When the Europeans established their colonies in the New World, the economic activities of any given colony often centered around a single staple. In agriculture, these staples (tobacco, cotton, cacao, sugar, and others) were principally produced for export to the metropolis. The unit through which the metropolis-colony relationship was to be filtered, according to the mercantilist ideal, was the plantation or, in some cases, the hacienda. The plantation would link the colonists with the international market and with the metropolis. Although there were other economic activities, they were to be either complementary to the plantation system or reduced to subsistence endeavors without links to the plantation.

Beginning in the seventeenth century, cacao constituted one of the main staples of the province of Caracas. During that century, cacao jockeyed for a predominant position, and with the advent of the Caracas Company in 1728 it was established as the main product of the region. The company was created, with monopolistic powers, to ship cacao to the Spanish market and to curb contraband. 1

The influence of this resource-intensive commodity on the economy of the region was impressive. The entrepreneurs shifted the elements of production—land, labor, and capital—from other staples to cacao cultivation. The center of production progressively developed several link ages with the domestic economy and foreign markets. These linkages are known to those familiar with the Staple Thesis Model as forward, backward, fiscal, and final demand (or income-multiplier) linkages. 2 The present study addresses specifically the ties of colonial Caracas’s cacao economy with the Spanish market through the Caracas Company. The first section challenges the assumption of previous scholars that the Caracas Company was not a profitable enterprise. The second evaluates the existence of a forward linkage between the provincial economy and the European market. Through a statistical analysis, the third part examines the relations of the company with other economic sectors of the provincial economy. The last part appraises the effectiveness of the Caracas Company as the representative of royal government interest in the colony and gauges the performance of the fiscal linkage as a source of investment into the domestic economy. I hope the study can estimate, at least as related to the European market, the economic importance of cacao monoculture for the region.

The Caracas Company’s Spanish Market

American cacao was available to Spanish consumers as early as the sixteenth century, and during the seventeenth century there was substantial demand in the legal Spanish market for Caracas cacao. Before the creation of the Caracas Company, Spain obtained cacao through Amsterdam, or directly from the New World. The Chaunus, in Séville et L’Atlantique, point to chocolate prices of 102 maravedís a pound in Spain in the years 1606 and 1607; 30 years later, in 1636, chocolate was quoted at 200 maravedís per pound. These prices suggest the presence of an organized market for the cacao bean in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. 3

In the eighteenth century, the Caracas Company was the legal link between the Spanish cacao market and the cacao economy of the province of Caracas. The company’s appearance was closely related to the Dutch presence in Curaçao and their illegal trade with the province. 4 Since early in the eighteenth century, the king received reports, written by royal officers and travelers in the province and in Amsterdam, which described contraband activities with the Dutch. The reporters stressed the vast revenues the crown lost as a result of illegal trade.

One lengthy report, written in 1720 by Pedro José de Olavarriaga, estimated the amount of commerce between cacao growers, merchants, and the Dutch and warned that unless the king acted, major amounts of crown income would be diverted to Dutch coffers. 5 Eight years later, the king and his ministers responded to Dutch incursions into the province by accepting the advice of Basque merchants for the foundation of a stockholding company. On September 25, 1728, the Caracas Company was chartered; it started its formal business with the province of Caracas on July 15, 1730. On that date, two frigates and a galley left the Basque port of Pasajes for Caracas. A third frigate left three months later, and, as part of the same trading expedition, a second voyage was organized consisting of two more frigates.

Plans for this first trading venture were made in consultation with men who knew the business, but the best known historian of the Caracas Company, Roland D. Hussey, considered the merchants to have been overly optimistic. They expected 80, 000 fanegas of cacao to arrive in Spain on the six vessels that comprised the expedition, and that each fanega unloaded at the port of Cádiz would be worth 45 pesos on arrival. Hussey estimated the expense of the expedition at 1, 800, 000 silver pesos of 8 reales, which could have been recovered at a price of approximately 22. 5 pesos per fanega. However, in practice the expectations regarding the number of fanegas were not fulfilled. Instead of the hoped-for 80, 000, only 23, 297 fanegas of cacao arrived in Cádiz. At 45 pesos per fanega, these should have been worth 1, 048, 365 pesos, and with expenses amounting to approximately 1, 800, 000 pesos, the company should have sustained a loss. It did not. The company announced a “20 percent dividend on December 10, 1733, and paid it in 1735.” Hussey did not regard this accomplishment as representing a sound business profit, but rather a bookkeeping expedient used to impress current and future stockholders. 6 Hussey was right to have some reservations as to the profitability of the first venture of two voyages and six ships, and also with regard to the following trips. However, he based his calculations on the figure of 45 pesos that the merchants estimated a fanega would sell for on arrival to Cádiz, and it appears that this appraisal was derived from a royal customs price list used to compute government duties. Such prices do not necessarily reflect market activities. 7

Earl J. Hamilton ascertained the retail prices of chocolate sold in Madrid, and they suggest a somewhat different picture. When the first vessel, the Santa Rosa, returned to Spain on September 19, 1731, chocolate was retailing in Madrid for 331 maravedís (approximately 1 peso and 2 reales) per pound. When the San Juan, San Joaquín, and Santa Bárbara docked in Cádiz in 1732, consumers were paying 321 maravedís per pound of chocolate. When the last frigate of the first two voyages unloaded in Cádiz on September 30, 1733, chocolate was retailing at 323 maravedís per pound. 8 These retail prices translate into 134 pesos per fanega in 1731, 130 pesos per fanega in 1732, and 131 pesos per fanega in 1733, based on a real of 34 maravedís and a silver peso of 8 reales.

On the return trip of 1731, 3, 478 fanegas of cacao were brought into the port of Cádiz. This amount, multiplied by 134 pesos per fanega, totals 466, 052 pesos of gross income. Those ships that entered Cádiz in 1732 unloaded 13, 285 fanegas, which at 130 pesos per fanega would equal 1, 727, 050 silver pesos. The last trip included 6, 534 fanegas, which, if sold at a retail price of 131 pesos per fanega, eventually brought 855, 954 silver pesos. This first company venture must have grossed over 3, 000, 000 silver pesos. If one accepts 1, 800, 000 pesos as a reasonable expense figure, the net gain was more than 1, 200, 000 pesos. Part of this, of course, would have gone to retailers and other costs of distribution in Spain, but it remains more than likely that the company did make a profit.

