista
a la independencia (Buenos Aires, 1972); Assadourian,
Heraclio Bonilla, Antonio Mitre and Tristan Platt, Mineria y
espacio econ6mico en los Andes, silos XVI-XX (Lima, 1980);
and Assadourian et al., Modos de producci6n en Am6rica
Latina (Buenos Aires, 1973).

featured a considerable degree of self-sufficience built on

a high level of regional integration wherein a number of

specialized zones each contributed to a complete economy.

Assadourian presents a scheme in which the Potosi mining

complex in Alto Perd functioned as the axis or focus of this

system, or as the primary "pole of growth." This mining

complex dominated the entire economy; its sheer size made it

a major market for many commodities and its production of

silver provided a source of circulating capital.2

Assadourian emphasizes several fundamental activities

within this scheme. As noted, he attributes special

importance to mining, calling it the dominant production of

the Peruvian economy. He rejects interpretations that view

the colonial mining sector as little more than an enclave of

the European economy, somehow detached from the colony's

economic life. Instead, he defines mining as the "motor" of

the Peruvian economy, or the driving force behind the

2. For a discussion of the basic characteristics of
Assadourian's scheme, including explanations of the concepts
of self sufficience, regional specialization and regional
integration, see his essay "Integraci6n y disintegraci6n
regional en el espacio colonial. Un enfoque hist6rico," in
El sistema de la economic colonial, 109-134. Gwendolyn Cobb
recognized the far-reaching impact of the Potosi mining
complex in her article "Supply and Transportation for the
Potosi Mines, 1545-1640," Hispanic American Historical
Review 29:1 (February, 1949).

colonial system, intricately linked to other activities.3

The agricultural and ranching sector constituted the second

component of the Peruvian economy, providing large

quantities of foodstuffs and livestock to the barren

environs of the Andean mining centers. These mining

communities, in turn, emerged as the foremost consumers of

regional production. The commercial sector linked the

mining and agricultural sectors; exchange between the two

spheres, determined the vitality of the entire system.

These three sectors operated in an interdependent fashion,

each supporting and nurturing the others.4 Silver exports

and the European trade held a role of secondary importance

to this internal economy.

Assadourian bases much of this scheme on a nineteenth-

century study of New Spain's mining economy by the engineer-

3. Assadourian, "La organizaci6n econ6mica espacial
del sistema colonial," in El sistema de la economic
colonial, 277-331. The presentation of colonial Spanish
American mining sectors as enclaves of a dominant European
economy, Assadourian notes, was popularized by Enrique
Cardoso and Enzo Faletto, Dependencia y desarrollo en
Am6rica Latina (Mexico City, 1969), in which the authors
distinguish between agricultural colonies and mining
colonies. Assadourian calls this an "incorrect

4. See Assadourian, "Sobre un element de la economic
colonial: producci6n y circulaci6n de mercancias en el
interior de un conjunto regional," in El sistema de la
economic colonial, 135-217. This essay provides a detailed
discussion of the interdependent nature of the mining,
agricultural and and commercial sectors within a "regional
conjunction," or the Peruvian regional economy.


economist Fausto de Elhuyar. Elhuyar's monograph addressed

his contemporaries' ignorance of the "true influence" of

mining, too often seen, he argued, as a "simple, isolated

resource" with little influence on the "general well-being."

Noting the lack of external demand for most of New Spain's

agricultural products, Elhuyar argued that the colony's

mining industry stimulated agricultural production,

increased the common wealth, created and sustained industry

and supported population growth. "In all civilized

countries," he explained, "is seen a certain or certain

sectors that are distinguished as much by their presence as

by the impulse they give and the extensions they provide, so

that without their help others would be of little


Elhuyar drew on the history of New Spain. From the

first Spanish expeditions, he explained, mines and precious

metals held the colonists' attention. Mining became the

first industry in the colony. The mine markets stimulated

agriculture, stock-raising and new settlements. Mining made

unproductive land productive and encouraged commerce between

5. Fausto de Elhuyar, Memoria sobre el influjo de la
mineria en Nueva Espaha (Mexico City, 1984), 7-11, 25-26.
Assadourian also cites Robert West, The Mining Community of
Northern New Spain: The Parral Mining District (Berkeley,
1949) and David A. Brading, Miners and Merchants in Bourbon
Mexico 1763-1810 (Cambridge, 1971) for their astute
evaluations of New Spain's mining economy, regional
production and the internal market.

provinces with different climates and resources. Gold and

silver filled the need for money, "giving life" to internal

commerce. Precious metals also drove the external economy.

New Spain's mines filled the limited domestic demand for

precious metals, and a large part of the "superabundance" of

these metals supported the colony's external trade. Silver,

accounting for two-thirds of the total value of exports,

paid for almost all imports. "When mining wealth is of some

duration," Elhuyar concluded, "it enlivens and gives greater

energy and extension to the other sectors it cultivates."6

Elhuyar's study is valuable, argues Assadourian, for

two basic reasons. First, he successfully explains the

subtle relationship between the internal and external

sectors of the colonial economy. Second, he clearly

outlines a model of this economy. While demonstrating the

existence of a dominant product that drove this economy,

Elhuyar concentrates on the relationship between mining and

other sectors--a relationship Assadourian calls "the sphere

of general circulation" or "the mercantilization of agrarian

production." In Assadourian's opinion, Elhuyar's

contemporary understanding and sophisticated perspective

must be re-employed.7 Assadourian uses this perspective to

6. Ibid., 22-23.

7. Assadourian, "La organizaci6n econ6mica espacial,"
279-280, 282-284.

develop a synthesis of a prosperous Peruvian economy--a

unified or integrated economic system--in which mining

constituted the dominant sector, agricultural products and

livestock were turned into merchandise by the commercial

sector, and new activities repeatedly emerged.

If at the height of Potosi's silver production early in

the seventeenth century the Peruvian economy reached a high

degree of prosperity, declining silver production from the

mid-seventeenth century to the mid-eighteenth century led to

widespread impoverishment. Typically, regional responses to

this process of impoverishment consisted of "adjustments,"

usually the elimination of interregional imports, the

expansion of the subsistence sector and the ruralization of

provinces.8 The commercial sector suffered waning

intensity and experienced various redirections of trade.

Assadourian emphasizes that the long crisis did not trigger

a breakdown of the Peruvian economy nor affect self-

sufficience, but encouraged a series of adjustments,

described as a slow process of reorientation away from


The economic recovery marking the second half of the

eighteenth century, Assadourian argues, had two sources.

First, the intensifying rhythms of the Atlantic economy and

8. Assadourian, "Integraci6n y disintegraci6n
regional," 127.

the consequent growth of Buenos Aires fostered both legal

and illegal trade throughout southern South America. The

creation of the Rio de la Plata viceroyalty in 1776 and the

declaration of free trade in 1778 further stimulated the

process of reorientation, moving parts of the old Peruvian

economy toward external markets. But the resurgence of

Peruvian mining, still the dominant sector in this late

period, proved more important to this recovery. Peter

Bakewell identifies and discusses this "remarkable boom" in

Potosi's silver output that tripled during the course of the

eighteenth century.9 To Assadourian, Andean mining still

determined the dynamics of the vast South American economy,

and agricultural, manufacturing and commercial activities

remained dependent on Peru's silver production.'"

Assadourian does not deny that metropolitan relations

wielded strong influences in the evolution of the Peruvian

economy. Drawing on Hamilton's pioneering study and those

of Alvaro Jara and the Chaunus, he compares the tremendous

silver exports between 1520 and 1650 with the meager

9. Peter Bakewell, "Mining," in Leslie Bethell,
editor, The Cambridge History of Latin America, 8 volumes
(Cambridge, 1984-91), volume 2, 138-149.
10. Ibid., 278-289.

contributions of other sectors." Nevertheless, the

importance of silver exports during this era or later never

signified dependence on the metropolitan market.12

Assadourian underscores this argument: just as silver

exports proved the dominant sector that shaped external

relations, silver production remained equally important to

the internal sphere, determining the direction and dynamics

of the colonial economic system. This economy, once

established, displayed a complete, integrated and

independent nature. External relations held a secondary

position, largely limited to the import of luxury goods.13

The prosperous 1780s and 1790s, despite growth of Atlantic

trade, brought South America's most self-sufficient years,

featuring considerable regional diversification and a high

degree of internal control.14 By 1800, the Peruvian

11. Assadourian, "Sobre un element de la economic
colonial," 211. Assadourian cites Earl Hamilton, American
Treasure and the Price Revolution in Spain, 1501-1650
(Cambridge, 1934); Pierre and Huguette Chaunu, Seville et
l'Atlantique, 11 volumes (Paris, 1955-60); Alvaro Jara, Tres
ensayos sobre economic minera hispanoamericana (Santiago,
1966). See also Peter Bakewell, "Registered Silver
Production in the Potosi District, 1550-1735," Jahrbuch fir
Geschichte von Staat, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft
Lateinamerikas 12 (1975).
12. Assadourian, "Integraci6n y disintegraci6n
regional," 128-133.

13. Ibid. 112-113; Assadourian, "Sobre un element de
la economic colonial," 142-144.

14. Ibid., 144.


economy reached a level of self-sufficiency unequaled before

or since.

Tulio Halperin-Donghi presents a more focused analysis

of the Rio de la Plata's eighteenth-century regional

economic history. Squarely placing seventeenth-century Rio

de la Plata within the Peruvian sphere, he defines the

immense territory as consisting of two ill-defined zones.

The Interior extended from Upper Peru south to a vague

frontier in the pampas, and east from the Andes to the

territories along the Parand River. The Litoral, comprised

of the Guarani lands of Paraguay and Uruguay and the lands

banking the lower Parand and River Plate, included the

cities of Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Corrientes and Santa F6.

Between these two settled zones stretched the Chaco and

Pampa plains, both populated by tribes of Amerindian

hunters. Spaniards controlled relatively small portions of

these expanses; the most important area was the Interior

province of Tucuman, actually a corridor of settlements

(Jujuy, Salta, San Miguel de Tucuman, Santiago del Estero

and C6rdoba) that connected Peru with Buenos Aires and the

Atlantic. To the east of the Upper Parand, in Paraguay and

PC e

s.U ~S~p L~C



P4 rn1PJS

Rio de la Plata, Tucumdn and Cuyo Regions, c. 1776

. .. .. S ... .
d lt J~ljdi

Cij isni 4







S Bua ..i. Afl.


SMBL~ -*.-


..~ :.





Figure 1.1.

Uruguay, Jesuit missions established a fragile Spanish

presence in a region bordering Brazil.'5

Halperin-Donghi's scholarship chiefly addresses Rio de

la Plata's revolutionary period, featuring a discussion of

the viceregal period that began in 1776 and a description of

the region's economic reorientation in the late eighteenth

century. In contrast to Assadourian, Halperin-Donghi

describes a profound shift away from the Potosi pole for the

Rio de la Plata region, a process nurtured by the rise of

the Atlantic economy. Increased contact with European

commercial powers dislocated the traditional structure of

the Peruvian economy. Buenos Aires and the River Plate

settlements grew in size and commercial importance,

eclipsing Potosi as a pole of growth for this part of the

colony. To Halperin-Donghi, the pastoral provinces along

the Parand and the Rio de la Plata led this reorientation;

the growth of this Atlantic-oriented region dominated by the

port of Buenos Aires occurred at the expense of the Interior

provinces' commerce, manufacturing and agriculture.

5. Tulio Halperin-Donghi, Politics, Economics and
Society in Argentina in the Revolutionary Period (Cambridge,
1975). This volume, basically a translation of his
Revoluci6n y querra: Formaci6n de un lite dirigente en la
Argentina criolla (Buenos Aires, 1972), presents an
excellent discussion of the economic complexion of the Rio
de la Plata regions at the end of the eighteenth century.


Halperin-Donghi's description of South America's early

colonial economy corresponds with that of Assadourian.

Halperin-Donghi acknowledges the Interior's unified

structure and stability founded on Peruvian mining and

achieved at the cost of "maintaining a slow rhythm of

production and trade."16 But more than revived conditions

in Potosi, Halperin-Donghi argues, the changing nature and

quickening pace of the Atlantic economy after 1750 triggered

the Rio de la Plata's reorientation. For Halperin-Donghi,

growing regional imbalances that caused growth for some

regions and decline for others unable to adapt to new

conditions stand out as the basic features of this process.

