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Colonial Cosmopolitanism: Mexican Merchants and the Creation of Pacific Markets, 1620s-1670s

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This dissertation investigates how merchants in colonial Mexico transformed regional markets through their participation in transpacific trade. A heterogeneous category of actors including capital investors to local entrepreneurs, Mexican merchants circulated Asian imports to make profit and integrate local markets into global commerce. The influence of the Manila Galleon trade extended well beyond the port of entry at Acapulco and extended into numerous cities and towns (Yuste López 2007, Giráldez 2015). Combined with domestic, South American and European manufactures (Kicza 1983, Hoberman 1991, Hassig 1993), merchants created complex trade networks to circulate a diverse selection of merchandise for their customers. Through their actions to facilitate and expand market access to global goods widely, I argue, these merchants created a cosmopolitanism in New Spain. Their business strategies transformed the colony by opening local market access to distant locations across the oceans (like China, India and Japan), thus enriching globalized Mexican consumer choices in the seventeenth century.

Each chapter focuses on a specific type of merchant actor in a select location. Beginning in Acapulco, I examine the mediating role of the encomenderos who regulated and promoted galleon trade between Mexican investors, Philippine agents in Manila, and regional merchants. Turning to Mexico City, I examine how merchant members of the Consulado (the powerful merchants’ guild) negotiated with powerful colonial authorities to ensure the viability of transpacific trade. In Puebla, I shift my focus to those merchants who, by serving on the city council, created favorable situations for the trade and distribution of valuable merchandise. Lastly, I end my study in Toluca to investigate how small-scale merchants and local entrepreneurs engaged in transactions to put global goods into the hands of their clientele. Taken as a whole, the chapters reveal how different merchants contributed to and participated in a complex commercial network that extended well beyond the ports. Cosmopolitanism in Mexico matters because colonial spaces participated in the construction of global connections and integration in the early modern period. In the case of New Spain, its merchants linked consumers to distant locations around the world. These merchants drove cosmopolitanism by integrating global goods into economic and commercial transactions across colonial Mexico.

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This item is under embargo until March 9, 2028.