With a thousand pesos and perhaps the names of helpful contacts in Cádiz and Mexico, Juan Fermín de Aycinena left his native Navarre in 1749 to seek his fortune in the Indies. He was about 20 years old. Following a brief apprenticeship in Mexico City, the precocious peninsular launched an enterprise running mules in Oaxaca; in the span of four years, it raised his worth to upward of 20,000 pesos. He was not yet 25. By 1754, the restless Navarran had moved again, this time to Santiago de Guatemala. There he stayed.

In the time between his arrival in the Central American capital in the 1750s and the devastating earthquakes of 1773 (which prompted the “migration” of the capital itself), Aycinena had made his own seismic impact: he had become the leading merchant and banker in the Kingdom of Guatemala and probably its richest man. In the next decade, he acquired the only noble title in late colonial Central America, entered the Knights of Santiago, and built the only private residence on the central plaza of the new capital, Guatemala City. Confirming his place as the Isthmus’ leading merchant, he became the first presiding officer (prior) of the newly established Consulado de Comercio of Guatemala in 1794, the last of his numerous offices. By the time of his death in 1796, he had become, in the view of at least one historian, the most powerful individual in the history of Central America.1

Apart from its rich human drama, the story of Juan Fermín de Aycinena e Yrigoyen (1729-1796) merits exploration for at least two reasons. It offers a marvelous vehicle for understanding the politics, economy, and society of late colonial Central America through one of its most important figures.2 And it presents an intriguing case study of Spanish American merchants, a group whose role remains somewhat controversial. The controversy derives from the ambiguous nature of the colonial economy itself, the ambiguous role of merchants in it, and the ambiguous effects of their activities on it.3 The merchants of colonial Spanish America were intermediaries between a developing European capitalism and a colonial economy; the latter employed a variety of free and coercive labor systems and a market with decidedly unfree aspects. They profited precisely because they controlled that intersection.

Aycinena and his generation of immigrant merchants are often seen as agents of commercial revolution in eighteenth-century Central America.4 Their arrival coincided with a dramatic upsurge in the production and export of Central American indigo, a development that transformed the Isthmus from a somnolent tropical backwater, mired in depression and besieged by pirates, to a significant part of the Spanish American Empire. The change was driven primarily by the expanding textile industries of western Europe and the increasing integration of the Isthmus into the international economy. Isthmian economic expansion was further assisted by Bourbon efforts to stimulate commerce by removing internal trade barriers, assuring adequate supplies of credit and labor to producers, controlling prices, and encouraging more regular shipping (via register ships) to provincial ports. For Central America, as for Spanish America in general, the period between the establishment of “comercio libre” in 1778 and the English blockades of 1796 was a “brief golden age.”5

No one enjoyed more, or represents better, the prosperity of late colonial Central America than Juan Fermín de Aycinena. He built his glittering edifice of wealth and power on a powerful extended family network, the expert use of the isthmian apparatus of church and state, and a mastery of colonial business. The relative importance of the “pillars” of his enterprise is difficult to determine with any precision. Each in some way reinforced the others, and their relationship to one another has a somewhat circular quality. They should be separated, perhaps, only for the purpose of analysis, for they fit together in a general strategy of achieving wealth, status, and power. This study begins with a brief discussion of family, state, and church—the institutional background against which the Aycinena drama played out. It then delves more deeply into Aycinena’s business behavior and his efforts to consolidate his social position and secure his family’s permanence at the social summit of Central America.


A crucial reason for Aycinena’s meteoric rise comes from the family connections he established in the Kingdom of Guatemala (and perhaps even before he got there). Strategic family ties were essential to his success. And while Juan Fermín as an individual reaped the benefits of his enterprise’s success, both the enterprise itself and the rewards it brought should be viewed in the context of his extended family network. His very act of leaving his homeland is best seen not only, or even primarily, as an individual seeking to improve his fortunes, but as a reflection of the well-established Iberian tradition of migration for the benefit of the family. For younger children in particular, emigration improved their prospects as individuals, lessened pressures on family resources, and extended their family’s network of useful contacts.6

Perhaps the single most important event in Aycinena’s ascent was his marriage to Ana María Carrillo y Gálvez in 1755. The marriage took place about a year after his arrival in Central America, and it marked his entry into the elite of Santiago de Guatemala. Ana María was part of the most powerful extended family network of colonial Central America. Her creole parents, Pedro Carrillo y Varón (d. 1743) and Manuela de Gálvez y Varón, were scions of powerful merchant-official families dating from at least the late seventeenth century. Indeed, they were first cousins, emblematic of the rather close-knit nature of the Santiago aristocracy.

Why Ana María’s family patriarchs tapped Aycinena to be her spouse remains something of a mystery.7 What the marriage meant to Aycinena’s fortunes, however, is no mystery at all. His wife’s dowry exceeded 178,000 pesos; it alone made him a wealthy man. Family connections were perhaps just as important as this windfall (which became Juan Fermín’s to manage for the duration of the marriage). Ana María was the niece of some of the most powerful figures in the Kingdom of Guatemala. These included Cristobal de Gálvez (ca. 1700-1784), the former and future alcalde mayor (royal administrator) of El Salvador, a fixture on the cabildo of the capital, and probably the most powerful Santiaguan at the time Juan Fermín arrived; Cristóbal’s younger brother, General Manuel de Gálvez (1715-1763), variously alcalde mayor of El Salvador, corregidor of Quezaltenango, regidor of the Santiago ayuntamiento (municipal council), and owner of huge landed wealth in Escuintla and El Salvador; and their cousin (and Cristóbal’s brother-in-law as well), Father Miguel de Cilieza y Velasco (1707-1768), a power on Santiago’s cabildo eclesiástico, through which hierarchy he ascended to positions as sinodal examiner, canonigo, maestrescuela, provisor, and vicario general of Santiago. Cilieza was also rector of the University of San Carlos, the kingdom’s only university, in 1743, 1752, 1755, and 1758. He completed his career as the bishop of Chiapas, where he died in 1768.8 These were just the most important figures of the kinship network Aycinena joined through his marriage.

In joining such wealth and power, Aycinena perpetuated two related historical patterns: that of the isthmian elite refurbishing itself with peninsular blood, and that of ambitious émigrés linking themselves with the established elite. As Stephen Webre pointed out some years ago, Guatemalan society was an immigrant society.9 It was, moreover, a society unusually dominated by merchants. Aycinena not only rooted himself in Santiago society through marriage, but he continued the immigrant pattern by “importing” peninsular nephews to reinforce his isthmian kinship network. His Navarran nephews Pedro de Aycinena Larraín and Pedro de Beltranena arrived in the 1760s to serve as loyal business associates and to provide opportunities to widen family connections through their own marriages into the local elite. The Aycinenas’ rapid absorption into local society graphically illustrates what Severo Martínez Peláez called the “renovation” of the creole elite.10

After Ana María’s death in 1768, Juan Fermín married twice more, first to María Micaela Nájera Mencos (1771) and then to Micaela Piñol Muñoz (ca. 1785). His subsequent marriages and their numerous offspring enlaced the elite of Guatemala City, creating or cementing the core of what would become Guatemala’s nineteenth-century oligarchy.11 Aycinena’s bonds with the family of fellow peninsular merchant José Piñol illustrate the consolidating role of marriage: not only did Aycinena make Piñol’s daughter his third (and much younger) wife, but two of Aycinena’s children from his previous marriages, Vicente Aycinena y Carrillo and María Bernarda Aycinena y Nájera, married two other Piñol children, Juana N. María and Tadeo Piñol y Muñoz.

The extended family network provided social ties, political allies, and business connections. In the 1760s and 1770s, Juan Fermín’s principal business associates were his two nephews.12 Later, the coming of age of Juan Fermín’s eldest sons, Vicente Aycinena y Carrillo (1766-1814) and José Alejandro Aycinena y Carrillo (1767-1826), allowed them to take on an increasingly prominent role in the family business. Marriage also played a role in the consolidation of Aycinena’s commercial network. The marital links between the Aycinena and Piñol families, for example, created an exceptionally powerful bloc. The 1796 marriage of María Micaela Aycinena y Nájera to Manuel José Pavón y Muñoz, son of a wealthy merchant from Extremadura, Cayetano Pavón, created another formidable commercial link. And the 1794 marriage of Juan Fermín’s daughter María Josefa Sebastiana Aycinena y Nájera to yet another wildly successful Navarran merchant in Guatemala, Juan Bautista Marticorena, brought new talent into the family and renewed contact with the Peninsula.

Church and State

Aycinena cultivated a mutually beneficial relationship with the Spanish state in Central America. He served for decades in public office, contributed enormous amounts in taxes (some 107,000 pesos from 1773 to 1780 alone), provided timely loans for military emergencies, supported the crown in the divisive effort to transfer the earthquake-damaged capital after 1773, and exerted himself in the physical transfer of the city. Ultimately, he was rewarded for his services with a title of nobility, becoming the first Marqués de Aycinena in 1783.

Yet if Aycinena was a faithful and generous servant of the Spanish Empire, it is important to note that the state served him perhaps just as generously. Aycinena’s wealth and connections brought him power. Power was expressed most clearly in his relations with the state and the church. He controlled crucial offices in colonial government and exercised extraordinary influence over officeholders. Through such ties, he was able to influence governmental policy and practice on matters of greatest concern to him. In turn, the power generated from his ties to state and church expanded and reinforced his opportunities to create wealth.

Juan Fermín’s marriage in 1755 gave him entrée into the Santiago elite and facilitated his entry into politics. He acquired a permanent seat on the cabildo of Santiago in 1761 and held it continuously until his retirement in 1780. Aycinena’s cabildo seat (in Santiago and later in Guatemala City) gave him a voice in matters that concerned him most—land, labor, taxes, and monopolies. It provided him with an institutional vehicle for defending his interests against an encroaching bureaucracy or the occasional hostile captain general. The post of depositor general, which he also held from 1761 to 1780, made him the public trustee and, as such, receiver of property involved in litigation. He would manage sequestered properties at a small profit. And he would have some say (or at least an advantageous oversight) in the dispensation of properties indebted to him.

