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Feb 8, 2018 - On Jun 1, 2007, Gregory Knapp published the chapter: The Legacy of European Colonialism in the book: The P...



17 The Legacy of European Colonialism Gregory Knapp

South America was first “encountered” by Europeans during Columbus’ third voyage in 1498. This marked the end of the pre-Columbian period of the continent, and the beginning of the colonial period that lasted until the end of the wars of independence in the early nineteenth century. Total liberation of the continent from Spain was finally achieved at the Battle of Ayacucho in 1824. Brazilian independence from Portugal was achieved more peacefully in 1822, when Dom Pedro became constitutional emperor. The Guianas remained colonies far longer; indeed Guyane (French Guiana) is still an overseas department of France, while Suriname (Dutch Guiana) became independent in 1975, and Guyana (originally a Dutch colony, later British) became independent in 1966. It could be suggested that dependency remained after the end of formal colonial rule, owing to the continued influence of global economic powers on the continent. However, for the purposes of this chapter, the colonial period can be considered as lasting for 326 years from 1498 to 1824. If recent research has tended to enhance our appreciation of the impact of pre-Columbian peoples on the South American environment, it has also corrected some stereotypes concerning European colonial impacts. Europeans were not the first to substantially impact the South American environment. The colonial period was generally marked by depopulation and agricultural disintensification, with the result that many environments were more “pristine” at the

end of the eighteenth century than at the end of the fifteenth century. Migrations, cultural hybridities, and new local, regional, and global economic linkages led to changes in demands on agriculture and resource extraction. New technologies, crops, and social structures also had an impact. These impacts were not always as negative as sometimes portrayed, and local populations often had a substantial say in the outcome. Many of the most noticeable impacts resulting from the encounter with Europeans did not become widespread until after independence (McAlister, 1984; Bethell, 1987; Hoberman, 1996; Hoberman et al., 1996; Mörner, 1985; Newson, 1995; Robinson, 1990; Butzer and Butzer, 1995). In contrast to the case of pre-Columbian South America, we have substantial archival materials for the colonial period, and written accounts by official visitors and other travelers, some of whom were erudite and reliable (Jimenez de la Espada, 1965; Caillavet, 2000; Cieza de León, 1962; Cobo, 1956; Guamán Poma de Ayala, 1980). Only a small amount of research, however, has focused on the environmental dimension of the colonial South American world, in comparison with the larger amount of writing on political events, socioeconomic formations, and cultural characteristics of the Spanish, French, Dutch, British, and Portuguese empires. Many of the recent debates on the environmental dimensions of colonialism have focused on Mexico (e.g., Butzer and Butzer, 1995), but we need to be


UNCORRECTED PROOFS cautious in applying insights from Middle America to South America. This chapter will focus on the Andes, the main center of activity during most of the colonial period. Coastal Brazil was another arena of action, but will not be discussed in detail here. Much of the interior and the far southern portion of South America remained under the control of indigenous peoples, pursuing modified versions of land management as described in chapter 16. In this chapter, for the sake of clarity, sites will be located in terms of the boundaries of modern nations, but of course these nations did not exist in colonial times. Instead, the continent was divided into administrative and juridical districts under the control of the Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch, and British empires (figure 17.1). The boundaries of these districts were often vague or contested, and considerable areas were not under effective imperial control; furthermore, districts and their nomenclature changed throughout the colonial period. The map indicates the general pattern and nomenclature of administrative districts toward the end of colonial times, around 1790. Most areas were under the overall supervision of viceroys,

located in the Spanish viceregal capitals of Bogotá, Lima, and Buenos Aires, and the Portuguese viceregal capital of Rio de Janeiro. Other subdivisions included captaincies and audiencias; significant administrative and juridical centers of the Spanish part of South America included Caracas, Quito, Cuzco, Santiago, La Paz, and Chuquisaca (Sucre). These cities were not only centers of imperial control but also centers of European settlement and the introduction of European ideas, technologies, plants, and animals.

