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date: 28 November 2022

The Cocoa Trade in New Spain in the 18th Centurylocked

The Cocoa Trade in New Spain in the 18th Centurylocked

  • Guillermina del Valle PavónGuillermina del Valle PavónInstituto de Investigaciones Dr. José Ma. Luis Mora

Summary

In New Spain, cocoa was a staple food whose high demand at the beginning of the 17th century meant that cocoa beans were imported from Guatemala, Venezuela, and Guayaquil. The viceroyalty of New Spain became the largest world buyer of cocoa because it paid for the product with silver, which was the principal means of exchange at the time. The cocoa trade was monopolized by a small, powerful group of the Consulado (merchants’ guild) of Mexico City who contracted it, redistributed it to the rest of the viceroyalty, and shipped it to Spain. However, the Spanish Crown’s prohibitionist trade policy hindered the expansion of the cocoa trade to meet the demand in New Spain. As Spain intermittently suspended sailing between the viceroyalties of Mexico and Peru, the supply of Guayaquil cocoa was limited to shippers who could obtain special licenses and those who smuggled it. When the monarchy required extraordinary funds to finance its wars in Europe, it granted permits to move Ecuadorian cocoa through the Pacific routes. However, it preferred the supply of cocoa from Caracas for geostrategic reasons, a factor that was used by Caracas shippers to raise prices.

Mexican merchants preferred to import Ecuadorian cocoa because of its higher profitability. Trade in cocoa from this source was based on a confluence of complex kinship, community, and friendship networks. Finally, in 1789, the Guayaquil cocoa trade was authorized without restrictions, which significantly reduced the demand for Caracas cocoa. In addition, cocoa from Tabasco, Guatemala, and Maracaibo was traded in New Spain. The relationship between the Crown and the commercial elite of Mexico was characterized by a policy of continual ongoing negotiations. The cocoa trade was privileged in exchange for merchants’ contributions over and above regular fiscal payments.

Subjects

  • History of the Caribbean
  • History of Central America
  • History of Mexico
  • History of Southern Spanish America

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