Author: Dana Velasco Murillo
Indigenous people played a critical though unacknowledged role in the discovery of silver in sixteenth-century Spanish America. This article uncovers the roles and experiences of indigenous prospectors in New Spain (Mexico) and Peru. In the early decades of the colonial project, Iberians relied heavily on the knowledge and skill of native prospectors because they had little to no experience or training in mining. Drawing on a vibrant precontact tradition of metallurgy and mining in the Americas, indigenous prospectors hunted for metal, they assessed the potential productivity of a site, and they understood the legal protocol involved in claiming a mine for the owner/s. This article argues that the contributions and lived experiences of these overlooked specialized laborers reveals that indigenous knowledge played a critical role in the formative years of silver mining in the Americas, illustrating their important social, legal, and technological contributions to production and to the economic trajectory of colony and metropole.
,” 30 Colonial Latin American Review (2022), available at https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10609164.2021.1996982.“To search and claim’: indigenous prospectors, silver mining, and legal practices in Spanish America, 1530–1600