The ascent of the Litoral provinces proved the most

important consequence of this process. And Halperin-Donghi

sees this process as one of the keys to Argentinian history:

an explanation for the rise of the Litoral and the decline

of the long-dominant Interior.17

The growing imbalance sketched by Halperin-Donghi

intensified after the 1778 commercial reforms of Charles

III, when the Interior provinces encountered stiff

competition from Spanish agricultural imports and northern

Europe's manufactured goods. The last decades of the

16. Ibid., 5.

17 Ibid., 6, 16-29.

eighteenth century brought "painful readjustment" to the

Interior's craft industry and "disaster" to its agriculture.

European war and the disruption of Atlantic trade at the

very end of the century prompted a temporary restoration of

old patterns, but the "slowly increasing imbalance" between

the Interior and the Litoral proved irreversible.1

The rise of the Litoral and the commercial adjustments

of the late eighteenth century not only hastened

administrative reorganization, but also supported the

commercial growth of Buenos Aires. This growth proved vital

to the process that nudged the focus of commercial

circulation from the Peruvian mining industry to the Buenos

Aires mercantile community. Before 1776, Halperin-Donghi

argues, Buenos Aires served primarily as an administrative

center with only complimentary economic activities. Through

participation in the growing export of the Litoral's hides

to Europe, and helped by the reforms that brought Potosi

into Buenos Aires' administrative orbit, the port's merchant

community gradually gained control of the viceroyalty's

commercial activity and established a dominant role in the

viceregal economic system. The major business for this new

elite became the distribution of European goods throughout

the Interior and Peru in exchange for silver and gold. The

8. Ibid., 5.

consequent commercial and financial hegemony built by this

merchant community became a central feature of the late

colonial order, and Buenos Aires' prosperity grew from the

merchants' exploitation of the advantages that the system

gave to merchants over producers.19

Halperin-Donghi and Assadourian essentially agree on

the self-sufficient character of the early South American

economy and on the basic characteristics of the eighteenth-

century reorientation, but their discussions of the

consequences of this process differ. First, Assadourian

argues that the Peruvian mining sector maintained its

dominant position within the South American economy, while

Halperin-Donghi, recognizing the continued importance of

Peruvian silver, describes a decisive shift in the Rio de la

Plata toward the growing hegemony of Buenos Aires. Both

also see disruptive consequences arising from the growing

influence of the Atlantic economy, but they see these

effects in different sectors. Assadourian argues that

industry, mainly textile production, suffered as agriculture

19. For Halperin-Donghi's discussion of Buenos Aires'
mercantile expansion, see pages 29-40. See also Susan
Migden Socolow, "Economic Activities of the Porteio
Merchants: The Viceregal Period," Hispanic American
Historical Review 35:1 (February, 1975) and Kinship and
Commerce: The Merchants of Viceregal Buenos Aires
(Cambridge, 1975), which both examine the port's mercantile
growth and the development of its merchant class.

prospered, while Halperin-Donghi sees little change in

manufacturing but a decline in colonial agriculture.

Halperin-Donghi addresses the "detrimental

consequences" of free trade that enabled Iberian

agricultural products, especially wine, oil and frutos

secos, to compete successfully with the traditional

production of the Interior provinces in the Buenos Aires

market. While craft manufacture apparently remained

unharmed, the sudden appearance of Spanish produce triggered

sharp price drops and "ruthless competition among the

different regions that were slow to adapt to the changing

market.""2 Assadourian, however, argues that the growing

demand for, and import of, manufactured goods in the

Peruvian market had several consequences, including

disrupting the Interior's craft industry and import-

substitution manufacturing.

These differences can be partially reconciled by

recognizing that the focus and objectives of these two

studies differ. Assadourian presents a temporally and

geographically broader study, discussing the three hundred-

year evolution of a vast economy. Component eras and

regions are secondary to the whole; and his analysis is

painted in broad strokes. A deliberate rejection of the

20. Ibid., 12.

dependency paradigm, Assadourian's studies are internally

oriented and concentrate on describing the self-sufficient

nature of the colonial economy. Halperin-Donghi, however,

undertakes a much more specific study of the eighteenth-

century Rio de la Plata and its rise based on the growing

hegemony of Buenos Aires. This concentration naturally

enables the identification of distinct trends and processes

that Assadourian's broader studies overlooks

These two of scholars also differ in the types of

sources they draw upon to make their arguments. By

evaluating provincial tax records, Assadourian measures the

trade in, and prices of, provincial exports over time and

creates a rough guide to commercial circulation. These

records, coupled with an extensive use of notarial and

judicial documentation and mercantile correspondence, help

Assadourian illustrate both regional relationships with the

Peruvian mining sector and the basic economic structure of

the entire South American economy. Again, Assadourian

emphasizes provincial records over viceregal; his aim is to

write a provincially-oriented history of South America.

This methodology might be dangerous, but has led to

stimulating arguments. Halperin-Donghi's analysis, in

contrast, is based on research conducted primarily in the

Archivo General de la Naci6n in Buenos Aires and in the

Public Records Office in London. He employs fewer

statistics but draws on a complete mastery of secondary

literature. While his work is lightly footnoted, it draws

on a greater variety of administrative sources than does

Assadourian's and employs a more global perspective.

Although both scholars draw heavily on secondary sources and

a variety of administrative reports and relations, they use

these materials to different ends. Assadourian demonstrates

how effectively the South American colony insulated

itself from European intrusion; Halperin-Donghi demonstrates

the pervasiveness of European interests in one corner of the


Juan Carlos Garavaglia builds on Assadourian's regional

model and uses Halperin-Donghi's conclusions to develop a

study of regional differentiation within the Rio de la Plata

during the last years of the colonial period.21 Garavaglia

uses tithe records from 1786 to 1802 as "indirect

indicators" to measure growth in economic production in

three regions comprising the Rio de la Plata viceroyalty.

His study examines production trends in Tucumdn, in the

Litoral/Banda Oriental and in the eastern Andean province of

Cuyo, regions he defines based on particular economic

specializations. His findings underscore the importance of

21. Juan Carlos Garavaglia, "Economic Growth and
Regional Differentiations: The River Plate Regions of the
End of the Eighteenth Century," Hispanic American Historical
Review 65:1 (February, 1985), 51-89.

specific regional studies and the value of comparative


Garavaglia begins with a description of the changes

effecting southern South America after 1776. The creation

of the Rio de la Plata viceroyalty and the proclamation of

free trade helped Buenos Aires consolidate its role as a

commercial center for the surrounding hinterland. The

triumph of a new economic system, largely based on livestock

production in the Litoral and the export of hides from

Buenos Aires and Montevideo to Europe, triggered a series of

economic ups and downs, or differentiations, from region to

region.23 The Bourbon reforms, he argues, had a tremendous

impact in this part of the colonial world, either promoting

economic growth in some areas or aggravating decline in


Between 1786 and 1802, the years for which Garavaglia

has full tithe data for all regions, the annual total tithe

22. Ibid., 55-56. A curve constructed from tithe
records, Garavaglia explains, provide an "indirect indicator
of the movement of production and of agricultural and
livestock prices." Tithe records can be problematic, he
explains, but for Rio de la Plata they express "the
particular behavior of a grain market that is tied to an
open agricultural economy." They do not seem to suggest, as
Brooke Larson found in eighteenth-century Cochabamba, "an
inverse correlation between years of the highest tithe and
the good harvests." See Larson, "Rural Rhythms of Class
Conflict in Eighteenth-Century Cochabamba, HAHR 60:3
(August, 1980), 407-430.

23. Ibid., 52.


collected in the viceroyalty grew by 59 percent. Growth was

not the same in all regions, however; some areas contributed

a reduced share of the total after 16 years and some areas

provided an increased share. The Litoral, led by Buenos

Aires, dominated the regional whole for the entire 16 years,

but to a lesser degree in the last five years studied. In

1786, the different areas of the Litoral contributed 57

percent of the total tithe, in 1802 only 51 percent. The

Tucumdn region, led by the city of C6rdoba, became an

important contributor whose relative share of the tithe

total increased from 25 percent to 38 percent. Cuyo,

comprised of the cities of Mendoza and San Juan, contributed

the least and even experienced a relative decline over time,

falling from 18 percent to 12 percent.24

Closer analysis of each of these regions, encompassing

a longer time span, reveals more subtle trends within this

framework. To obtain a clearer understanding of the Litoral

region, Garavaglia divides it into three smaller sub-

regions. Buenos Aires included the six country districts

surrounding the city. The Banda Oriental included

Montevideo, the districts on the eastern strip of the River

Plate and the districts around Maldonado. The Nuevo Litoral

included the three districts of Santa F6, the districts that

24. Ibid., 58.

would become Entre Rios and the zone that stretches to the

south of the Rio Corrientes.25 Above all, Garavaglia

asserts, growth in the Litoral did not affect all areas


Garavaglia's tithe analysis indicates a clear

diffentiation between cattle and hide production in the

Nuevo Litoral and grain production in Buenos Aires and the

Banda Oriental. For all the region, grain accounted for 67

percent of tithe income and cattle only 26 percent. The raw

numbers measuring hide exports from the River Plate are

noteworthy, however, and merit some discussion before

turning to the grain production that Garavaglia finds more

important. Using the daily sales tax accounts from Buenos

Aires and Montevideo, Garavaglia calculates an average

annual export of approximately 447,000 hides from the River

Plate (Buenos Aires and Montevideo) between 1779 and 1784.

Of these, 47 percent left from Buenos Aires. The remainder

left from Montevideo. The following years witnessed roughly

similar percentages.26

25. Ibid., 59.

26. Ibid., 53. For a more detailed calculation of the
River Plate's hide exports in the eighteenth century, see
Garavaglia, "El Rio de la Plata en sus relaciones
atldnticas: Una balanza commercial (1779-1784)," Economia,
sociedad y regiones (Buenos Aires, 1987)65-117.

Determining the origin of all these hides is more

difficult. Of the roughly 210,000 hides exported annually

from Buenos Aires between 1779 and 1884, Garavaglia

estimates that approximately 40,000 to 50,00 hides entered

the city from its countryside each year. Perhaps 70,000 more

came from cattle slaughtered for the provision of the city

and its surroundings. More important, some 100,000 hides

entered Buenos Aires from other provinces. Of these

100,000, almost half came from the Banda Oriental, 22

percent from Paraguay, 12 percent from Santa F6 and ten

percent from C6rdoba.27 In summarizing, Garavaglia notes

first that the countryside around Buenos Aires contributed

only about 30 percent of the hides exported from the River

Plate during its time of maximum expansion. Further, he

advises that Platense historians abandon the notion of an

area surrounding Buenos Aires settled exclusively by

ranchers and teeming with large herds of cattle and

recognize the clear distinction between between the wheat-

prodicung areas of the River Plate and the cattle-dependent

Nuevo Litoral.28 The River Plate's hides came from a

27 Ibid., 53-54. Garavaglia develops this discussion
from his calculations of the Buenos Aires alcabala
registers. See footnotes, pages 53-54.

28. Ibid., 55.

widespread and diverse area; Buenos Aires' tithe income

depended on wheat production (see Table 1.1).

Table 1.1 Cattle and Grain Percentage of Litoral Tithe,

Cattle Grain
1782-86 1798-1802 1782-86 1792-1804

Buenos Aires 14 25 79 70
Montevideo 12 24 78 72
Santa F6 66 83 23 11
Corrientes 89 49 11 51

Figures represent the percentage of total tithe income.
Source: Garavaglia, "Economic Growth and Regional
Differentiations," 53.

The Cuyo region, comprised of the cities and

jurisdictions of Mendoza, San Juan and San Luis, relied on

grape cultivation and the production and export of wine and

brandy (aguardiente) to Buenos Aires and the River Plate.

Mendoza specialized in the production of wine, while San

Juan concentrated almost exclusively on aguardiente.