A further indication of the company’s profitability comes from a financial statement submitted to stockholders on October 20, 1772. In it, the stockholders were informed of the amount of cacao stored in company warehouses, which according to the company accountant amounted to 33, 423 fanegas worth 1, 336, 920 silver pesos. This works out to approximately 40 pesos per fanega. At the time the financial statement was presented to the stockholders, a fanega of chocolate retailed for 118 pesos. Thus, there was a difference of 78 pesos between the retail and the warehouse price. If we assume that 50 percent of the difference went to duties, labor, and retailers profit, the company earned nearly 39 pesos per fanega sold to retailers. To obtain this profit, the company would have sold the cacao fanega to retailers at almost twice the estimated warehouse value. 9

Most of the cacao that legally reached Cádiz from the New World belonged to the company. In 1731, approximately 68 percent of cacao legally unloaded in Cádiz entered in company ships. In some instances (1733 and 1737) the figure was 100 percent. From 1731 (the year of the arrival of the first company ship) to 1775, the company unloaded in Cádiz an average of 55 percent of the total cacao transported from America to Spain. 10 (This computation is based on a 31-year series.) In no single year did the company unload, on average, less than half the cacao entering Cádiz.

The company’s approximate profits for the entire period can be obtained using the previous computations. The average retail price for the period covered (1731-75) was 282 maravedis per pound of chocolate, or approximately 1 silver peso per pound. In those years, the company carried to Spain 952, 451 fanegas of cacao. At the average price per fanega of 114 pesos, the gross proceeds are approximately 108, 579, 414 silver pesos of eight reales. After performing the same calculations as before (i. e., establishing the difference between the warehouse price and the retail price and then deducting the 50 percent for retailers’ profit, duties, and labor) we find that the company was left with a net gain of 35, 831, 206 pesos. 11

One reason for high returns in the cacao trade was that cacao could be stored for a prolonged period, which allowed the Caracas Company and others interested in the trade to manipulate prices to their advantage. To begin with, the journey itself from Caracas to Cádiz averaged 78 days for the 42 trips whose departure dates I have been able to match with dates of arrival. From Caracas to Pasajes, in the Basque provinces, I was able to match the dates for 31 voyages. Three of them took over three months to reach their destination, but the remainder (28 voyages) averaged 59 days or not quite two months. 12 The wait in Caracas for departure, time at sea, and time of land transport to and storage in Madrid probably add up to a minimum of six or seven months of warehousing and storage—and a year or more in storage cannot have been uncommon.

That the longevity of cacao in storage may have facilitated the manipulation of prices is supported by a simple linear regression between retail chocolate prices in Madrid13 and Spanish cacao imports from America.14 Cacao imports were the independent variable, and chocolate retail prices the dependent variable. This regression resulted in a partial correlation— controlling for trends—of —. 21 and a coefficient of determination r2 of. 05. An r of —. 21 is not very meaningful. 15 The inverse correlation means that as cacao imports increased, retail chocolate prices went down. However, only 5 percent of that variance is explained by the equation. This analysis suggests that chocolate retail prices were not much affected by the amount of cacao which arrived in Spain through the port of Cádiz. It implies that the company and/or the traders monitored the amount of cacao released into the market and thereby kept prices at a level that benefited them.

Other historical documentation corroborates that the company profited. First, company practices were deceptive toward the royal exchequer as it attempted to collect duties. There is no doubt that the duties officially levied on cacao were so high as to prevent entrepreneurs from reaping a profit. The company directorate was aware of this reality and used two approaches to avoid payment of what were considered unjust duties. One was to list part of the cargo as being owned by independent merchants. A second was to pay the duties that were chargeable in Caracas but then sell the cacao load illegally to foreigners after departure.

Listing part of the cargo as belonging to other merchants was advisable because cacao consigned by the latter was valued lower than the company’s. The company used this tactic from the beginning of its commercial relations with the province of Caracas. All three of the frigates that left Caracas for Cádiz in 1731 contained cacao listed as “belonging to merchants.”16 On July 15, 1733, royal exchequer records in Caracas show another entry for 9, 175 fanegas and 68 pounds of cacao loaded on a company ship but listed as belonging to merchants. 17 In an entry of May 27, 1754, the customs officer stated that a company ship which left on that date carried 3, 171 fanegas and 5 pounds of cacao valued at 100 reales per fanega, since they were company property—whereas the fanegas listed as owned by merchants were appraised at 20 reales less in value. 18 In the customs books, the practice of separating fanegas owned by merchants from those of the company was carried out regularly after 1752. Before that, company shipments were routinely listed as owned by merchants and valued at the price the merchants usually paid. After 1766, the phrasing was altered but the principle remained the same; the company paid lower duties by attributing shipments to others. 19

To what extent this mechanism was used at the Spanish end is unclear. A comparison of cacao listed as the merchants’ share in the Caracas custom house with that of Cádiz shows that, on arrival in Spain, part of the cacao previously registered as merchant-owned was then listed as company cacao. 20 For example, whereas 9, 175 fanegas of cacao were registered as owned by merchants on departure from Caracas on July 15, 1733, on arrival in Cádiz the customs records show 6, 534 fanegas registered as company cargo and the difference owned by private parties. 21 On April 27, 1746, the company registered in Caracas 5, 219 fanegas as consigned by growers, 1, 940 fanegas owned by merchants, and 58 fanegas assigned to the church. When these fanegas arrived in Spain they were all registered as belonging to the company. 22 In the last ship, the company saved the alcabala de salida on the 5, 219 fanegas (growers’ cargo) and 58 fanegas (church’s load), and paid lower duties on the 1, 940 fanegas registered as merchants’ cargo.

The need to compensate for the duty burden on company revenue forced the directorate from the beginning to resort to other methods to increase its income. One such method was contraband, although because of seriously deficient documentation I was forced to use an indirect route to confirm that fact. By subtracting the amount of fanegas unloaded in Spain through 1770–769, 096 fanegas—from the total amount that departed from Caracas—934, 208 fanegas—I estimated the amount of contraband or cacao “lost” to the enemy. This calculation revealed that 165, 112 fanegas of cacao never arrived in Spain, an amount constituting 18 percent of all the cacao that left Caracas for Spain in the period 1731-70 in company ships. 23

The company did not acknowledge, and the documentation does not reveal, the loss of that many fanegas. The company did lose nine ships in the 1740 war with England. Of these, six carried a total of 28, 400 fanegas. Later, five of the six ships were found registered as still active in the Carrera de Indias. The sources do not specify if the company “ransomed” the ships and their loads, but the fact that at least five of the ships continued to sail tends to confirm that suspicion.24 It was common for ship captains to claim that they had been “forced” to exchange their cacao for merchandise or money. The usual procedure in such cases was to auction the merchandise “forcibly given” to the captain and deliver the proceeds to the consignee of the cacao load after deduction of government duties. 25

A different form of contraband was practiced by company officials in the Basque provinces, selling cacao in jurisdictions where it was not authorized to trade directly, thus evading restrictions imposed by the crown. A patron complained of “the resale of Caracas Company cacao from its warehouses to people who petition for and obtain high amounts of cacao fanegas with supposed names for private destinations to communities in Aragón and Castile with the hope of making a prompt and secure business.”26 It is likely that one of those “supposed names” who sold cacao illegally was a member of the company staff. To be sure, the company also sold cacao in unauthorized jurisdictions to compete with Dutch merchants such as Aaron Colace, who in 1727 founded an establishment in Bayonne from which he monitored the peninsular market and introduced commodities, principally cacao, from Amsterdam to Spain. 27

