Imperial rivalry and frontier commerce: some aspects of contraband between Spanish missions of Mojos and Chiquitos and Portuguese capitania of Mato Grosso (c. 1767-1800)

Francismar Alex Lopes de Carvalho


The struggle between Spain and Portugal for the definition of the neighboring regions of their American colonies was accompanied by different policies concerning commerce between vassals of both empires. While the Spanish Empire forbade commerce with foreigners, the Portuguese Crown secretly stimulated the contraband at Colônia do Sacramento and Mato Grosso. During the second half of eighteenth century, contraband became intensely practiced by merchants, missionaries, military and even governors in the valley of the Guaporé River. The missions of Mojos and Chiquitos consolidated the production of cattle, tallow, mules, cocoa, cotton and sugar, but irregular supply of European goods encouraged missionaries and Spanish merchants to seek alternative suppliers. At the same time, in Portuguese capitania of Mato Grosso, orders from central power, availability of gold and demand in fort Príncipe da Beira propitiated a convergence with Spanish vassals’ aspirations. This paper analyses the impact of contraband among Spanish and Portuguese administrative institutions, merchants and indigenous peoples in the contested frontier of Mojos, Chiquitos and Mato Grosso provinces. It focuses on the period after the expulsion of Jesuits, when contraband prospered, and the late Spanish reformist governors.


Contraband; Mato Grosso; Missions; Mojos; Chiquitos; Commercial policy.

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Londrina/PR - Brasil
ISSN: 1984-3356