17.1 Late Pre-Columbian Situation In late pre-Columbian times, most of South America was occupied by agriculturalists. The major exceptions were far southern Chile, Patagonia, and the Pampas, which were occupied by hunters and gatherers, and the Andes above 4,000 meters, which were used for hunting and camelid (llama, alpaca) grazing. For the most part, settlement was dispersed in isolated households or small hamlets or villages. Even in areas where the population density was high,

Figure 17.1 Colonial administrative districts and selected cities in South America, about 1790. Boundaries are generalized.


Nature in the Human Context

UNCORRECTED PROOFS as in northern highland Ecuador, quite commonly most people lived close to their fields, with the major architectural and ceremonial centers being occupied only by chiefs, subsidiary ethnic lords, and their families and servants (Knapp, 1991). Large towns and cities did exist however in coastal Peru, and in parts of the highlands of Peru and Bolivia; impressively large villages also existed along the Amazon River, according to Carvajal’s account of the first expedition down the river in 1541–1542 (Medina, 1988). In late pre-Columbian times, the northern and central Andes (and adjacent coastal lowlands) were the main locus of intensive agriculture and landscape impacts. The highest arable slopes were used for potato cultivation that employed long fallows and rotational systems. Below about 3,000 meters, maize cultivation had led to massive landscape transformation. Irrigation canals snaked through the landscape, enabling farmers to produce reliable harvests even in areas with uncertain rainfall (Knapp, 1992b). In the south-central Andes, from what is now central Perú to northern Chile, true agricultural terracing (bench terracing) was widespread (Donkin, 1979). Raised fields were deployed in highland plains (altiplanos) from Colombia to Bolivia. Desert coastal valleys were irrigated for a variety of crops; and canals, water-table farming, raised fields, embanked fields, and sunken fields were deployed (Knapp, 1978, 1982). Humid coastal and Amazon lowland areas were also sometimes cultivated by using raised fields. Denevan (2001) has provided considerable evidence for intensive agriculture in late pre-Columbian South America. Prior to European contact, the population of South America has been estimated at roughly about 24 million, with about half of the total in the central Andes (Denevan, 1992a, 1992b). Estimates such as this rely on collating and comparing evidence from archaeology (settlements, abandoned agricultural features), early accounts, carrying capacity calculations, as well as analogy with areas outside South America and extrapolation and interpolation to fill in gaps in knowledge. Even the best local estimates have a high margin of error. For example, in the Cara subregion of highland Ecuador north of Quito, 22 pyramid (ramp tola) sites are known; if all were occupied prior to the Inca conquest, and each corresponded to a chiefdom of 3,000 persons, this would have resulted in a population of 66,000 (Athens, 1978). The same region shows an abundance of abandoned agricultural landforms, including raised fields. Since raised fields are an inefficient way to produce food (in labor terms), their use suggests that alternatives niches (slopes, irrigated zones) had been subjected to intensification to the point of comparable labor inefficiency. Given assumptions about technology, crops, and available fertilizers (mostly night soil and guinea pig dung), this in turn suggests a regional population between 75,000 and 170,000 persons (Knapp, 1991). These figures can be seen as broadly consistent with a statement of Hernando de Santillán, who

lived in northern Ecuador between 1563 and 1568. He claimed there had been a 4:1 depopulation since Inca times. Tribute figures suggest over 11,000 lived in the Otavalo encomienda alone, so Santillán’s statement would indicate a population much greater than 44,000 for the Cara northern highlands (Knapp, 1991). Taken together, multiple kinds of evidence begin to produce more confidence that many tens of thousands lived in this region. In theory, these population densities could be extrapolated to other areas with less archaeological or ethnohistorical evidence. A key problem with all population reconstructions based on agricultural landforms or settlement features is the question of simultaneous occupation. Were all ramp tola sites, or all raised field sites, used at the same time, or were they in use at different periods? Although the Cara region described above was likely to have been at a population peak prior to the Inca conquest, it is clear that substantial parts of it were depopulated by the Inca conquest prior to the Spanish arrival (Knapp, 1991). In other parts of the Andean highlands, it is clear that some areas were depopulated by volcanic eruptions (Knapp, 1999) or perhaps climate change (Kolata et al., 1999) well before the rise of the Inca state. Similar questions have arisen on the Peruvian desert coast. Were all of the impressive prehistoric irrigation systems in full use at the time of the Spanish arrival, or were some abandoned (Schaedel, 1992)? In the savanna grasslands of the interior, were the raised fields in use at the time of the Spanish conquest or abandoned earlier (Denevan, 2001)? Further archaeological work is needed to answer these questions, but there is no doubt from Spanish accounts that substantial areas of the tropical Andean highlands and adjacent lowlands were under intensive cultivation at the end of the fifteenth century.

