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Maize-Beer, Gossip, and Slander: Female Tavern Proprietors and Urban, Ethnic Cultural Elaboration in Bolivia, 1870-1930

Gina Hames
Journal of Social History
Vol. 37, No. 2 (Winter, 2003), pp. 351-364
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3790401
Page Count: 14
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Maize-Beer, Gossip, and Slander: Female Tavern Proprietors and Urban, Ethnic Cultural Elaboration in Bolivia, 1870-1930
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Abstract

This article analyzes the ways in which chicheras, or sellers of maize beer, integrated themselves into urban chola (mixed ethnic identity) neighborhoods in Sucre, Bolivia in the years 1870-1930, the years in which Bolivia urbanized, modernized, and formed a national identity. The article utilizes one of the only sources available where one can find the actual words of early twentieth-century cholas and chicheras, slander suits. Chicheras, more than any other cholas, became involved in the numerous slander suits that took place in the local courts in Sucre. Chiceras' ambivalent social positions put them into the court system more often than any other group of cholas. In the legal cases it became particularly evident that chiceras controlled important social aspects of the neighborhoods because of the kinds of vocabulary that they used in their interactions not only with other cholas, but with elites as well. They were the people most frequently involved in legal suits because in their roles as proprietors of chicherías they were central to neighborhood gossip and politics and they wielded that centrality into a kind of power that integrated them into the neighborhoods and cemented their positions as leaders. Their story provides one of the best examples of cultural miscegenation available for the national period in Bolivian history.

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