Whether Spanish or Dutch, legal or illegal, the trade was inevitably limited to some extent by the mere fact that cacao and chocolate were dear. They were not articles of mass consumption in Europe. A Parisian exclaimed in 1768 that “the great take it [chocolate] sometimes, the old often, the people never.”28 In Spain, the Parisian’s comment was certainly applicable. An unskilled laborer who worked on the restoration of a Spanish palace in Madrid earned approximately 145 maravedís daily in 1737.29 The price of a pound of chocolate in Madrid in 1737 was 300 maravedis, which represented more than twice (208 percent) the daily wage and a significant portion of the weekly wage of an unskilled worker. In 1749, the daily wage of that laborer was 136 maravedis. His daily income continued along a zigzag route, reaching 170 maravedis for the period 1789 to 1799, at which time a pound of chocolate was worth 241 maravedis, still considerably more than his daily salary. A cabinetmaker who worked on the same project earned approximately 636 maravedis a day in 1742, which decreased to 572 maravedis in 1747 and climbed to 680 maravedis in 1770. The cabinetmaker could buy only two pounds of chocolate, at 314 maravedis per pound, with his daily earnings in 1742. In 1770, 38 years later, with cacao costing 279 maravedis per pound, he was only slightly better off. 30

If one takes into account that these laborers had some of the best-paid jobs in Madrid, not to mention Spain, one gets an idea of the income level of the potential consumers. The standard of living of commoners in Spain was not high, and for the period 1701-1800 wages tended to lag behind commodity prices, even though there was some improvement late in the century. 31 As Fernand Braudel states concerning the conditions of workers in Europe generally, “Since he [the worker] earned only a base minimum, he devoted it primarily to food. He was therefore responding primarily to agricultural supply, and indeed it was the price of foodstuffs which determined his wage level. He was not therefore the source of a demand for the manufactured objects he produced, often luxury goods.”32 Neither, of course, did he generate much demand for chocolate.

Chocolate did reach the upper-income levels of European society, and it had its highest consumption levels in Spain, for which there is no evidence, in the sources consulted, of any cacao being reexported. The latter circumstance presents an obvious contrast with a case such as England. For the period 1761-64, England imported 21, 428 quintals of cacao and exported 72 percent of that amount, leaving only 5, 984 quintals for domestic consumption. In the period 1771-74, the British imported 27, 305 quintals of cacao and exported 73 percent, keeping 7, 503 quintals. In the period 1781-82, they exported more than they imported (see Table I).

The Forward Linkage

Although some other ingredients were used in the preparation of chocolate, not many were mixed with the cacao of Caracas. 33 This enhanced its value in the market, so that the Dutch meticulously listed Caracas cacao in their bills of lading to differentiate it from other cacaos.34 In a report on the conditions of the province there is evidence that in the 1760s the people of the province of Caracas prepared cacao with brown sugar or drank it without additives; they did not add cinnamon or white sugar, and in most valleys they drank it plain. 35 However, the beans still needed processing before consumption, and, though cacao was normally marketed in the form of raw dried beans, at least some was exported from Caracas to Europe in semiprocessed form.

The sources examined give evidence of exports from at least the 1720s in the form of cacao paste. In some cases reference is made to “chocolate paste” or “chocolate in paste,” as being exported to Spain, but these instances are few, and they must almost certainly refer to cacao paste. 36 The Caracas Company, in any event, exported both cacao paste and cacao fat to Spain, though not with regularity. Moreover, cacao paste and fat were exported from Caracas only to Spain: the customs records that I examined do not show any cacao paste or fat exported to Veracruz, the Antilles, or the Canary Islands. 37

The defatting process needed to prepare more sophisticated chocolate has been documented for France in 1763, but it was not widespread until the next century. 38 In the province of Caracas, it was known ten years earlier: in 1753, the Caracas Company registered with Spanish royal customs a cargo containing 270 pounds of cacao fat or manteca, of which the literal translation is lard. 39 On July 27, 1754, the customs officer mentioned for the first time a shipment of cacao oil appraised at one real per pound, along with 84 pounds of cacao fat valued at the same price. 40 Cacao oil is not mentioned in the other sources examined, so that very possibly the royal officer meant manteca. This interpretation is reinforced by the fact that the weight is expressed in terms of pounds, and not volume. The fact remains that, Caraqueño cacao growers, on or before 1753, had already mastered the defatting process. However, I have not been able to establish with certainty when chocolate, as we know it today, was first produced in Caracas.

The quantity of chocolate or cacao paste that arrived in Spain from America was not considerable. In a 60-year period (1717-76), Cádiz received 6, 554 arrobas of cacao paste (163, 850 pounds)—an average of 109 arrobas per year. This processed cacao did not have a significant impact on the market when compared to the loads of raw cacao that arrived during the same period. In the first ten years of the series (1717-26), the New World exported 1, 993 arrobas of cacao paste (49, 825 pounds) to Cádiz. In the last ten years of the same century (1767-76) for which we have some figures, Cádiz is reported to have received 163 arrobas of cacao paste (4, 075 pounds). 41

Cacao shipments from America to Cádiz during the same 60-year period (there is a gap of 8 years from 1739 to 1746) amounted to 1, 224, 430 fanegas or 134, 687, 300 pounds, an average of 20, 407 fanegas per year. If one compares the total of cacao paste (1, 490 fanegas) imported during the 60-year period with the total cacao fanegas, it can be seen that cacao paste represented only. 1 percent of both cacao paste and cacao transported to Spain from the New World. Hence, there is little doubt that the forward linkage of the Caracas cacao industry was in Spain, and the same applied to the rest of the cacao regions in the Americas. If processed cacao represented only. 1 percent of the cacao unloaded in Cádiz, then the rest was either reexported (although no evidence of reexporting has been found) or ground and processed in Spain.

The Company in the Province of Caracas

In the province, serious competition for the company could have come only from the merchants. However, a statistical analysis reveals that the company never posed a threat to the merchants or vice versa. In fact, their relationship proved to be surprisingly harmonious. I used the simple linear regression method to test the contention that the entrance of the company into the Caracas cacao trade did not adversely affect the volume that merchants exported. In order for this to hold true, the correlation coefficient resulting from the regression of the merchants’ exports and those of the company must approximate zero—the implication being that when the company established itself in the Caracas cacao economy, it did not do so at the expense of the merchants’ legal exports. Fluctuations in the merchants’ exports thus would not be explained in terms of increases or decreases of the company exports; nor would the increase in the company’s exports be related to decreases in merchant exports.