17.2 Colonial Impacts Although there has been continued speculation about earlier contacts, particularly by voyagers from Africa, Polynesia, and Japan, the north coast of South America was certainly contacted by Columbus during his third voyage in late 1498, followed in swift succession by other navigators and leaders of military expeditions. The conquest of the Inca Empire may have been facilitated by an early smallpox epidemic in the 1520s that propagated through indigenous populations in advance of the Spanish military (Crosby, 1973; Dobyns, 1963; Cook, 1998). Caviedes (2001) has presented evidence that this conquest was also facilitated by an El Niño event in 1532. Expeditions included extensive forays into the interior, including Orellana’s expedition down the Amazon (Medina, 1988). These activities led to the establishment of European mercantile empires and the beginning of the “Columbian Exchange” of organisms

The Legacy of European Colonialism


UNCORRECTED PROOFS (Crosby, 1973; Crosby, 1986; Viola and Margolis, 1991), tools, technologies, institutions, and peoples—indeed the beginnings of globalization in the modern sense of the term. The environmental results have, in the long term, been massive. Linkages involved not only Europe, the home of the Spanish and Portuguese empires, but also Africa and Asia. African slaves were present on the earliest expeditions, and African plants (bananas, plantains, and a variety of rice) were among the early introductions (Carney, 1998). Migration throughout the colonial period contributed to the process of diffusion (Robinson, 1990). Butzer has pointed out lack of concrete empirical data to prove the point of a hypothesized “devastated colonial landscape” for New Spain. He also has discussed the evidence that European and Mediterranean land use was “overwhelmingly conservationist since prehistoric times” (Butzer, 1992). Unlike New Spain, there have been no scholarly claims for widespread colonial devastation in South America, and indeed there is little empirical evidence for such claims. However, local impacts were sometimes substantial. South America is a diverse continent, and colonial impacts varied from place to place. In general, one can distinguish between (1) zones of conquest of indigenous labor, (2) zones of relative colonial neglect, and (3) zones of indigenous suppression and creation of new economies and peoples. The central Andes (roughly, modern Ecuador, Perú, and Bolivia) were the center of the Inca Empire and remained the region of greatest indigenous population density. Spaniards reorganized the economy around the needs of the silver export sector, including transportation infrastructure (oxcarts, mules), labor supply provisions, and the creation of food and textile supply networks for mine and plantation workers, and urban dwellers. This has been considered an example of an enclave economy (Glade, 1969), segregated from but dependent on the surrounding subsistence agricultural economy of surviving indigenous farmers and, to some extent, large agricultural estates. At the same time, there were many interchanges, transactions, and hybridities generated by the close proximity of European, indigenous, and other castas (Hoberman and Socolow, 1996). Other areas of South America were relatively neglected during colonial times, either through fierce local resistance to colonial rule or because of a lack of resources attractive to Europeans. These include what are now southern Chile, Argentine Patagonia, and much of the Amazon basin. Finally, some areas of South America were sites of longterm extermination or absorption of indigenous cultures in the context of an inflow of European and especially African populations, and the absence of any successful policy for protecting and sustaining indigenous communities with a chiefdom or villager form of social organization. These regions included much of what are now Colombia and Venezuela, eastern Brazil, and Uruguay, as well as northern Chile and Argentina. The censuses of the


late colonial period show the demise of indigenous populations and the rise of African-American populations in these regions (Caviedes and Knapp, 1996; Schaedel, 1992).

