Santa Bárbara’s Legacy

An Environmental History of Huancavelica, Peru


In Santa Bárbara’s Legacy: An Environmental History of Huancavelica, Peru, Nicholas A. Robins presents the first comprehensive environmental history of a mercury producing region in Latin America. Tracing the origins, rise and decline of the regional population and economy from pre-history to the present, Robins explores how people’s multifaceted, intimate and often toxic relationship with their environment has resulted in Huancavelica being among the most mercury-contaminated urban areas on earth. The narrative highlights issues of environmental justice and the toxic burdens that contemporary residents confront, especially many of those who live in adobe homes and are exposed to mercury, as well as lead and arsenic, on a daily basis. The work incorporates archival and printed primary sources as well as scientific research led by the author.

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Nicholas A. Robins holds a Ph.D. in Latin American Studies from Tulane University and is a Teaching Associate Professor in the Department of History at North Carolina State University. He is the author of numerous books concerning Latin America, and founder of the non-profit Environmental Health Council.
"Based on a wide range of primary documents, this very accessible and well-researched book on the historical evolution of mercury mining in Peru from the pre-Columbian era to the present explores the characteristics of production and its environmental consequences. [...] Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries" - A. Vergara, California State University, Los Angeles, in: Choice, February 2018
Acknowledgements ix
Glossary xi
Introduction 1

1. Huaca-villca: From Geological Formation to Spanish Conquest 21
2. The Pachacuti: Colonization, Catastrophe and the Rise of Mercury 36
3. “A Horrible Business”: The Mita 73
4. The Bourbon Era: Reform and Resentment 96
5. “They All Come to Die”: Mining, Mishaps and Mercurialism 108
6. Desuetude, Decay and Neglect: The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries 141

Epilogue 155
Bibliography 165
Appendix 199
Table 1 Total mercury (Hg) in soil in mg/kg remedial investigation Huancavelica, Peru 199
Table 2 Total mercury in Earthen homes (dust, walls, floors, and vapor) remedial investigation Huancavelica, Peru 201
Table 3 Mercury, Arsenic and Lead in Huancavelica and area rock samples 2015 pilot study Huancavelica, Peru 2015 pilot study Huancavelica, Peru 204
Table 4 Food stock, water, and sediment sample results 2016 pilot study Huancavelica, Peru 206
Table 5 Residential vapor results 2015 pilot study Huancavelica, Peru 208
Table 6 Soil sample results using X-ray florescence 2016 field event Huancavelica, Peru 209
Table 7 Total mercury in fish tissue 2016 field event Huancavelica, Peru 212
Table 8 Residential sample results using X-ray fluorescence 2016 field event Huancavelica. Peru 213
Index 215
The topic, scope and concise, interdisciplinary nature of Santa Bárbara’s Legacy will appeal to those interested in environmental history and justice, Latin American, social, urban and ethnohistory, indigenous studies and legacy contamination issues.
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