The data used to test this hypothesis are listed in  Appendix A. The years 1731 to 1770 were selected because they represent the presence of the company in Caracas. The merchants’ exports were the independent variable because they had been in the market the longest; company exports constituted the dependent variable for the opposite reason. 42 The regression for the merchants’ fanegas and time gave a correlation coefficient of. 012 and a mean of 21, 722 fanegas for the period 1731-70. The correlation coefficient for the company’s exports and time was. 48 for the same time span and the mean 23, 401—not too dissimilar from the merchants’ mean. The independent variable had a standard deviation of 10, 679. The correlation coefficient of the merchants’ and the company’s fanegas was . 31. The correlation coefficient (r), controlling for trend, was. 35 with an r2 of. 12.

These results mean that after controlling for trend the merchants’ exports had a positive correlation with the company’s exports, albeit an insignificant one. When the merchants’ total went up, the company’s exported fanegas did indeed go up. In terms of economic variables, however, a correlation coefficient of. 35 is not very significant, especially when the coefficient of determination r2 is so low (. 12). The latter tells us that the increases or decreases of the merchants’ exports explain 12 percent of the variance in the company’s exports. Thus, considering the low percentage of the variance explained by the correlation, I concluded from the regression that the entrance of the company into the cacao trade did not adversely affect the merchants’ exports.

I used the same procedure to determine whether the company purchased growers’ cacao for export, thus reducing the exported cacao of the hacendados. In this instance, the company was considered the independent variable for the obvious reason that it had the political power to influence growers’ exports. The regression gave a correlation coefficient of. 03 for the growers’ fanegas correlation with time. The mean for the growers was 3, 865 fanegas. The correlation coefficient (r) controlling for trends was a highly insignificant. 11, and the coefficient of determination (r2) a mere. 01. This analysis suggests that the company did not receive its supplies of cacao for trade at the expense of the growers’ legitimate exports.

For exports of the merchants and the growers, the correlation coefficient (r) controlling for trends was. 32, with a coefficient of determination (r2) of. 10. The correlation was positive, signifying that as the merchants’ exports went up, so did the growers’ exports. But only 10 percent of the variance between the two groups is explained by the equation. This means that the merchants were not acquiring fanegas from the growers’ export lots and, in terms of socioeconomic relations, that both had the political clout to protect their economic gains.

The statistical analysis of cacao production by sectors suggests that the company was not receiving its cacao from the merchants or from the legal exports of the growers. Instead, it must have obtained its cacao from the lots hacendados kept apart for illegal trade with the Dutch or from increases in production. The Dutch trade was a difficult challenge to meet, as the Dutch sold their merchandise to hacendados, merchants, and others for silver pesos, and then bought with silver the cacao necessary for their enterprise. It was advantageous for all concerned to buy from the Dutch, since they offered better quality items at lower prices than those of the company.

When the company attempted to halt trade between the Dutch and crown subjects, it used political might instead of competitive prices, leading to resentment and resistance. In 1732, a mulatto named Andresote from near San Felipe rebelled against the company. He was aided by Dutchmen from Curaçao and was able to conceal from authorities the assistance he received from hacendados. In 1749, another outbreak erupted in Panaquire, in the eastern part of the province. Juan Francisco de León, a Canary Islander, led the rebellion, with help from the Dutch and some influential hacendados of the region. They were defeated, but the rebellion prompted a series of compromises between hacendados and the company. One agreement was to establish a board to set prices for cacao acquired by the company. This agreement was reached in 1752, and the three members of the board—the governor of the province, a company factor, and a member of the Caracas cabildo who represented the hacendados—met then for the first time. From the Juan Francisco de León rebellion to the end of the period covered by the study (1770), relations between the hacendados and the company were uneventful.

Scholars have debated the company’s positive and negative effects on the economic development of the province. Yet its influence on the economy is inherently difficult to measure, and the lack of company ledgers depicting its activities makes this judgment even more difficult to render. On the basis of available data, however, Robert J. Ferry has concluded that “[e]vidently the Company, far from radically stimulating production, did no more than take control of its commercialization. This was of particular interest to the crown, of course, but the evidence of vigorous cacao expansion in the decades prior to the Company makes it seem ill advised to depend on the royal viewpoint for an understanding of the colony.”43

In a subsequent article, Ferry commented in greater detail on his thesis that there had been significant expansion of production even in the seventeenth century. 44 Indeed, the progressive increase of cacao production in the province of Caracas before the company’s arrival is unquestionable. Nevertheless, Ferry’s statement that the company did not “radically stimulate” production needs clarification.

According to a 1684 padrón taken by the Spanish crown notary, Juan Rengel de Mendoza, the residents of the city of Caracas had 167 estates with 437, 850 cacao trees. Of course, these were not all the cacao trees in the province at the time the padrón was taken. 45 The padrón only listed properties of the residents of Caracas, because its purpose was to determine alcabala payments owed by crown subjects in the city of Caracas itself. Another report that helps us gauge production of cacao in the province before the arrival of the Caracas Company was written in 1720-2146 by Pedro José de Olavarriaga, who later was appointed director of the company. This report specifies the number of cacao haciendas, how many trees were on them, and who owned them. Olavarriaga counted 4, 546, 564 cacao trees on haciendas from the jurisdictions of Caracas, San Sebastián, Valencia, Nirgua, Barquisimeto, Guanaguanare, Trujillo, Carora, and Coro. 47 The two padrones (of 1684 and 1720-21) counted different things—one is of the estates of residents of the city of Caracas, and the other includes estates from all jurisdictions of the province—so that their totals are not truly comparable. To measure the impact of the company in relation to an earlier trend derived from these two reports would not be satisfactory.

Another padrón was made between 1744 and 1745, after the company’s arrival. This one listed the names of the owners of the cacao haciendas, the number of trees on the estates, and the jurisdictions in which they were located. Government officials prepared the report, which covered the “different valleys of the jurisdiction of the city of Caracas and Windward Coast up to the valley of Chuspa and the Leeward Coast to the valley of Alpargatón.”48 The officials counted 5, 132, 921 cacao trees. If the description of the haciendas within the city’s jurisdiction and along the coast is correct, there is little doubt of a marked increase in the number of cacao trees brought into cultivation especially since the report does not actually refer to the entire province. For example, I examined the Olavarriaga report of 1720-21 and found that the valleys and locations included in the Barquisimeto jurisdiction in that padrón are not in the report of 1744-45. In fact, an inspection of the 1744-45 padrón shows that it listed only those estates and cacao trees within the jurisdiction of the city of Caracas and the north-central coast, and not all the estates of the province. 49

The expansion of cacao production did begin before the arrival of the company in the eighteenth century. This increase could be attributed either to the presence of the Dutch on Curaçao—dating from the 1630s— or to augmented demand in New Spain. I am inclined to believe that both influenced the expansion of cacao production in the seventeenth century. More importantly, however, I think that the company’s presence in the province forced a significant increase in the production of cacao.

