Gender and Ethnicity in Colonial Potosi

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Gender and Ethnicity in Colonial Potosi 1/31/2013 The silver city of Potosi is often remembered for its mining tradition and the labor that was fueled by a colonial draft system. Potosi, a remote mountain settlement situated in the Andes became a destination for goods coming from all around the world. As the silver economy developed in the city, an economy of an entirely different sort grew along with it in the streets and marketplaces or the city. Jane E. Mangan, in Trading Roles: Gender, Ethnicity, and the Urban Economy in Colonial Potosí, delves deeply into the dimension of indigenous women, who made a life for themselves through small scale enterprises and blurred the lines of gender and racial norms. Mangan utilizes a bevy of primary sources in her attempt to depict the economic practices that were commonplace in the urban community surrounding the Potosi mines. Potosi, as a remote community in the Andes, relied on the importation of goods and thus trade fueled the local economy. Mangan’s thorough research provides a window into the street life of Potosi and supports all of her assertions with numerous examples. The book is centered on Mangan’s analysis of Potosi’s food and drink vendors. These women were predominantly indigenous and had migrated there with husbands or looking for work themselves. These enterprising women took advantage of a favorable situation as they were exempt from tribute payment and the alcabala sales tax. That’s not to say these women did not face any obstacles in their attempt to make a life for themselves and their children. Now it is important to note that not all women of the time were able to do many of the things described and one must remember that much of what is given is are definitely exceptional. Mangan’s most important argument is that the traditional picture of Potosi does not tell the full story. Potosi’s story is
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