Guipuzcoan Company of Caracas

Last updated

Royal Guipuzcoan Company of Caracas
Public company
Industry Trade
Fate Dissolved
Successor Royal Company of the Philippines
Founded1728 (1728)
Defunct1785 (1785)

The Royal Guipuzcoan Company of Caracas (modern spelling variant Gipuzkoan, known also as the Guipuzcoana Company, Spanish : Real Compañia Guipuzcoana de Caracas; Basque : Caracasko Gipuzkoar Errege Konpainia) was a Spanish Basque trading company in the 18th century, operating from 1728 to 1785, which had a monopoly on Venezuelan trade. It was renamed in 1785 the Royal Philippine Company (Spanish : Real Compañia de Filipinas).

Spanish language Romance language

Spanish or Castilian, is a Romance language that originated in the Iberian Peninsula and today has over 450 million native speakers in Spain and in the Americas. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.

Basque language Language of the Basque people

Basque (; euskara[eus̺ˈkaɾa]) is a language spoken in the Basque Country, a region that straddles the westernmost Pyrenees in adjacent parts of northern Spain and southwestern France. Linguistically, Basque is unrelated to the other languages of Europe and is a language isolate relative to any other known living language. The Basques are indigenous to, and primarily inhabit, the Basque Country. The Basque language is spoken by 28.4% (751,500) of Basques in all territories. Of these, 93.2% (700,300) are in the Spanish area of the Basque Country and the remaining 6.8% (51,200) are in the French portion.

Venezuela Republic in northern South America

Venezuela, officially the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, is a country on the northern coast of South America, consisting of a continental landmass and many small islands and islets in the Caribbean Sea. It has a territorial extension of 916,445 km2. The continental territory is bordered on the north by the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Colombia, Brazil on the south, Trinidad and Tobago to the north-east and on the east by Guyana. The Venezuelan government maintains a claim against Guyana to Guayana Esequiba, an area of 159,542 km2. For its maritime areas, Venezuela exercises sovereignty over 71,295 km2 of territorial waters, 22,224 km2 in its contiguous zone, 471,507 km2 of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean under the concept of exclusive economic zone, and 99,889 km2 of continental shelf. This marine area borders those of 13 states. The capital and largest urban agglomeration is the city of Caracas. The country has extremely high biodiversity and is ranked seventh in the world's list of nations with the most number of species. There are habitats ranging from the Andes Mountains in the west to the Amazon basin rain-forest in the south via extensive llanos plains, the Caribbean coast and the Orinoco River Delta in the east.



The old buildings of the Guipuzcoan Company of Caracas in La Guaira Guipuzcoana house.jpg
The old buildings of the Guipuzcoan Company of Caracas in La Guaira
Stock certificate of the Guipuzcoana Company (Madrid, 1 June 1752 Compania Guipuzcoana Accion 2124 Madrid 1 junio 1752.jpg
Stock certificate of the Guipuzcoana Company (Madrid, 1 June 1752


The Company was founded by a group of wealthy Basques from the province of Gipuzkoa in 1728. The specific aim of the Basque Company, acting almost autonomously with tasks of military nature at their own command and expense, was to break the de facto Dutch monopoly on the cocoa trade in the Captaincy General of Venezuela.

Gipuzkoa Province of Spain

Gipuzkoa is a province of Spain and a historical territory of the autonomous community of the Basque Country. Its capital city is Donostia-San Sebastián. Gipuzkoa shares borders with the French department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques at the northeast, with the province and autonomous community of Navarre at east, Biscay at west, Álava at southwest and the Bay of Biscay to its north. It is located at the easternmost extreme of the Cantabric Sea, in the Bay of Biscay. It has 66 kilometres of coast land.

Dutch West India Company Dutch trading company

Dutch West India Company was a chartered company of Dutch merchants as well as foreign investors. Among its founders was Willem Usselincx (1567–1647). On 3 June 1621, it was granted a charter for a trade monopoly in the Dutch West Indies by the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands and given jurisdiction over Dutch participation in the Atlantic slave trade, Brazil, the Caribbean, and North America. The area where the company could operate consisted of West Africa and the Americas, which included the Pacific Ocean and the eastern part of New Guinea. The intended purpose of the charter was to eliminate competition, particularly Spanish or Portuguese, between the various trading posts established by the merchants. The company became instrumental in the largely ephemeral Dutch colonization of the Americas in the seventeenth century. From 1624 to 1654, in the context of the Dutch-Portuguese War, the WIC held Portuguese territory in northeast Brazil, but they were ousted from Dutch Brazil following fierce resistance.

