Shaping an Interimperial Exchange Zone: Smuggling Ideas, Goods, and People in the Southern Caribbean

Sunday, January 5, 2020: 11:10 AM
Central Park West (Sheraton New York)
Linda M. Rupert, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
This paper explores how people on the ground—and in the water—created a vibrant inter-imperial space in the southern Caribbean, linking the small Dutch entrepôt of Curaçao and the nearby hinterland of Spanish Venezuela. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries a variety of colonial denizens developed dynamic trans-colonial networks, which were influenced by intertwined imperial political, religious, and economic frameworks. These links built on indigenous ties between the island and the mainland that dated from pre-Columbian times and were further shaped by the area’s changing human geography in the wake of European colonization. While to some extent the inter-imperial space between Dutch Curaçao and Spanish Venezuela reflects unique historical circumstances, it raises several intriguing issues that are applicable to the study of borderlands more generally, particularly related to the role of the unauthorized circulation of people, goods, and ideas. Moreover, the connections that were forged in the early modern period continue to deeply resonate today, in historical circumstances that are both markedly different and startlingly similar.