Wealth, Authority, and Prestige in the Ica Valley, Peru

By Eugene A. Hammel | Go to book overview

Early Spanish accounts give some indication of what agriculture was like in those days; they praise the fertility of the soil but deplore the lack of water. All the early travellers were impressed by the quality of the vineyards in Ica. There were vines in Ica by 1553, almost immediately after the introduction of the grape to Peru, ca. 1551, and within fifty years Ica was one of the principal vineyard areas in all the Indies. Vine cultivation was adopted by independent Indian farmers as early as the 1590's ( Sánchez Elias, 1957).

The distribution of agricultural land in the colonial period was one of great plantations existing side by side with tiny plots. The original extension of the Hacienda Huamaní, for example, was about 2, 100 hectares of cultivated land with an additional 60,000 of uncultivated mountainous terrain. Some of the principal Indians (caciques) of the valley owned plots of land as large as 180 hectares, but the majority of Indian plots were smaller, just as peasant properties are today ( Anicama Ms.). The total amount of land cultivated about 1639 was approximately 16,000 hectares. On the basis of available data there were probably about 1·14 hectares of land per capita of total population and about 16-20 hectares of land per owner. The last figure is the arithmetic mean; in view of the skewed distribution of ownership, most farmers had much less than that. Agricultural labor on the large haciendas was provided by Negro slaves. Sharecropping may have been carried on by landless Indians (yanaconas), but we have only linguistic evidence for the practice.8


THE REPUBLICAN AND EARLY MODERN PERIOD (1820-1900)

The general agricultural patterns established at the conquest continued in effect until almost the beginning of this century. The major change in agriculture was the introduction of commercial cotton growing by a wealthy planter, Ismael Elias, in 1844. As in other areas of Peru, cotton became a popular crop under the scarcity conditions created by the American Civil War, but declined toward

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8
The word yanacona in modern Peruvian Spanish means "sharecropper," although other terms are more commonly used to designate that role in Ica. There were many yanaconas in colonial Ica, identified as landless Indians from other areas who performed personal services for the Spaniards and who were exempt from payment of tribute. No specific mention is made of sharecropping in colonial sources. It is conceivable, however, that the yanaconas served as foremen for the Negro slaves.

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Wealth, Authority, and Prestige in the Ica Valley, Peru
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Preface 7
  • Introduction 9
  • General Description 13
  • Agriculture and Husbandry 19
  • Industry 32
  • Transportation and Trade 41
  • Social Class: the Formal Aspect 47
  • Social Class: Correlates of Formal Position 56
  • Conclusions 88
  • Bibliography 99
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