Captaincy General of Venezuela Spanish 1777-1823 possession in South America

The Captaincy General of Venezuela, also known as the Kingdom of Venezuela, was an administrative district of colonial Spain, created on September 8, 1777, through the Royal Decree of Graces of 1777, to provide more autonomy for the provinces of Venezuela, previously under the jurisdiction of the Audiencia of Santo Domingo and then the Viceroyalty of New Granada. It established a unified government in political (governorship), military, fiscal (intendancy) and judicial (audiencia) affairs. Its creation was part of the Bourbon Reforms and laid the groundwork for the future nation of Venezuela, in particular by orienting the province of Maracaibo towards the province of Caracas.

It was initially based in San Sebastián and received its royal decree on September 25, 1728, by Philip V of Spain. [1] Its creation was part of the larger Bourbon Reforms to control unlicensed trading, especially in tobacco, which existed along the Orinoco River and mostly benefited the foreign, Dutch, English, and French traders, who were preferred by the landholders of Canary Islander descent as trade partners. The Venezuelan possessions and their managerial wealthy Creole class thus operated detached from the metropolis. The Venezuelan colonial system turned into an embarrassment and hardly productive for the Spanish-Castilian Crown in terms of revenue. Between 1700 and 1728 only five vessels set sail from Spain to Venezuela. [2]

San Sebastián City in the Basque Autonomous Community, Spain

San Sebastián or Donostia is a coastal city and municipality located in the Basque Autonomous Community, Spain. It lies on the coast of the Bay of Biscay, 20 km from the French border. The capital city of Gipuzkoa, the municipality's population is 186,095 as of 2015, with its metropolitan area reaching 436,500 in 2010. Locals call themselves donostiarra (singular), both in Spanish and Basque.

A decree is a rule of law usually issued by a head of state, according to certain procedures. It has the force of law. The particular term used for this concept may vary from country to country. The executive orders made by the President of the United States, for example, are decrees. In non-legal English usage, however, the term refers to any authoritarian decision. Documents or archives in the format of royal decrees or farming were issued by rulers.

Philip V of Spain 18th-century King of Spain

Philip V was King of Spain from 1 November 1700 to his abdication in favour of his son Louis on 14 January 1724, and from his reaccession of the throne upon his son's death, 6 September 1724 to his own death on 9 July 1746.

The establishment of the Company resulted from negotiations engaged with the Basque governments in the aftermath of the bloody military campaign ordered by Philip V of Spain over the western Basque districts. The government of Gipuzkoa in particular came up with a proposal for the re-establishment of commerce with Venezuela that would suit the Basque interests and those of the Spanish king alike. The plan was approved, with the Basques getting total exclusivity on that commerce. [2]

The Guipuzcoana Company was the only body entitled to sell European goods in Venezuela (or Caracas) Province and to export Venezuelan agricultural products to Spain. Goods imported on to other Spanish territories would incur no custom duties on the Ebro river according to the treaty signed with the Spanish king Philip V, and the Company was able to trade freely throughout Europe. [1] The Company would in turn export iron commodities to Venezuela. The Guipuzcoana Company became the first shares based company in Spain, participated by Basque shareholders and the king of Spain.

Export shipping the goods and services out of the port of a country

An export in international trade is a good or service produced in one country that is bought by someone in another country. The seller of such goods and services is an exporter; the foreign buyer is an importer.

Since 1743, the Company got permission to charter vessels under the French flag, which could trade directly with Venezuela. [3] The main beneficiaries of that decision were no doubt the coast of the Basque province of Labourd, and Bayonne.

Labourd Place in France

Labourd is a former French province and part of the present-day Pyrénées Atlantiques département. It is one of the traditional Basque provinces, and identified as one of the territorial component parts of the Basque Country by many, especially by the Basque nationalists.

Bayonne Subprefecture and commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Bayonne is a city and commune and one of the two sub-prefectures of the department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of southwestern France. It is located at the confluence of the Nive and Adour rivers in the northern part of the cultural region of the Basque Country, as well as the southern part of Gascony where the Aquitaine basin joins the beginning of the Pre-Pyrenees.

Operations and effects in Venezuela

The Company's seat in Cagua Casa Guipuzcoana Cagua.jpg
The Company's seat in Cagua

It began operating in 1730four ships departed from San Sebastián (Donostia) taking on board a crew of 561 and 40-50 cannons. The vessels were hailed with frontal hostility by the Venezuelan Creoles, a refusal to sell cocoa to the Company, and an uprising against the newcomers and the local Spanish garrison, until control was re-established.

