The trade wars 1600-1620
The trade wars were not formal wars. There were no declarations. No great armies. It was simply a tumultuous period in the early 17th century. It was the wealth that the dutch merchants had managed to acquire by trading with the huasteca and mexica of Aztatlan in the late 16th century that was the catalyst as well as a relatively open period when it came to trade in mesovespuccia.
At first it had been single enterprising captains and their ships: tolerated merely because they claimed to be the enemies of the Caxtilteca. In 1602 however, came the arrival of the Dutch West Indies Company and trade became much more frequent and regular. Soon after came the arrival of the French, Bretons, Englishmen, Portuguese, Basques and eventually Aragonese and Castillians.
On the Mexica side the merchants and nobles that controlled the right routes and lands became very rich, very quickly. For it was not only vespuccian goods that were sought after in Europe but European and Chinese/Fúsāng goods were also highly sought after on the markets of Tenochtitlan, Tlacopan and Texcoco.
It rapidly destabilized however. Partly because the European traders began to aggressively compete over the most welcoming ports, partly because the trade brought diseases with it: most notably the plague of 1605-1609 that spread like wildfire over the region killing thousands, and partly because the wealth that the trade brought lead to cities within Aztatlan to compete or even fight between one another.
The state had essentially been run since the end of the civil war by what basically was a collection of city-based military bureaucracies backed by local merchants. They had been united by a desire for peace and stability in the region. But now their successors directly benefitted if trade passed through their cities as opposed to their counterpart’s.
It wasn’t civil war as much as it was banditry, warlordism and rivalry between cities. In any conflict casualties numbered in dozens, very rarely more. Many merchants took it upon themselves to organize their own bands of mercenaries to protect their caravans or clients. Often hiring mayans, mixtecs, P’urépacha, zapotecs or more and more frequently chichimecans from up north.
Particularly the east suffered badly from this fighting as it was there the Europeans stopped. Not only did it have to suffer the “sanctioned” bandits from the Big Four cities, the mercenaries of the merchants (who frequently did not hesitate to help themselves to things they could bring with them or slaves) and disease, but also bands of European merchants that sometimes traded and sometimes raided the villages.
The rise of the Castilla del Oro Company along the pacific coastline also saw the west and south coast suffer some of this chaos. But much of those traderoutes were controlled and kept pacified by the Hǎiyuánrén and the protection of Tzintzuntzan and Iximche.
In 1616 things were finally shown to have completely and utterly spiraled out of control when two merchants had their soldiers, soldier caste and mercenaries alike, fight a battle in the markets of Tenochtitlan itself. A few weeks prior a massive raidingparty of Chichimecans had crossed the northern border to see what could be gained in the ensuing confusion.
Ce Xochitl, huey Tlatoani of Tenochtitlan had both merchants executed and their properties seized. He then began a massive campaign of cleaning up the merchant caste of Tenochtitlan and the military establishment. Once finished, he descended upon Tlacopan and did the same thing there. He all but shut down all trade he hadn’t personally approved, everyone that opposed him ended up on the altars of the temples or in a shallow unmarked grave. Some say he had hundreds killed, others mention numbers upwards a two thousand.
Spoiler: Tzintzuntzan, Mixteca, Zapotec and Mayalahtolli
The trade war period also affected the surrounding lands profoundly, as could be expected. The expansion of the trade routes made many Mexica much less dependent on the already established trade routes through the neighbouring kingdoms. As such the early expansion that the wealth trade had provided diminished somewhat and found a much lower but ultimately stable level.
More concerning for the young kingdoms however was the banditry, which frequently spilled over their borders (a serious concern for Tzintzuntzan and Mixtecapan) and the numbers of returning mercenaries (particularly problematic in Mayalahtolli).
Tzintzuntzan responded by building a specific road and declared that all trade must pass over that road. Hiring engineers from the Hǎiyuánrén and Spanish to construct fortified compounds along it in which they stationed soldiers. In addition they created a system in which all merchants had to check in regularly at these compounds and were issued a bead amulet as a sort of identification after proving that they were unarmed and followed the laws. Any foreigner found in the kingdom that hadn’t got one of these or were found with a weapon were promptly killed on the spot.
It was moderately successful; it limited some banditry and spared the kingdom from the worst of the chaos that struck their much larger neighbor. But it also stymied trade somewhat, the soldiers in the compound often extorted merchants and fell into disuse towards the end of the period.
Mixtecapan used a different approach and simply responded with overwhelming force against any settlement nearby from which a raiding party had come. Had Aztatlan been capable of responding this would have been practically suicidal, but the state of the nation allowed this to pass unanswered. That and in part because the mixteca made the effort to compensate locals if they responses affected them; which lowered the animosity over the border.
Iximche enjoyed first a period of calm and then later in the period of a great deal of trouble. That many young warriors sought out profitable careers as mercenaries far to the north spared the young nations serious competition to the state, allowing the Kaqchikel nobles to strengthen their control of the state. But when the young warriors started returning they came back as seasoned warriors, with money and a sense of confidence. Even worse, many were K’iche and had grown up in families that resented their Kaqchikel conquerors.
