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The Smugglers' WorldIllicit Trade and Atlantic Communities in Eighteenth-Century Venezuela$
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Jesse Cromwell

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781469636887

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469636887.001.0001

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The Societal Ties of Smuggling

The Societal Ties of Smuggling

Venezuelan Merchants

(p.169) 5 The Societal Ties of Smuggling
The Smugglers' World

Jesse Cromwell

University of North Carolina Press

Chapter 5 investigates the other half of the interimperial transaction: domestic smugglers in Venezuela. This chapter offers a greater sense of how participants in illicit trade interacted with their home environments. Not all Venezuelan smugglers were alike. Similar to their foreign counterparts, domestic contrabandists were mostly small-time traders earning a living outside of the law after being shut out of the lucrative legal cacao trades with Spain and Mexico by larger merchant and agricultural concerns. Yet, unlike non-Spanish smugglers, Venezuelan participants in illegal trade had to make their homes in the same place where they broke the law. Their uneasy existence was possible because of local contrabandists’ entrenchment in bureaucratic, ecclesiastical, kinship, and criminal groups. The strength of these connections, along with an individual’s wealth and the flagrancy of their transgressions, often determined the likelihood that they would face prosecution. Highlighting these perspectives foreshadows the rebellion of chapter eight and also demonstrates that Venezuelan smugglers believed that, through on-the-ground experience in legal and illegal trading, they knew best how to sustain their livelihoods within the bonds of empire.

Keywords:   Chocolate, Venezuela, Merchants, Smugglers, Spain, Mexico, Networks, Kinship, Legal History, Social History

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