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The Charcas Confederation in Southern Collasuyu

The province of Charcas sits in the margins of the Southeastern Inka frontier. It was formed by a multiethnic confederation comprised by Aymara

The Cordillera de Chiriguanos in the Colonial period (1620). Map based on Combes and Saignes 1991

Figure 3.4. The Cordillera de Chiriguanos in the Colonial period (1620). Map based on Combes and Saignes 1991.

highland polities (Charca, Qaraqara, Killaka, and Sora) and a range of valley organizations like the Chicha, Chui, and Yamparas. Considering their proximity to the temperate piedmont, these valley populations maintained strong cultural ties with their outer tropical neighbors. Like the Yamparas, they were known as “indians of arch and bow” due to their courage and mastery in the use of poisoned weapons. It is no surprise that upon the arrival of the Inka, they became valuable imperial allies, fierce warriors, and cultural brokers.

The origins of this confederation remain unknown. However, some attribute the unification of several polities into the confederation to the native lord Ayra Kanchi. Later, this leader established horizontal alliances with the Inka ruler Pachacuti (Probanza de don Fernando Ayra de Ariutu 1638, in Platt et al. 2006:69-75). Yet ethnohistoric accounts are filled with information of the later military incorporation of Charcas under the reign of Tupac Inka Yupanqui around A.D. 1471-1493 (Rowe 1944, 1946). We also know that the situation with the Chiriguanos worsened during the reign of his son Huayna Capac Inka (1493-1525). These last events crystallized in successful interelite alliances between the imperial representatives and a set of native lords against the Chiriguanos as a common enemy. It is in this expansionist period that some Charcas ethnicities were rewarded with the privileged status of imperial warriors, partly due to their intervention against the intruding Chiriguanos (Espinoza Soriano 2003, 2006 [1600]).

Altogether, the Colonial narratives describe shifting power relations in the province of Charcas and adjacent areas and the Inka efforts in incorporating the varying populations into its fold. The increasing militarization of the frontier, and the recurrent episodes of investment and reinvestment in defense, became concrete means of addressing the challenges of securing control in a volatile region. In this context, the changes in Oroncota and Khosko Toro were part of an integrated solution for the southeastern frontier.

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