Consulado de mercaderes
The Consulado de mercaderes was the merchant guild of Seville founded in 1543; the Consulado enjoyed virtual monopoly rights over goods shipped to America, in a regular and closely controlled West Indies Fleet, and handled much of the silver this trade generated.
Importance of The Consulado
In the mid-16th century, all American trade from Spain was funneled through the city of Seville, and later, the nearby port of Cádiz. The Casa de Contratación, which translated into English means "Board of Trade", registered ships and passengers, kept charts, collected taxes, and in general controlled the Indies trade. In order to survive and maintain an effective business, the Casa de Contratación worked in conjunction with the merchant guild Consulado, which in turn controlled goods shipped to America and was paid vast amounts of silver in return for its cooperation.
Effects of the Consulado's control
Since it controlled most of the trade in the Spanish colonies, and since the Consulado was linked to the branches in Mexico City and Lima (and in the 18th century, other ports as well), it was able to maintain its monopoly of Spanish trade and keep prices high in all the colonies, and even played a hand in royal politics. The Consulado effectively manipulated the government and the citizenry of both Spain and the Indies colonies, and grew richer and more powerful every day because of it.
- In 1520, twenty-three years before the Merchant Guild was founded in 1543, the total silver export of Spanish America was valued at around 500,000 pesos, with the royal family getting 400,000 pesos of the silver profit.
- In 1550, the total silver export was valued at around 1,000,000 pesos, with the royal family receiving 500,000 pesos of profit, while the rest went to the Consulado Guild and the Casa de Contratación.
- In 1596, the peak year of silver production in Spanish America, the total silver export was valued at around 7,000,000 pesos, of which the royal family gained only 1,550,000, the rest going to the Casa de Contratación and the Consulado.
- Peter N. Stearns World Civilizations. (2000), p.293.