His position as supervisor of alcabala collections for the kingdom (before and during the transfer of the capital) gave him extraordinary control over “public” resources.13 Influence over the destination of certain ecclesiastical revenues (he was principal patron of two religious orders) had similar if less substantial benefits. And his subsequent leadership of the merchant guild founded in 1794 further safeguarded his position in colonial society, giving him a voice in commercial disputes that came before the court of the consulado. Separation of public good and private interest was not a hallmark of Spanish American colonial administration.

Of perhaps even greater importance than the offices he held personally were the substantial financial connections Aycinena cultivated with state and church officials. For example, audiencia judges (oidores) Eusebio Beleña (1773-1777) and Joachín de Plaza (1773-1781) owed Aycinena 6,000 and 4,570 pesos, respectively, in 1777. In that same year, the kingdom’s contador de cuentas (supervisor of imperial revenues), Salvador Dominguez, was beholden to Aycinena for 2,795 pesos.14 While these debts were not exceptionally large, they offered potentially valuable leverage for the region’s leading merchant.

Outside the capital, the isthmian institutional apparatus reinforced (and sometimes reproduced) Aycinena’s commercial network. Relationships with officials in the indigo areas of El Salvador or the mining regions of Honduras were especially critical. Aycinena established similar arrangements elsewhere as well. Omoa commanding officer Antonio Fernandín, whose job entailed rooting out illicit trade along the Honduran coast, solicited a loan of 2,000 pesos from Aycinena in 1779.15 In 1769, Aycinena named Nicaraguan governor Domingo Cavello (1766-1776) as his commercial agent in that province.16 Sebastian Labayru, corregidor of Realejo, Nicaragua, owed Aycinena nearly 12,000 pesos as of 1768.17 Such ties indicated the difficulty, if not futility, of Bourbon efforts to insulate colonial officials from financial connections with or dependence on colonial merchants.

Similarly, the isthmian church establishment played a vital supporting role in Aycinena’s rise to power and in his commercial endeavors. Apart from its religious functions, the Catholic church in Central America maintained hospitals, asylums, orphanages, and numerous other essential and charitable enterprises. It monopolized education. Absent banking institutions, the church provided an important source of credit. In a volatile economy, church agencies were a secure field of investment. The late Adriaan C. Van Oss called the church “in the most prosaic sense . . . the greatest business of the colonial period.”18 Even more fundamentally, he argued, parish priests were “the basic unit of civil society.”19 The Kingdom of Guatemala was held together not so much by the civil or military bureaucracy but by its clergy. “More than any other institution,” Van Oss insisted, “the parishes [of the Kingdom of Guatemala] constituted the base on which Spanish rule depended.”20 They were an important base of merchant success as well.

In the eighteenth century, most Central American clergy were creoles, and many were commercially active, individually or in collaboration with their families. Clergymen were some of the wealthiest, best-connected, and best-placed people in the kingdom. The church apparatus (the church hierarchy, parish priests and their subordinates, and the religious orders) abetted the activities of colonial entrepreneurs by placing presumably trustworthy Hispanized persons in remote and strategic areas; these people, through necessity, ambition, or avarice, were disposed to participate in commerce. Churchmen became part of the isthmian distribution and collection network for goods and capital, an integral part of the colonial economy. At the same time, they furnished a vast intelligencegathering network, providing essential information about political and market conditions in distant areas. With striking frequency, the rural cleric acted as intermediary not only between his flock and their Lord but also between buyers and sellers, workers and owners.

Aycinena had family or commercial relations with numerous isthmian clergy. Already mentioned was his first wife’s powerful uncle, Miguel de Cilieza y Velasco. Another of her uncles was Father Francisco Nicolás Zeage (1726-1793), the cura propio of San Agustín Sumpango. He was also an extremely aggressive businessman who owned several haciendas and commercial properties in Sumpango and Santiago. His relationship with Aycinena commenced as early as 1767.21 Other influential clerical ties included cabildo eclesiástico members Tomás Alvarado y Guzmán, Josef de la Guardia, and Miguel Cabrejo.22 Merchant-priest and Aycinena associate Father Juan José Ganuza was the younger brother of a prominent consulado merchant in Mexico City who often did business with Aycinena.23

In March 1774, Aycinena furnished incoming bishop Francisco Joseph de Palencia of Comayagua a loan of two thousand pesos to cover the expenses of assuming office.24 Priests such as Joseph Luceno of Gotera and Ignacio de Villa Aliva of San Vicente acted as Aycinena commercial agents.25 Planter-priests such as Diego José López of San Vicente and Ambrosio Andino y Arze of Santiago Nanualco received substantial financing from Aycinena.26 Father Blas de Bargas of El Salvador combined his priestly responsibilities with participation in the indigo industry, and he acted as a commercial intermediary for Aycinena as early as 1766. By 1771, in connection with his commercial endeavors, Bargas owed Aycinena more than 21,000 pesos. When Bargas obtained the concession to collect the diezmo (tithe) in San Miguel from 1770 to 1774, Aycinena was his fiador (guarantor). Their agreement in effect represented a commercial partnership in the guise of collecting church revenues. Aycinena would furnish to the state the designated sum; Bargas would repay Aycinena with indigo at discounted prices.27


Like his fellow merchants, Aycinena operated at the crossroads of colonial commerce. He advanced goods and cash to isthmian producers (silver miners and indigo planters) in exchange for discounted commodities, which he would then distribute through his imperial commercial network. Yet it was not so much the kinds of activities Aycinena engaged in that set him apart from his colleagues, but their scale. The amount of capital he was able to employ, the extent of his trading network, and the thoroughness of his efforts to diversify and vertically integrate his enterprise distinguished Aycinena from his contemporaries.

Through his commercial firm, the Casa de Aycinena, Aycinena participated in virtually every sector of the isthmian economy. He acted as a banker, a wholesaler of European and Asian goods, an investor in mining, an exporter of indigo, and ultimately a ship owner, mineowner, and indigo planter. The scale of his success is revealed in tables 2 and 3.


The dowry Ana María Carrillo y Gálvez furnished to Aycinena in 1755 consisted of “178,912 pesos and 4 reales, comprised of money, mercantile goods, jewelry, gold and silver furnishings, and dependencies.” Aycinena brought to the marriage only 21,000 pesos.28 His marriage thus yielded capital, merchant goods, and “dependencies” (established credit accounts).29 As was the practice in colonial Latin America, Juan Fermín controlled the dowry, which remained technically the property of Ana María and the potential inheritance of her legitimate descendants or else her natal family. The dowry’s material benefits were obvious. Aycinena received intact a functioning commercial concern. From the beginning, Aycinena could tap into and continue business relationships that were already well established.30

One of Aycinena’s principal functions in the Central American economy, and a primary means by which he extended his commercial power, was his role as a wholesale merchant. A substantial portion of the wealth counted in each inventory of the Aycinena estate comprised generos de mercancia, or trade goods. In 1768, a total of 207,714 pesos (nearly 25 percent of his total adjusted wealth) was tied up in generos. In 1771, the amount was 125,457 pesos (12 percent); and in 1777, goods represented 148,009 pesos (14.6 percent). The percentage made up by goods is significantly lower in the later years.

Perhaps this reflects a slightly different pattern of investments, the tying up of the casa’s resources in other kinds of endeavors (mining or indigo), or the acquisition of real property. Obviously, the contents of Aycinena’s wholesale store were constantly in flux; they varied, perhaps greatly, annually and even seasonally, ebbing and flowing with the cycles of commerce. The inventories are helpful snapshots of a colonial enterprise at specific moments; they give a sense of the scale of the enterprise and the kinds of goods imported. They give less of a sense of motion. There is little doubt, however, that Aycinena was the dominant importer in late colonial Guatemala. An inventory of alcabalas paid on European imports by Guatemalan merchants from 1783 to 1790, for example, reveals that Aycinena accounted for some 22.5 percent of the taxes paid by all importers (47,761 pesos out of a total of 212,205).31

The trade goods counted in the 1768 inventory reveal that the great majority of the goods Juan Fermín imported were textiles: Italian velvets, taffeta from France and Spain, fine linen from Brittany, English flannel and serge, Chinese silks, damasks from China and Valencia, Belgian lace, cottons from Rouen, India, and China, and cheesecloth. The Aycinena store stocked luxury items, essentials, and articles for everyday use. It supplied thread, buttons, twine, ribbons, braids, tapestries, and chintz. Sombreros of all qualities, other types of hats, shoes, petticoats, reams of paper, cinnamon, floorcloth, bedspreads, huipiles, stirrups, blankets, garnets, and rosary beads also filled the shelves.32


Aycinena used his access to capital and goods to insert himself into the heart of isthmian production. He expanded his role and asserted his dominance over crucial sectors of the Central American economy through advances of goods and cash in credit arrangements. In a chronically cash-poor region, credit was crucial to the conduct of business. As early as November 1755, Aycinena assumed the role of Central American financier.33 Apart from the sheer volume of wealth represented in his estate inventories, their most striking aspect is the proportion of Aycinena’s wealth represented as dependencies, or outstanding debts due him. As John Kicza discovered for Mexico City, “A major part of the total value of commercial establishments of every size and character in the city consisted of ‘dependencias activas,’ the collective debts of the many customers compelled to buy on credit.”34

One way to gauge the importance of commercial advances for Aycinena is to look at the active dependencies in relation to his total wealth (adjusted for lost dependencies and those for which repayment was doubtful). Table 2 shows that in 1768, Aycinena had 589,830 pesos recorded in active dependencies and an adjusted wealth of 709,026 pesos. Thus, active dependencies made up about 83 percent of his adjusted wealth. In 1771, active accounts represented 82 percent of his adjusted wealth. In 1777 the picture is even more striking. The Casa de Aycinena had some 1,014,997 pesos invested in the colonial economy by way of active and current dependencies, yet Aycinena’s adjusted wealth amounted only to 945,749 pesos. In effect, 107 percent of his adjusted wealth was thus tied up in active dependencies.35 These numbers reveal an extremely aggressive, and perhaps by 1777 an overextended, colonial merchant.

The percentage of active debts in relation to the total debt gives some idea of the soundness of Aycinena’s investments. That percentage was 72.58 percent for 1768, 72.25 percent for 1771, 75.89 percent for 1777, and 46.98 percent for 1796. In turn, the percentage of debts lost, or written off, of the total debt was 11.7 percent in 1768, 19.3 percent in 1771, 19.2 percent in 1777, and 38.8 percent in 1796. The accretion is obvious. Such an accretion was perhaps inevitable over the long haul, because debts once written off remained a permanent part of the portfolio. It is unclear whether debts considered lost (by 1796) reflected any compensation gained through foreclosure or other legal proceedings. The shift of “doubtful” debts into the “lost” category also shows a clear pattern. On the other hand, this shift was probably offset by the exchange of debts for real property. Nevertheless, such a high level of “losses” indicates the volatile nature of colonial business.