17.3 The Central Andes Even in the Central Andes, the conquest began a long period of depopulation, as European and African diseases such as smallpox, measles, and malaria spread among local populations (Dobyns, 1963; Cook, 1998; Newson, 1995). The drafting of local peoples into plantations and mining activities as labor and slaves may also have played a part in population decline. Populations were relocated or “reduced” to nucleated planned settlements for the purposes of improved health, labor supply, taxation, religious indoctrination, and governability. Spanish towns were established according to then understood principles of town planning. Thus, Trujillo, Lima, and other coastal Peruvian cities were sited next to rivers, placing them at risk for flooding during El Niño events (Schaedel, 1992; Caviedes, 2001). Under Viceroy Francisco de Toledo (1569–1585), the settlement hierarchy of the central Andes was worked out, so that many municipal capitals today are old pueblos de indios founded in his time, although quite a few were forced to relocate due to disasters such as floods or earthquakes (Schaedel, 1992), and their character became mestizo rather than Indian (Gade and Escobar, 1982). The separation of Spanish and Indian towns, and residential segregation in cities, was as much to preserve a measure of Indian autonomy (Butzer, 1992) as to exclude indigenous people from Spanish society. Spain attempted to settle colonists in its new territories, but despite the experience with the reconquista in Iberia, had no experience with distant overseas colonization; as a result it experimented, using the institution of the land grant (merced), which tended in the New World to work against a small freehold tradition (Butzer, 1992). Although land grants could not include lands under cultivation by indigenous people, and repartimientos of indigenous labor precluded land rights, Borchert de Moreno (1981) has provided archival details from highland Ecuador on how in practice Spaniards were able to amass large estates, in some cases through strategic marriages with wealthy indigenous women who bequeathed their inheritances to their husbands. Indigenous depopulation and resettlement created further opportunities for the expansion of estates. The estates depended on indigenous labor, so the landscape in more densely populated regions tended toward a pattern of latifundia surrounded by indigenous minifundia. In areas like Colquepata in highland Perú, indigenous people were assigned subsistence plots that ignored previous management plans involving sectoral fallows (Zimmerer, 1996; Gade and Escobar, 1982; Orlove and Godoy, 1986). Although intended to provide for indigenous survival, such plans were disruptive and

Nature in the Human Context

UNCORRECTED PROOFS often resisted by local Indians, who attempted, often successfully, to re-establish dispersed settlement and old ways of territorial control. The Spanish were familiar with irrigation and admired the sophistication of indigenous irrigation systems. Although some irrigated areas may have been abandoned on the Peruvian coast due to the greater water requirements of introduced crops (Schaedel, 1992), and there is evidence of abandoned irrigated terraces in southern Perú (Sherbondy and Villanueva, 1979), detailed study of the irrigation systems in northern highland Ecuador shows that irrigated areas were usually highly prized and expanded during colonial times (Knapp, 1992b). Irrigation is labor efficient; the effort of building and maintaining canals is more than repaid by the increased productivity due to improved soil fertility and optimization of water provision throughout the growing season. Also, irrigation permitted cultivation of lower, drier parts of intermontane valleys suitable for the production of long-cycle crops. Thus, for example, after Native Americans were relocated from the Chota Valley in Ecuador, lands previously devoted to coca production were put into sugar cane production with the use of imported slave labor. Elsewhere in Ecuador, new canals were installed upslope and downslope of preColumbian canals, providing for a net expansion of irrigated land (Knapp, 1992b). Spaniards were familiar with both personal alienable water rights and with the concept of inalienable rights of water attached to pieces of land. The latter was the indigenous understanding of water, and was readily accepted by the colonial power as water rights were codified and litigation introduced. Many of the local structures and calendars of irrigation management were respected and retained, but water was managed by the elected officials of the newly established towns rather than by traditional chiefs and water officials (Guillet, 1992; Sherbondy, 1987; Mitchell and Guillet, 1994; Mitchell, 1991). Spaniards introduced the óvalo (water outlet of precise diameter to provide a measured flow) to help allocate water to different branch canals, and occasionally deployed qanats and water lifting devices, but otherwise their contribution to irrigation technology in South America was less important than the case in Mexico, where they deployed a variety of aqueducts and dams, especially in late colonial times (Knapp, 1992b). Much research remains to be done to understand better the patterns and processes of change in water management during the colonial period. Many valley sides of the central Andes were terraced at the time of the conquest (Donkin, 1979). After the conquest, many of these terraces were abandoned, probably in part due to the declining subsistence needs of a shrinking population. Such was the case, for example, in the Colca Valley, the site of the largest single complex of pre-Colombian terraces. Here, farmlands remained under the control of maize-growing indigenous farmers, but most of the less