Garavaglia finds that the region flourished in the middle of

the eighteenth century (1755-1756), but by 1790 the tithe

incomes from this region diminished to about half what they

had been earlier (to about 45 percent for Mendoza and 50

percent for San Juan).29 Closer analysis of the figures

reveals important trends developing within Cuyo, however.

In the 1750s, Mendoza contributed more to Cuyo's total tithe

income than did San Juan; by 1790, the two cities were

almost even (despite the reduced total), and by 1800 San

Juan had surpassed Mendoza as dominant contributor to Cuyo's


As does Halperin-Donghi, Garavaglia attributes these

trends in Cuyo to the "disastrous effects" of the Bourbon

reforms and free trade. After 1778, wine and aguardiente

from the Spanish Mediterranean enjoyed free access to the

River Plate markets where their presence diminished the

demand for Cuyo's goods. Both the quantity and value of

Cuyo's products dropped in Buenos Aires during the 1780s and

1790s. But the wine trade seemed to suffer more than the

aguardiente trade; alcabala, or sales tax, receipts from

Buenos Aires indicate that aguardiente from San Juan figured

among the most important efectos de la tierra, or farm and

ranching products, received in the port.31

Tithe collection in the Tucuman region, comprised of

the cities of C6rdoba, Catamarca, San Miguel de Tucuman,

29 Ibid., 64-68.

30. Ibid., 65.

1. Ibid., 66.

Salta, Jujuy, La Rioja and Santiago de Estero, experienced

the most growth in the Rio de la Plata, increasing by 246

percent between 1786 and 1802.32 C6rdoba led this trend,

supported by increased ranching (cattle, mules and sheep),

growing wool exports and a well-established farming

community in the city's countryside, to become the second

most important tithe center among the regions studied,

behind Buenos Aires. But again, if the areas within Tucuman

are more closely examined, differing trends emerge. While

C6rdoba prospered tremendously, tithe production in San

Miguel de Tucuman remained steady, and declined in the

cotton and aguardiente-producing areas of Catamarca and La

Rioja. But C6rdoba's growth alone boosted Tucuman's

relative position within the regional whole, from 25 percent

of the total tithe collection in 1786 to 38 percent in 1802.

C6rdoba's growth proved so decisive, in fact, that the

Tucuman region's relative share of the total tithe for the

Rio de la Plata region grew at the expense of most other

regions. Between 1786 and 1802, for example, Buenos Aires'

share of the total shrank from 34 percent to 29 percent,

Montevideo's share shrank from 13 percent to ten percent,

and Cuyo's share from 18 percent to 12 percent. Santa F6,

the only other area showing relative growth during this

32. Ibid., 61.

period, increased from four percent of the total to ten

percent .3

Garavaglia again attributes most of these trends to the

effects of the Bourbon reforms that "accentuated changes

that, for some time, had been emerging in the space occupied

by the future territory of Argentina and Uruguay."34 As

Halperin-Donghi argues, the Atlantic economy shaped this

process. Garavaglia further notes that the growth of the

Litoral preceded free trade, which served to accelerate the

process. After the initiation of reforms, however, growth

in most areas remained fragile, as Corrientes and Santa F6

show. The strengthening of the cattle industry in the River

Plate area during the very last years of the colonial era,

he contends, did not lift ranching to a position of

predominance; rather, grain cultivation retained its primary


But unlike Halperin-Donghi, Garavaglia argues that the

commercial role of Buenos Aires in relation to the Interior

pre-dated administrative reorganization, a policy that

solidified the city's dominant position. His analysis of

both the origins of the River Plate's hides and the markets

for Cuyo's wine and aguardiente lend weight to this

Ibid., 58.

Ibid., 87.

argument; it would seem that Buenos Aires' position as a

pole for the Interior's commerce dated from at least the

mid-eighteenth century. The growth of C6rdoba's economy and

its increasing Atlantic orientation further bolster this

argument. Garavaglia's calculations also confirm, in a

modified way, Halperin-Donghi's assessment of the Bourbon

reforms' impact on Interior agriculture. The decline of

Cuyo in the face of Iberian competition demonstrates the

unfortunate consequences of free trade in areas unable to

adjust to changing circumstances. The Tucuman region

illustrates a more complex scenario. If C6rdoba prospered

because its large landowners managed to increase exports of

hides and wool, the more isolated areas of La Rioja and

Catamarca suffered because of their inability to augment or

supplement their weakened specialties of aguardiente and


Garavaglia's study underscores the importance and value

of regionalizing economic studies of the complex late

colonial period. His analysis of regional differentiation,

however, does not fully explain economic trends such as the

dominant position of grain production throughout the River

Plate area, nor does it explain the relationship between

this grain production and hide exports. These questions,

however, are addressed by Jonathon Brown's socioeconomic

history of the Rio de la Plata region during the viceregal

and early national periods.35 Brown's study concentrates

on both production and markets during the final years of the

pre-industrial age; like Halperin-Donghi and Garavaglia,

Brown finds external markets especially important to

regional hide production after 1776. The beginning of

Europe's Industrial Revolution and the emergence of the hide

export economy in the Rio de la Plata stimulated regional

growth and contributed to the reasons behind the opening of

Buenos Aires to legal overseas trade, but these processes

did not initiate a state of dependence on the Atlantic


Brown's study bluntly rejects standard dependency

theory and applies instead the staple theory of economic

growth to Argentinian history.36 Originally conceived to

3. Jonathon C. Brown, A Socioeconomic History of
Argentina, 1776-1860 (Cambridge, 1979) and his 1976
University of Texas Phd. dissertation, The Commercialization
of Buenos Aires: Argentina's Economic Expansion in the Era
of Traditional Technology, 1776-1860 (Ann Arbor, 1976).
36. Ibid., 5-6. Brown presents an excellent summary
of the basic arguments of the dependency school. The
dependency literature that Brown cites includes Enrique
Cardoso and Enzo Faletto, Dependencia y desarrollo en
America Latina; Andr6 Gunder Frank, Capitalism and
Underdevelopment in Latin America (New York, 1967); Stanley
J. and Barbara H. Stein, The Colonial Heritage of Latin
America (New York, 1970); Osvaldo Sunkel and Pedro Paz, El
subdesarrollo latinoamericano y la teoria del desarrollo
(Mexico City, 1970); and James D. Cockcroft, Andre Gunder
Frank and Dale L. Johnson, Dependence and Underdevelopment
(Garden City, 1972). For the more specific application of
dependency theory to Argentina, Brown cites Liborio Justo,
Nuestra patria vasalla: De los Borbones a Baring Brothers

explain the economic and social development of Canada, Brown

applies the staple theory to Argentina with considerable

success. Providing a useful structure for analyzing

regional economies, staple theory applies best when the

production of raw materials or commodities, such as hides,

becomes the dynamic sector of a regional economy and sets

the pace for regional economic development.3 Brown's

application of staple theory not only explains the

predominance of wheat production in the River Plate

described by Garavaglia, but also qualifies Assadourian's

rejection of South American dependency on the Atlantic


In Brown's presentation, three situations determine

staple economies. First is the existence of both

international markets for, and trade in, certain staple

products such as silver or hides. The second is that a

definable region enjoys a comparative advantage in the

(Buenos Aires, 1967); Jos6 Maria Rosa, Analasis hist6rico de
la dependencia argentina (Buenos Aires, 1974); Andres M.
Carretero, Origenes de la dependencia econ6mica argentina
(Buenos Aires, 1974); and Juan Antonio Corradi, "Argentina,"
in Ronald H. Chilcote and Joel C. Edelstein, editors, Latin
America: The Struggle with Dependency and Beyond
(Cambridge, 1974).
37. Ibid., 6-7. Brown notes that Harald A. Innis, The
Fur Trade of Canada (Toronto, 1930) was the first
application of staple theory to Canadian history, and that
Melville H. Watkins, "A Staple Theory of Economic Growth,"
in Canadian Journal of Economic and Political Science 29:2
(May 1963) has best formulated staple theory.

production of these staples. The third situation is for

this production to generate regional development and

stimulate growth within the regional infrastructure. This

diffusion of the effects of staple production is expressed

in terms of "linkages" that are classified into three


"Backward linkages" result from increases in staple

production that promote increased investment and growth in

the goods and services used by the export sector--services

such as transportation. "Forward linkages" result from

investment in the processing and marketing of staple goods.

Buenos Aires' stockyards, slaughterhouses and warehouses

provide examples of forward linkages. "Final demand

linkages" result from the development of secondary areas of

production associated with local consumer demands. Prior to

1860, Brown argues, the export sector of the Rio de la Plata

economy did not subvert or restrict the development of an

economic infrastructure--an argument central to dependency

theory. Instead, diversification and diffusion of economic

activity characterized the staple economy of the pre-

industrial age. Without the dynamic hide export economy in

the Rio de la Plata, Brown concludes, the economic and

38. Ibid., 6-8.

social expansion of this entire South American region would

have been retarded.3

Brown's application of staple theory clearly

demonstrates the prosperity of the Rio de la Plata's

viceregal economy. Noting that the evolution of Buenos

Aires as the center of the staple economy accelerated with

its establishment as the viceregal capital in 1776 and its

recognition as the official Spanish port for the entire

region in 1778, Brown argues that the single most important

change shaping the Rio de la Plata economy was the

administrative reform that brought Potosi into this new

viceregal sphere and diverted its official silver

production, some 370,000 pesos a year, through the city's

port. Buenos Aires, in response, developed an internal

market of its own that gradually stimulated production in

the hinterlands. Cattle industries in particular, he

argues, "responded with growth and sophistication."40

Markets in both Buenos Aires and Potosi stimulated growth in

all the settled areas of the Rio de la Plata. The

viceroyalty experienced not only expanding internal

commerce, but also increasing overseas commerce and a

39. Ibid., 8.

40. Ibid., 28. Brown refers to the viceregal period
as the "golden age" of the colonial era.


favorable balance of trade that lasted until the end of the

colonial era.41

Potosi's silver dominated this commerce, comprising

between 50 and 80 percent of the total value of River Plate

exports.42 Efectos de la tierra followed, becoming more

and more important. Hides led this growth, increasing from

150,000 exported to almost 875,000 in 1796. Salted meat

exports to Havana followed, also rising, from 158 metric

tons in 1787 to 1,785 tons ten years later. Imports, led by

textiles from Spain, Britain and France, iron

from Vizcaya and luxury items from around Europe, also

reveal ascending trends.43

This commercial growth, Brown continues, reflects

demographic trends for almost all parts of the viceroyalty.

Drawing on the demographic studies of Jorge Comadrdn Ruiz,

Brown argues that most of the Interior, as well as the River

Plate, experienced "anything but economic depression as a

4. Ibid., 30. Brown cites contemporary observers who
estimated the value of exports during the 1790s at
approximately five million pesos and imports at nearly three
million. These figures, he adds, may be low.

42. See also Garavaglia, "El ritmo de la extracci6n de
metdlico desde el Rio de la Plata A la Peninsula," Revista
de Indias 36:143/144 (January-June 1976), 253-254.
Garavaglia proposes that silver exports neared six million
pesos in some years during the 1780s and 1790s.

43. Ibid., 30.


result of freer trade.""44 Comadran Ruiz' calculations for

the River Plate region show the population climbing from

37,130 in 1777-78 to 92,000 in 1809. The Tucumdn region

grew from 123,985 to 211,867 during the same years, and Cuyo

from 23,411 to 59,954. Within these regions, only the Jujuy

jurisdiction declined, from 13,619 people to 12,278.45 The

most surprising growth was in Cuyo, where the population

more than doubled despite the difficulties endured by the

wine and aguardiente-producing industries (see Table 1.2).

This economic and demographic growth reflected what

Brown calls the "progressive expansion of the pastoral orbit

of Buenos Aires."46 This expansion involved not only the

area devoted to cattle production, but also the evolution of

cattle-breeding techniques--a process referred to as a shift

from hunting to husbandry. From the seventeenth century,

the principal pastoral products in demand in overseas

markets included hides, tallow and cured meats; until late

in the colonial period, hunting expeditions called vaquerias

slaughtered isolated herds of wild cattle that ranged the

44. Ibid., 35.

5. Data taken from Jorge Comadran Ruiz, Evoluci6n
demoqrdfica argentina durante el period hispdnico (1535-
1810) (Buenos Aires, 1969), 80-115.

