The region now occupied by the republic of Bolivia, and called until 1825 “Upper Peru”, already touched by the expedition of Diego de Almagro in 1535, was occupied in 1538 by Hernando Pizarro, who, realizing the richness of the plateau, began its conquest from lower Peru. His initiative was seconded by his brother Gonzalo, who then had to continue the enterprise with less than a hundred men, and, after fierce fighting, managed to dominate the valleys of Cochabamba, setting his center in Charcas. Here he rebuilt (1538) the main indigenous city, Chuquisaca (which in the Quechúa language means golden stone), the name later changed to that of La Plata (today Sucre). The region remained united to the viceroyalty of Peru until 1776; in 1563, however, the Real Audiencia de Charcas was created, with the capital Chuquisaca, which extended its jurisdiction also over Tucumán, Paraguay and the Peruvian province of Puno.
For a long time, the colonial history of Upper Peru is nothing more than the chronicle of the peaceful exploitation of the abundant silver mines of Porco, Oruro and Potosí (which they gave to the Spanish treasury, only for the right of the fifth on production, four billion pesetas) and those of mercury of Huancavélica (these reached to keep employed more than fifty thousand workers). The conquest certainly had its horrors; however there was also a colonization inspired by feelings of humanity towards the indigenous, which gave rise to humanitarian institutions, such as the Obra Pia di Paria. It persisted through the three centuries of the colonial period (1571-1825), and dedicated the intact fruit of its encomiendas to the protection and education of indigenous people. It was created by private initiative, during the viceroyalty of Don Francisco de Toledo, “the Peruvian Solon” (1569-1582), who also managed to repopulate the territory of Cuzco (depopulated by migration to the Miniferous territories) by gathering the missing and turbulent Aymará. Thus, the Peruvian Indians became loyal collaborators of the Spaniards, who had freed them from the dominion of the Incas. In this same period many cities were founded or reorganized: Potosí in 1545; La Paz in 1548; Cochabamba in 1570; Tarija in 1574; and, finally, Oruro in 1604. For Bolivia 2001, please check naturegnosis.com.
But if the natives were now pacified by the viceroy Marquis of Cañete, who organized the colonial exploitation in accordance with the rules established by the “New laws of the Indies” (1542), the conquering Spaniards, on the other hand, were in a state of continuous war. The rivalries of Francesco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro began; followed the revolt of the encomenderos, whose lemma was the biblical verse Edent pauperes et saturabuntur: revolt ended in Lima blood (1552). Greater importance is the so-called war of Vicuñas y Vascongados, caused by the preponderance of the Basques in the administration of the Real Audiencia; this bloody civil struggle, on two occasions, lasted about a century and a half, interrupted only by a truce of a decade (1626-1636). Another important uprising was that of the cholos de La Paz (1661), which degenerated into banditry.
However, despite the struggles, the country was gradually organized and settled. From a religious point of view, the bishoprics of La Plata in 1535, of Santa Cruz de la Sierra in 1605 and of La Paz in 1609 were created, all hierarchically dependent on the archbishopric of Charcas, first established as a bishopric by Julius III in 1552, then elevated to archbishopric by Paul V in 1609, but with regard to dogmatic jurisdiction submitted to the tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, established in Lima, with a political rather than religious character, in 1570. As regards economic life, the House of the Coin during the viceroyalty of Francesco de Toledo in 1572; the Consulate of Merchants or Universidad de la Caridad in Lima was established in 1627: the latter body was administrative, but also judicial, on the same type as the Casa de Contratación in Seville. In 1621 the literary and scientific University of San Francesco Xavier of Chuquisaca was also inaugurated (1624) with the same statutes, honors and privileges of the glorious university of Salamanca. Thus, as life became more complex, richer in the flourishing territory of the new Audiencia, even if earthquakes, floods and plagues, which desolated the whole Peruvian region several times during the last thirty years of the seventeenth century and throughout the eighteenth century, brought serious damage to public prosperity. An almost permanent, or at least recurrent, source of damage and misery was then constituted by the uprisings and civil wars: thus, when the viceroy of Peru, Marquis of Castelfuerte, ordered a revision of the taxes,
In 1776 the Real Audiencia of Charcas was annexed to the viceroyalty, created just then, of the Río de la Plata; and its territory was divided into administrations and corregimientos. But the same year another uprising of Indians broke out in Cochabamba and Charcas (led by the brothers Tommaso, Damaso and Nicola Catari, of the corregimiento of Potosí), which puts Chuquisaca in grave danger; and the situation is further complicated by the raising of the Oruro mestizos, who plunder the territory, decapitating entire populations of Whites. Meanwhile in Cuzco, a descendant of the Incas, Tupac Amaru, takes advantage of the right moment to try to realize his family illusions of restoring the ancient Peruvian empire. The uprisings thus take on a general and uniform character of war of races: and this is so bitter that in the three years in which it lasts (1780-1782) about one hundred thousand men from both sides perish. To get the better of the rebels, the forces of the viceroys of Peru and the Río de la Plata must unite: and only in this way the revolt of Tupac Amaru, who ends up being executed, is extinguished.