accessible terraces seem to have been abandoned after the conquest (Treacy, 1994). Spaniards were familiar with terracing, but there is little evidence for Spanish construction of terraces or other slope management features in colonial times. As for the raised fields that occupied large areas in highland flats as well as adjacent coastal lowlands and the Llanos de Mojos, most seem to have fallen into abandonment by colonial times, and in some cases they were abandoned much earlier (Denevan, 2001; Knapp, 1999; Kolata et al., 1999). In highland Ecuador, for example, former areas of raised fields became wetlands or areas of unmanaged pasturage, habitat for migratory ducks (Knapp, 1991). Large areas of the Andes were being cultivated without either terracing or irrigation at the time of the conquest. In highland Ecuador, for example, the higher elevations were used for medium-fallow potato cropping and lower elevations for short-fallow maize cropping. Many other crops were also grown, including a variety of tubers, tarwi, quinoa, chili pepper, and beans. We know little of the exact nature of intercropping or rotational practices, but it is likely that in some areas a community-wide sectoral fallow system was followed (Zimmerer, 1996; Orlove and Godoy, 1986), and there were strategies for taking advantage of different ecological niches (Murra, 1972; Masuda et al., 1985; Caillavet, 2000). At higher elevations, and at locations with excessive or deficient rainfall, fallows were long enough to allow for the regrowth of brushland and woodland habitat for foxes (Canis azarae), rabbits, deer, and gallinaceous fowl. A wide range of fruit trees were grown, especially at somewhat lower elevations, including avocado, papaya, lúcuma, cherimoya, pacay, and tree tomato (Knapp, 1991); willow (Salix humboldtiana) and pepper tree (Schinus molle) may also have been diffused by humans in pre-Columbian times (Gade, 1999). Native trees were also planted on field margins, and quishuar species (Buddleja incana, Buddleja coriacea) were widely cultivated for wooden implements (Gade, 1999). Large quantities of firewood were harvested, but much of this was managed by the Inca empire; there were state-managed storehouses and groves (Gade, 1999). At higher elevations grasslands were maintained by clearing, grazing, and burning (Gade, 1999). Zimmerer (1996) has pointed out that the Inca state promoted only a few land races of maize and potatoes in state-managed agricultural fields, leaving the bulk of landrace biodiversity in the hands of commoners. He attributed high crop diversity among commoners primarily to culturally given livelihood norms, but attributed land-race diversity to other (rather accidental) factors. It may be argued, however, that the growing of maize and potatoes in separate zones can be explained parsimoniously in terms of maturation times and labor inputs, given a household-level orientation to labor efficiency in achieving subsistence goals (Knapp, 1991). Potatoes require more labor to har-

