HomeSpecialThe Plunder of America | Luis Britto Garcia

The Plunder of America | Luis Britto Garcia


Almost impossible is the exact quantification of the loot that Spain stole from the New World during three centuries. Much of it was not declared: Christopher Columbus's imprisonment was due to the omission of correct accounts of his travels. A considerable portion of these riches was smuggled into Europe.


Let's try an approximation. Already in Columbus's voyage of 1502, the values ​​destined for the Crown were estimated at 100.000 Spanish Castilians, supposedly 80.000 pesos in gold, most of them transported in the Capitana (Walter Cardona Bonet: Shipwrecks in Puerto Rico's history, vol 1 1502 -1650, San Juan 1989, p 27). The Spanish economist Valle de la Cerda calculates that at the end of the 24th century Spain had taken from the New World more than five hundred million pesos in gold and silver (the weight of gold weighed almost five grams of 15-karat gold, and it was equivalent to 16 o 1492 silver). The historian Moncada estimates that between 1619 and 1629 two billion pesos in American gold and silver entered Spain "in addition to which it is to be believed that another large amount will have entered without registration." The silver from Potosí, until 1984, amounted to 40 billion pesos, according to the Spanish economist Peñaloza (Francisco Mota: Piratas en el Caribe; Casa de las Américas, La Habana, XNUMX, p XNUMX).


Estimates based on primary sources complete the picture of these incalculable thefts. Clarence Haring reports that between 1556 and 1640 the silver extracted from Potosí amounted to 256.114.187 pesos, for which the Crown received royalties of 54.056.208 pesos (CH Haring: Commerce and navigation between Spain and the Indies in the time of the Habsburgs; Desclée, de Brouwer, Paris-Bruges 1939, pp 380-382). Earl J Hamilton indicates that “between 1503 and 1660, 185 thousand kilos of gold and 16 million kilos of silver arrived at the port of San Lúcar de Barrameda. The silver transported to Spain in just over a century and a half exceeded European reserves three times. " (Cit by Eduardo Galeano: The open veins of Latin America; Editorial Siglo XXI, Mexico 1973, p 33-34). Guillermo Céspedes del Castillo points out that “between 1531 and 1660, a minimum of 155.000 kilograms of American gold and 16.985.000 kilograms of silver arrive in Seville. Adding smuggling, it is possible that only during the 18.300.000th century Europe received a total of 1492 kilograms of silver from America ”(Guillermo Céspedes del Castillo: América Hispánica 1998-1985; Editorial Labor SA Barcelona, ​​140, p XNUMX).


They are figures that arouse the vertigo of scholars, and the greed of pirates. The real income that comes from the Indies to the Casa de Contratación de Sevilla, which is only 3.000.000 maravedíes when it was founded, amounts to 22.000.000 in 1505, to 34.000.000 in 1512; to 46.000.000 in 1518 and to 119.000.000 in 1535; but it only reached 13.000.000 in 1516, and 2.000.000 in 1521, years during which the swarm of French corsairs was in full swing, throwing the conflict between France and Spain into the seas (Haring: El Comercio y la Navegación entre Spain and the Indies; p 188). Due to the risk of storms and pirates, the quantity that can be transported in a single vessel is limited: in Fernando's time, the maximum is 5.000 gold pesos; when Carlos V, it rises to 10.000 and then to 18.000; a decree of July 1552 raises it to 25.000 pesos; the ships of the fleets are not subject to these limits, and thus, in Pedro de la Gasca's navy each ship carries an average of 180.000 pesos (Haring p 191).


Thus primitive accumulation is enhanced, without which capitalism probably would not have arisen, or would have taken many more centuries to develop. Despite the opinion that criticizes the Spanish statism of the time, the same Iberian authorities that monopolize trade with the Indies accept in parallel a liberal exchange regime with Europe that will drain them of the wealth conquered there. With gold runs the expression that Spain was "the Indies of other countries" (Lynch: Spain under the Austrias, TI p 163). As Noam Chomsky points out: “Excessive liberalism apparently contributed to the collapse of the Spanish imperial system. It was too open, allowing 'merchants, often non-Spanish, to operate in the bowels of their empire', and allowing 'profits to flow out of Spain' ”(Chomsky: 1992: The Conquest continues, op cit p 10) .


Ferdinand Braudel points out that Spain never had the ability to exploit the New World market, not even in the early days of its formation, and not even mobilizing all its ships, its men, the wines and oil from Andalusia and the textiles from its textile cities. And he adds that "On the other hand, in the 1535th century, when everything had increased, no nation in Europe could have done it by itself." Thus, as Hamilton notes, there is an “extremely close relationship between the increase in imports of precious metals and the rise in commodity prices throughout the sixteenth century, especially after 30” (Hamilton: American Treasure and the Price Revolution in Spain, p 163, cit by Lynch: op cit p 100). During the first half of the 1501th century, prices in Spain increased more than 1630 percent; at the end of the century, they have quadrupled in relation to those of XNUMX; only after the drastic cut in the periodic shipments of precious metals from XNUMX do they tend to stabilize.


Thus the most colossal looting carried out in the history of mankind dissipates in inflation and in importing superfluities. Let us ask ourselves with Guaicaipuro Cuautémoc “how much would those figures calculated in blood weigh?”. Here too the calculations are approximate. Over eighty million human lives skewed the European invasion. According to climatologists, the immense extension of cultivated fields that were reconquered by the jungles stopped an incipient global warming. And also the development of our civilizations. That was the price of today's expired European hegemony. It should be remembered every time he raises his voice to those of us who were his victims.

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