46. Brown, A Socioeconomic History of Argentina, 35-
41. See also Horacio C. E. Giberti, Historia econ6mica de
la ganaderia argentina (Buenos Aires, 1960).

Table 1.2. Population Growth in the Rio de la Plata,
1777 1809.

Region 1777-1778 1809

River Plate 37,130 92,000

C6rdoba 40,203 60,000
La Rioja 7,690 12,619
Jujuy 13,619 12,278
Salta 11,565 26,270
Tucuman 20,104 35,900
Santiago del Estero 15,465 40,500
Catamarca 13,315 24,300

Mendoza 8,765 21,492
San Juan 7,690 22,220
San Luis 6,956 16,242

Totals 184,526 363,821

Source: Comadrdn Ruiz, Evoluci6n demogrrfica
argentina, 80-115.

grasslands of the River Plate.47 Despite considerable

waste, vaquerias nevertheless met the demands of the

Atlantic market.

Vaquerias, in a sense, also wasted

rangeland, given the tendency of hunters simply to extend

47. For a more complete discussion of the history of
vaqueria cattle exploitation, see Emilio Coni, Historia de
las vaguerias del Rio de la Plata, 1555-1750 (Buenos Aires,
1956) and Herndn Asdribal Silva, "La grasa y el sebo: dos
elements vitales para la colonia: Buenos Aires en la
primera mitad del siglo dieziocho," Revista de Historia
Americana y Argentina 8:15-16 (1970-1971).


their hunts farther into frontier regions rather than try to

establish managed herds in already-hunted areas. By the

mid-eighteenth century, however, a number of different

pressures brought about a more efficient, better-managed

system of estancias, or formal cattle-breeding ranches, that

introduced better methods of pastoral production.4

Early estancias relied on unsophisticated roundups and

the branding of wild cattle that still grazed the unfenced

ranges. This "rudimentary husbandry," as Brown

characterizes it, assured the reproduction of herds and was

largely responsible for the success of cattle-breeding in

the Banda Oriental. Well watered, easily accessible and

free of Indian tribes that harassed ranching on the pampa,

the Banda Oriental quickly became the primary region of the

new techniques of cattle ranching. By the viceregal period

cattle grazing was well established here, generally oriented

toward the port of Montevideo. By the 1790s, saladeros, or

48. Brown, A Socioeconomic History of Argentina, 35-
41. See also Halperin-Donghi, "Una estancia en la campana
de Buenos Aires, Fontezuela, 1753-1809," and Garavaglia,
"Las actividades agropecuarias en el marco de la vida
econ6mica del pueblo de Indios de Nuestra Sefora de los
Santos Reyes Magos de Yapeyi: 1768-1806," both in Enrique
Florescano, editor, Haciendas, latifundios y plantaciones en
Am6rica Latina (Mexico City, 1979); and Carlos A. Moncaut,
Estancias bonaerenses: Con la menuda historic de alqunos
establecimientos, entire todos, de los partidos de Chascomus,
Randios, Magdalena, General la Valle y Lujin. Historia y
tradici6n (City Bell, 1977).


simple meat-salting plants, prepared Banda Oriental beef for

export to Cuba and Brazil.49

This evolutionary process saw pastoral commodities rise

to become a "junior partner" in the River Plate's commerce,

second only to the export of Peruvian silver.50 The

process would continue through the viceregal period and into

the nineteenth century, helping fuel the increase in

international shipping, the consolidation of the merchant

class and the growing hegemony of Buenos Aires within the

Rio de la Plata economy. When Peru's silver production

finally collapsed during the independence wars, the pastoral

economy stood poised to assume the role of dominant sector.

The early national period, in Brown's presentation, saw the

export of pastoral commodities from Buenos Aires begin to

carry the entire Rio de la Plata regional economy.

Industrial demands in Europe and North America, Brown

concludes, supported the increasing prosperity of this new

South American economy.5

9. For further discussion see Anibal Barrios Pintos,
Historia de la ganaderia en Uruguay, 1574-1971 (Montevideo,
nd.); and by Alfredo J. Montoya, Historia de los saladeros
argentinos (Buenos Aires, 1956) and La ganaderia v la
industrial de salaz6n de carnes en el peri6do 1810-1862
(Buenos Aires, 1971).
50. Ibid., 48-49.

51. Ibid., 49. Much of Brown's study is devoted to
explaining the relationship between the North Atlantic
industrial revolution and the sustained prosperity of Rio de

Brown's discussion of staple theory, demographic data

and expansion of the pastoral economy to Rio de la Plata

helps explain the expansion of grain cultivation for the

domestic market in the River Plate revealed by Garavaglia.

Concentrated around the area's cities, the growth in farming

reflects both the increased economic activity and the

population growth that marked the viceregal era. Staple

theory also explains the prosperity of C6rdoba, a city tied

to this expansion through its own hide and wool exports.

Similarly, the city's farming sector thrived as a

consequence of a "final demand" link to this prosperity.

The reorientation of Santa F6, however, best illustrates the

association between increased commodity exports and economic

diversification. As Santa F6's hide exports grew between

1786 and 1802, wheat cultivation became an increasingly

important element of the local economy. Population growth

in the jurisdiction, as well as increased commercial

activity, stimulated the production of foodstuffs important

to the local market.

Brown's study also further qualifies the

interpretations of Assadourian and Halperin-Donghi. His

application of staple theory and his subsequent arguments

maintain the self-sufficient nature of the South American

la Plata's pastoral economy. See chapters three and four.

economy despite the increasing importance of the pastoral

sector in the Rio de la Plata. Brown clearly presents the

reorientation of the Rio de la Plata economy that saw the

rise of a pastoral economy oriented toward the Atlantic, but

he also recognizes the continued dominance of Peruvian

silver within the commercial sphere of the regional economy.

The Rio de la Plata's eighteenth-century diversification and

rise to prominence in South America drew on its ties to

North Atlantic markets, but did not signify a condition of

dependence. Growing international trade certainly stirred

the traditionally slow rhythms of the Rio de la Plata

economy, which increasingly relied upon industrial markets

in the North Atlantic, and the local pastoral boom certainly

stimulated a variety of economic activities throughout the

Litoral--grain cultivation provides a strong example. Other

areas suffered. Cuyo, unable to compete with cheap imports,

declined. Catamarca and La Rioja in the Tucumdn region also

suffered in the face of competition triggered by the

viceregal era's adjustments. But full regional dependence,

rather than reliance, awaited the post-independence years

when the Peruvian silver sector had collapsed, overseas

trade climbed higher and higher and industrial technology

began to play a more and more important role in both

productive and extractive techniques.

The works of Assadourian, Halperin-Donghi, Garavaglia

and Brown represent the best synthesis of the Rio de la

Plata's economic history. Together they present a clear

discussion of a complex era; they offer accurate context and

effective examples for further regional studies of the South

American colonial economy. Assadourian skillfully places

Rio de la Plata within a broader colonial system, and then

introduces the critical process of adjustment or

reorientation that defined the viceregal era. His elaborate

exploration of the Andean mining economy conveys a

sophisticated understanding of the interdependent nature of

the mining, agricultural and commercial components of the

colonial economic system, yet provides for the distinct

processes of specific regional histories.

Halperin-Donghi builds on Assadourian's foundation in

his regional study of Rio de la Plata. He concentrates on

the critical adjustments that diminished the role of the

mining sector within this region, a process that also

altered commercial relationships and promoted a new city to

positions of administrative and economic dominance. His

conclusions modify those of Assadourian: One South American

region, at least, began to withdraw from the greater

conjunction and lean more and more in the direction of the

Atlantic economy.

Garavaglia underscores the complexity of this process.

His tithe data confirms the reorientation of the Rio de la

Plata's hide-producing economy and introduces another

important activity. Grain cultivation, he shows, emerged as

a key component of the Litoral economy and contributed to

regional development. Garavaglia's study emphasizes the

importance of careful regional analysis by demonstrating the

subtle differences from area to area that marked the dynamic

viceregal period. And by identifying three fundamental

component regions of the Rio de la Plata, Garavaglia

facilitates further examination of the colony's economic


Brown, finally, introduces a new paradigm to the

synthesis of Platense history. His application of staple

theory provides a framework that weaves together these other

studies and explains the connections between the traditional

silver economy, the eighteenth-century processes of

adjustment and reorientation, and the Atlantic-oriented

growth of the Litoral based on hide production and the

diversification of component regional economies. Combined

with the works of Assadourian, Halperin-Donghi and

Garavaglia, Brown's staple theory lays the groundwork for a

closer look at Tucumdn's regional economy.



In 1773 when Don Alonso Carri6 de la Vandera, perhaps

better known by his pen name Concolorcorvo, left Buenos

Aires on an extended overland trip to Lima, he entered the

Tucuman region at a place called Esquina de la Guardia, an

isolated post approximately 85 leagues northwest of Buenos

Aires. The spot marked the boundary between Buenos Aires

and C6rdoba provinces.1 Following the Rio Tercero north

and west into the C6rdoba jurisdiction, Concolorcorvo

encountered a prosperous pastoral and agricultural economy.

Five rivers flowing from the elevations and forests of

western C6rdoba nurtured this economy in good years. The

Rios Primero, Segundo, Tercero, Cuarto and Quinto watered

1. "Concolorcorvo" (Alonso Carri6 de la Vandera), El
Lazarillo. A Guide for Inexperienced Travellers between
Buenos Aires and Lima. Translated by Walter D. Kline
(Bloomington, 1965), 140. A widely cited Spanish edition of
this work is El lazarillo de ciegos caminantes desde Buenos
Aires hasta Lima (Buenos Aires, 1942). The entire trip,
from Buenos Aires to Lima, Concolorcorvo calculated,
approached 950 leagues; the Tucuman portion, from the
frontier with Buenos Aires province to the border between
Jujuy and La Quiaca in the north, spanned approximately 380

good pasturelands that supported herds of mules, cattle,

oxen, horses and sheep; irrigated farms in the populated

valleys of the jurisdiction grew crops of maize, wheat and

barley. Annual income from the mule and cattle trades alone

exceeded 600,000 pesos, Concolorcorvo claimed, adding that

the city of C6rdoba, capital of one of the most prosperous

areas he would see in his subsequent travels, ranked among

the wealthiest cities of its size in Spanish America.2

The city's population numbered just over 7,000 when

Concolorcorvo saw it; the jurisdiction's population counted

almost 40,000. The city's many wealthy "principal

citizens," mostly pasture owners and merchants, lived in

fine houses and kept many black and mulatto slaves. Seat of

the bishopric of Tucuman and home to a cathedral, C6rdoba

also boasted Dominican and Franciscan monasteries, two

convents, a crown-supported colegio and a Franciscan

university.3 "In few places of equal size in America,"

Concolorcorvo claimed, "does one find so much wealth."4

2. Ibid., 78.

Concolorcorvo provides this description; population
figures for C6rdoba and the other Tucuman districts come
from Jorge Comadrdn Ruiz, Evoluci6n demoqrdfica argentina,
47-54, 77-114.

4. Concolorcorvo, El lazarillo, 78-79.

Ten years later, in 1783, the city would be named seat of

the new Intendency of C6rdoba de Tucuman, with its

jurisdiction spreading throughout the southern jurisdictions

of the Interior.

Concolorcorvo saw C6rdoba just as it was emerging from

a long depression. The previous century had seen the steady

contraction of the provincial economy, and as late as 1740

the cabildo of C6rdoba had complained of widespread poverty

in the jurisdiction complicated by a long drought that

inflated the prices of basic foodstuffs in the city's

marketplace.s Since the beginning of the eighteenth

century, the cabildo explained, drought had diminished the

jurisdiction's production, hurting the livestock sector as

well as agriculture, and had triggered the ruralization of

the entire province.6 Many of the most respectable

5. "Carta de Cabildo de C6rdoba al Rey, 1739," in
Carlos A. Segreti, ed., C6rdoba, ciudad y provincia. Segcn
relates de vialeros y otros testimonies (C6rdoba, 1973),

6. For a more complete discussion of this process of
the ruralization of C6rdoba's society, see Assadourian,
"Integraci6n y desintegraci6n regional," 121-127. Ceferino
Garz6n Maceda, Tucuman: Economia natural y economic
monetaria (C6rdoba, 1968), 11-15, also discusses the
provincial depression and its consequences, including the
shortage of circulating currency and increasing ruralization
of Tucuman.

citizens had left the city for their ranches, citing the

greater comforts and savings of the countryside.7

By 1760, however, C6rdoba's economy began its recovery.