The most complete view of Juan Fermín’s investment portfolio comes from the inventory of 1777, which provides a tabular summary of all active dependencies. Of the 191 active accounts recorded in 1777, all but a handful were individual accounts. These ranged in size from the 2.5 pesos of Matías de Landaburu of Cádiz to the more than 39,000 pesos owed by Juan de Taranco of San Vicente. These are cumulative totals, and may or may not reflect long-term relationships. Ironically, Matías de Landaburu was perhaps Juan Fermín’s most consistent peninsular contact. The larger accounts probably involved longer-term relationships. In most cases, the larger debtors were indigo planters. Table 4 breaks down the relative size of the accounts.

Aycinena lent to a wide range of individuals and institutions. Borrowers ranged from high churchmen to humble priests and nuns, convents and monasteries, colonial officials such as oidors and alcaldes mayores (and possibly captains general), as well as merchants, planters, artisans, bird tenders, and even one gentleman styled as “el pobre.”36 Anyone who could conceivably repay the money or credit advanced was apparently seriously considered. The casa’s formula for determining who deserved credit and who did not is unknown—indeed, records of those denied credit are unavailable. Nevertheless, anyone commercially active in colonial Central America was likely to deal, at one time or another, with Juan Fermín de Aycinena. As the estate inventories make clear, he was eager to lend.


By at least the 1770s, Aycinena’s principal field of investment was indigo. Not only for Aycinena but for eighteenth-century Central America in general, prosperity seeped from the indigo plant. By the mid-eighteenth century, the Isthmus was known as the producer of the world’s finest indigo, a dye much in demand in the expanding textile industry of northern Europe. According to Troy S. Floyd, between 1772 and 1800 Central America exported some 24 million pounds of indigo.37 Miles Wortman records the figures as shown in table 5.

Despite its profitability, indigo production was an expensive and risky undertaking. Nature was the great arbiter: favorable weather and freedom from insects were essential to a planter’s success. The indigo planter was dependent on the state to provide an adequate labor supply.38 He was dependent on merchant financing to fund his production. The planter’s costs were prohibitive. He paid wages to workers who cleared and planted his land, harvested and manufactured his indigo. He also had to provide for support personnel. Vats for steeping and beating and other equipment had to be maintained or replaced. Sorting the indigo into grades and wrapping it in zurrones (cowhide cases) for transport was time-consuming as well as costly. Larger planters acquired mules, which had to be fed and periodically replaced, and mule drivers, who also had to be paid.39 And the church and state extracted their share in taxes.

Once it had been harvested, congealed, sorted, and wrapped, indigo was transported by mule to the capital, usually in January and February. The arduous trip took about six weeks from San Miguel and about a month from San Salvador. From the capital the dye traveled to the Golfo Dulce. The mule trains were under pressure to reach the Caribbean by May to escape the wet season on land and to reach ships that, in turn, had to depart the Caribbean by June, before the onset of hurricane season.40

The exchange of indigo took place at annual trade fairs, the most important of which was that of Santiago and later Guatemala City. The capital city fair was held in February. A variety of provincial fairs, frequented by small-scale producers, took place in the months immediately preceding the fair in the capital. At the indigo fairs, wholesale merchants and planters bargained over grades and prices of indigo while planters selected trade goods from the merchant stores and arranged for cash advances for the year to come. Commonly, the planter pledged his future crop as payment for the money and goods advanced. The customary agreement was that the merchant would receive the mortgaged indigo at one or one-half real per pound less than the “feria price,” which would be set by the pricing assembly (made up equally of delegates representing planters and merchants). The real or one-half real was the merchant’s interest on his annual loan. For any part of the planter’s debt left unpaid after one year, the merchant charged 5 percent interest. Prices at the Guatemala City fair had to be one real per pound higher than the provincial fairs to account for transport costs, although merchants refused to be bound by the provincial prices. Once the fair price was set, the wholesaler adjusted the planter’s debt accordingly. The merchant then supplied the planter for another year with goods and money.41

The merchants of Guatemala were not content to rely solely on the market or their favorable position vis-à-vis planters to determine their fate; they also established strategic ties with Salvadoran officials. While such relations might have been secondary, the role of the alcaldes mayores or corregidores in the indigo process cannot be ignored. These officials allocated labor, dispensed credit, collected tribute, distributed goods, and compelled reluctant consumers to participate in the colonial economy through forced trade (the repartimiento de efectos). Alcaldes mayores and corregidores used their offices for private gain, to support their own enterprises, or, more often, as regional agents of wholesalers in the capital.

Among the Salvadoran officials with whom Aycinena cultivated ties was the merchant and lower official (tenente) Francisco Becerril, who amassed a debt to Aycinena and associates of more than 20,000 pesos.42 Manuel Fadrique y Goyena, son-in-law of Cristóbal de Gálvez (and cousin of Aycinena cajero José García Goyena), served several long terms as alcalde mayor (1761-63, 1765-67, and 1777-85) and died “deeply indebted” to the Casa de Aycinena.43Alcalde mayor Bernardo de Mencos Varón (1774-777) was a cousin of Aycinena’s first wife. Aycinena’s most intriguing connection was with alcalde mayor Bernabé de la Torre (1757 and 1771-1773). Removed from office after complaints from Salvadoran planters in 1757, de la Torre was restored in 1771 (after a long but successful legal fight) with financial “assistance” in excess of 143,000 pesos from Aycinena (for the purpose of “fomenting” his office). De la Torre’s story also points out the risk involved in bankrolling colonial officials: he died about a year after regaining his post, and Aycinena apparently was forced to write off the extraordinary advances.44

Still, the key to Aycinena’s dominance of Central American indigo was his ties to planters. An illustrative relationship was the one he maintained with Pedro de Souza. In 1760, Souza was a merchant working the provinces of San Salvador and León. As of October 1760, he owed Aycinena 1,061 pesos from the previous year. In October, he contracted a new debt, comprising 2,714 pesos in cash and additional goods worth 2,734 pesos, bringing his total debt to 6,509 pesos.45 A decade later, in March 1770, Souza was a vecino (property holder) of San Vicente, a landowner, and an indigo planter. His mobility was probably a product of his commercial relations with Aycinena. As of 1770, Souza owed Juan Fermín more than 15,317 pesos. Of this amount, 7,586 pesos had been carried over from previous advances, while the new advances came to 6,240 pesos in cash and 1,491 pesos’ worth of trade goods. The advances were to “foment” indigo production in his haciendas San Joseph el Obrajuelo and San Pedro Mártir, near Santiago Nanualco. Souza pledged to pay off the debt by January 1771, in indigo, at variable rates: 13,826 pesos’ worth at one-half real more than the Apastepeque fair prices (to cover the old debt and the cash advance); 1,491 pesos’ worth at the Santiago prices (to cover the advance of trade goods). To secure the loans, Souza obligated his “person and haciendas.”46 As of 1777, the Salvadoran owed Aycinena more than 30,000 pesos, making his estates dangerously liable to forfeiture.

Aycinena maintained another long-term relationship with Joseph Rodríguez. On February 4, 1767 (presumably during the indigo fair), Rodríguez received from Aycinena cash and goods worth 8,475 pesos. He was to pay that debt in indigo at the 1768 fair. But as of February 29, 1768, his agent (apoderado), don Francisco de Cañas, had paid only 670 pesos. Rodríguez in effect refinanced his loan with Aycinena, committing himself to pay the remaining 7,805 pesos plus 390 pesos 6 reales in common interest, bringing his total to 8,196 pesos. He would pay by the 1769 fair.47

Whether or not he did so is unknown. On March 22, 1769, shortly after the Santiago fair, Rodríguez sealed a different kind of transaction: he arranged to acquire an indigo hacienda named La Joya near San Vicente. The plantation belonged to the estate of Antonio Pereyra. Along with the property, Rodríguez assumed Pereyra’s debt to Aycinena of 17,000 pesos. In addition, he contracted a new loan for 5,000 pesos in money and goods. This was added to Rodríguez’ debt of 4,000 pesos to Gertrudis Pereyra, also now assumed by Aycinena, along with a 3,000-peso obligation that came with the estate in censo (church encumbrance). In all, in acquiring the hacienda, Rodríguez assumed a debt of 29,000 pesos, 26,000 of which was owed to Aycinena. In return, he agreed to pay off the debt to Aycinena in indigo within three years. If the debt was not completely met after three years, Rodríguez agreed to pay Aycinena 5 percent interest annually on the remaining portion. As collateral, Rodríguez pledged the hacienda La Joya, as well as another estate named San Francisco Barillas.48 As of 1777, however (and almost predictably, given the huge start-up debt), Rodríguez’ obligation to Aycinena had mounted to a total of 29,337 pesos. Not long thereafter, he lost La Joya to the Guatemala City merchant.

Souza and Rodríguez were just two among dozens of long-term commercial relationships Aycinena maintained in El Salvador. The two associations evolved very similarly—with both debtors enlarging rather than retiring their substantial debts. In Rodríguez’ case for certain, and perhaps in Souza’s as well, Aycinena acquired the estates they had pledged as collateral. It should be noted, however, that Aycinena’s financing had enabled them to acquire their haciendas in the first place, and thereby to move beyond provincial retailing. While their stories may or may not be typical, the fate of Souza and Rodríguez indicates the difficulty some planters had in remaining solvent and their vulnerability to the merchants of the capital.

