Indigenous life projects and extractivism : ethnographies from South America
Rivera Andía, Juan Javier
Vindal Ødegaard, Cecilie
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Extractivism is a good way to summarise the last five hundred years in South America. When Indigenous people discovered Spanish explorers on their coasts in the late fifteenth century, the strangers had arrived in search of precious metals and spices. Mercantilist policies at the time sought to increase wealth and power through trade and the accumulation of gold and silver. Proselytism accompanied the extraction of natural resources and, as Europeans moved into the continent, they employed religion and force to coerce Indigenous labour. Native people became the workers who first panned for gold in the Caribbean and then mined silver in northern New Spain (Mexico) and at Potosí, a high plateau in what is today Bolivia. Native labour made extractivism possible throughout the Colonial Period and, with millions of African slaves, facilitated Europeans’ appropriation of raw materials. The extraction of resources, forced labour, and European colonisation created the South America we know today.
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