Caracas Company, a mercantile enterprise chartered to control trade between Venezuela and Spain from 1728 to 1784.
The Caracas Company, or Real Compañía Guipuzcoana de Caracas, was formed in Spain in 1728 by José de Patiño. The company was given the exclusive right to control the cacao trade between Venezuela and Spain. In return for this monopoly, the Caracas Company agreed to suppress the contraband trade, defend the Venezuelan coast, stimulate regional production of cacao, and provide slaves to the colony.
The Caracas Company was a mixed success. The first four decades of its existence were marked by expansion and profit. The production and legal exportation of cacao increased significantly, from 2.5 million pounds per year in the 1720s to over 6 million pounds annually in the early 1760s. This expansion, however, did little to enhance the overall condition of the colony. The planters elected to increase production in order to counteract the lower prices paid by the Caracas Company for cacao. This pushed the expansion of the plantation system—a classic case of growth without development. The efforts to halt contraband activities were not totally successful. Finally, the Caracas Company was unable to supply the colony with sufficient numbers of black slaves or European goods. These problems, the Bourbon Reforms, and the wars that disrupted trading patterns caused the company's fortunes to decline; the crown terminated the company's charter in 1784.
The Caracas Company's most enduring legacy was that it ensured the primacy of Caracas over the remainder of the captaincy-general. By expanding the economic sphere of the capital, in terms of both area and power, the activities of the Caracas Company preceded the political centralization of the colony later in the eighteenth century.
Roland Denis Hussey, The Caracas Company, 1728–84: A Study in the History of Spanish Monopolistic Trade (1934).
Francisco Morales Padrón, Rebelión contra la Compañía de Caracas (1955).
Robert J. Ferry, The Colonial Elite of Early Caracas: Formation and Crisis, 1567–1767 (1989).
Ferrigni, Yoston. La crisis del régimen económico colonial en Venezuela, 1770–1830. Caracas: Banco Central de Venezuela, 1999.
Vivas Pineda, Gerardo. La aventura naval de la Compañía Guipuzcoana de Caracas. Caracas: Fundación Polar, 1998.
Gary M. Miller