The tribe that originally inhabited the region called themselves Chichas and left archaeological evidence of their existence. Despite this, little is known of their culture or language, and it’s assumed they were ethnically separate from the tribes in neighboring areas of southern Bolivia and northern Argentina. Unfortunately, anything unique about them was destroyed between 1471 and 1488 when Tupac Inca Yupanqui annexed the region to the Inca empire.
Once the Inca empire had fallen to the Spanish, the entire southern half of the Viceroyalty of Alto Peru was awarded to Diego de Almagro by decree of Spain’s King Carlos V. When Almagro arrived on a familiarization expedition in 1535, the Chichas culture had been entirely subsumed. Officially, Tupiza was founded on June 4, 1574, by Captain Luis de Fuentes (who was also the founder of Tarija), however this date is pure conjecture.
During the tumultuous 1781 Campesino Rebellion, the peasants’ champion, Luis de la Vega, mobilized the local militia, proclaimed himself governor and encouraged resistance against Spanish authorities. The rebellion was squashed early on, but the mob was successful in executing the Spanish corregidor (chief magistrate) of Tupiza.
From Tupiza’s founding through the War of Independence, its Spanish population grew steadily, lured by the favorable climate and suitable agricultural lands. Later, the discovery of minerals attracted even more settlers. More recently, campesinos have drifted in from the countryside and many unemployed miners have settled.