The cabildo now wrote of abundant provisions and great

numbers of local livestock--cattle, sheep, goats, oxen,

horses and mules--once again entering the Peruvian trade.8

The mostly creole and casta population was widely dispersed,

living in nine partidos, or jurisdictions, that were

sufficiently watered by year-round rivers and streams.9

C6rdoba historian Efrain Bischoff found that these residents

created more than 170 new estancias in the jurisdiction

7. "Carta del Obispo de Tucuman, don Juan de
Sarricola, al Rey, 1729," in Segreti, C6rdoba, ciudad y
provincia, 114-116.
8. "Informe del Cabildo de C6rdoba al Rey, 1760," in
Segreti, C6rdoba, ciudad y provincia, 155-164.

9. See the "Oficio del gobernador-intendente de
C6rdoba Marqu6s de Sobremonte al virrey Marqu6s de Loreto,"
dated November 6, 1785, in Archivo General de Indias
(A.G.I.), Buenos Aires 50, "Correspondencia con los
Gobernadores de Tucuman, 1783-1806" (folios not numbered).
This document is also transcribed in Jose Torre Revelo, El
Marqu6s de Sobremonte. Gobernador Intendente de C6rdoba y
Virrey del Rio de la Plata. Ensayo hist6rico (Buenos Aires,
1946), xci-ciii. Sobremonte included the populations of the
9 additional settlements in the C6rdoba district: Rio
Segundo, 3,568; Rio Tercero, 3,580; Rio Quarto, 3,736;
Calamuchita, 2,548; Tras la Sierra, 2,967; Tulumba, 2,507;
Punilla, 3,867; Yschilin, 1,105; and Rio Seco, the largest,
with 5,038 inhabitants.

during the 1760s and 1770s.10 By the 1770s, at any rate,

C6rdoba had re-established its position as the staging

ground for the Peruvian mule trade. Local landowners once

again purchased large numbers of young mules from breeders

in Buenos Aires, Santa F6 and Corrientes. These animals

wintered in the fertile pastures of C6rdoba for later sale

to Salta dealers, and ultimately, to Peruvian buyers. This

mule trade, Concolorcorvo noted, dominated C6rdoba's economy

as well as that of the entire Tucumdn region.11

C6rdoba's pastures also supported herds of cattle that

provided hides and other by-products that figured among the

most important regional exports. Local merchants exported

many unprocessed hides, many that were tanned into leathers,

and many more that were made into cases and containers. The

cattle herds also provided the grease and tallow necessary

to make the soap that C6rdoba sold in the Buenos Aires

markets. Herds of sheep provided great quantities of wool

that rural inhabitants wove into ponchos, blankets and

saddle-blankets that sold throughout the region and in

Buenos Aires and Chile. The city's abundance, C6rdoba's

10. Efrain Bischoff, Historia de C6rdoba. Cuatro
siglos (C6rdoba, 1977), 61.

11. Concolorcorvo, El lazarillo, 111.



SdA SZd.2.
*.. dJy,

* H--
* ,a.aJ~apI






t *'

* m"LL~ *

p Mr p 4 S

Tucumdn and Cuyo Regions, c. 1776




r.. L: rn.Y


sUI g, .~-----~--~

ijusna^ ..^nIr

Figure 2.1.

bishop recognized in 1773, arose from the fertile pastures

that supported these pastoral industries and nurtured the

growth that saw the population increase from a low of

perhaps 2,000 inhabitants in 1750.12

Five military posts to the south guarded the frontier

and defended C6rdoba's pastoral economy from the "enemy

Indians" of the pampas who had long maintained an active

hostility to the Spanish settlements.1 The enemy tribes

raided frequently and left their mark; over the past several

years, Sobremonte explained, the Rio Cuarto partido had seen

its mule exports diminish from 6,000 annually to only 1,400

in 1785. With four new posts planned, he hoped, such areas

might be repopulated and earlier prosperity recaptured. The

C6rdoba jurisdiction also counted eleven small pueblos de

12. See the "Informe del Obispo Moscoso al Rey sobre
su Obispado (Salta de Tucuman)" in Revista de Buenos Aires,
27 volumes. (Buenos Aires, 1865-1871), volume 25 (1865), 19-
67. Although this informed is not dated, others argue that
it was written in 1773--see Edberto Oscar Acevedo, La
intendencia de Salta de Tucuman en el virreinato del Rio de
la Plata (Mendoza, 1965), 12, footnote 6. Moscoso's 1750
population estimate came from a relaci6n submitted by the
Bishop Pedro Miguel de Argandoia in 1750.
13. Sobremonte, "Oficio (1785)." Sobremonte described
the frontier as running from the Fuerte de las Tunas in
Buenos Aires' jurisdiction to San Luis in C6rdoba's; the
forts that C6rdoba supported include the two fuertes of
Saladillo and Sauce and the fortines of San Bernardo, Santa
Cathalina and Concepci6n del Rio Cuarto.

indios, which together comprised only 195 tributaries who

generally paid their tributes with lengths of cotton

cloth.14 A number of C6rdoba's landowners even claimed

encomienda rights on very small numbers of Indians; during

the viceregal era the numbers probably never surpassed many

more than several dozen encomenderos with one, two, three or

four assigned Indians apiece."5

One hundred and fifteen leagues north of C6rdoba,

Concolorcorvo reached the much smaller city of Santiago del

Estero. Situated on the banks of the Rio Dulce, the city

counted fewer than 1,750 residents while the jurisdiction

numbered over 15,000. The area's poverty struck its

visitors. Concolorcorvo described the jurisdiction as

"saltpetrous" and "exposed to floods," and said that most of

the jurisdiction's residents, "scattered about in huts, are

miserable souls.""6 Bishop Moscoso added that the entire

jurisdiction lacked any "moral culture" and was "falling

from civilization"--conditions due, he suggested, to the

4. Ibid. Sobremonte listed these pueblos: San
Antonio Nonsacate, Quilino, San Jacinto, Soto, Pichana,
Salsacate, Nono, Cozquin, La Toma and Los Ranchos.

5. See Adolfo Luis Gonzalez Rodriguez, La encomienda
en Tucumdn (Seville, 1983).

16. Ibid., 85.

prevalence of the Quechua language among the rural

inhabitants. Sandy soils limited the agricultural potential

of the jurisdiction, and the local economy depended upon the

Buenos Aires-Lima trade.17 With little livestock

production and even less commercial farming, the

jurisdiction was better known for the handwoven ponchos,

blankets and saddle-blankets that provided income for the

rural population."1

Concolorcorvo also noted that the men of Santiago del

Estero enjoyed reputations as the best soldiers in the

province, long familiar with Chaco Indian raids. With its

largely Indian population, prevailing poverty and the long

history of frontier hostilities, the jurisdiction became an

important source of agricultural labor for the Litoral

region during the viceregal period."

Forty leagues north, the traveller entered the city of

San Miguel de Tucumdn, higher in elevation than the southern

17. Moscoso, "Informe," as follows: "No es menos
tardia su cultural en el moral, pero mas de notarse estilos
que desdicen de la civilizaci6n, conservan la lengua
quichua-cari, por idioma dominant de todos sus vecinos."
18. Halperin-Donghi, Politics. Economics and Society,
9, characterizes this domestic weaving as a "flourishing"
activity. Concolorcorvo said it was meager.

19. Ibid., 9.

jurisdictions and more prosperous than Santiago del Estero.

Concolorcorvo admired the jurisdiction's good pastures,

extensive forests and abundance of fine woods, all important

to the local economy; Bishop Moscoso described "all the

natural advantages that come together to benefit this

place." The jurisdiction's population exceeded 20,000 with

about 4,000 in the city itself; the approximately 24

principal residents prospered mainly from the carrying trade

that was so important to the jurisdiction's economy.

Ranching, especially the breeding and training of oxen for

the carting trade, also contributed to the local economy.0"

The jurisdiction also figured as an important craft center,

where hide tanning and the export of leathers employed many

and carpentry many more. Cut wood and trimmed lumber and

hand-crafted furniture from San Miguel de Tucuman sold

throughout the Interior as well as in the Litoral

settlements. The construction of large carts, as many as

200 each year, reflected the city's role in the Buenos

Aires-Potosi trade.21

20. Concolorcorvo, El lazarillo, 87; Moscoso,

21. Carlos Pdez de la Torre, Historia de Tucumdn
(Buenos Aires, 1987), 134-135; Osvaldo Rail Bazdn, Historia
del noroeste argentino (Buenos Aires, 1986), 38-43.

Agriculture was sparse in this jurisdiction, but rice

grown here merited special note in a consulado report to the

viceroy in 1797, and citrus, especially oranges, warranted

specific mention in El Correo Mercantil de Espana y sus

Indias in the same year.2 The jurisdiction also produced

a fine tobacco, called Andullo, that sold throughout the

province and in Alto Perd but competed with tobacco grown in

Paraguay and Nueva Granada. In 1779 the contador Juan

Francisco Navarro, travelling to a new position in Buenos

Aires, recommended that the crown stop buying these other

types of tobacco for sale in Peru and limit commerce to the

San Miguel de Tucuman variety. Citing its equal or even

superior quality, Navarro noted the cheaper transportation

costs, and hence the greater profitability, of Tucuman

tobacco.2 In 1785, however, officials at the Real Renta

de Tobaco prohibited further cultivation of tobacco in San

Miguel de Tucuman as punishment for fraud and bad faith in

22. See Acevedo, La Intendencia de Salta, 224, for a
discussion of rice cultivation in the district, and Pdez de
la Torre, Historia de Tucumnn, 134, for the text of El
Correo Mercantil.
23. Edberto Oscar Acevedo, "El viaje del contador
Navarro entire Lima y Buenos Aires en 1779," in Revista de
Historia Americana y Argentina, 2: 5/6 (1960-1961), 305-306,

its commerce with Cuyo.24 Consequently, this potential

asset to the provincial economy never fully developed.

Similarly, Navarro commented on the jurisdiction's limited

sugar cultivation, in which he again saw considerable

potential. He recommended encouraging its expansion into

the Peruvian market, again citing low transportation costs.

Sugar production expanded slowly in San Miguel de Tucuman,

however, and did not become a significant item in provincial

exports until after the colonial regime.25

Salta appeared next on the Buenos Aires-Potosi road,

approximately 75 leagues beyond San Miguel de Tucuman. In

Concolorcorvo's day, Peruvian merchants had already made

Salta famous for the great livestock fair held on the city's

outskirts.26 Salta had once rivalled C6rdoba for the

dominant position in the Rio de la Plata interior; in 1782

it became seat of the Intendency of Salta de Tucuman with

jurisdiction over the other cities of Santiago del Estero,

San Miguel de Tucuman, Catamarca and San Salvador de Jujuy.

24. Acevedo, La intendencia de Salta, 315-319.

25. Acevedo, "El viaje de Contador Navarro," 317-318.

26. Concolorcorvo, El lazarillo, 108. Concolorcorvo
estimated that Salta annually sent some 60,000 mules and
4,000 horses to Peru, a figure that seems high in light of
existing records of the trade.

Salta's population was quite small--perhaps 4,300 in the

city and some 11,500 in the jurisdiction, but the landowning

class constituted a powerful force and the city's key role

in the Peruvian trade gave it an influential position in

viceregal affairs."

