Friday, February 15, 2013

Mexican Silver And Japanese Samurai

 My Book Shelf # 24

A post by Metageologist on tracking the source of silver in English coins from Medieval to early modern times caught my eye.

Silver formed by different geological processes may have distinct isotopic signatures. Metageologist points to a study which recognized English silver coins being sourced initially from silver taken from European mines and then later from the mid 1500's from Mexico via the Atlantic trade route. The silver from rich deposits in Peru primarily took the Pacific route and went to satisfy Chinese demand.

People too moved across continents along with silver. I came across this fascinating passage from 1493- Uncovering The New World Columbus Created by Charles Mann on the outsourcing of security for silver shipments-

Known collectively as chinos, Asian migrants spread slowly along the silver highway from Acapulco to Mexico City, Puebla, and Veracruz. Indeed, the road was patrolled by them- Japanese samurai perhaps in particular. Katana-swinging Japanese helped supress Chinese rebellions in Manila in 1603 and 1609. When Japan closed its borders to foreigners in the 1630's Japanese expatriates were stranded wherever they were. Scores, perhaps hundreds migrated to Mexico. Initially the viceroy had forbidden mestizos, mullatos, negros, zambaigos, and chinos to carry weapons. The Spaniards made an exception for samurai, allowing them to wield their katanas and tantos to protect the silver shipments against the escaped-slaves-turned-highwaymen in the hills.

Charles Mann is right when he calls the Mexico of this period a "crazy soup".

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