As I noted previously, a statistical analysis suggests that the company did not take the cacao it exported from the merchants or from the share of cacao for export owned by the growers. While this is beyond doubt, it is also true that the company’s share of exports increased over time. From 1730 to 1739, the company accounted for almost 38 percent of the total amount of cacao exported from the province. As can be seen in Table II, in the same decade merchants exported 42 percent, growers about 11 percent, and the church—including tithers and some growers—exported about 2 percent. Company exports continued to climb slowly with a small decrease in the decade of 1740-49 to 56 percent for the ten-year period of 1760 to 1769.

Since the company was not getting its cacao at the expense of other groups within the legal export sector, it is reasonable to conclude that it drew cacao from one other source—contraband cacao grown for decades by hacendados, merchants, and slaves on private plots for trade with the Dutch merchants who paid high prices. Although students of the colonial economy of Caracas have suggested that the company increased its cacao exports to Spain by forcing the provincials to sell it the legal cacao loads they traditionally sold in Veracruz, a time series analysis, between cacao loads bound for Veracruz and those bound for Spain, does not sustain that contention. 50 Moreover, company success in curbing smuggling is suggested by the two rebellions of 1732 and 1749, as well as by price increases for cacao in Amsterdam. 51 The hacendados needed the Dutch trade to break even; and company pressure made it difficult for them to achieve success. Therefore, during the company’s epoch increased acreage was brought under cultivation, as is evident from comparison of the two eighteenth-century padrones.

Besides the increased cultivated acreage, the region showed an increase in the number of slaves imported. Twice as many slaves were imported during the eighteenth century as in the seventeenth. 52 In effect, by forcing growers and merchants to sell to it the cacao they had intended to sell to the Dutch, the company pushed growers to increase both production and the numbers of workers.

The Fiscal Linkage

Another way to measure the company’s impact on the provincial economy is to compare government duties registered with the royal exchequer before and after the company’s tenure. An increase in the collection of the four major duties placed on cacao exports—almojarifazgo, armadillo, alcabala, and armada53might be seen as indicative both of rising cacao exports and of the company’s success in shifting a greater share of them into legal channels. Fortunately, figures are available for comparison, although they are not a continuous series. The totals of the four major duties are divided in two periods. One period covers 1714 to 1718 ( Appendix B), and the other is a two-year period, 1748 to 1749.54 In the first period (1714-18), the four duties account for 55 percent of the total amount of taxes collected. In the other case those duties represent 69 percent (1748) and 72 percent (1749) of the total taxes.

From 1714 to 1718, the royal exchequer collected 41,009 pesos on the custom duty known as almojarifazgo. This total translated into a yearly average of 8,202 pesos. The other three major duties amounted to 26,004 pesos (alcabala), 45,853 pesos (armadillo), and 35,102 pesos (armada). All these totals are for the entire five-year period. Their corresponding yearly averages were 5,201 pesos, 9,171 pesos, and 7,020 pesos, respectively.

After the company’s arrival, the same major duties increased substantially. In 1748, the almojarifazgo totaled 14,167 pesos. This quantity was almost twice the amount collected (8,202 pesos) under the same duty for the five-year precompany period. In 1749, the royal exchequer collected 23,813 pesos in almojarifazgo. This one-year total constituted 58 percent of the total almojarifazgo collected in the earlier five-year period, and it was 290 percent of the yearly average. Comparisons based on the alcabalas yield similar results. The alcabalas for 1748 reached 17,558 pesos, and for 1749 totaled 15,626 pesos. In a five-year period before the company arrived (1714-18), the alcabalas amounted to 26,004 pesos, with a yearly average of 5,201 pesos. The total collected for the precompany five-year period was 147,968 pesos, while the later two-year period total for the four major duties reached 116,610 pesos. This last amount represented 79 percent of the precompany total.

On the basis of a report by the royal accountant Lorenzo Rosel de Lugo (1730-49), Eduardo Arcila Farías proposed that the increase in royal revenues was due to shipments to New Spain, and not to company exports. Of course, this would not necessarily contradict the conclusion that the royal treasury’s collections increased because of the company. However, Arcila Farías argues that the company hardly contributed directly to the increase.55 This conclusion is correct in reference to collections in the province of Caracas, but the argument is questionable when applied to royal fiscal collections in general. By the royal cédula of 1720, those exporting commodities or agricultural produce to Spain were to pay the duties of almojarifazgo, armada, and armadillo on arrival at the Spanish port, and not in the province.56 Thus, the royal exchequer total presented by the royal accountant Rosel Lugo does not contain what the company directly contributed in duties of armada, almojarifazgo, and armadillo.

Duties paid in Spain were presumably also spent in Spain, with little if any benefit to the province of Caracas. But what, if anything, did the royal government, which drew income indirectly as well as directly from the cacao trade, contribute to the domestic economy of the province? To answer this question, one must examine the expense section of the royal exchequer account books to see if there were any disbursements that might have enhanced the local economy. We have expense lists for the first of the two periods already examined (1714-18), as well as for the years 1730 and 1749.57

Government expenses for the five-year period 1714-18 covered the following items: official salaries; the situados58 of La Guaira, Cumaná, and Margarita; the salaries of missionaries in Píritu and Cumaná and of the priest of Maiquetía; soldiers’ funerals, private libranzas;59 and other allowances for the missions of Cumaná. The itemized expenditures in pesos for the period were; situados 220,713 pesos or 57 percent of the budget total; libranzas—money owed to private persons—75,926 pesos (20 percent); government employees’ salaries, 52,585 pesos (14 percent); and ecclesiastical affairs, 35,693 pesos, (9 percent). Total budgeted expenditures amounted to 384,908 pesos, and since taxes collected over the five-year period came to 269,750 pesos, there was a deficit of 115,203 pesos.60

The 1714-18 budget does not show any item considered a fiscal linkage inflow to the infrastructure of the domestic economy. There was no inward flow of capital toward enhancing economic development or diversification. On the contrary, the government drained some of its fiscal resources to expend in other jurisdictions; 57 percent of all appropriations went to sustain soldiers and construct fortifications in La Guaira, Cumaná, and Margarita. It can in fact be argued that none of the expenses itemized by the royal treasurer for those five years stimulated the internal economy of the region.