The Peruvian trade dominated the jurisdiction's

economic life, which centered around the mule trade and

commerce. The jurisdiction's fine pastures strengthened the

young mules brought from the south--as Concolorcorvo

explained, the owners of Salta's pastures knew well that

their lands were best used for maturing the young animals

rather than for breeding them.28 Salta, like C6rdoba,

served as an important commercial center, each year seeing

the arrival of many cartloads of merchandise from Buenos

Aires and from throughout the province, destined for markets

in Potosi and throughout Alto Perd. The jurisdiction knew

limited industry, however; the insignificant textile

producers here could not compete with those in C6rdoba or

with the very cheap cloths produced throughout Alto Per.29

27. Halperin-Donghi, Politics, Economics and Society,

28. Concolorcorvo, El lazarillo, 108.

29. Pedro Santos Martinez, Las industries durante el
virreinato (1776-1810) (Buenos Aires, 1969), 38-50.

Eighteen leagues past Salta, the traveller arrived in

San Salvador de Jujuy, the northernmost city in the Tucuman

region. A city of only 1,700 residents in a jurisdiction

with around 13,500, San Salvador de Jujuy had once known

better times. By the onset of the viceregal era, however,

Jujuy had declined to a position of secondary importance,

described by Bishop Moscoso as a place of "little society."

While Salta controlled Tucuman's mule trade, Jujuy claimed

the much less lucrative cattle trade with Alto Peru, selling

several thousand animals annually to buyers from the

provinces of Chichas and Porco.30 Jujuy's large Indian

population also contributed significant amounts to the royal

treasury; concentrated in an area north and west of the city

known as La Puna, the pueblos de indios that included

Rinconada, Cochinoca, Purmamarca, Tumbaia, Tilcara and

Humahuaca together paid several thousand pesos in yearly

tribute obligations.3 But Jujuy's location as the

northernmost jurisdiction in Tucuman provided its most

important advantage, giving it control of the terminus of

the cart route through the province and a monopoly on the

30. Concolorcorvo, El lazarillo, 137.
31. A.G.I., Buenos Aires 458, "Cuentas de Real
Hacienda de Salta y Jujui (1782-1786)."

transshipment of merchandise into Alto Peru on the backs of

tamed mules.32 Only mules broken and trained for the task

in the pastures of the jurisdiction could manage the

difficult 100-league carriage from San Salvador de Jujuy to


The Salta and Jujuy jurisdictions also supported a line

of frontier fortifications intended to keep hostile Chaco

Indian bands from raiding vulnerable haciendas. Supported

by the Jujuy treasury, the presidios of Los Dolores,

Ledesma, San Bernardo and Santa Barbara garrisoned perhaps

100 soldiers. The Salta-supported posts, including the

presidios of San Luis and San Carlos, occupied 88 more.

Together the two jurisdictions spent over 30,000 pesos each

year paying salaries and supplying provisions for these


Two other Tucuman jurisdictions off the main road

claimed some importance. Although they generated less

32. Acevedo, Intendencia de Salta, 285.

3. Acarete du Biscay, An Account of a Voyage up the
River de la Plata, and thence Overland to Peru (Northhaven,
1968; London, 1698), 38.
34. A.G.I., Buenos Aires 468, "Expedientes sobre la
Sisa de Tucuman, y reducci6n de indios (1784)," a document
titled "Plano de la tropa de las fronteras de esta ciudad to
Salta, y la de Jujuy" (folios not numbered).

vibrant economies, the Catamarca and La Rioja jurisdictions

contributed in specialized ways to the Tucuman regional

economy and often appear in treasury records and in official

informes and relations. The Catamarca jurisdiction,

northwest of C6rdoba in the arid foothills of the Andes,

counted a poor population of some 15,000 inhabitants, with

about 6,500 of these in the city of Catamarca. The city sat

in a valley shadowed by the Cerro de Aconquija to the north;

year-round streams provided water for the city and irrigated

crops in the valley. Bishop Moscoso wrote that hills and

higher valleys sheltered haciendas of "sown fields and large

and small livestock," but that the principal crops were

cotton and peppers, both grown in noteworthy quantities and

carried to market in C6rdoba. Catamarca's rural population

and small pueblos de indios produced quantities of coarse

cotton linens that were consumed locally or sold in

neighboring jurisdictions. Farmers in Catamarca also

practiced some irrigated market gardening, viticulture and

tobacco cultivation, and in the higher areas some wheat

cultivation, but Catamarca's inhabitants consumed most of

this production locally."

35. Halperin-Donghi, Politics, Economics and Society,
13. For more discussion of Catamarca, see Acevedo, La
Intendencia de Salta; Bazdn, Historia del noroeste

South of Catamarca stretched the La Rioja jurisdiction.

The city of La Rioja, described as a "small and backward"

collection of "miserable huts" by the Marques de Sobremonte,

counted about 2,100 residents. Bishop Moscoso claimed that

this jurisdiction barely supported the city; its commerce,

he wrote, was "of little consequence." The jurisdiction,

with about 9,700 people, mainly produced small quantities of

wine and aguardiente for sale in neighboring cities. It

also grew small amounts of cotton used by local weavers in

their "obras caseras."36 Livestock, including mules,

cattle, sheep and goats, generated some income for

landowners, but even most of the mules used to carry La

Rioja's products came from C6rdoba. La Rioja's jurisdiction

included the mines of Famatina, where 7,500 people populated

a fairly fertile area that nevertheless saw little

argentino; caros villafuerte and Rogelio Machado,
Catamarca, camino y tiempo (Buenos Aires, n.d.). For more
on Catamarca's textiles, see Carlos A. Dellespiane y
Calcena, "La artesania del tejido en Catamarca," in Primer
Congress de Historia de Catamarca, 3 volumes (Catamarca,
1966), volume III, 91-106.
36. Sobremonte, "Oficio (1785)" and Moscoso, "Informe"
both note La Rioja's small economy. Sobremonte's report
includes a list of the eleven pueblos de indios--Sanagasta,
Machinagasta, Aimogasta, Sauces, Pituil, Famatina,
Malligasta, Anguinam, Sanogasta, Uichigasta and Olta--that
together comprised only 118 tributaries who generally paid
their tributes with lengths of cotton lienzos.

cultivation. The mines barely produced; when Sobremonte

visited in 1785 they had long since played out and the many

poor souls still mining the area barely scratched out a


Falling outside the Tucumdn region proper (as defined

by Garavaglia) and constituting the regional economy of

Cuyo, the jurisdictions of Mendoza, San Juan and San Luis

merit attention here because they comprise a vital component

of the Interior economy, and, as Assadourian, Halperin-

Donghi and Garavaglia argue, they also felt the impact of

eighteenth-century adjustments. The jurisdiction and city

of Mendoza, in the eastern foothills of the Andes bordering

Chile, dominated the Cuyo region. Famous as an agricultural

center, the jurisdiction population of about 9,000 people,

with about 7,500 of these residing in the city, relied on

the good climate, fertile soil and abundant water in the

jurisdiction. Sobremonte admired the extensive irrigation

system that brought water from the Rio Mendoza to most

houses in the city and nourished the fine fields, gardens,

vineyards and orchards. Irrigation supported an abundance

of almost all crops and products that included dried fruits,

flour, and oil. But the wine production that dominated this

agricultural center formed the great bulk of exports to

Buenos Aires. The jurisdiction also engaged in some

ranching, albeit on a smaller scale and directed mainly

toward the local market or for export to Chile. Ranching

concentrated in the Valle de Uco, where fine alfalfa

pastures supported healthy herds and exports of animal by-

products that included hides, soap, tallow and grease.3

Transportation and commercial activities and mining

also figured among Mendoza's important economic sectors.

Carrying both European imports to markets in Chile and the

jurisdiction's own products to market in Buenos Aires,

between 1,000 and 1,500 carts travelled between Mendoza and

the River Plate each year, and thousands more mules

continued the short but arduous journey over the Andes. In

the Valle de Uspallata, in the sierra north and west of the

city, traces of gold, silver and copper supported small

mining efforts and generated Sobremonte's considerable

enthusiasm in 1785. As in Famatina, however, the Uspallata

mines never became an important source of income.3

7. Pedro Santos Martinez, Historia econ6mica de
Mendoza durante el virreinato (1776-1810) (Madrid, 1961),
102-106; Pedro Santos Martinez, et al., Historia de Mendoza
(Buenos Aires, 1979), 34-36; and Jorge M. Scalavini,
Historia de Mendoza (Mendoza, 1965), 86-92.

38. Despite the predictions of Francisco Serra Canals,
who served as the Superintendent of Royal and Public Works
for the Province of Cuyo, the mines never became important.


Just north of Mendoza, also in the Andes foothills, the

jurisdiction of San Juan counted some 7,700 mostly mestizo

inhabitants, with around 6,150 of these in the city of San

Juan. This jurisdiction specialized in the production of

aguardiente, especially double-distilled, or resacado, of

the best quality and so strong, according to Concolorcorvo,

"that mixing it with common stock gives it as much fire as

that of Andalucia or Cataluia."39 Prior to the creation of

the viceroyalty, Sobremonte noted, San Juan's aguardiente

sold widely throughout the River Plate and in Peru, but it

suffered declining distribution in the face of competing

quantities imported from Spain.40 San Juan's estates also

produced maize and other crops including hemp, mainly for

In 1785 Serra Canals claimed that "experience has shown the
mines to be most useful, capable of supporting considerable
population and the continuous removal of silver." In his
"Testimonio de Autos sobre las Minas de Huspallata" he
requested 20,000 pesos to study the possibility of
rehabilitating the Huspallata mines. The documents do not
reveal whether his request was ever granted. See his
"Testimonio" in A.G.I., Buenos Aires 50, "Correspondencia
con los gobernadores de Tucumdn, 1783-1806," dated 1785
(folios not numbered).

9. Concolorcorvo, El lazarillo, 81. Concolorcorvo
noted that this strong brandy was also called acuardiente de
cabeza, perhaps in reference to its strength.
40. "Oficio del Marqu6s de Sobremonte, Nov. 11, 1785,"
See also Carmen P. de Varese and Hector D. Arias, Historia
de San Juan (Mendoza, 1966), 54-58.

the local market. Carting never developed in San Juan

because mules proved better-suited to carrying the area's

aguardiente to markets in Buenos Aires, Chile and the north.

The last jurisdiction of significance was isolated,

poor San Luis, little more than a stopping point on the

Buenos Aires-Mendoza road. About 185 leagues west of Buenos

Aires, 70 leagues east of Mendoza and about 85 leagues south

of C6rdoba, this isolated frontier jurisdiction numbered

about 7,500 residents, with about 3,700 in the city of San

Luis. Most of this population lived in poverty,

occasionally working as peon laborers with the passing cart

or mule trains or driving livestock to either Chile or

C6rdoba.4 Sobremonte noted that because the jurisdiction

lacked even a single mill, the residents grew little more

than maize and imported what little wheat flour they could

afford from Mendoza. He also described a limited craft

industry, similar to that of Santiago del Estero, with women

producing small numbers of ponchos and blankets for trade

with more prosperous communities. Large herds of sheep,

which counted as many as 70,000 to 80,000, supported this


41. Urbano J. Nfiez, Historia de San Luis (Buenos
Aires, 1979), 92. Sobremonte's "Oficio" also includes a
good description of economic conditions in this district.

San Luis did become an important vaqueria staging

ground. In the spring of each year wealthy outsiders from

Buenos Aires, Chile or C6rdoba arrived to hire a foreman and

crew of ten or twelve peons to enter the pampas south of the

jurisdiction to round up or slaughter wild cattle, and

sometimes horses and mules.42 Each year five or ten or

fifteen such expeditions entered the unsettled lands, each

"harvesting" around 5,000 animals. Organizers of these

vaquerias from Buenos Aires generally came for hides that

were carted back to the port; those from Chile and more

often C6rdoba drove these wild herds back to their own

pastures. During the last decades of the eighteenth

century, San Luis managed to maintain a steady commerce with

neighboring jurisdictions based on these roundups. C6rdoba

became an important market for San Luis mules; Mendoza

purchased more and more of the wild cattle. Finally, San

Luis also maintained a small, if regular, export of animal

by-products--wool, hides, tallow, grease, soap, even dried

meat (charque), and, occasionally, cheese.

