Pueblos de indios without indios? Communal lands between personal service in encomienda and Chilean citizenship (Bishopric of Santiago de Chile, 1750-1850)

Tomás Catepillán Tessi

In the Bishopric of Santiago de Chile, far from the Mapuche frontier, the thesis of indigenous extinction has been widely accepted. The historiography speaks of a mestizaje that would have been practically total by the end of the 18th century and which, therefore, would have facilitated the construction of citizenship and nationhood in the following century. However, just as the documentation recognises an abundant population categorised as india between 1750 and 1819 (the year in which indios were recognised as citizens and tribute abolished), it is also possible to identify certain lands inherited from the pueblos de indios that remained integrated throughout the 19th century.

In this project we will study the lands linked to the indigenous population of the Bishopric of Santiago de Chile, between the Maule River and the Atacama Desert, from 1750 to 1850. I am interested in studying the interaction between these possessions and the social identifications and political organisations related to them. We will consider three fundamental moments. The first one corresponds to the last years of the personal service in encomienda (abolished in 1791) which implied certain forced relocations of the indios and, apparently, the vacancy of indigenous lands and their occupation by others. The second one corresponds to the period between 1791 and 1818-1819, when the former indios encomendados were settled and when the pueblos de indios experienced a certain growth, although not free of conflicts related to land tenure. Finally, the third one corresponds to the creation of the Chilean republic and the implementation of citizenship and civil disentailment. The accommodation of communal property in this new political order will allow us to appreciate the flexibility and tension of both the identifications linked to these lands and the liberal political system.

This research is part of a broader project on the history of indigenous identities in the Chilean central zone.


Image: Plan del pueblo de Copequén, 1792, Archivo Nacional Histórico de Chile, fondo Mapoteca, n°299.

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