The fiscal linkage conditions for 1730 were more or less the same. No debts to private persons (libranzas) were listed, but the sum of 12,326 pesos went to pay priests and missionaries, amounting to 20 percent of the total appropriated. The royal accountant assigned 20,195 pesos (33.4 percent of the budget) for provincial government employees’ salaries and for routine government expenses. The situados continued to absorb more of the budget than any of the other items—28,081 pesos, or 46 percent of all budgetary commitments.61

By averaging annual expenses, we can compare the 1714-18 and 1730 budgets and thereby infer changes in government priorities. Ecclesiastical expenses increased from 9 percent (7,138 pesos) of the budget to 20 percent (12,326). Government expenditure for salaries went up from 10,517 pesos (14 percent of the budget) to 19,935 pesos (33 percent). This represented an overall increase for both items between the two periods. Religious allowances increased by 73 percent (5,188 pesos), and salaries went up 90 percent (9,148 pesos). This staggering percentage shift in salaries could reflect an effort on the part of the government to attract more skilled bureaucrats, or it could also mean that the number of soldiers in the province increased. Neither hypothesis could be tested with the documentation examined, although a trend toward more soldiers in the province is confirmed through analysis of the 1749 budget (see Table III)

The trend of increased ecclesiastical allowances and higher royal government employee expenditure was maintained for the budget year of 1749. The church received 13,952 pesos (15 percent of the total annual budget) and the salaries of government employees climbed to 42,583 pesos (46 percent of the annual projected expenses). Contrary to these trends, the situado budget, which covered military expenses in other regions, lost its position as the largest single item of expenditure, falling to 40 percent of the total. In absolute terms, it had decreased from the annual average of 44,142 pesos in 1714-18 to 28,081 pesos in 1730 and 36,863 pesos in 1749. To what extent this reflected economic changes in the regions receiving situados, movement of soldiers from outlying regions to the province of Caracas, or other factors is not apparent from the budgetary figures themselves. It is worth noting, in any case, that military requirements absorbed much the greatest share of the “extraordinary” expenses incurred by the royal government in the period from 1740 to 1750. According to a report that the royal accountant, Lorenzo Rosel de Lugo, presented on April 18, 1750, extraordinary expenses for the ten-year period came to 743,085 pesos; 642,145 pesos, or 86 percent, went to pay for fortifications and soldiers.62

The budget commitments suggest that the government’s chief priority was to keep the imperial apparatus working, by paying the salaries of its employees and for the construction of fortifications. The army and bureaucracy were the prime beneficiaries of tax revenues, although its needs were not always fully satisfied. A report written on behalf of don Alejandro Blanco de Villegas and don Silvestre de Liendo, members of the Caracas cabildo, shows that as of 1749, 18 parish priests were owed arrears of salary. Past due wages amounted to approximately 9,574 pesos. But the priests were not the only ones waiting for their salaries. One hundred infantrymen stationed in Cumaná waited for 140,530 pesos in wages owed them “since the end of last year” (1749). In 1750, the island of Margarita had not received the 41,650 pesos in situado assigned by the royal government in 1749, and the governor, don Joseph de Albear y Belasco, had 2,295 pesos in wages in arrears. Don Juan Joseph de Salcedo, the governor of Trinidad, hoped to collect 6,919 pesos in wages. The former governor of Trinidad, don Esteban de Guiñán y Vera, had eight years of salary in arrears amounting to 31,095 pesos. Provincial authorities of Maracaibo patiently waited to receive 125,182 pesos. These six entries added up to a grand total of 347,671 pesos owed by the royal government to its employees in the captaincy general of Caracas—and if it did not even meet its payroll, it was presumably still less disposed to undertake expenditures to promote internal development.


A scrutiny of wholesale and retail prices suggests that, far from sustaining losses, the Caracas Company reaped profits in the cacao trade. It did so in part by avoiding or paying lower duties on cacao shipments to Spain and by engaging in contraband. However, its presence in the province also resulted in more acreage brought into cultivation to increase output, and in the acquisition of more slaves.

This study further explored two possible linkages resulting from the cacao economy of the province of Caracas: forward and fiscal linkages. Certainly, the forward linkage proved to be weak. Only .1 percent of total cacao exports was sent to Spain in processed form—primarily cacao paste. This low percentage of processed cacao could very well mean that these were private shipments, either of members of the crew or individual merchants. It also suggests that the manufacturing of chocolate in the province was of no great importance to the economy. Thus, any inflow of profits resulting from the processing of cacao was lost to the mother country.

The fiscal linkage, although strong in the sense of collection of duties on cacao production, was weak in the aspect of contribution to the enhancement of the domestic economy. The presence of the company and the measures it established to curb the contraband practiced by others resulted in higher duties collected. However, this did not produce higher royal government investment into the infrastructure; most of the money collected went to support the imperial bureaucracy, and some went to the church.63 Clearly, the construction and maintenance of the cacao economy’s infrastructure lay in the hands of private entrepreneurs and local government.

Total Caracas Cacao Export by Sectors: 1693-1771

Royal Duties Collected from January 1714 to December 1718


Roland Dennis Hussey, The Caracas Company, 1728-1784. A Study in the History of Spanish Monopolistic Trade (Cambridge, MA, 1934).


The Staple Thesis Model posits the existence of two regions: a metropolis and a colony. The colony eventually produces a commodity for export to the metropolis. This economic arrangement creates various nodules (or linkages) with other sectors of the domestic economy and the importing regions. Economic historians named them backward, forward, fiscal, and final demand (or income multiplier) linkages. Backward linkages are investments in the domestic economy of the colony to increase the efficiency of the export sector (roads, railroads, mule trains, canoes, etc.). Forward linkages are investments in processes which transform the staple into saleable goods (e. g., cacao—chocolate industry; cotton—textile industry; tobacco—cigar industry). Final demand linkages are investments in activities that produce goods to supply those persons working within the export sector. Fiscal linkages are government revenues collected from enclaves and the export-led sector. These revenues are supposed to be rechanneled into the region’s economy through various government outlets. The advantage of using this model for the analysis of the colonial economic history of Latin America cannot be overstated. The proliferation of export-led economies in colonial Latin America makes this model the preferred tool for the study of the period. The flexibility of the Staple Thesis Model allows more specificity of analysis, and this without doubt is a virtue in a region where export-led economies were the rule not the exception.

Monographs worth consulting in the case of Latin American economic history are Charles W. Bergquist, Coffee and Conflict in Colombia 1886-1910 (Durham, 1978) and Jonathan Brown, A Socioeconomic History of Argentina 1776-1860 (Cambridge, 1979). Dauril Alden in his “The Significance of Cacao Production in the Amazon Region During the Late Colonial Period: An Essay in Comparative Economic History,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 120: 2 (Apr. 1976), 103-135 makes a compelling call to Latin Americanists to apply the Staple Thesis Model to the study of colonial Latin America. For a look at some reservations to the application of the model to specific regions of Latin America, see Frederick S. Weaver, "Neo-Classical Theory, Dependency Theory, and the Staple Theory: The Comparative Study of Foreign Trade and Investment in 19th-Century Latin America” (Program in Latin American Studies, Occasional Papers Series no. 7, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, 1977).


Hugette and Pierre Chaunu, Séville et L’Atlantique (1504-1650), 8 vols. (Paris, 1956), VI, 1, 405, table 760F, item 45, and 1, 051, table 761B, item 46.


Cornelis Ch. Goslinga, A Short History of the Netherlands Antilles and Surinam (The Hague, 1979).


Pedro José de Olavarriaga, Instrucción general y particular del estado presente de la provincia de Venezuela en los años de 1720 y 1721 (Caracas, 1965), chap. 4.


Hussey, The Caracas Company, 71-72.


