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Reviewed by:
  • Comercio y emigración en América en el siglo XVIII
  • Allan J. Kuethe
Comercio y emigración en América en el siglo XVIII. By Manuel Hernández González. Santa Cruz de Tenerife: Ediciones Idea, 2004. Pp. 208. Notes.

This volume assembles six essays addressing the interplay between the Canary Islands and the New World during the eighteenth century. It focuses primarily upon the role the islands played in the commerce of Spain and its colonies and upon the emigration of islanders, although English America figured prominently into the story about trade and valuable insights into early Bourbon governance arise from the isleño experience. Manuel Hernández González of Laguna University in Tenerife combines his broad bibliographical knowledgewith ambitious archival research to craft these contributions.

The eighteenth century was, Hernández shows, a stressful time for the Canary Islands, as Bourbon policy was generally unkind to the islanders' interests. Isleños had traditionally served as intermediaries in the various aspects of the Spanish American trade, especially that involving the re-export of Cuban tobacco to Spain; but the imposition of the royal monopoly in Cuba during 1717 damaged that commerce and the problem deepened after the establishment of the Royal Havana Company in 1740. The conversion of the Caribbean trade to comercio libre in 1765 likewise marginalized the Canaries. Hernández analyzes the means that islanders employed to cope with Bourbon innovations, and he documents how they resorted to emigration when faced with limited resources and a growing population.

Chapter 1 addresses the Cevallos Rebellion of 1718. Confronted with the loss of the tobacco trade by reason of the establishment of the royal monopoly in Cuba, the isleño population reacted violently to the imposition of an Intendancy General under the Spanish administrative reforms of 1718. When Intendant Juan Antonio Cevallos took his instructions to enforce the Commercial Regulation of 1718 seriously, including the provision curtailing the re-exportation of tobacco, he faced an uprising that paralleled a similar reaction in Cuba. But whereas the habanero governor managed to flee, Cevallos was murdered on the spot. Repression followed, of course, but so too did the withdrawal of the intendancy. Yet this palliative did not solve the islanders' difficulties.

In Chapters 2-4 concerning trade, Hernández argues that the canarios coped shrewdly by establishing themselves as agents in the commerce between continental English America and the Spanish Caribbean, assuming a role in wine and aguardiente trade. They marketed local and Spanish beverages in the north, often passing them off as Madeiran in origin, and they transported flour and barrel staves to the Caribbean, bringing back cacao, what tobacco they could, and dyewood. The islanders cleverly claimed wonderful medicinal qualities for their wines as contrasted to the evils of cane-based liquors. By stimulating keener competition, the Regulation of 1765 brought new hardships to the Canaries, Hernández argues, but [End Page 686] the independence of the United States brought fresh opportunities, with others developed during the Wars of the French Revolution.

The final two chapters and a good part of the Introduction address emigration. The most common destinations were Cuba, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and Santo Domingo, although Hernández also treats the lesser movements to Louisiana, Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico, Yucatán, and Montevideo. An intriguing, little known dimension of this migration involved blacks and mulattos, both slave and free, which helps clarify why Canary Islanders generally fell into a lower social status than peninsulares. Employing data from the Archivo Nacional de Cuba, Hernández details the large isleño settlement in the Havana district, where colonists secured land in the creases between the large estates to market foodstuffs in the city. The mechanisms to effect emigration varied. The crown commonly expected ships traveling to the Caribbean to transport a determined number of emigrants in exchange for commercial licenses, a trade-off originally structured by the Royal Cédula of 1678. The Canaries also served as a fertile recruiting ground for the army as it sought to man the fixed garrisons of America.

These six essays, although separate undertakings, come together very nicely to form a reasonably coherent volume. The relevance of the Canary...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6247
Print ISSN
0003-1615
Pages
pp. 686-687
Launched on MUSE
2006-05-04
Open Access
No
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