Through relations such as these, Aycinena became Central America’s overwhelmingly dominant indigo exporter. Floyd identifies 138 merchants who participated in the indigo trade from 1778 to 1785, but only about 20 of them were major exporters. These 20 merchants accounted for more than 60 percent of all indigo exports in those years, nearly 2.5 million of the total 4.05 million pounds. And Aycinena clearly dominated this group: from 1778 to 1785, he exported some 666,737.5 pounds of Central American indigo, or about 16 percent of total exports. Adding Pedro José de Beltranena’s totals to those of his uncle, the startling predominance of the Casa de Aycinena in the Guatemalan export trade becomes even more pronounced. Beltranena exported 143,637.5 pounds. Together, Aycinena and Beltranena sent abroad 810,375 pounds between 1778 and 1785. They accounted for more than 20 percent of Central American indigo exports in those years.49


Aycinena participated actively in the isthmian mining industry, at least in his early years, although ultimately not on the scale of his involvement with indigo. He did so for perhaps obvious reasons. The mining regions provided a market for his imports, allowed him to diversify his mercantile enterprise, and provided valuable specie that permitted him to purchase in volume.50 Although Honduran silver had experienced an impressive recovery in the first half of the eighteenth century, in the second half of the century expansion stagnated. Floyd estimates that total annual production stalled at somewhere around half a million pesos.51

Bourbon attempts to reform the mining industry and restore growth were frustrated by numerous structural problems: labor shortages, supply scarcities, insufficient capital, outmoded technology, inadequate government supervision, official corruption, and the high cost of isthmian defense. The lack of governmental support for the Honduran mining industry might have been offset if private capital had been available. But indigo was simply more lucrative, less risky, and therefore a more attractive investment, and it diverted much of the needed capital. As Floyd explains, merchants “were willing to exchange goods for bullion but not to advance long-term development loans.”52

Juan Fermín de Aycinena was at least a partial exception to the pattern of reluctant merchant investors. As late as the mid-1760s, he invested substantially in Honduran mining. In 1765, the supervisor of the Casa de Moneda in Santiago reported that Aycinena had deposited a “cierta cantidad” of gold from Tegucigalpa.53 In April 1766, Luis Francisco de Oliver of Tegucigalpa acknowledged that Aycinena had supplied him with 5,090 pesos in trade goods. Oliver may been a miner himself, or a retail merchant working the mining regions. At any rate, he promised to make good the debt within one year in “plata a cuñada, moneda corriente” delivered to the capital.54 To safeguard his investments, Aycinena maintained substantial financial relations with colonial officials in the region. In 1768, former Tegucigalpa alcalde mayor Francisco Nicolás Busto y Bustamante owed Aycinena 6,500 pesos (a debt written off by 1771), while the current officeholder, Gerónimo Lacayo, owed him more than 2,000.55 Still, such safeguards could not protect Aycinena from the general hazards of investing in Honduran mining.

This was made clear by Aycinena’s experience with the Landa brothers of Tegucigalpa. Juan Lucas de Landa and his brother Miguel owned the Mina del Nuevo Bastán in the Real Minas de San Joseph Yuscarán. The name of their mine site hints that they were countrymen of Juan Fermín. On March 17, 1766, Juan Lucas de Landa delegated his complete power to Aycinena, who was to provide him with the necessary supplies of mercury.56 On January 26, 1767, the partnership was sealed in spectacular fashion. The Landa brothers contracted a loan from Aycinena of 84,719 pesos 3.5 reales, which Miguel Landa stated was “para trabajar las fundan en ellas hacienda fabricar ingenios le pedimos ambos el fomento necesario al Capitán Juan Fermín de Ayzinena.” They pledged to repay the debt within two years “en barras de plata.”57 They were unable to do so. As early as 1768, the loan was considered doubtful; by 1771, the debt, now exceeding 90,000 pesos, had moved into the lost column. Aycinena absorbed their mineholdings. He had moved, almost inadvertently, from aviador (financier) to mineowner.

Although he dabbled in subsequent mining ventures (an iron works in Chiquimula, for example), Aycinena’s early experience with mining seems to have discouraged him from making any more major investments in the sector.58 Indigo simply paid off much more handsomely, and it absorbed the bulk of his investments.

Investment Summary

To gain a clearer picture of Aycinena’s investment preferences, it is helpful to look again at the 1777 inventory, which provides a complete list of active dependencies. (The list obviously does not include lost and doubtful dependencies, and thus excludes the enormous Landa debt.) Predictably, the majority of his “investments” recorded that year—more than 40 percent of his loans considered to be still active and collectible—were in the indigo-producing regions of El Salvador. Of these, 201,741 pesos were tied up in San Vicente and another 145,657 in San Miguel. Adding the more than 213,000 pesos represented by tintas en route to or consigned in Mexico or Peru, the percentage of wealth invested in indigo climbs to over 60. Most of the 50,000-plus pesos owed by Mexican merchants presumably related to indigo as well (see table 6).

The Aycinena Commercial Network

Aycinena’s commercial success depended not only on his command of capital and its sound investment but also on the great reach afforded by his extensive trading network. The core of that network was family ties. The conditions of colonial commerce encouraged the use of family members or other close associates throughout the business enterprise. Poor transportation and communications impeded the relay of instructions, leaving many decisions in the hands of subordinates. The scarcity of specie meant that the colonial economy operated on credit. And as Kicza points out, “An economy based on credit meant an economy based on trust, or at least on enforceable guarantees.”59 Trust was best assured, if not guaranteed, by reliance on kin. As much as Aycinena prospered, he did not do so alone. He depended on the assistance of a wide network of associates who were, by and large, family members or fellow Navarrans. The ultimate goal of the family enterprise was to diversify investments and vertically integrate business holdings. The successful family enterprise was able to minimize risk by investing in a variety of areas, and to maximize profits by eliminating costly and untrustworthy middlemen.

Because even the most widely extended family was limited in its reach, the successful family enterprise required a latticework of loyal and useful friends, associates, clients, and dependents, patiently developed over many years and spread over a range of regions and commodities. In Aycinena’s case, nephews, children, and in-laws were buttressed by such trusted Navarran immigrants as Antonio Bergana, Juan de Gortari, and José García Goyena.

In addition to loyal subordinates in the casa itself, Aycinena’s enterprise depended on a wide range of contacts throughout the various regions of his far-flung operations. The numerous Aycinena transactions extending powers of commercial representation in Central America and abroad offer a graphic picture of his sprawling trading network. He delegated powers for a single task, such as the collection of a specific debt, or in full. Complete grants of powers denoted the establishment of a lasting business connection. Typically, in November 1770, Aycinena granted his “poder cumplido” to Father Antonio Corleto of San Salvador,

to represent me in all rights and actions, receipts, demands, and expenses, contracted with any persons, of any rank, quality and condition, judicial and extrajudicial [in that province], involving all monies, jewelry, gold and silver items, slaves, livestock, dyes or other products, goods or anything that I owe or am owed.60

Transactions such as these created the skeleton that supported Aycinena’s commercial endeavors throughout the Isthmus. Over some 30 years, Juan Fermín extended powers of representation throughout Central America, the Indies, and the Iberian peninsula. He established contacts in Oaxaca, Acapulco, Mexico City, Havana, Callao, Lima, Cadíz, and Madrid. In Central America he maintained agents in San Salvador, San Vicente, San Miguel, Sonsonate, León, Granada, Cartago, Nicoya, Comayagua, Tegucigalpa, Gracias a Dios, Ciudad Real (Chiapas), Chiquimula, Esquipulas, Sumpango, Gotera, Chiquimulilla, Villanueva, Vera Paz, and Sacatecoluca.61

He maintained important and often long-term connections with merchants in Mexico City, Lima, and Cádiz. Aycinena’s connection with Mexico City consulado merchant Francisco Ignacio Yraeta is instructive. Yraeta was an immigrant from Guipuzcoa who gained experience in the Philippines trade and became a major broker at the Acapulco fair.62 He owed his success in part to his marriage to the daughter of consulado merchant and Navarran immigrant Pedro Ganuza.63 Aycinena was just one of the commercial relationships Yraeta inherited from his father-in-law. In 1787, Aycinena named Yraeta his principal contact in Mexico City.64 The value of such a connection was confirmed when Yraeta became Mexican representative of the Royal Philippines Company at about the same time; and also in 1789 and 1790, when Yraeta served as consul of the Mexico City consulado de comercio.65

In one crucial instance, the relations between Aycinena and Yraeta transcended commerce. In 1776, New Spain’s viceroy, Antonio María Bucareli, assigned Yraeta the commission as “depositario,” charged with collecting funds for the construction of Guatemala City.66 Juan Fermín de Aycinena had been given a similar commission by the captain general of Guatemala. Official and private capital thus traveled in the same channels, through the same hands, and perhaps into the same pockets. The line separating public responsibilities and private endeavors was blurry at best.

Juan Fermín’s most intriguing Mexico City connection was Pedro de Aycinena (not to be confused with Juan Fermín’s nephew in Guatemala City).67 Pedro de Aycinena ascended in the Mexico City business community at almost precisely the same time Juan Fermín was rising in Guatemala. He conducted business with Juan Fermín on a regular basis.68 He first appears in colonial records as a buyer at the Jalapa fair in 1757 and 1758.69 By 1761 he was in Mexico City, and at least as early as 1768, he had joined the consulado de comercio as a member of the Basque faction.70 In 1772, Pedro de Aycinena was a consulado deputy for the Jalapa fair; and from 1777 to 1779, he served as consul of the consulado (one of the three officers elected annually), the first two years as consul moderno, the last year as consul antiguo.71

Pedro de Aycinena was a leading Mexican cacao trader in the 1760s and 1770s, importing the commodity from Caracas and Guayaquil.72 But he did not limit his activities to cacao. In 1765, he imported fully 13.6 percent of all goods brought into Mexico City, and the following year his share was 21.45 percent. In four separate years, Pedro’s imports exceeded 100.000 pesos. In 1766 they exceeded 220,000 pesos. In 1777, Pedro set what must be some kind of record, importing 570,168 pesos’ worth of goods from Europe and Asia.73 It might well be the case that the imports of this last year had to do with the construction of the new Guatemalan capital. Pedro de Aycinena was an associate of Francisco Yraeta in this commission.