The Legacy of European Colonialism


UNCORRECTED PROOFS vest per calorie than maize; thus they normally will not be grown in niches suitable for maize, and where they are grown, fallow cycles and fertilization will be sufficient to make their yields per unit of land so high that their planting and weeding costs will be low relative to short-cycle grain crops elsewhere (Knapp, 1991). While cultural preferences clearly lead farmers to find ways to provide for habitual culinary needs, it is argued that environmental factors also have long-term significance. This divergence of opinion calls for further research on the decision-making processes of the farmers. Zimmerer (1996) has suggested that land-race diversity in the Andes is in part an unanticipated consequence of localized seed-cycling processes, and has denied that this diversity has an ecological function. This fact is important for future crop biodiversity conservation policies. After the Spanish conquest, these patterns of land use continued, albeit with some new crops and changes to tools. The relaciones geográficas (Jimenez de la Espada, 1965) and other sources show that a wide range of European crops were introduced into the Andes early in the colonial period. Gade (1992) suggested that, given the rigors of crossing the Panama isthmus, the preferred route of transfer of European crops and animals was from Hispaniola to Mexico and Nicaragua, and thence to the Rimac Valley near Lima. Here seeds, cuttings, and animals were picked up for diffusion along the Inca trail system through the Andes, where they had become part of a hybrid pan-Andean complex by the 1590s. This involved fewer than fifteen thousand Spaniards in a region of one million surviving Indians, so that clerics, indigenous leaders, and colonists took on special importance (Gade, 1992). The high elevations in the Andes provided a welcome habitat for European crops adapted to cooler weather. Some European crops were eventually incorporated into local rotation or intercropping, especially barley, wheat, and broad beans. Wheat and barley were grown for tribute or sale, as well as an element in local soups and stews; straw and stubble were also a livestock feed (Gade, 1992). These small grains tended to displace quinoa in the same way broad beans displaced tarwi (Gade, 1992). Wine grapes were introduced with some success in coastal oases and highland valleys, but never became widespread. Sugar cane was introduced successfully from the coast up to the warmer inter-montane valleys (Knapp, 1992b), but its use for producing sugar and alcohol remained a Spanish monopoly (Gade, 1992). Successful fruit-tree introductions included the orange, apple, pear, plum, peach, and capulin cherry (from Mexico) (Gade, 1992). Under Spanish rule, commoner fields remained the home of most of the crop and land-race diversity; only a few crops and land-races entered into markets or tribute (Zimmerer, 1996). Much remains to be done to reconstruct the history of livestock introductions. The Europeans understood local concepts of commons, and deployed privately owned


herds in common areas such as ejidos near towns and cities. Donkeys were widely adopted by Indians as pack animals, and mules became the main beast of burden for longer trips (Gade, 1992). Burning of high grasslands continued, sometimes under the aegis of the Feast of St. John the Baptist, a traditional occasion for bonfires (Gade, 1999). In general, sheep seem to have replaced llamas and alpacas at high elevations below 3,500 meters, but the pace and timing remains to be determined. There does not seem to be any equivalent to the massive transhumant sheep economy introduced into Mexico, and no crisis of overgrazing or erosion has been documented (Schaedel, 1992: 233; Gade, 1992). Pigs and chickens were also widely adopted by indigenous farmers, and a few also began raising cattle. One might speculate that it was in colonial times that farmers began to develop new manuring systems, including movable corrals in fields. Coupled with population decline, this new supply of dung (Winterhalder et al., 1974) probably reduced the labor input required to feed a family, and greatly reduced production pressures on more marginal lands. Although oxdrawn plows were an early introduction, their use remained localized in the colonial Andes (Schaedel, 1992; Gade, 1992: 468). Despite the field evidence for considerable gullying of unknown age and cause on many slopes, the influence of livestock on sheet or gully erosion remains to be documented in the Andes for the colonial period (but see Gade, 1999). The black rat (Rattus rattus) was introduced to South America in the 1540s, and other rats, mice, and vermin also arrived in these early decades of colonialism (Gade, 1999). The broad outlines of Spanish impact can be seen in the Chilca Valley, just south of Lima. At the time of the conquest, up to 10,000 people were living in this valley, growing maize, pacay, lúcuma, cotton, peanuts, gourds, squash, and other crops, using a complex system of embankments to manage flood water farming, as well as sunken fields to enable direct use of water from the lens of fresh water under the beach sand. By 1539, Chilca was part of a repartimiento, and was still being largely cultivated for maize, tubers, and fruit trees. However by the close of the sixteenth century, epidemics and other factors had reduced the population of the valley to less than a thousand; grapes, figs, pomegranates, quince, and melons were being grown, alongside traditional maize cultivation and fishing activities. By 1653 most of the fields were abandoned (Cobo, 1956), and by the late 1700s the region was producing only salt and fish products, with very little farming, at least as visible to visitors (Knapp, 1978, 1982). Rostworowski de Diez Canseco (1981) has pointed out the adverse impacts of grazing, firewood collecting, and hunting on the dry woodlands and lomas of coastal Perú, alongside the maintenance of fishing and salt gathering activities. This case example is interesting in that the valley seems always to have been under the substantial control of an indigenous population resis-