Royal exchequer price quotations were appraisals for the purpose of taxation. These prices were not gathered from daily open-market activities, and seldom reflected the conditions of the market. A regression of prices of the royal exchequer and production for the period 1693-1711 shows a correlation coefficient (r) of. 19, which explains only 3 percent (r2 =. 03) of the variance of prices in terms of production. The same method was used for the 1712-30 period and resulted in a correlation coefficient of. 21, with an r2 of. 04. These findings suggest there was no correlation between the royal customs cacao prices and production.

The computations that follow are based on a retail and not a wholesale price. However, the wholesale and retail prices were not really far apart. Retailers covered only the expense of putting the cacao in the market, not the cost of processing it or that of any ingredients added by the consumer.


Hussey, The Caracas Company, app. 2, p. 305. For chocolate prices, see Earl J. Hamilton, War and Prices in Spain, 1651-1800, reprint ed. (New York, 1969), app. I, table B (item 22) and table C (item 25).


Hussey, The Caracas Company, 253, n. 47. The retail chocolate price was computed using Hamilton’s tables listed in the previous note. It should be noted that this was exactly the return (50 percent) the merchants expected from the first venture.


These percentages were computed using tables in Hussey, The Caracas Company, app. 2, pp. 305-318; Antonio García-Baquero González, Cádiz y el Atlántico (1717-1778): El comercio colonial español bajo el monopolio gaditano, 2 vols. (Seville, 1976), II, 221–247.


The price differential between the fanega unloaded in Cádiz (22. 5 pesos) and the wholesale price in Madrid (40 pesos) is 17. 5 pesos. This is 15 percent of the retail price (114 pesos). Since 40 pesos is the price of the cacao in the company’s warehouses, this differential should not be reflecting a company profit but only the additional charges of freights and government duties. The wholesale price is then 77 pesos. The 50 percent deduction on duties, labor, and retailers’ profit is a supposition based on the company’s expected return of 50 percent.


Archivo General de la Nación, Caracas (hereafter AGN), Real Hacienda, Libro Común y General, Alcabalas de Salida. The tomos examined to establish the date of departure from Caracas are listed in app. A. The arrival dates were obtained from Hussey, The Caracas Company, 305-318.


See Hamilton, n. 8.


See García-Baquero, n. 10.


See n. 42 for the theoretical underpinnings of this statistical method.


AGN, Real Hacienda, Alcabala de Salida (also known as Alcabala de Mar), tomo 48, ff. 62v-63v.


Ibid., f. 113v.


Ibid., tomo 63A, f. 15.


Ibid., tomo 71, f 12.


Hussey, The Caracas Company, 305-318.


Ibid., 305 and AGN, Real Hacienda, tomo 48, f. 113v.


Hussey, The Caracas Company, 308 and AGN, Real Hacienda, tomo 57.


Hussey, The Caracas Company, app. 2, pp. 305-318 and García-Baquero, Cádiz y el Atlántico, II, 221-247.


Hussey, The Caracas Company, 77-79.


AGN, Real Hacienda, Alcabala de Tierra, tomo 475, 1755-1763.


Pablo Fernández Albaladejo, La crisis del antiguo régimen en Guipúzcoa, (1766-1833). (Madrid, 1975), 234, n. 25.


Fernand P. Braudel, Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century, 3 vols., Siân Reynolds, trans. (New York, 1982-84), I, 249.




Hamilton, War and Prices, 268-271.


Ibid., app. I, table B (item 22) and table C (item 25), no pagination in the original.


Ibid., 216 and 221.


Braudel, Civilization and Capitalism, II, 182.


John Campbell, The Spanish Empire in America (London, 1747), 302. Campbell states that in the Americas only cinnamon was added to cacao to make chocolate. As is noted next, in most cases Caracas cacao was not mixed with cinnamon, nor other ingredients, to make it palatable.


Allgemeen Rijksarchief, The Hague, Netherlands, microfilm roll no. 1. 1-966 of vols. 571-572 of the Dutch West Indies Company archives. I secured these microfilms with the cooperation of Louisa Balk, archivist of the 1st section. Celestino Andrés Arauz Monfante, El contrabando holandés en el caribe durante la primera mitad del siglo XVIII, 2 vols. (Caracas, 1984), II, 81-83 refers to a bill of lading of Dutch ships confiscated by Spaniards in 1745 and 1747 showing cacao loaded and classified as from Caracas. Other cacao was listed as “origin not specified.” On the five ships confiscated in 1745, 2, 239 fanegas were recognized as Caracas cacao, and 1, 655 fanegas had no specific origin. Two Dutch ships were seized in 1747, with 449 fanegas of Caracas cacao and 849 fanegas of cacao with no specific place of origin. I was able to corroborate Arauz’s observation concerning the Dutch listing of the Caracas cacao apart from other cacaos. This presumably means that they also kept the Caracas cacao separate from other cacao in the holds of their ships.


Joseph Luis de Cisneros, Descripción exacta de la provincia de Venezuela (Caracas, 1981), 127. The author calculated that cacao consumption in the province in the one year of 1762-63 amounted to 34, 109 fanegas, 90 pounds, and 5 ounces. This detail of 5 extra ounces could mean that the figure was taken from books of the company for which Cisneros worked.


AGN, Real Hacienda, Libro Común y General, Sección Alcabala de Salida, tomo 41, ff 8v and 21v; tomo 44, f. 272; tomo 47, f. 45.


Ibid., tomos 33-39, 41-47, 49, 51-59, 61-63, 66-69, 71-72, 75-76, 78-79, 82, 471-472, and 477.


G. B. Masefield, “Crops and Livestock,” in The Cambridge Economic History of Europe, 7 vols., E. E. Rich, ed. (Cambridge, 1967), IV, 296.


AGN, Caracas, Real Hacienda, Libro Común y General, Sección Alcabalas de Salida, tomo 62, agosto 18, 1753.


Ibid., tomo 63A, f. 15.


García-Baquero, Cádiz y el Atlántico, II, 221-247.

There were a total of 40 observations for the merchants’ variable and 38 observations for the company’s variable. Two series are usually highly correlated because of the trends. A proper correlation between the two series should remove the trend, and correlate the residuals—the difference between Y' (predicted value) and y (observed value). A simple way of doing this is through partial correlation. Three correlation coefficients must be computed: rxt, ryt, and rxy, where rxt is the correlation of x (merchants’ fanegas) with the date (1731-70), ryt is the correlation of y (company’s cacao) with the date (1731-70), and rxy is the original correlation of x (merchants’ fanegas) and y (company’s fanegas). The correlation of the residuals, i. e., the correlation of x and y controlling for trends, is
On the statistical method see Richard Jensen, “Crunching Numbers by Hand: Statistical Programs for the Texas Instruments 55 Pocket Calculator. ’’ The Newberry Papers in Family and Community History (Chicago, 1981), sec. 3. 4.

Robert J. Ferry, “Cacao and Kindred: Transformation of Economy and Society in Colonial Caracas” (PhD. diss., University of Minnesota, 1980), 3-4.