The Basques started to settle down in Venezuelan territory on wealthy haciendas that boosted plantations and agricultural production. However, the move was resented by other established Creoles based on the fact that it brought down prices to be sold to the Company. [4] The Basques established settlements, built dock facilities, and fortifications. The term un gran cacao became a nickname for a member of the new powerful class (and to this day the term is used jocularly in Venezuela for a VIP). It did not help smaller farmers who continued to participate in illegal trading.

The Company was instrumental in the development of large-scale cocoa production along the valleys of the coast. [5] In addition, the company promoted the exploration and settlement of frontier areas, most famously under the border expedition of 1750-1761 headed by a company agent, José de Iturriaga y Aguirre, which resulted in new settlements in the Guayana region.

The Company's control of the major ports of La Guaira and Puerto Cabello meant that it effectively monopolized the legal trade of the other Venezuelan provinces. In addition, the Company's strict control of much needed manufactured imports naturally created a lot of resentment in a region which depended on these. Several rebellions took place against the Company and the Basques in which ethnic confrontation came to a head in 1749a variety of Creole population supported by the Dutch and English vs the powerful Basques supported by the Spanish Crown. [6] The rebellion was led by Juan Francisco de León, a Canary Islander just replaced as Corporal of War (1749), but the Spanish Crown could not shrink from protecting its own interests by supporting the Company, and quelling the uprising that very year.

Effects in Gipuzkoa

Apart from breaking the Dutch monopoly and creating significant wealth in the Basque port cities, the Company provided a fast track to job positions for many Basques. The Company's activity kept operative the gradually declining Basque forges in the face of growing competition from English industry, and fed indirectly the arms factories of Soraluze (Placencia de las Armas) and Tolosa. Another outcome was the foundation in Bergara of the Royal Basque Society of Friends of the Country by a group under the leadership of Xavier María de Munibe e Idiáquez, Count of Peñaflorida, in 1765. Its model expanded to the Spanish heartland prompting the establishment of the "Sociedad Económica de los Amigos del País"a type of Enlightenment think tank.

Later years

Soraluze (Placencia de las Armas), a key arms manufacturer for the Company in Gipuzkoa Soraluze (Placencia de las Armas) 29.JPG
Soraluze (Placencia de las Armas), a key arms manufacturer for the Company in Gipuzkoa
Share of the Real Compania de Filipinas (Royal Philippine Company), issued 15. July 1785 Real Compania de Filipinas 1785.jpg
Share of the Real Compañia de Filipinas (Royal Philippine Company), issued 15. July 1785

While Basque involvement increased after 1749, the Spanish Crown dealt a critical blow to the Basques when it diffused the Basque grip over the Company by transferring its headquarters to Madrid, a move contested by Gipuzkoa, and imposing the requirement to include a Spaniard in a board of directors of three (1751). [7] Facing increasing hostility from English war vessels and weakened by the liberalization of commerce with Venezuela (1776), the Company's monopoly came to an end. The crown no longer saw the need for a monopolizing company to control and grow the economy, since by that time the Venezuelan economy had matured and been tightly linked with the markets of Spain and New Spain, which consumed most of its cocoa. The Spanish crown terminated the company's charter in 1784. A key effect of the Caracas Company, despite its eventual commercial failure, was that it guaranteed the place of Caracas in the Captaincy-General. [8] When the crown established a high court (Real Audiencia) in the Captaincy General of Venezuela in 1786, it was sited in Caracas. [9]

The owners of the Guipuzcoana Company transformed it into the Royal Philippine Company (1785). Instead a consulado de mercaderes (a merchants' guild) was established in Caracas in 1793. One of the most active proponents of the move was François Cabarrus, a prominent company stockholder hailing from a merchant family in Bayonne (Labourd), increasingly involved in Spanish finances and politics.

See also

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  1. 1 2 Kurlansky, M. A Basque History of the World. Vintage, London, 2000.
  2. 1 2 Douglass, William A. Bilbao, J. 2005, p.87
  3. Douglass, William A. Bilbao, J. 2005, p.90
  4. Douglass, William A.; Douglass, Bilbao, J. (2005). Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World. Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press. ISBN   0-87417-625-5 . Retrieved November 16, 2013., p. 90
  5. Venezuela's chocolate revolution By Greg Morsbach Retrieved Dev 14, 2012
  6. Douglass, William A. Bilbao, J. 2005, p.92
  7. Douglass, William A. Bilbao, J. 2005, p.93
  8. Gary M. Miller, "Caracas Company" in Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture, 1996, vol. 1, p. 548.
  9. Inés Quintero, "Audiencia of Caracas" in Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture, 1996, vol. 1, p. 547.

Further reading

Commons-logo.svg Media related to Compañía Guipuzcoana at Wikimedia Commons