The Villa Imperial de Potosí and Legal Diversity in the Habsburg Andes

The Villa Imperial de Potosí and Legal Diversity in the Habsburg Andes
13 Feb 2018, 17:30 to 13 Feb 2018, 19:15
IHR Peter Marshall Room, N204, Second Floor, IHR, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Renzo Honores, Instituto Internacional de Derecho y Sociedad

The Villa Imperial de Potosí was the largest urban center in the Spanish Atlantic during the Habsburg period. Located at the heart of South America (currently in western Bolivia), the town was the epicenter of the silver industry being a crucial producer for the imperial economy. With an impressive population of almost more than 100,000 inhabitants, the city was an example of ethnic, political, and legal diversity. Europeans (Spaniards and Portuguese), Africans (slaves and free), Andeans (relocated by the mita system), and a numerous mixed population of mestizos were the main dwellers of that multiethnic place. This essay examines the local dynamics of Potosino justice, the strategic use of royal and customary spheres for dispute resolution, and the rise of a colonial legal culture. In the seventeenth century, theologians and canon lawyers expressed firmly their viewpoints on moral and political Potosino affairs in their sermons and doctrinal writings. Likewise, many local residents settled their disputes and protected their masculine honor through public duels in the main plaza of the city.

This paper presents the complex panorama of the Villa Imperial, its legal debates and social practices, and proposes a reading of Potosí as a pluralistic space, an iconic example of colonial legal diversity. By using the theoretical arsenal of the sociology of law, this presentation highlights the nuances, facets, and features of the vibrant legal world of the Andean Habsburgs in the city of silver.

Renzo Honores is a  researcher in the Instituto Internacional de Derecho y Sociedad. His specialty is the colonial law of the Andes during the Habsburg period. Currently, he is conducting a research on the circulation of legal doctrines in the sixteenth-century Andes.


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