Ferry, “Encomienda, African Slavery, and Agriculture in Seventeenth-Century Caracas,” HAHR, 61: 4 (Nov. 1981), 611 and 631.


“Causa y averiguación del valor de las reales alcabalas de la ciudad de Caracas. Años 1631 a 1683,” Revista de Historia (Caracas), 9: 28 (Aug. 1970), 63-64.


Olavarriaga, Instrucción general, chaps. 2 and 3.


Ibid., 289.


Federico Brito Figueroa, La estructura económica de Venezuela colonial (Caracas, 1965), apéndice documental.


Ferry acknowledges that the 1684 padrón was only of the city of Caracas residents. However, he asserts that “the 1720 and 1744 totals are strictly comparable because these two counts were taken for all the cacao groves in the province...” (“Cacao and Kindred,” 237, n. 7).


The data analyzed covered the period from 1725 to 1774; there were a total of 49 observations. Cacao loads to Spain were the dependent variable, while cacao cargo to Veracruz was the independent variable. The regression coefficient (r) for cacao cargo to Veracruz and time was. 023; the r for cacao loads to Spain and time was. 66; and the coefficient for Veracruz and Spain was. 023. The correlation coefficient controlling for trends was -. 093. This means that there was an inverse correlation between cacao shipments to Veracruz and those bound for Spain. While cacao exports to Veracruz increased, those transported to Spain decreased. But the coefficient of determination was a mere. 008, signifying that only . 8 percent of the variance—increases or decreases—in cacao exports to Spain is explained in terms of cacao exports to Veracruz. In other words, the company was not getting the cacao it exported to Spain from the cacao provincials intended to legally transport to Veracruz. The data for the analysis were obtained from Eduardo Arcila Farías, Economía colonial de Venezuela, 2d ed. (Caracas, 1973), 155–157. The tables were not numbered in the original.


Nicolas W. Posthoumus, Inquiry into the History of Prices in Holland, 2 vols. (Leiden, 1946), I, table 83, pp. 195-197. The contention is made under the supposition that Amsterdam was responding to the market mechanism of supply and demand (i. e., increase in cacao made available in the market resulted in lower prices, while decreases brought prices up). The wholesale prices in Amsterdam appear to reflect the influence of events in the province. For example, in 1731, when the company started doing business in the province, prices in Amsterdam went up from. 66 guilders to. 95 guilders. This price shift might very well be the reflection of company incursions into the cacao the growers and merchants allotted for contraband with the Dutch. I stress that for the present these are only conjectures based on the extant documentation. Testing this hypothesis is now possible due to the availability of cacao trade figures. However, I am currently collecting the figures from microfilm reels received from Amsterdam, thus the testing of the hypothesis will have to be postponed for a future date.


Brito Figueroa, La estructura económica, 100-125. Recent research has made available figures for the number of slaves transported to Caracas by the British South Sea Company. These corroborate Brito’s findings for the province, and they also show that during the Caracas Company’s tenure the number of slaves increased tremendously. From 1715 to 1730—the pre-Caracas Company period, with some lags in the series—the South Sea Company unloaded 1, 945 slaves in Caracas—approximately 150 slaves per year. From 1731 to 1739, the Caraqueños bought from the British company 3, 295 slaves—about 366 slaves per year—or 63 percent of the total number of slaves (5, 240) transported by the company during those years. That amount is almost twice the number of slaves traded by the company in the previous 13 years. The increase can be explained by the presence and pressure of the Caracas Company on the growers’ and merchants’ cacao lot for trade with the Dutch, thus prompting the acquisition of slaves to increase cultivated acreage and output. See Colin Palmer, Human Cargoes. The British Slave Trade to Spanish America, 1700-1739 (Urbana, 1981), 107.


Almojarifazgo was a customs duty levied on all exports and imports. The almojarifazgo on imports—known as almojarifazgo de entrada—was 10 percent on goods from any part other than the Indies. If from the Indies, the almojarifazgo amounted to 5 percent of the commodities’ nominal value, as appraised by the royal customs officers (AGN, Real Hacienda, tomo 35 [1709-1712], f. 15v. The entry from which I took this information is dated December 23, 1710).

There also was the almojarifazgo de salida (export duty), a tax of 2. 5 percent; sometimes it figured as 2 percent. Additional charges were known as: alcabala de salida, a 2-percent tax; armadillo, a tax to feed the royal navy, and a 1-real-per-fanega tariff (AGN, Real Hacienda, tomo 36 [1712-1713], ff. 3 and 16). An additional customs toll was the antigua armadillo, better known as armada. This tax amounted to 4 reales per fanega exported (AGN, Real Hacienda, tomo 34 [1703-1708], f. 44). The growers did not pay the alcabala de salida, but they did pay all other duties. The merchants paid all duties without exception (AGN, Real Hacienda, tomo 38 [1712-1717], f. 6v). The alcabala and the almojarifazgo were levied on the basis of the value, not weight, of the load. The armadilla and armada duties were charged per fanega.


Arcila Farías, Economía colonial, 306.


Ibid., 305.


AGN, Real Hacienda, Alcabala de Salida, tomo 2428, f. 15v.


AGN, Diversos, tomo XVII, ff. 185-215.


The situado was an appropriation from the royal treasury of the province of Caracas to cover royal government expenses, primarily military, in other regions of the captaincy general.


Jacques A. Barbier, “Venezuelan ‘Libranzas,’ 1788-1807: From Economic Nostrum to Fiscal Imperative,” The Americas, 37:4 (Apr. 1981), 457-478. Libranzas were bills of exchange (resembling more of a draft) issued in Venezuela to be redeemed in Spain, or vice versa. The royal government, the Caracas Company, and the Royal Company of the Philippines used this device, already in existence in the province of Caracas in the 1730s, to avoid transferring specie from Venezuela to Spain. Haciendas’ accounts show that these bills of exchange were also used by the hacendados in their daily transactions with merchants, growers, and their employees. Archivo Arzobispal de Caracas, Sección Obras Pías, Hacienda Cumanibare (1751), tomo 19, exp. 3, f. 215v. and exp. 5, f. 419.


Olavarriaga, Instrucción general, 401-408.


AGN, Diversos, tomo XVII, f. 189v.


Ibid., ff. 209-214.


I want to emphasize, however, that the church had other sources of income that were autonomous from the government budget, e.g., obras pías, capellanías, and censos.

Author notes


I want to express my profoundest gratitude to the following scholars who contributed their suggestions: Hugh Hamill, my mentor at the University of Connecticut-Storrs and, in the same institution, Francisco Scarano; Dale Graden, Trinity College, Hartford; John V. Lombardi, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore; and my colleagues at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Gilbert Joseph and Don Higginbotham.

This article was made possible through the auspices of a Fulbright-Hays grant, a National Science Foundation grant, a James R. Scobie Memorial Award (CLAH), and a postdoctoral fellowship granted by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.