Nature in the Human Context

UNCORRECTED PROOFS tant to outsiders; no haciendas were established here. The overall trajectory of depopulation and disintensification reaching a nadir in the 1600s and 1700s was characteristic of the entire Andean region. The Spanish introduced iron technology, the sickle, tanning, tallow-processing (for lighting), soap making, wine making, sugar milling and refining, distilling, bread ovens and water-driven grist milling, among many other technologies (Gade, 1992; Schaedel, 1992). Spanish use of wood for bread ovens, brick factories, tile works, roof beams, doors, floors, coffins, furniture, window sashes, and charcoal, combined with browsing from sheep, provided stress on remaining woodlands in high Andean and coastal Peruvian valleys near towns and cities, even given the countervailing reduction of overall population and attempts at forest regulation through viceregal decrees. The result was most likely a reduction of woodland from the already sparse pre-Columbian situation (Gade, 1999; Rostworowski de Diez Canseco, 1981). Particularly devastated were cedro (Cedrella spp.) and nogal (Juglans neotropica), both of which were valued for furniture and other craft applications. Although not driven to extinction, both were largely removed from more accessible locations (Gade, 1999). In the high Andes, the main objects of long-distance trade were silver and gold. Mercury mines discovered in Huancavelica, Perú, helped with the patio process of extracting silver but had long-term health consequences for those working with this substance. Logging for smelting and mine timbers helped deforest slopes near mining centers such as Potosí and Huancavelica (Gade, 1999). Mining pressures affected forests as far away as Chuquisaca (Sucre), 130 km away (Gade, 1999). The mining economy required provisioning of textiles and mules from distant areas in the Andes. As a result of these impacts, the concept of “lo Andino” (characteristically Andean) as a timeless constant can be called into question, especially insofar as some of its advocates seem to imply that the Andes are a marginal, unproductive environment (Salman and Zoomies, 2003).

17.4 Other Regions Coastal Brazil had numerous people and open, garden-like landscapes prior to European settlement (Parsons, 1989), but after the conquest forests expanded due to indigenous depopulation. Sugar plantations near the coast required clearings, and sugar mills and boiling houses required firewood and construction material (Sternberg, 1968). Much of the forest was worked by shifting cultivation during the colonial period, in some cases leading to a loss of soil fertility and forest degradation. The gold rush of late colonial times created one of the most serious episodes of environmental impact; over a million migrants were attracted to Brazil, and mining processes included the use of hydrau-

