(LATIN AMERICA in the 17th CENTURY – continued)

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LATIN AMERICA in the 17th CENTURY (3 of 4)

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Spanish colonies expand in South America in the 1600s

By 1611 the mining town of Potosi (accent on the i) in the Andes Mountains were around 42,000 Spaniards and 65,000 Indians. Prices were high – as they would be in 19th century Gold rush areas. More than a dozen dance halls existed, around three dozen gambling halls, and numerous prostitutes strolled the streets. Hundreds of miles to the south, the town of Cordoba was growing in a different way. In 1614 a university was founded there.

Farther south, Buenos Aires remained a small frontier settlement. In 1620 Spain began allowing two ships a year to journey there, despite the notoriety of the area for smuggling. Cattle ranches south of the Buenos Aires extended no farther than a hundred miles, and in 1650 Buenos Aires consisted of farmland, 400 houses, 854 Spanish inhabitants and 1,500 slaves.

Colonists, meanwhile, were settling to the north and south of Santiago in what today is Chile. Jesuits in this coastal area called for better treatment of the Indians there – the Araucana. And in 1641 the Spaniards signed a treaty with the Araucana. The treaty broke down, and Lima sent armies to the area to protect the settlers. By the end of the century this coastal area had an estimated 100,000 Christian inhabitants and Bío Bío River was a frontier between well-armed colonists and the Araucana.

The dominant city on the Pacific and in Spanish South America was Lima. Here was the home of Spain's viceroy to South America and a seat of the Inquisition. Lima was a center of trade, including the port of exit for the silver mined in the Potosi area. South America's major university, the University of San Marcos, was there – founded in 1551 under Dominican direction, with a grant from Spain's Charles V, and secularized in 1571. In 1680, Lima had about 10,000 inhabitants who considered themselves of pure Spanish descent and 60,000 others. There, wealthy Spaniards lived in luxury and considered themselves just as aristocratic as anyone in Spain. Elaborate balconies adorned their homes. Churches and monasteries were adorned with much silver and gold. And in the 1680s a wall was built around the city to protect it from pirates.


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