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By John J. TePaske and edited by Kendall W. Brown

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In April of 1513 another smelter was established at San Germán in southwestern Puerto Rico, after the Spaniards discovered gold in nearby streams. Engel Sluiter calculates that the gold mines of Puerto Rico reached peak production very early in 1515 only eight years after the 10 Carl Ortwin Sauer, The Early Spanish Main (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), 25–26 and 61. 32 chapter two first entrada, but output dropped after the initial bonanza and ended completely by 1545. After its conquest by Diego Velásquez in 1511–1512, Cuba produced some gold as well.

Overall from the opening of the eighteenth century to 1810, gold constituted about 33 percent in value of bullion output in the New World largely because of Brazilian strikes. During the first two centuries of Spanish and Portuguese colonization, gold production remained relatively flat with no significant increases until the opening of the eighteenth century (see Tables 2–1 and 2–2 and Figure 2–2). In the thirty years after the Columbus landfall, the Caribbean produced the only gold in the Indies, about 25,000 kilograms in all, but with the decimation of the native population, the exodus of Spaniards from the islands to mainland Mexico.

As noted, gold output at Zacatecas and Pachuca was inconsequential. Although Mexico produced only 8 percent of all New World gold during the colonial period and 20 percent of Spanish American output, its gold yields were low contrasted with that of silver. Overall, Mexican production of gold by weight during the entire colonial epoch was close to 138,000 kilograms, amounting to only one decade’s output in Brazil (1730s). Silver output constituted a bit over 1,968,000,000 silver pesos (96 percent of New Spain’s bullion production) over the colonial period, whereas gold came to the equivalent of a little over 90,000,000 gold: the scarcer metal?

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