By the late eighteenth century, the Tucumdn

jurisdictions comprised an economically diversified region

with a variety of productive activities and a strong

42. Niiez, Historia de San Luis, 86-92.

commercial sector. The pastoral sector predominated,

providing income to each of the jurisdictions and

constituting the infrastructure that supported the

development of secondary activities such as tanning, weaving

and market agriculture. The vitality of this regional

economy depended on both access to, and relations with, the

markets in both Buenos Aires and Peru. Furthermore, the

Tucuman region imported few goods aside from luxury goods

and hardware. Almost all the staple foods, textiles and raw

materials consumed in the region came from local producers.

Carrying this production to market and handling the Buenos

Aires-Peruvian trade added another important element to the

regional economy. The following chapters examine the

productive, the commercial and the transport activities of

Tucuman more closely.

The demographic characteristics of the Tucuman region

during the viceregal era, however, reflected geographic and

economic differences that also characterized the region.

The numbers of people populating each jurisdiction, and the

numbers living in each city, varied widely within the

region. The region proved rather racially balanced overall,

but exhibited significant local contrasts. Clustered

populations of Indians, castas (mixed-race) and Spanish and

creole blancos tended to give specific appearances to

different jurisdictions and suggest that local economic

conditions within the region were associated with the racial

composition of the local population.

The combined population of the Tucuman jurisdictions

totalled almost 126,000 in 1779.43 C6rdoba, with just over

40,000, or 32 per cent of the regional population,

constituted the largest. San Miguel de Tucuman, with just

over 20,000 residents, or about 16 per cent of the total

regional population, was the second largest. La Rioja, with

only 9,700 (about 8 per cent), and Salta, with 11,500 (about

9 per cent), were the smallest jurisdictions. Jujuy,

Catamarca and Santiago del Estero each claimed roughly 12

per cent of the total regional population.

The northern and western reaches of the region recorded

generally smaller populations than the southern parts.

Salta and Jujuy combined, for instance, still had 10,000

fewer inhabitants than C6rdoba. Catamarca and La Rioja

together were smaller still. Well over half the regional

43. The following figures are adapted from Comadrdn
Ruiz, Evoluci6n demogrrfica argentina, 80-81. Comadran Ruiz
bases his discussion on a number of sources, and for the
Interior relies most heavily upon the censuses and summaries
produced by the bishoprics of Santiago de Chile and Tucumdn
(see page 79, footnote 3).

population lived in the three jurisdictions of C6rdoba,

Santiago del Estero and San Miguel de Tucuman. Table 2.1

presents jurisdiction and city populations for the Tucuman

and the Cuyo regions. Table 2.2 reveals several important

demographic characteristics of the Tucuman region by

providing a more specific portrait of the regional

population classified according to race. First, the casta

grouping, made up of mestizo, mulatto, and free and enslaved

blacks comprised the largest part of the population,

approximately 45 per cent of the total. The Indian and

blanco, those of Spanish birth or considered of Spanish

descent, populations were about equal, each comprising

approximately 27 to 28 per cent of total. Jujuy was by far

the most Indian jurisdiction, with 82 per cent of its

inhabitants classified as Indian. La Rioja followed, with

approximately 53 per cent of its inhabitants classified as

Indian. C6rdoba, with roughly 45 per cent of its

inhabitants classified as blanco, and Catamarca, with

roughly 30 percent, proved the most Spanish jurisdictions.

Santiago del Estero (54 per cent) and San Miguel de Tucuman

(64 per cent) both counted populations that were more than

half casta, while C6rdoba counted just under half its

population (45 per cent) as casta. Salta's population

Table 2.1. Populations, Tucuman and Cuyo, 1779


Jurisdiction City

C6rdoba 39,673 7,283
Santiago del Estero 15,465 1,776
San Miguel de Tucuman 20,104 4,087
Salta 11,565 4,305
San Salvador de Jujuy 13,519 1,707
Catamarca 15,315 6,441
La Rioja 9.723 2.172
total 125,355 27,771


Mendoza 8,765 7,478
San Juan 7,690 6,141
San Luis 6.956 3,684
total 23,411 17,303

Source: Jorge Comadrdn Ruiz, Evoluci6n demoqgrfica
argentina, 80-81.

Table 2.2. Populations by Race and Caste, Tucumdn,

Jurisdiction blancos

C6rdoba 17,863(45%)

Santiago 2,247(14%)
del Estero

San Miguel 3,166(16%)
de Tucuman

Salta 3,190(27%)

San Salvador 653(5%)
de Jujuy

Catamarca 4,590(30%)

La Rioja 2,617(27%)

totals 34,326(27%)



















Source: Comadran Ruiz, Evoluci6n demogrdfica argentina,

proved the most balanced, with roughly 50 per cent casta, 25

per cent Indian and 25 percent blanco.

With Jujuy's large Indian population, the north counted

over half its inhabitants (57 per cent) as Indian, far more

than the southern (17 per cent Indian) or the western (32

per cent Indian) jurisdictions. The southern jurisdictions











of C6rdoba, Santiago del Estero and San Miguel de Tucumin,

in contrast, together counted a population that was about 51

per cent casta and less than 20 per cent Indian. Only in

C6rdoba and La Rioja did blancos outnumber castas and only

in C6rdoba and Catamarca did blancos outnumber Indians. In

most places Indians proved the minority. The western

jurisdictions of Catamarca and La Rioja counted a fairly

balanced population--roughly 7,600 blancos (29 per cent),

10,000 castas (39 per cent) and 8,000 Indians (32 per cent).

Table II also reveals a decidedly rural population in

the Tucuman region, with just under 22 per cent of the total

population residing in the cities. The rest of the region's

population lived widely dispersed throughout a vast

territory, very seldom coming into contact with the cities,

church or royal government--what Sobremonte called "civil

life.""44 Sobremonte wrote at the end of his long report to

the crown in 1785 that the most serious difficulties in his

C6rdoba de Tucuman intendency were the lack of formal towns,

the shortage of priests and the persistence of rustic

customs. "The perseverance of rustic customs and the

ignorance of religion or a true understanding of what a

vassal owes his sovereign makes the collection of taxes and

44. Sobremonte, "Oficio (1785)."

tithes very difficult," Sobremonte complained. If

Sobremonte attributed much of the widespread theft of

livestock in the countryside to the isolation and poverty of

so many rural inhabitants, he also recognized the deficient

administration of the countryside. Ignorance, corruption

and "a lack of zeal" too often characterized the alcaldes of

the rural jurisdictions of Tucuman.

What the intendency most needed, Sobremonte suggested,

was new towns along the royal roads to both Buenos Aires and

Mendoza. C6rdoba's southern jurisdictions of Rios Tercero

and Cuarto particularly needed new towns to give their

inhabitants better opportunities to sell their cattle.

Villas of 30 to 40 people, with a house for each family and

a church, would begin to address the shortcomings of the

countryside. Sobremonte's plan called for the construction

of two such villas at a cost of 6,705 pesos for materials

and the salaries and rations of workers. He even suggested

that the project be funded with revenues from the sales of

playing cards and tobacco, but like many plans for the

development of his jurisdiction, Sobremonte's call went

unheeded in Buenos Aires and in Spain."

5. Sobremonte's proposal is found in an untitled
report addressing the lack of "pueblos formales" in C6rdoba
de Tucuman--see A.G.I., Buenos Aires 50 (folios not

This brief economic and demographic survey suggests

three vaguely distinct zones within the Tucuman region. In

the north, the jurisdictions of Salta and San Salvador de

Jujuy comprised one fairly cohesive zone. Here economic

activity displayed a greater reliance upon the livestock

trade with Alto PerG. Salta specialized in the sale of

mules and Jujuy in the sale of cattle; other than these

sectors, however, the north generated little production.

The overwhelmingly rural and largely Indian population in

the north further distinguished the north from the more

mestizo and blanco populations in the southern and western


In the southern zone, comprised of the jurisdictions of

C6rdoba, Santiago del Estero and San Miguel de Tucuman, the

economy proved more diversified. Livestock and ranching

still dominated, but this activity here stimulated

processing of pastoral by-products. Hides figured as the

most important, but wool and woolen goods also became major

exports from the southern zone. This southern zone also

benefitted from its better access to Buenos Aires, a

critical market for all the southern products except mules.

numbered) dated C6rdoba, November 6, 1785.

As in the north, commerce and the carrying trade, tied to

the Buenos Aires-Peru trade, also became important. The

larger populations in the southern jurisdictions also

differentiated the south from the north. Both San Miguel

and Santiago del Estero counted decisively casta

populations, while C6rdoba counted a blanco population equal

in size to the casta group. The southern zone emerged

during the viceregal era as a solidly creole part of the

colonial system.

The western zone, made up of the Catamarca and La Rioja

jurisdictions, comprised the poorest component of the

Tucuman regional economy. Each jurisdiction specialized in

one primary export without even the carrying or commercial

sectors to exploit. C6rdoba effectively dominated the

regional marketing of the western jurisdictions' products:

much of Catamarca's cotton and linens and La Rioja's wine

sold through the larger city's plaza. Interestingly, the

western zone exhibited the most racially-balanced population

in Tucuman, with roughly equal numbers of white, casta and

Indian populations.

The Tucuman region, then, featured considerable local

differentiation. Prosperous and diversified areas such as

C6rdoba and San Miguel de Tucuman contrasted with poorer,

more specialized jurisdictions such as Jujuy and La Rioja.

The region also boasted important cities just as it lamented

its vast stretches of desolate countryside. Indian zones

such as La Puna and western Catamarca remained isolated from

mestizo and Spanish areas, and "rustic" rural society

clashed sharply with the urban ambience of C6rdoba and

Salta. But the local differences were outweighed by the

regional unity lent by the principal economic sector--the

export of pastoral products. The component Tucuman

jurisdictions functioned as a cohesive regional economy

through their unchallenged "production" of livestock that

provided the means to exploit Peru's need for livestock and

Buenos Aires' clamor for hides. Tucuman's commercial role

as intermediary in the Buenos Aires-Peru trade lent further

cohesion to the region. Local merchants passed large

quantities of valuable European imports through the Tucuman

jurisdictions each year. Finally, these commercial pursuits

complimented and stimulated the carrying trade in Tucuman,

another regional specialty that lent unity and even a sense

of identity to the region.



Ranching, livestock exports and the processing of

pastoral by-products dominated the Tucuman regional economy.

The export of mules to Peru figured as the region's most

prominent activity, but cattle exports and the production of

hides, leathers and soap and their export to Buenos Aires,

Chile and Peru also contributed. Local consumption of meat

in the region's cities and countryside further added to

statistics. Livestock production included sheep raising;

wool from C6rdoba's large numbers of sheep proved another

important resource. The region exported some raw wool, but

processed much more into textiles and finished goods such as

ponchos and blankets. Livestock and pastoral by-products,

plus a number of other agricultural and manufactured goods,

provided the Tucuman region with the material base for both

moderate prosperity and measurable growth. Provincial tax

registers that afford a close examination of the productive

side of Tucuman's economy recorded much of this activity.

This chapter presents a survey of economic production in

Tucuman, first examining the livestock and pastoral by-

product sectors of the economy and then turning to the range

of secondary activities that included cotton cultivation and

the manufacture of inexpensive cotton and woolen textiles,

viticulture and the production of wine and aguardiente,

lumber processing from regional forests and mineral

extraction from the high, isolated mountains of western


As Concolorcorvo noted in 1773, the mule trade

constituted the principal business for the wealthiest

Tucuman landowners. This mule trade then served the

seemingly limitless Peruvian market, where the animals not

only filled the demands of Potosi's mining sector and

colonial transportation activities, but also constituted a

major item in the repartimiento de mercancias that widely

featured the forced sale of a variety of goods, including

mules, to Andean Indian communities. Responding to these

markets from the earliest years of the colonial period, and

especially after the economic recovery that followed the

mid-eighteenth century, mule raising had a long history in

the Tucuman region. A number of studies examine this trade,

especially for the most prosperous years. These studies

mostly count the numbers of animals exported from the region

using treasury records from Salta, the city that marketed

the animals into Alto Peru.'

