The Political Economy of Smuggling: Regional Informal Economies in Early Bourbon New Granada

By Lance Grahn | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
INTRODUCTION

The history of the broader Caribbean region (Figure 1.1) is fundamentally linked to early-modern and modern developments in the Atlantic political economy, such as the sugar trade, piracy, tourism, and revolutionary socialism. Public figures as diverse as Walt Disney, with his "Pirates of the Caribbean," and Fidel Castro, with his defiant longevity, have helped impress these aspects of Caribbean culture upon our public consciousness as surely as insightful commentators ranging from Sidney Mintz to Jamaica Kincaid have expanded our academic awareness with their respective analyses of sugar and tourism. Significantly, no less an authority than Germán Arciniegas highlights another fundamental, though often undervalued, facet of Caribbean political economy over time: smuggling.

Something of everything is there: the ocean-going ship, the schooner, the sloop, the canoe, the yacht, the sail, the oar, the rudder. In the beginning, there were ports; now port and airports. Running along the coast, escaping in boats or through the air, those who carry in their suitcase stolen money, marijuana, cocaine,... [and] emeralds for the queen or those who, like Papillon, carry French banknotes . . . all flee. There are cities and millionaires who live off contraband. There are those who say that the Caribbean Sea would better be called the Sea of Contraband.1

Similarly, the Colombian coast between Lake Maracaibo and the Gulf of Urabá could be labeled the littoral of contraband. The town of Maicao, for example, has been described "as a land where contraband forms a sui generis legality. There is contraband in people, liquors, cheeses, weapons, perfumes, prostitutes, engines, drugs, food, money, everything. Open trails are everywhere, trails that originate in Maicao.

____________________
1
Germán Arciniegas, Nueva imagen del Caribe ( Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1970), 12.

-1-

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