lic methods, designed to reveal placer gold, which commonly caused hillsides to be washed away (Dean, 1995). Forays into the Brazilian interior to exploit various forest products had more localized impacts, including the removal of dyewoods such as various species of Caesalpina (Parsons, 1989; Dean, 1995). As in the case of coastal Brazil, many of the indigenous groups of northwestern South America were eliminated or displaced by the growth of new societies of mixed heritage. The Antioqueños of Colombia, for example, expanded through much of the highlands northwest of Bogotá, initially in search of gold. Miners and charcoal burners began the process of removing woodlands and forests, although much of the environmental impact would occur later with the development of the coffee economy (Parsons, 1968). The introduction of cattle, horses, sheep, goats, and other large domesticated animals resulted in a greater economic value for tropical grasslands and savannas. In tandem with the growth of herds, fodder crops such as alfalfa were introduced, and a long process began of importing new grass species, many from Africa, suitable for South American conditions. The resulting “Africanization” of South American grasslands has been one of the most important environmental processes over the last five centuries. Guinea Grass (Panicum maximum), Pará Grass (Brachiaria mutica), Jaraguá (Hyparrhenia rufa) and Molasses Grass (Melinis minutifloria) were apparently all present in Brazil by the end of colonial times; they also spread into Venezuela, Colombia, and other tropical grasslands (Parsons, 1970). Cattle were introduced to the Venezuelan Llanos by the 1540s, and by 1800 there may have been about a million cattle on these grassy plains (Parsons, 1989). Horse nomadism began in the sixteenth century in south-central Chile and Argentina, where it helped provide mobility for Native American resistance to European occupance until the nineteenth century (Schaedel, 1992). Cattle herding and ranching in various forms also expanded throughout the continent, providing meat and leather with a minimum of effort where land was abundant. Metal tools (axes and ploughs) and animal power also meant that forest and grassland sod could be removed with much less effort than previously was the case. Thus, as Denevan (1992c) has argued, swidden became more efficient and forest agriculture more extensive: it was more labor efficient to open new fields than continue to recultivate the same field. This may help to explain the abandonment of dark earth sites in Amazonia during colonial and later times. These are the prehistoric anthropogenic black and brown soils discussed in chapter 16.

17.5 Legacy of Colonialism In general, the colonial period in South America was one of recovery for forests and some wetlands, as population

The Legacy of European Colonialism


UNCORRECTED PROOFS decline and relocation led to reduced human impacts. The high cost of transportation away from the coasts, and restricted trade with Europe and Asia, further reduced environmental impacts. Locally severe impacts were, however, associated with particular high-value export activities, including silver mining in the central Andes, gold mining in Brazil and Colombia, and sugar cultivation in coastal Brazil. In particular, the demand for wood led to stress on woodlands and forests, especially in the Andes and coastal Brazil. There were however four major colonial legacies that would become even more important after 1800: (1) the legacy of insertion into a global system of trade and transfer, (2) the legacy of a coastal focus of development, (3) the legacy of cultural and caste diversity and divisions, and (4) a legacy of ethics, aesthetics, and attitudes toward nature. Colonial regimes organized regional economies and infrastructure to serve the needs of towns, cities, and Iberia. In this early global division of labor, the emphasis was on high-value goods that could withstand high transportation and transaction costs. These included precious metals and sugar. At a more local scale, trade was mobilized in grains, mules, leather, woolen and cotton textiles, and other goods. After independence, South America continued to participate in global trade, developing new metallic and plantation resources. This would result in major environmental impacts in areas devoted to the development of exports, for example of coffee, rubber, wheat, cattle products, and soybeans. Furthermore, these global linkages continued to facilitate the exchange of plants and animals, involving many unpredictable impacts that have continued to the present day. The spread of tropical lowland diseases and the focus of administrative, cultural, and economic centers near the coasts helped establish a “hollow continent,” still visible in the distribution of population and intensive land use today. Although areas in the interior were never truly isolated from global processes, the extensive habitats still remaining are a colonial legacy. The major colonial administrative centers became the capitals of nations, and in some cases came overwhelmingly to concentrate political, economic, and cultural functions, and become primate cities. South America’s relatively high level and concentration of urbanization continues to create its own special environmental impacts and challenges for conservation (see chapter 20). The creation of a segmented labor system with African slave, native American, mestizo, and Spanish castes, with corresponding rights and legal frameworks, has been augmented more recently with other migrations, for example by Japanese, Lebanese, and German immigrants, with corresponding impacts on the ethnic division of labor and the structure of consumer demand. In some cases this has made


it more difficult to create a policy consensus, necessary for certain types of conservation. Finally, the legacy of an Iberian ethic, aesthetic, and perception of nature continues to affect the politics and science of environment in South America. Only in the last few years has wilderness travel and ecotourism become popular within the region (as opposed to with tourists from other regions). Similarly, the development of environmental science in South America has been equally slow. Proposals for environmental protection will benefit from the long Iberian tradition of interest in agronomy and humanist relations with nature but will continue to struggle with the lack of a wilderness ideal.

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