In addition to his Mexican connections, Juan Fermín had dealings with the Viceroyalty of Peru. We know less about these connections, however. Until intercolonial trade was legalized, it seems that an important function for the Casa de Aycinena and, indeed, for Central American merchants in general was to serve as intermediaries between Mexico and Peru. Aycinena’s ties with Peru were extensive, although not on the scale of his ties to New Spain. As early as 1765, for example, Navarrans Juan de Gortari and Antonio Bergana became partners with Aycinena in the Peru trade. As of 1768, they maintained an active dependency with Aycinena of more than 49.000 pesos. Bergana was especially important, initially as a trader and, as of 1773, as master of Aycinena’s merchant vessel La Fama, which ventured between Acapulco and Callao. As in other Aycinena enterprises, family members were employed wherever possible. In 1772, Aycinena extended powers of representation to his nephew, Juan Miguel Aguerreverre, then a merchant in Lima. Aycinena conducted business with numerous Peruvian merchants, including the Marqués de Negreiros, the Conde de San Isidro, Sebastián de Urrutia, Miguel de Olavide, Father Manuel García, and perhaps another relative, Juan Baptista de Yrigoyen.74

Almost by definition, colonial entrepreneurship demanded vital connections with the metropolis. Despite Bourbon efforts to reduce its power, the port of Cádiz remained the center of Spanish colonial trade.75 Aycinena’s principal contacts in Cádiz are suggested by a series of agreements extending powers of representation. In 1765, he extended such powers to Matías de Landaburu, Juan Baptista Uztariz, and Sebastián Pinto.76 In 1772, he did the same with Juan Antonio de Uzelas. Much later, as Marqués de Aycinena, he conceded powers to Fermín de Elizalde and Francisco Xavier de Goenaga, both in 1788. Numerous other Cádiz connections are indicated in the estate inventories.77 Some of Aycinena’s peninsular trade contacts were family members, including Juan Miguel de Larraín, Juan Francisco de Aycinena, and Juan Miguel Aguerreverre (who relocated to Spain). Juan Tomás Micheo was a relative by marriage who had returned to Spain after the 1773 earthquakes.78 Another contact was Juan Vicente Marticorena, who in 1778 purchased more than 13,375 pounds of indigo.79

These ties suggest fascinating possibilities. For Mexico, Kicza has detected “the existence of an ongoing commercial relationship between relatives at both ends of the major trade conduit between Spain and Mexico,” but he admits that “its precise nature—especially the locus of power—remains hidden.”80 To be sure, Kicza is referring to the great consulado merchants of Mexico City who dealt with family firms in Cádiz, and whose independence was possibly in question. This does not seem to be the case with Juan Fermín de Aycinena, although the presence of fellow Aycinenas in Mexico City (Pedro) and in Cádiz (Juan Francisco) suggests intriguing possibilities of international coordination or some sort of division of labor. As for the locus of power, the preceding discussion suggests that much, if not most, of the power rested at Juan Fermín’s end of any “axis” that may have been in place. Aycinena’s dominance of the isthmian indigo market at a time of rising demand gave him a special advantage. His ability to select among wholesalers in Mexico, Spain, and even Peru further strengthened his negotiating position. The enormous reach of his trading network (which may have extended even outside legitimate channels) gave Aycinena the wherewithal to distribute trade goods in exchange for profitable export commodities much in demand abroad; namely, indigo. The scale of his long-distance exchanges reinforced his leading position at home, which, in turn, gave him the means to further embellish his imperial trade network. His was a most enviable position.

From Merchant to Producer

Ultimately, Aycinena expanded his economic activities beyond wholesaling, financing, and exporting into other branches of colonial enterprise. As early as 1773, he obtained the vessel La Fama from Father García and became a ship owner. By the 1780s, he also employed a frigate in the peninsular trade, the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores, which departed from Omoa on August 21, 1788, “bound for Cádiz with 324,159 pounds of indigo.”81 He also came to own more substantial property. By the early 1770s, as we have seen, Aycinena gained direct ownership of mines near Tegucigalpa. He likewise acquired an immense landed patrimony. The great majority, if not all, of these properties were situated in the indigo-producing regions of El Salvador.

Rather than through purchase or even family inheritance, most of these estates were acquired through foreclosure. Aycinena acquired the San Miguel indigo hacienda Yaguatique from Father Benito de Castilla in the late 1770s. Castilla had bought it for some 18,000 pesos and had added “200 head of cattle, 100 mules, and 250 horses” to raise its value to 36,000 pesos. To acquire the estate and to make it a functioning enterprise, Castilla had borrowed 32,630 pesos at 5 percent annual interest from the Casa de Aycinena. He pledged to pay 4,000 pesos a year except when the estate was afflicted by war or locusts, when he would owe 3,000 annually. Beset by locusts in 1774 and 1775, he was unable to make his installments, and in 1776 he owed the usual 4,000 pesos plus 4,894 pesos for three years of interest. Unable to meet his obligations, he lost his hacienda to Aycinena sometime after 1777. As Miles Wortman relates, the Casa de Aycinena claimed five more haciendas, worth some 156,000 pesos, between 1780 and 1785 (see table 7).82

As of 1783, Aycinena had acquired from Juan Taranco three indigo plantations in the vicinity of San Vicente—Cerro la Avilla, La Concepcion, and San Juan de Vista—in payment of a debt totaling 80,000 pesos.83 The hacienda Miraflores was acquired from the heirs of Manuel Andino y Arce on September 30, 1784, presumably in payment of Andino’s substantial debt to the Casa de Aycinena (more than 36,000 pesos in 1777). Miraflores was valued at 35,563 pesos in 1784; by 1796, Aycinena had enhanced its value to 57,991 pesos with the addition of new houses, obrajes, and livestock.84

Not surprisingly, the extent of Aycinena’s holdings has given him the reputation of having a voracious appetite for landed wealth. While vertical integration of the family enterprise was a desired end, and while Aycinena certainly became a major planter, the alacrity with which he did so may be questioned. It is sometimes argued that entrepreneurs in Bourbon Spanish America looked to move into landholding as soon as possible.85 Aycinena’s career at least partly modifies that picture. He did not begin to acquire land until around 1780, more than 25 years after his arrival in Guatemala. He surely had the opportunity and means to acquire land earlier if he had wished to do so. The timing of his land acquisitions suggests that his move to the land was not foreordained or all that much desired. Given the risks born by planters, why should he wish to share their predicament?

Nearly all his acquisitions came between 1780 and 1785. Aycinena’s landed wealth resulted from a convergence of factors: the dangerously mounting debts of several planters, the overextension of his “banking” operations (in 1777, as noted, more than 1.1 million pesos had been tied up in his active dependencies), wartime disruptions of commerce (the War of the American Revolution, joined by Spain in 1779, made Central America subject to British attacks and interrupted overseas commerce), and a series of governmental reforms aimed at protecting isthmian producers from merchants (particularly under Manuel de Gálvez, 1779-1783). Aycinena had sustained serious losses in the destruction of Santiago and the move to Nueva Guatemala. This much is clear: Aycinena was in no rush, and certainly no mad rush, to acquire land. When his move to the land came, however, it was swift and massive. As much as anything else, Aycinena’s ultimately extensive landed wealth reflects the scale of his commercial activities, his prominence as a lender, the volatility of colonial business, and producers’ resulting vulnerability to merchants.

Prestige and Persistence

As the land acquisitions suggest, the 1780s seem to have inaugurated a new era for the Casa de Aycinena. In 1780, Juan Fermín was 50 years old. He had buried two wives and was responsible for five children and a former mother-in-law. For these and the less personal concerns noted earlier, Aycinena entered a phase of “consolidating” his gains, socially as much as economically. Aycinena secured his place in the Kingdom of Guatemala with the finest trappings the Spanish colonial world had to offer. He did so, however, without abandoning the profitmaking pursuits that had elevated him to his lofty position in the first place. Doris Ladd explains similar actions by Mexican nobles through the notion of “mixed investments.”

Wealthy entrepreneurs were capitalists in the Hispanic tradition. Familial enterprises operated within a social prestige system. . . . Within the domains nobles dominated, investment to gain social status was considered as integral a part of finance as investment calculated to gain economic profit.86

Part of the explanation for the apparent shift in Aycinena’s behavior is provided in his correspondence with the Spanish apoderados he charged with pursuing a noble title and other imperial emoluments. These agents included Manuel de Llano, Thomas de Arsú, and his nephew Juan Miguel Aguerreverre. In October 1779, he prefaced his requests with the lament “I am tired of work on the cabildo of this capital for the benefit of the public,” especially the labors associated with the transfer of the capital.

I have resolved to solicit my relief from the office of councilman, and enter into positions [pretensiones] of pure honor, in which I may pass comfortably the last stage [tercio] of my life. . . . Above all I await the . . . retirement of my council seat [regimiento], because I desire with impatience to leave the ayuntamiento to retire to quiet and rest, because neither my age nor my weariness may tolerate any longer the hardships and agitations in which I spent my vigorous youth.87

The Marquesado

These efforts bore fruit. Aycinena retired from the cabildo in 1780. In 1783, he became the first Marqués de Aycinena and, as such, the only resident noble in late colonial Central America. He alone in the Kingdom of Guatemala had the means to acquire such a title: he was perhaps the only man, or certainly one of the very few, who enjoyed a personal worth in excess of one million pesos—the figure that for Kicza distinguishes the truly wealthy of New Spain.88

Titles were costly investments. Apart from the prestigious lineage, the demonstrable wealth, and the prodigious services to the crown required for consideration, the titleholder also had to pay significant amounts in taxes. Why would a businessman such as Aycinena commit himself to such expenses? Part of the answer lies in the psychic rewards that such a title brought. But another part relates once again to family. Based on her study of the Mexican nobility, Doris Ladd offers the following explanation:

In a society that viewed individual achievement with some skepticism, a title meant more than that an individual had “arrived.” It was royal confirmation of the worth of the entire family, for it asserted that for generations family members had practiced religious rectitude, respectable relationships, a responsible way of life.89

As Ladd states, “the Mexican nobility sought prestige and respectability by ostentatious conformity to the most cherished values of colonial society,” and thus “made prodigious efforts to demonstrate their loyalty to God, king and family.”90 What better way for an enormously successful merchant to allay any skepticism that might greet his endeavors than to acquire a title of nobility? Military honors had similar appeal. Aycinena became one of only 9 Guatemalans (or Spaniards in Guatemala) between 1726 and 1800 to join the Knights of Santiago; he was one of only 18 Guatemalans received into any military order in that period.91

The Mansion

Once attained, nobility demanded conspicuous consumption. Gamely defending the indigo merchants of Guatemala City, Floyd declares, “There is no evidence . . . that these Basque, Navarrese, and Catalan merchants flaunted their wealth.” Ironically, Floyd makes this remark immediately after noting that Aycinena built a house worth 80,000 pesos.92 Floyd also announces that the capital city battalion of the colonial militia was the “showiest military unit of the Kingdom.”93 Floyd’s apologies are unconvincing. As Doris Ladd declares, “The show of luxury that characterized the Mexican nobility was more than a simple reflection of their vanity and delusions of grandeur.” Rather, “It was behavior demanded of them as a requisite of their position.”94

The requisite displays required a suitable arena. As a reward for his prodigious efforts on behalf of the crown and his fellow subjects in the move of the Central American capital, and, no doubt, in recognition of his preeminent place in colonial society, in 1781 Aycinena received rights to establish his residence, a customs office, and a marketplace on the south side of the central plaza of Guatemala City. There he built the most imposing residence in the capital. The mansion contained “15 rooms, 7 patios, and 24 stores.”95 Slated initially at 75,000 pesos, construction costs finally exceeded 97,000 pesos. The house stretched some 91.5 varas from east to west and some 100 varas from north to south; or, in the estimation of the American traveler John Lloyd Stephens, “a square of 200 feet.”96 The home was a fitting monument for the first subject of the kingdom.

