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Open Access Publications from the University of California

From Contraband Capital to Border City: Matamoros, 1746-1848

  • Author(s): Galvan, Melisa Catarina
  • Advisor(s): Chowning, Margaret
  • et al.

This dissertation project describes the developing political and cultural economy of the port of Matamoros, especially focusing on the city's insertion into vibrant trade networks that originated in New Orleans, Louisiana. I approach my study from two different angles: first, through a reconstruction of the economic activity of the city and its trading partners, and second, by surveying the dynamics of political interactions between local players. The city's port was the conduit for a vibrant contraband trade during this period, and my dissertation uses various innovative methods (especially the reconstruction of trade networks) and obscure sources to quantify the degree to which this illicit commerce contributed to the growth of Matamoros and the region more broadly. My work also analyzes the port's legal trading connections to New Orleans and other North American entrepôts as well as to the interior of the Mexican North, west to Monterrey, and north across the Rio Grande to Texas. Finally, I untangle the complex ways that Matamoros' merchants and political elite defended international maritime trade--the lifeblood of the economy--by carefully maneuvering among a multiplicity of state, national, and international actors.

Using the tools of political economy, my dissertation provides a complex understanding of the relationship between politics and trade in Mexican history, blurring the one-way lines of causation found in much of the current scholarship. Although the primary methods I use are those of political economy, I see cultural exchanges and influences as integral to the developing trade networks. My findings complicate Mexican economic and political historiographies as well as our current understanding of trans--Caribbean trading systems.

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