From Curaçao to Veracruz: Slavery, Commerce, and Controversy in the 1680s

Thursday, January 4, 2018: 1:50 PM
Roosevelt Room 2 (Marriott Wardman Park)
Pablo Miguel Sierra Silva, University of Rochester
This presentation explores a little-known facet of the commercial and slaving interactions between the viceroyalty of New Spain (colonial Mexico) and Dutch Curacao towards the end of the seventeenth century. Curacao’s trans-imperial connections to the Spanish mainland and, especially, Venezuela have been amply documented in recent historical studies. Less clear, however, is the role played by the Dutch as merchants and purveyors of enslaved Africans in Veracruz, Mexico’s principal port. In 1685, the Spanish Crown awarded the controversial slaving contract (asiento) to Baltazar Coymans, indirectly enabling commerce to flourish between Mexico and Curacao. Extensive investigations against two of Coyman’s factors prove that Mexican merchants paid for African captives and contraband textiles in silver, cochineal (grana cochinilla) and even maize. Based on Spanish-language documentation held at the Archive of the Indies (AGI), this paper reassesses the volume of the intercolonial slave trade from Curacao to Veracruz and exposes the merchant networks that facilitated a lucrative trade in enslaved Africans and contraband merchandise deep into the Mexican interior.