From Herders to Wage Laborers and Back Again: Engaging with Capitalism in the Atacama Puna Region of Northern Chile
Flora Vilches & Héctor Morales
Departamento de Antropología, Universidad de Chile, Av. Ignacio Carrera Pinto, 1045 Santiago,
Abstract. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, indigenous Atacameño society transited from an agro-pastoralist to a more diversified capitalist-based economy due to a growing mining industry in northern Chile. The puna herders engaged in the new capitalist order as wage laborers in sulfur mines and llareta (Azorella compacta) exploitation companies. In this article we show how indigenous knowledge acted as cultural capital that enabled the herders to work as laborers. This operation led to horizontal treatment among the different agents in the taskscape that those Bherder- laborers^ inhabited, including those incorporated by industrial capitalism.