Such a home, and its inhabitants as well, had to be properly furnished. As Ladd notes for the Mexican nobility, “conspicuous consumption glittered in dress, jewels, furniture, and trappings.”97 We have few descriptions of the furnishings of Aycinena’s late eighteenth-century mansion, but earlier inventories suggest what they were like. The 1771 inventory contains a separate, detailed list of silver and jewelry belonging to the Aycinena household, including some 7,600 pesos’ worth of silver furnishings (alhajas de plata). Many of those pieces might have been part of the dowry of Aycinena’s first wife, Ana María. At the same time, Aycinena and his mother-in-law, Manuela de Gálvez, boasted an impressive array of jewelry, with a preference for fine pearls. The value of the jewelry counted in the 1771 household inventory amounted to nearly 19,000 pesos. The most impressive piece was a string of 33 pearls with the centerpiece a pearl in the shape of an avocado, appraised at 4,830 pesos. Two other pieces exceeded 2,200 pesos in value, while a third was worth more than 1,500 pesos. Aycinena’s earnings did not always go toward conventionally “productive” enterprises, even in his first decades in the Isthmus. Still, this is not surprising; it would be more surprising if such luxuries had not been part of his lifestyle.

The Mayorazgo

Inheritance laws, the lack of protection for business, and the volatility of commerce all militated against the maintenance of wealth. Spanish inheritance laws called for the equal division of all property among all legitimate heirs. In Aycinena’s case, as of 1796, such a division would mean carving his empire into 11 parts. Apart from the practical difficulties of coming up with 11 equitable shares of nonliquid wealth, such a division would gravely threaten the stature Aycinena had acquired for himself and his lineage. The primary means of preventing the rapid dissipation of colonial fortunes was to establish a mayorazgo, or entailed estate. A mayorazgo consolidated a major part of the estate into an indivisible and inalienable legacy to be passed down whole to a single heir.98

In February 1796, Aycinena was “moved by fatherly love” to establish a mayorazgo to be passed down, along with the family title, to his firstborn son, Vicente de Aycinena y Carrillo. The entail’s purpose was “to perpetuate the splendor of my house and lineage, and to better serve God and King”; to keep Vicente and his successors from material want and, ideally, from any loss of stature. The entailment document reads as follows:

I, Juan Fermín de Aycinena e Yrigoyen, Marqués de Aycinena, Knight of the Order of Santiago, Regidor, retired depositor general of the Very Noble and loyal ayuntamiento of this capital, first and current Prior of the Royal Tribunal of the Consulado of this Kingdom . . . do state: that in order to perpetuate in my family the grace and privileges with which through royal munificence and kindness the King, Our Lord has seen fit to bestow, conceding me the title of Marqués de Aycinena and to my primogenitor and successors perpetually and for always, and to ensure that for the lack of adequate funds the title does not decline in luster, that for such graces and honors corresponding to those who should succeed me in them . . . in order to obviate the damages that the indigence of my successors would occasion. . . . Upon sound and mature reflection I have resolved to entail the necessary properties, prohibiting their separation and alienation, and erect them in “mayorazgo” forever.99

Along with his title, Aycinena arranged to pass down whole to Vicente his principal residence in the capital and its contents, along with the stores and shops (tiendas y portales) adjacent to it. In addition to the house, Aycinena also entailed his hacienda Miraflores in El Salvador, acquired in a legal cession in 1784 and now worth 57,991 pesos. The properties earlier put up for the title, the two homes in the Barrio de Hermita and the hacienda Yaguatique, were now liberated from that obligation.

Perhaps most interesting are Aycinena’s dictates for the estate’s future management, included in clauses 12, 18, and 20. They give some idea of his investment philosophy. Clause 12 decrees, “all possessors of the mayorazgo have the indispensable obligation to separate annually the fifth part of the liquid proceeds of the stores and shops, and the hacienda Miraflores . . . and to enhance its value, by employing the fifth either in long-term loans [‘a censo’], or toward the purchase of new lands or additional fincas, houses, or building them.” The fifth was to be invested solely at the estate holder’s discretion. A fifth of the proceeds from any new purchases was also to be so employed in the future.

It was Juan Fermín’s earnest wish that the mayorazgo not stand idle but constantly grow. If for some reason the holder were to lapse two years without meeting this obligation, two thousand pesos were to be paid to the Hospital Real de San Juan de Dios “for the relief of the sick and destitute.” Clause 18 established further restrictions. The holdings of the mayorazgo were not to be “divided, sold, ceded, renounced, bequeathed, bartered, taxed, pawned, nor encumbered by liens (partially or completely).” No part of the mayorazgo was to be alienated as part of a dowry or arras, obra pía or public work, or even as ransom (redención de cautivos). Only in the most extraordinary circumstances were the mayorazgo’s proceeds to be so diverted, and then only by government decree. Clause 20 held the occupant responsible for maintaining the mayorazgo’s value and keeping its properties in good repair.

The establishment of an entailed estate served several purposes. For one, it was intended to maintain family honor—something Aycinena had taken great pains and expense to establish in the first place. It represented an effort to direct family behavior from beyond the grave; especially to promote sound economic behavior on the part of Aycinena’s descendants. In this regard, Aycinena discouraged encumbrances on the family patrimony and dictated that the estate holder make constant improvements. The entail obliged the holders to contribute to charity. More broadly, it demanded moral rectitude, as well as fealty to church and king. Entail was a remarkably flexible device. To the extent that it contributed to the maintenance of the Aycinena family stature, it was a remarkably successful one as well.

The February 1796 proceedings were prescient in their timing. The Marqués de Aycinena died at the end of May. He was 66 years old. He died just as Spain and Great Britain once again were approaching war, a war that drew British blockades of Spanish ports, wreaked havoc on Spanish American trade, and ended the brief “golden age” of commerce that had begun with imperial free trade in 1778. Yet Aycinena had girded his descendants against the vagaries of war, politics, and nature. They emerged from the independence struggles as still the dominant family in nineteenth-century Central America.


The story of Juan Fermín de Aycinena is the stuff of legend. Leaving Navarre as a young man, he became the wealthiest and most powerful subject in late colonial Central America. As an emigrant, he took part in a well-established Iberian pattern of younger children seeking greener pastures overseas. He used his early Mexican interlude to acquire valuable commercial experience and business connections. Perhaps more quickly than most of his fellow immigrants in the Spanish Empire, he struck out on his own, and achieved commercial success while still in his early twenties.

While the single most decisive event of his whole story was his first marriage, such a useful family tie was only the beginning. The infusion of “start-up capital” and the established commercial relationships he obtained through his marriage permitted him to invest more readily, more widely, and more aggressively than his Guatemalan merchant peers. His great bounty gave him a longer reach and a surer supply of import and export goods than his colleagues could ever hope to enjoy. Because he could assume greater risks, he received greater rewards.

To abet his commercial success, Aycinena established and maintained other useful ties with church and state; he acquired useful offices and perhaps even more useful influence over strategic officeholders, and he became a pillar of the state in the Indies. It was a mutually beneficial relationship. No doubt it was Aycinena’s appreciation of the role of the state and the church that prompted him to invest his wealth so conspicuously in traditional status symbols; he secured his position in the kingdom with the finest trappings of official state recognition.

Aycinena’s business career was distinguished by a seemingly inexorable drive toward expansion, diversification, and vertical integration. By the 1780s, Aycinena could, if he so chose, supply his haciendas with goods from his own stores; produce indigo in his own fields with workers “recruited” by colonial officials under his influence (or even in his employ); transport indigo across the Isthmus with his own mules; and ship it in his own ships to distant ports across the seas, where it might be handled by his own kin.

Despite the appearance of inevitability, however, the evolution of the Casa de Aycinena proceeded perhaps less by conscious design than by astute responses to conditions as they arose. Aycinena could not predict the outbreak of war, the eruption of volcanoes, the upheaval of earthquakes, the arrival of locusts, the visitation of epidemics. He could not determine beforehand which of his debtors would remain solvent and which would collapse. Nor could he predict changes in governmental policies, sometimes favorable to him and his fellow merchants and sometimes directed against them as a class. He innovated, expanded, and diversified in response to specific conditions of trade, politics, and nature.

To visit a larger theoretical issue, what does Aycinena’s story say about the role of colonial merchants in altering the isthmian economy? Economic historian Héctor Lindo-Fuentes questions the “transformative impact” of colonial merchants in Bourbon Central America; he argues that the eighteenth-century indigo boom brought only limited change. For one thing, the indigo trade was a very small part of the isthmian economy—at most, 15 percent of the national product. The eighteenth-century boom did little to alter traditional production methods. Labor demands were seasonal, generally requiring workers for only one-fourth of the year. As Lindo-Fuentes explains, “Large producers employed slaves, wage labor, repartimiento Indians, tenants, sharecroppers, or a combination thereof.”100

The boom perhaps intensified old practices but effected little innovation; methods remained those of “traditional agriculture.” On the other hand, it did bring about a new attitude, “a spirit of economic renewal,” “a new energy to the economy.” The merchant émigrés “reorganized the indigo market.” They employed “a package of services that was vastly superior to anything Central America had ever seen.”101 Thus, although the indigo trade brought few permanent changes, “The external sector did . . . play an important role in contributing to the strength of powerful elites who, in turn, worked hard at protecting their privileges.”102

Aycinena and the other great merchants of Guatemala benefited from and contributed to the insertion (or reinsertion) of Central America into the world economy. In so doing, they accelerated the region’s integration as an economic unit, linking the provinces to the capital more tightly than ever before. The change disrupted existing patterns of power and opened rifts that widened into irreconcilable cleavages at Central America’s independence from Spain in 1821. Yet with all that changed, the dominant group in colonial Central America at the end of the eighteenth century shared remarkably the same features as the group in power at its commencement—a narrow group of merchants and planters, centered in the isthmian capital, linked by family ties, and girded by preferential access to the apparatus of state and church. What had changed was the scope of their power.

