Date of this Version
Crosscurrents: Land, Labor, and the Port. Textile Society of America's 15th Biennial Symposium. Savannah. GA. October 19-23 2016
Latin America today has a lower perceived place on the global scale of development in comparison to other Western regions, however incorrect that assumption may be. And, Central American nations, in particular, seemingly fulfill that notion. One might ask, why did the nations of Middle America not become industrialized at an earlier point in their histories? If those nations had at their disposal adequate land, natural resources, and labor, as well as ports for exit for their products, why did they not advance in the 18th and 19th centuries alongside other northern hemispheric nations? This research paper investigates the thriving colonial textile industry that existed at the end of the former “Kingdom of Guatemala,” which consisted of modern-day Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, while assessing the capabilities for transporting the product of local labor, the gender and racial stratification of that production, and class interference in its success. At the same time, it is important to identify and explain the long-term devastating effects of elite preferences and their damage to local textile production with the influx of foreign textiles clandestinely through the port at Belize. This study emerges from the 18th and early 19th century documentation from the Central American Archive in Guatemala City, utilizing primary sources that include complaints from guild weavers, waybills and receipts of cloth and general textiles crossing local and regional borders, pawnshop and other activity dealing in stolen textiles or illegal European imports, and official as well as unofficial correspondence.