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Commerce and Contraband on Mexico’s West Coast in the Era of Barron, Forbes & Co., 1821-1859

John Mayo

Mexico’s post-independence instability is usually seen as leading to economic stagnation as well as unproductive politics. As this book shows commerce continued and expanded on the West Coast, but because of political difficulties much of the trade was conducted as contraband. The very scale of the business belies the impression that Mexico was, in economic terms, standing still. On the West Coast, the availability of silver, both for export and to pay for imports, led to the organization of an expanding import-export trade that persisted throughout the period here considered, despite unpredictable economic policies and consistent political turbulence. The region became part of the expanding global economy of the first half of the nineteenth century, and, when circumstances permitted, the entrepreneurs who organized the trade made tentative steps toward moving beyond commerce to manufacturing. Times were never easy but neither were they static.