Remigio Márquez was an independence war veteran, pardo senator, and customs official in Mompox, Gran Colombia, who prosecuted several politically connected merchants for contraband trading and fraud. Muriel Laurent's intensely researched microhistory covers two years of public conflict between Márquez and these prominent citizens. Laurent digs into administrative correspondence, newspapers and pamphlets, judicial proceedings, parliamentary debates, and legislation to document the discourse and trials of both Márquez and his antagonists. More than simply a historical anecdote, their fight reveals a newly independent nation struggling to define itself in regard to race and citizenship, print culture, freedoms of speech and commerce, and republicanism.

Contrabando, poder y color offers a linear retelling of the fascinating Márquez controversy. During his tenure as customs official, Márquez managed to anger a host of influential citizens in Mompox by doggedly following his orders to inspect cargo passing through...

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