In sum, Aycinena parlayed strategic family ties, an immense dowry, business acumen, and political influence into unique wealth, power, and prestige. He practiced his dynamic entrepreneurship in the context of the traditional order, even as that order came under withering challenge from the Enlightenment and the Age of Democratic Revolution. No doubt, colonial merchants were bold and aggressive, willing to undertake risks to realize large profits. But they were innovative and conservative at the same time. Ultimately, they were unconcerned with what their actions meant for the “transformation” of their societies (or the problems their behavior might pose for historians). They were interested in money; or rather, in creating wealth and what it could bring—power, status, and the opportunity to make more money. And they viewed these desiderata in terms of family well-being with an eye to the longue durée.

The author wishes to thank the Shell Foundation, the Matilda Geddings Gray Foundation, and the Tinker Foundation for financial assistance that made this work possible. He also thanks Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr., Colin M. MacLachlan, Stephen D. Morris, Leonard Macaluso, and the HAHR’s external reviewers for their insightful comments. This article is based principally on two bodies of archival documents. The first is that of the Archivo General de Centroamérica, Guatemala City (AGCA), especially the protocolos of the various notaries active during the career of Juan Fermín de Aycinena (1750-1796). The second is the private collection of Aycinena family papers belonging to Margarita Fortuny Nanne of Guatemala City. Ms. Fortuny Nanne is the great-great-great-granddaughter of Juan Fermín de Aycinena. She possesses the great majority of the family archival holdings, inherited from her grandfather, Pedro de Aycinena Piñol (1802-1897), son of Vicente Aycinena Carrillo, second Marqués de Aycinena. The holdings are immense, if poorly organized. They were consulted, and are cited, through the gracious permission of Ms. Fortuny Nanne.


Miles L. Wortman makes this statement in Notable Family Networks in Latin America, ed. Diana Balmori, Stuart F. Voss, and Wortman (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1984), 65. Concise accounts of the Aycinena story may be found in ibid., 60-69; Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr., Central America: A Nation Divided, 2d ed. (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1985), 74-75; and Wortman, Government and Society in Central America, 1680-1840 (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1982), 122-23. Aycinena's presence in Mexico in 1751 is documented in “Libro de Reales Cédulas, 1782-1785,” 232-43, AGCA, A1.23, leg. 4633. In Guatemala he is documented in AGCA, A1.20, leg. 881, exp. 9374, protocolo (prot.) of Antonio González, July 1754. At the time of this transaction, Aycinena identified himself as a vecino and merchant of Oaxaca.


In an essay on research priorities for Bourbon Central America, Mario Rodríguez asserts that a “figure whose biography is long overdue is Juan Fermín Aycinena, the first marquis of that name and one of the most dynamic entrepreneurs of the eighteenth century. ” See “Research Topics for Bourbon Central America, 1700-1821,” Research Guide to Central America and the Caribbean, ed. Kenneth J. Grieb (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1985), 22. Rodríguez echoes the words of another student of Bourbon Central America, Troy S. Floyd, who wrote in 1961, “Only a monograph could do full justice to the career of Aycinena.” See “The Guatemalan Merchants, the Government, and the Provincianos, 1750-1800,” HAHR 41:1 (Feb. 1961), 98, n. 24.


Given the ambiguous nature of the colonial economy, Louisa Schell Hoberman calls for “a theoretical framework more appropriate to colonial society, one acknowledging the coexistence of different modes of production,” a framework that “recognizes the colonial merchant as a distinct type. He applied traditional techniques to enterprises with modern elements, and he cannot be dismissed as a parasite on the peripheral economies.” Mexico’s Merchant Elite, 1590-1660. Silver, State, and Society (Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 1991), 275. Steve J. Stern offers a masterful review of the issues and literature in “Feudalism, Capitalism, and the World-System in the Perspective of Latin America and the Caribbean,” American Historical Review 93:4 (Oct. 1988), 829-72. On late colonial merchants, see esp. John E. Kicza, Colonial Entrepreneurs: Families and Business in Bourbon Mexico City (Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1983); and Susan Migden Socolow, The Merchants of Buenos Aires, 1778-1810: Family and Commerce (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1978).


E.g., Wortman, Government and Society, 122-23; and Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr., Rafael Carrera and the Emergence of the Republic of Guatemala, 1821-1871 (Athens: Univ. of Georgia Press, 1993), 6-9.


D. A. Brading, “Bourbon Spain and Its American Colonies,” in Colonial Spanish America, ed. Leslie Bethell (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1987), 136.


See Ida Altman, “Emigrants and Society: An Approach to the Background of Colonial Spanish America,” Comparative Studies of Society and History 30:1 (Jan. 1988), 179.


The key is likely to be found in Aycinena’s activities in Oaxaca in the early 1750s. He probably established ties with, and surely became known to, members of the Guatemalan elite families centered in Oaxaca, such as the Larrazábals. Knowing of Ana María Carrillo y Gálvez may have been what drew Aycinena to Central America in the first place. On these connections, see Ramiro Ordóñez Jonamá, “La familia Varón de Berrieza,” Revista de la Academia Guatemalteca de Estudios Genealógicos, Heráldicos, e Históricos 9 (1987), 523-826.


See Richmond F. Brown, “Family, Business, and Politics in Bourbon Central America: The Rise of Juan Fermín de Aycinena, 1750-1796” (Ph.D. diss., Tulane Univ., 1993), 37-77. On Cilieza y Velasco, see Ordóñez Jonamá, “La familia Varón,” 546-54.


Stephen Webre, “The Social and Economic Bases of Cabildo Membership in Seventeenth-Century Santiago de Guatemala” (Ph.D. diss., Tulane Univ., 1980), 132-33. Ana María’s grandfathers provide excellent cases in point. Both Pedro Carrillo y Mencos (d. 1729) and Bartolomé de Gálvez Corral (d. 1715) were immigrant merchant-officials who rooted themselves in the local community and enjoyed great success. The Navarran Carrillo held the post of alcalde mayor of Escuintla and Guazacapan before marrying a daughter of wealthy and powerful fellow immigrant José Varón de Berrieza, an officeholder convicted of smuggling and tax evasion (convictions that little altered his exalted place in Guatemalan society or that of his family). Murdo J. MacLeod, Spanish Central America: A Socioeconomic History, 1520-1720 (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1973), 359, n. 27. In 1728, Carrillo nearly acquired the commission to collect the alcabala (sales tax) for the entire kingdom. Webre, 255. Similarly, Gálvez Corral arrived from Málaga in the late seventeenth century and also married a daughter of Varón de Berrieza. His commercial activities, along with the lucrative positions of administrator of the Santa Cruzada and alcalde mayor of El Salvador, allowed him to amass a fortune exceeding four hundred thousand pesos by the time of his death.


Severo Martínez Peláez, La patria del criollo: ensayo de interpretación de la realidad colonial guatemalteca (San José: EDUCA, 1985), 110-14.


On Guatemala’s late colonial elite, in addition to the works of Ordóñez Jonamá and Webre already cited, see Gustavo Palma Murga, “Núcleos de poder local y relaciones familiares en la ciudad de Guatemala a finales del siglo XVIII,” Mesoamerica 12 (Dec. 1986), 241-308.


The Aycinena estate inventories of 1768, 1771, and 1777, found among the Aycinena Family Papers, reveal the principal cajeros (subordinates) of the Casa de Aycinena in those years. The casa was represented at the 1768 proceedings by Juan Fermín himself and his cajeros, Antonio Bergana, Pedro de Aycinena Larraín, Pedro José de Beltranena, and Manuel Maldonado. In 1771, the cajeros were Pedro de Aycinena, Pedro José de Beltranena, and Juan de Beteta. And in the 1777 inventory, the attending cajeros were Pedro José Beltranena and Tomás Beteta.


E.g., see the transactions recorded in AGCA, A1.20, leg. 1119, exp. 9612, prot. Francisco Márquez Rendón, Aug. 9, 1769; and A1.20, leg. 1022, exp. 9515, prot. Manuel Laparte, June 21, 1773, where Aycinena lent out the alcabala revenues entrusted to his care.


Aycinena Family Papers, Inventory of 1777.


AGCA, A1.20, ieg. 1024, exp. 9517, prot. Manuel Laparte, Sept. 2, 1779.


AGCA, A1.20, leg. 1119, exp. 9612, prot. Francisco Marquez Rendón, June 16, 1769.


Aycinena Family Papers, 1768.


Adriaan C. Van Oss, Catholic Colonialism: A Parish History of Guatemala, 1524– 1821 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1986), 344.


Ibid., 154.


Ibid., 183.


See AGCA, A1.20, leg. 892, exp. 9385, prot. Sebastián González, July 1767; and A1.20, leg. 944, exp. 9437, prot. José Diáz González, Mar. 1793.


AGCA, A1.20, leg. 889, exp. 9382, prot. Sebastián González, July 4, 1765; A1.20, leg. 1344, exp. 9835, prot. Antonio Santa Cruz, Dec. 5, 1785; and Aycinena Family Papers, Inventory of 1768.


AGCA, A1.20, leg. 1119, exp. 9612, prot. Francisco Márquez Rendón, Dec. 26, 1769; A1.20, leg. 1344, exp. 9835, prot. Antonio Santa Cruz, Dec. 5, 1787. On Ganuza’s commercial activities, see Ma. Cristina Torales Pacheco et al., La compañía de comercio de Francisco Yraeta (1767-1797): cinco ensayos, 2 vols. (Mexico City: Instituto Mexicano de Comercio Exterior/Universidad Iberoamericana, 1982), 1:27.


AGCA, A1.20, leg. 1341, exp., 9832, prot. Antonio Santa Cruz, 1774.