Assadourian's various studies of the Rio de la Plata

economy include one examination of C6rdoba's mule trade

throughout its colonial history.2 He distinguishes three

phases characterizing this trade, extending them to the

entire Tucuman region and arguing that they reflect the

broader economic history of his Peruvian economy. His

analysis identifies an initial phase of general prosperity--

a period of expansion and then stability, marking roughly

the entire seventeenth century. A steady decline spanned

the first half of the eighteenth century, followed by a long

period of recovery and growth from 1750 until the end of the

colonial era. Short-term trends emerge within these longer

phases, but Assadourian's outline provides a reasonable

picture of the Tucuman experience. Early in the seventeenth

1. See Estela B. Toledo, "El comercio de mulas en
Salta: 1657-1698," in Anuario del Instituto de
Investgaciones Hist6ricas 6 (1962-1963), 165-190; Nicolas
Sdnchez-Alborn6z et al., "La saca de mulas de Salta al Peri,
1778-1808," in Anuario del Instituto de Investigaciones
Hist6ricas 8 (1965), 261-312; and Sanchez-Alborn6z, "La
extracci6n de mulas de Jujuy al Peru. Fuentes, volumen y
negociantes," in Estudios de Hist6ria Social, 1 (1965), 107-

2. Assadourian, "Economia regional y mercado interno.
El caso de C6rdoba en los siglos XVI y XVII," in El sistema
de la economic colonial, 42-49.

century, Assadourian explains, relatively small numbers of

mules exported at high prices corresponded with a decline of

textile production as the region struggled against Peruvian

competition. By 1630, as textile production declined

sharply, mule exports began to rise steadily, but with a

corresponding drop in prices from a high of about 65 reales

per head in the 1620s to less than 25 reales in the 1640s.

From the 1650s until around 1700 exports remained steady at

around 20,000 animals each year but with further decline in

price, from 22 reales in 1660 to 16 reales in 1670 to the

lowest price of 10 reales by 1700. From 1700 until the mid-

eighteenth century, both prices and exports remained low.

The economic recovery after 1750, however, included both

increased exports and higher prices, so that by 1770

unbroken, untrained mules from the C6rdoba jurisdiction sold

to northern buyers for approximately 36 reales each, and by

1800 for between 44 and 100 reales each.3

3. See Concolorcorvo, El lazarillo, 112-113; A.G.I.,
also the "Relaci6n que demuestra el Estado de Escasez o
Abundancia" in A.G.I., Buenos Aires 383, "Estado de las
Aduanas y Comercio del Virreinato, 1789-1793," July 1800,
folio 354. This report includes a list of mule prices in
C6rdoba: for one-year-old mules, 6 to 6 1/2 pesos; for two-
year-olds, 7 1/2 to 8 pesos; for three-year-olds, 10 1/2 to
11 pesos; and for mansas, or tamed animals, 12 to 14 pesos.


Concolorcorvo's relation includes a valuable discussion

of the economics of this mule trade. Tucuman's native-born

mules, he explains, remained few in number compared to those

purchased from the Buenos Aires and Litoral jurisdictions.

Pampas landowners realized greater profit from selling young

animals to pasture owners farther north rather than by

raising them any longer than necessary. The young mules

purchased from the southern landowners cost 12 to 16 reales

each; the herds driven from the Buenos Aires countryside

numbered between 600 and 700. The drives required perhaps

12 peones using about 40 horses; salaries for these workers,

plus other expenses, added an average of 4 reales to the

cost of each animal by the time they reached C6rdoba's

winter pastures. The young mules remained at pasture about

14 months, at a cost of 5 or 6 reales each (plus a bonus of

6 animals per 100 given to the pasture owner). Expenses,

then, would have added another 8 reales to the cost of each

animal. Concolorcorvo computed that each mule brought to

C6rdoba from the south cost around 26 reales, "more or

less," by the time it sold to northern buyers for around 36

reales. A little more than one year after its purchase,

then, a herd of 600 animals brought from Buenos Aires and

sold a year later could bring a profit of approximately 750


After a year or so in C6rdoba's pastures, herds

generally numbering between 1,300 to 1,400 animals were

driven north to Salta during the fall months (April through

June). This drive required about 20 men with 70 horses,

adding about 5 reales in costs to each animal. These larger

herds wintered again in Salta's pastures at 8 reales per

head; by spring, when they were sold to buyers from

throughout Peru, their cost had risen to approximately 50

reales. The selling price at the fair, however, averaged

around 8 or 9 pesos (64 to 72 reales) per head, bringing a

fair profit for a second time to TucumAn landowners. Herds

leaving Salta numbered around 1,700 to 1,800 head, driven by

16, 18 or 20 men with 150 horses and 70 or 80 pack mules for

carrying provisions. The herds went as far as Potosi, Oruro

and Cuzco, where they sold for 13 to 17 pesos (104 to 136

reales) per head or more.5

An excise tax called the sisa collected against each

mule exported from Salta provides the best means of

4. Concolorcorvo, El lazarillo, 112-116. One peso
equalled 8 reales.

s. Sanchez Alborn6z, "La saca de mulas," 262, footnote

measuring Tucumnn's mule trade. The Spanish crown imposed

the sisa tax throughout the empire on any goods of

particular local commercial value. In the Rio de la Plata

provinces, mules, brandy, yerba mate, tobacco and several

other items appeared on the sisa list. In Tucuman, the

first sisa tax on mules, amounting to two reales per animal,

appeared in the early eighteenth century when the crown

assigned its income to defense of the frontier and to

offensive campaigns against Chaco Indians. With the support

of provincial landowners, those most interested in

territorial defense, the sisa became an important source of

revenue for support of the region's forts and presidios. By

1760 the tax had been raised to six reales per animal, where

it remained until the end of the colonial period.6

In various archives in Seville, Buenos Aires and

C6rdoba there exists an almost uninterrupted sequence of

sisa records from Salta that span the years from 1761 to

1809. When compiled and analyzed as one, these various

sources provide both the total annual sisa income from mules

and the total number of mules annually exported to the

Peruvian provinces. Many years are documented by the libros

manuales, or daily entry books that include the date of

6. Ibid., 271-276.

transactions in addition to the amount of each individual

payment and the number of mules being paid for. These

libros constitute an especially rich source of information;

royal treasury officials in Buenos Aires carefully confirmed

their accuracy and veracity. Other periods can be measured

by reviewing annual summaries and resdmenes, documents that

provided the same information but often for different

purposes. In either case, the sisa records permit a

revealing quantitative analysis of the regional mule trade.

The procedure developed for collecting the sisa

depended upon a system of guias, or licenses, and

rescuardos, or guard posts, located at strategic points

along the various routes north from Salta. The guias

constituted a written proof that a merchant or exporter

(internador) had properly paid all taxes on his herd at the

Salta fair and was legally entitled to drive a determined

number of animals from the intendency. Royal law obliged

the foremen of these herds, or tropas, to present their

guias to the post guards, who were responsible for verifying

the herd size and collecting the sisa payment and seeing


that all documents, including the libro and the guias, were

signed. The herds then passed.7

The efficiency of this system depended upon the honesty

of the guards who patrolled the various routes north.

Geography also controlled traffic and limited options so

that the herds could not easily avoid the guards. The main

route, taken by most herds, ran northwest from Salta

(skirting west of San Salvador de Jujuy) through the

Quebrada del Toro, a canyon passage patrolled by the guards.

Ten days to two weeks later the herds reached another post,

the last before their ascent to Alto Pert. A second less-

travelled route passed through the Jujuy district and then

north through the Quebrada de Humahuaca to Tarija. Posts

located between Salta and Jujuy and again at La Quiaca well

to the north watched this route. The two routes, determined

by the relative ease of travel in the quebradas, or canyons,

effectively channeled almost all traffic north.8

This careful system was not enough to prevent all
fraud, however. The Catamarca and La Rioja districts were
suspected of supporting an illicit commerce in livestock.
See the "Informe de Juan Victorino Martinez de Tineo, a El
Marques de Sobremonte," dated June 24, 1779 (Salta) in
A.G.I., Buenos Aires 50 (folios not numbered).

8. Ibid., 283-288. Sdnchez-Alborn6z estimates that
between 80 and 90 per cent of all traffic passed through the
Quebrada del Toro route. The posts, he adds, were
administered only from February through August because harsh

The sisa records from Salta represent the great

majority of the mules raised in and exported from the

Tucumdn region. Two separate sets of records cover the span

from 1761 to 1809. Nicolas Sanchez-Albornoz presents one

set in a study of mule exports from Salta between 1778 and

1809. Gathered from the Contaduria section of the Archivo

General de la Naci6n in Buenos Aires, he published this data

in two columns. The first column records the annual sisa

revenue from mule exports from the Salta jurisdiction while

the second presents the total number of animals that

annually passed from the district.9 The second set of

data, covering the years 1761-1776, is found in the Archivo

General de Indias in Seville. These sisa accounts include

the annual total sisa revenue for both the Salta and Jujuy

jurisdictions and the annual subtotals collected on a number

of specific goods, including mules, cows and soap. These

accounts record the years 1764 to 1770 in detail, with

complete lists of each tropa leaving the Salta district.

winters and high Spring runoffs made off-season travel

9. See the author's discussion of the Buenos Aires
accounts, mostly in his footnotes, in Ibid., 289-296.

Summaries record the subsequent years."1 Several years

record only the amount in pesos collected by the tax; these

figures, however, permit a fairly accurate estimation of the

number of animals exported.11 In this half-century span,

in which at least 1,500,000 mules left the Tucumdn region,

only the figures for the years 1776 and 1777 are missing.2

In some years the guards did not collect for all the

animals that passed their posts. Most annual figures

correspond, however, with the sisa collected roughly

representing the reported number of mules passing from the

district. When debts did incur, they generally were paid

within a year or two--often, when the sisa falls short one

year, it was made up the next. In order to alleviate any

distortion caused by sisa debts, the data is best presented

in five-year blocks that provide more reliable figures.

Analyzing the figures for such periods alleviates the small

problems with the data and presents a better picture of

10. A.G.I., Buenos Aires 463, "Cuentas de Sisa de
Salta y Jujui, 1764-1776."

11. Estimations, based on sisa income in pesos,
derived from a simple calculation:
Sisa amount (in pesos) X 8 reales 6 reales (tax
on each mule).
12. See Appendix I for a complete year-by-year listing
of mule exports and sisa income from mules in Salta for the
years 1761-1809.

long-term trends. Table 3.1 presents five-year totals and

annual averages for the Salta jurisdiction for the years

from 1761 to 1809.

Table 3.1.

Official Mule exports and Sisa Revenue from
Salta District, 1761-1809. In Five-Year

Mules# Ann. Avg.


Ann. Avg.






1776 and 1777 figures are missing.
# 1764-75 figures estimates (see fn. 48).

Sources: Years 1761-1775 from A.G.I., Buenos Aires
463, "Cuentas de Sisa de Salta y Jujui, 1764-76,"
years 1778-1809 from Nicolas Sanchez-Albornoz, "La
saca de mulas de Salta."

The sisa records reveal several general trends marking

the Tucuman mule trade. The years from 1761 to 1780 show

relatively high exports and sisa revenue, with an annual

average of 31,836 mules sent north and 23,692 pesos



collected in sisa revenue. The 15 years following the Tupac

Amaru rebellion in Peru show a significant decline in this

commerce. Annual exports fell to an average of 18,628

animals between 1781 and 1795. The period from 1796 to 1809

marks the recovery of the trade; annual averages rose to

25,033 animals from 1796 to 1800, then to 36,588 animals

between 1801 and 1805, and to 38,813 animals from 1806 to

1809. Figure 3.1, presenting Salta's mule exports from 1761

to 1809, illustrates these trends.

Comparative figures from the San Salvador de Jujuy sisa

records spanning the years from 1764 to 1789 demonstrate

Salta's dominant position in the regional mule trade.

Jujuy's exports and revenues from 1764 to 1775 represent a

small fraction of Salta's trade. Although Jujuy's annual

exports occasionally reached 10,000 head, annual totals

generally averaged about 20 per cent of Salta's exports and

constituted about 16 per cent of the Tucumdn total for the

26 years examined. The Jujuy sisa summaries also provide

both the number of mules annually exported as well as the

total sisa revenues collected each year. A comparison of

the Salta and Jujuy figures illustrates the imbalance

between the two cities. Table 3.2 includes three columns of

data presenting each city's annual mule exports and sisa

0 0

0 0