AGCA, A1.20, leg. 893, exp. 9386, prot. Sebastián González, 1768.


AGCA, A1.20, leg. 891, exp. 9384, prot. Sebastián González, 1766; and A1.20, leg. 1120, exp. 9613, prot. Francisco Márquez Rendón, 1770.


AGCA, A1.20, leg. 898, exp. 9391, prot. Sebastián González, Apr. 15, 1773.


AGCA, A1.20, leg. 893, prot. Sebastián González, Testament of Ana María Carrillo y Gálvez, July 25, 1768.


To appreciate the enormous size of the dowry, one might compare Ana María’s contribution with the dowries Kicza lists in his study of Bourbon Mexico, Colonial Entrepreneurs, 163. Only one of the dowries (180, 244 pesos) exceeds that received by Juan Fermín. No other dowry exceeds 64,400 pesos. Similarly, Doris M. Ladd’s figures show only one dowry (323,107 pesos) greater than Juan Fermín’s and only three others exceeding 100,000 pesos. The Mexican Nobility at Independence, 1780-1826 (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1976), table 5, “Noble Marriages and Noble Dowries,” 23.


See AGCA, A1.43, leg. 4167, exp. 33029. This document establishes Ana María’s rights to the estate of her father, Pedro Carrillo y Varón, which included the holdings and dependencies of his father, Pedro Carrillo y Mencos, and his mother, María Manuela Varón de Berrieza; and to the estate of Francisco Navarro, first husband of Ana María’s maternal grandmother.


AGCA, A. 35, leg. 1105, exp. 20007.


Aycinena Family Papers, Inventory of 1768.


AGCA, A1.20, leg. 882, exp. 9375, prot. Antonio González, 1755.


Kicza, Colonial Entrepreneurs, 55.


Aycinena’s active accounts exceeded his total wealth because the latter was adjusted, not only for lost and doubtful dependencies but also for his own debts, which amounted to 281,160 pesos (see table 2).


The inventory of 1771 shows that Aycinena owed the estate of Pedro Salazar (1765-1771) more than 19,000 pesos. This most likely related to Aycinena’s administering the estate as depositor general on Salazar’s death in office in 1771.


Troy S. Floyd, “Salvadoran Indigo and the Guatemalan Merchants: A Study in Central American Socio-Economic History, 1750-1800” (Ph.D. diss., Univ. of California, Berkeley, 1959), 237.


Excellent discussions of the harsh labor conditions associated with indigo, and the difficulties the Spanish crown faced in reconciling the humane treatment of Indian subjects and the need to ensure an adequate labor supply for indigo producers, may be found in Robert S. Smith, “Indigo Production and Trade in Colonial Guatemala,” HAHR 39:2 (May 1959), 186-93; and William L. Sherman, Forced Native Labor in Sixteenth-Century Central America (Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1979), 251-55.


Floyd, “Salvadoran Indigo,” 145.


Idem, “Guatemalan Merchants,” 94.


Ibid., 100.


Aycinena Family Papers, Inventories of 1768, 1771, and 1777; and, e.g., AGCA, A1.20, leg. 892, exp. 9385, prot. Sebastián González, Oct. 28, 1767.


See Ordóñez Jonamá, “La familia Varón,” 579-80.


On de la Torre see Brown, “Family, Business, and Politics,” 166-73. See also Manuel Rubio Sánchez, Los alcaldes mayores del Salvador (San Salvador: Ministerio de Educación, 1979), 2:45-63; AGCA, A1.30, leg. 205, exp. 41403, “Testament of Bernabé de la Torre”; A1.20, leg. 1120, exp. 9613, prot. Francisco Márquez Rendón, 1771.


AGCA, A1.20, leg. 1000, exp. 9493, prot. José Matías Guzmán, 1760.


AGCA, A1.20, leg. 1120, exp. 9613, prot. Francisco Márquez Rendón, 1771.


AGCA, A1.20, leg. 974, exp. 9467, prot. M. V. Guzmán, 1768.


AGCA, A1.20, leg. 1119, exp. 9612, prot. Francisco Márquez Rendón, 1769. On Apr. 4, 1770, Rodríguez conferred his poder cumplido on Juan Fermín de Aycinena. AGCA, A1.20, leg. 1120, exp. 9613, prot. Francisco Márquez Rendón.


Floyd, “Salvadoran Indigo,” 230. Also see the table in idem, “The Indigo Merchant: Promoter of Central American Economic Development, 1750-1808,” Business History Review 39 (1965), 486.


Kicza, Colonial Entrepreneurs, 56.


Troy S. Floyd, “Bourbon Palliatives and the Central American Mining Industry, 1765-1800,” The Americas 18 (Oct. 1961), 108.


Ibid., 107.


AGCA, A3.1, leg. 20, exp. 5270.


AGCA, A1.20, leg. 1046, exp. 9539, prot. Lucas Martínez García, 1766.


Aycinena Family Papers, Inventory of 1768.


AGCA, A1.20, leg. 1046, exp. 9539, prot. Lucas Martínez García, 1767.


AGCA, A1.20, leg. 892, exp. 9385, prot. Sebastián González, 1767.


E.g., see the transactions reported in AGCA, A1.20, leg. 1120, exp. 9613, prot. Francisco Márquez Rendón, Jan. 9, 1771, and A1.20, leg. 1341, exp. 9832, prot. Antonio Santa Cruz, Dec. 2, 1776.


Kicza, Colonial Entrepreneurs, 59.


AGCA, A1.20, leg. 1120, exp. 9613, prot. Francisco Márquez Rendón, 1770.


Derived from the examination of protocolos from 1750 to 1800, AGCA, A1.20.


Torales Pacheco, La compañía de comercio. See also Christiana Renate Rorchart de Moreno, Los mercaderes y el capitalisme en la ciudad de México, 1759-1778, trans. Alejandro Zenker (Mexico City: Fonda de Cultura Económica, 1984), 255. Another important Acapulco connection was Gabriel Pérez de Elizalde; see Torales Pacheco, La compañía de comercio, 1:280.


As of 1768, Pedro de Ganuza owed Juan Fermín 3,280 pesos; he had also received from Fermín 24 zurrones of indigo. Aycinena Family Papers, Inventory of 1768. See also Floyd, “Indigo Merchant,” 470, n. 17.


AGCA, A1.20, leg. 1344, exp. 9835, prot. Antonio Santa Cruz, 1787.


Torales Pacheco, La compañía de comercio, 1:74-78, 83.


Ibid., 1:55. He received the commission in company with fellow Mexico City merchant Pedro de Aycinena.


E.g., the 1768 inventory in the Aycinena Family Papers mentions both Pedros. Pedro de Aycinena y Larraín is listed as a cajero of Juan Fermín, the other Pedro as a vecino of Mexico City.


In 1768, he owed Juan Fermín 1,479 pesos, plus goods valued at 20,941 pesos. In 1771 his debt was 13,234 pesos, and in 1777 it was 11,814 pesos. Aycinena Family Papers, Inventories of 1768, 1771, and 1777.


Borchart de Moreno, Los mercaderes, 128, n. 4.


Ibid., 34.


Ibid., 38, 103.


Ibid., 113. See also Christiana Borchart de Moreno, “Los miembros del consulado de la ciudad de Mexico,” Jahrbuch für Geschichte von Staat, Wirtschaft, und Gesellschaft lateinamerikas 14 (1977), 142.


Borchart de Moreno, Los mercaderes, app. 8, p. 251; “Los miembros,” 142.


AGCA, A1.20, leg. 973, prot. M. V. Guzmán, 1765; Aycinena Family Papers, Inventories of 1768, 1771, 1777.


Benjamin Keen notes, “It must be stressed, however, that these reforms did not seriously weaken the dominant role of the Cádiz monopolists and their American agents in colonial trade. As late as 1790, more than 85 percent of the trade moved through Cádiz, thanks to its superior facilities for shipping, insurance, warehousing, and communication.” A History of Latin America, 4th ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1992), 122, n. 2.


AGCA, A1.20, leg. 570, exp. 9063, prot. Manuel Ignacio Carcamo. Landaburu was a business associate of Francisco Yraeta as well. Torales Pacheco, La compañía de comercio, 2:216.


These included Jorge de Araurreneche, Sebastián Pinto de Rivera, Juan Antonio de Uzelas, Isabel Jacobs y Pellaert, Pedro de Aguirre, Francisco Ignacio Sagasti, Matías de Landaburu, Cristóbal Xavier de Uztariz, and George Crimin. Aycinena Family Papers, Inventories of 1768, 1771, and 1777.


Ordóñez Jonamá, “La familia Varón,” 688.


Floyd, “Salvadoran Indigo,” 233.


Kicza, Colonial Entrepreneurs, 62.


Floyd, “Salvadoran Indigo,” 124.


Wortman, Government and Society, 127-28.


Ibid., 310.


AGCA, A1.20, leg. 1025, exp. 9518, prot. Manuel Laparte, 1796.


See, e.g., Kicza, Colonial Entrepreneurs, 19; and John Tutino, “Power, Class, and Family: Men and Women in the Mexican Elite, 1750-1810,” The Americas 39 (Jan. 1983), 363. For an alternative view, see D. A. Brading’s comments in Miners and Merchants in Bourbon Mexico, 1763-1810 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1971), 100.


Ladd, Mexican Nobility, 52.


These letters are reproduced in Enrique del Cid Fernández, Origen histórico de la casa y marquesado de Ayzinena (Guatemala City: privately published, 1968), 47-52.


Kicza, Colonial Entrepreneurs, 16.


Ladd, Mexican Nobility, 53.




Ibid., 58.


Floyd, “Indigo Merchant,” 481.


Ibid., 483.


Ladd, Mexican Nobility, 64.


Wortman, Government and Society, 162.


John Lloyd Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Yucatán, 2 vols. (New York: Dover, 1963), 1:194.


Ladd, Mexican Nobility, 64.


Ibid., 71. Theoretically, a mayorazgo represented 7/15 of the founder’s estate.


AGCA, A1.20, leg. 1025, exp. 9518, prot. Manuel Laparte, Feb. 29, 1796. Author’s translation.


Héctor Lindo-Fuentes, Weak Foundations: The Economy of El Salvador in the Nineteenth Century (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1990), 23, n. 73.


Ibid., 9.


Ibid., 17.