The mercenaries were never quite strong enough to topple the kingdom but they presented it with a true challenge. The worst of all being when a sizeable raiding party seized the royal palaces in 1619, unfortunately for them the king had been out with his army to quell another uprising and when he returned he stormed the palace and put every single one of them to the sword.
In Itzá, down in the lowlands, the troubles were considerably less pronounced. Partly because it had no direct contact with Aztatlan itself. There were warriors that headed out northwest to make careers, but they were considerably fewer than from the neighboring highland kingdom and even fewer returned.
The other part was that the king himself simply hired most of those that returned. Malaria had arrived to the region and devastated the population as it became endemic. In the 17th century the situation started to become more controlled once more, but the armies themselves were often decimated by the sickness. The mercenaries became not only a quick replacement, but their experience also ensured that they needed far less training.
After some early successes of this new army, mostly against other mercenaries, the chief court mage managed to sway the king and the nobles to begin a war of conquest into the mopan maya lands to the east in Belix. A conquest that would occupy the kingdom for the next few decades.
But despite the issues the mercenaries caused in Iximche and the uses they had for the ambitious people in Nojpéten both cases pales next to what Necahual managed to accomplish. He was a young warrior from the Yokot'anob (chontalli in Nahuatl, Chontales in Spanish) that fought all over Azatlan during the trade wars. In 1617 he returned to his homeland along with a large group of allies and companions he had made throughout his career. Most of them Màaya t'àan (yukatec), Yokot'anob but also some K’iche, Kaqchikel and also some non-mayans such as a handful Mexica, some Huasteca, a number of African former slaves and even some Spanish and a Dutchman. The last one, Jan Pieter van Groningen, wrote down their adventures (in a decidedly romanticized version) in his famous book “De glorieuze honderd metgezellen” that became one of the more famous works of the dutch golden age.
Necahual and his one hundred (who in reality probably were far more than that) began with taking control over his home region, both from local chiefs and from Spaniards who had taken over settlements in the region. He then proceeded to Ah-Kin-Pech (Cham Pech or Campeche) and served the king there for a year, gaining popularity and fame. According to the book, he was so successful that the king became jealous and eventually turned on the larger-than-life warlord. Regardless, by the end of the year Necahual simply took the city for his own.
From there he spent the next two years waging a war of conquest at a lightning pace, conquering one after another of the neighboring chiefdoms. In the end he had united much of the northern peninsula, excluding some of the interior and a few islands, under his rule. A kingdom stretching from the border to Veracruz and Totonacapan to Nizuc (Cancún) and from Mayapan to the borders of the Itzá conquests in Belix. A kingdom he named B’alam.
The early 17th century was a period when Spain began to once more take an interest in the new world. For a long time it had seemed that they painted themselves into a corner with the partition of the world between them and Portugal.
Much of the investment took on the shape of loans being handed out to the West Indies companies, the Castilla del Oro company, the Philippine company and support to the church missions to the new world.
Despite the weakness of Azatlan and the turmoil in the Mayan lands Spain never really took advantage of them directly. This was because the country was rocked by its own serious troubles. The plague struck in 1596 to 1602 and devastated the countryside, in 1609 the king decided to expel the Moriscos of Spain and the country was recovering from serious wars against England and France in the 1590s. Taxes plummeted and the dutch were waging a very successful economic war as part of the 80-year war against the Spaniards.
But the merchant companies were getting incredibly wealthy. Panama grew to a city of massive importance as it served as a hub for the trade between Spain, Fúsāng and the Phillipines. They started to receive significant competition from the newly started French, Dutch and English colonies (and the considerably older Portuguese ones) however. But thus far, the Spanish held a significant advantage in that they controlled most ports in the Caribbean.
It was around this time that the Castilla del Oro Company develop it’s idea for a canal straight through the peninsula, funding several expeditions to plot out a route. But apart from this not much happened.
But as profits climbed and Spain was left in peace following the truce with the dutch in 1609, the Spanish crown started looking at the New World. It actually went in and sponsored expeditions to secure Castilla del Oro’s southern border establishing missions and relations with the local Zenú and Muisca. Particularly once they got some return on those expeditions in the form of gold.
In addition the crown funded the expansion of their colonies in La Florida to protect its merchants against dutch raiders. In order to better be able to keep a lookout for the ships of other Europeans, the colonies there allied with the local peoples. Among others: the Apalachen.
In 1618 however, a serious event halfway around the world put a sharp end to the crowns investments into the new world: The defenestration of Prague.
The age of empires 1620 - 1700
If the dawn era was the period that signified Aztatlans recovery and rebirth, then the age of empires signifies growing into its modern guise. Ce Xochitl is often attributed to be the man behind it. But as important as his rule was, it was merely one of many factors.
Just as important was the changes that had and would continue to take place in the country itself, on all levels. Both its adoption of metal tools and metalworking and the impact that had on its industry and daily life but also the widespread introduction of European crops and animals. Both had already existed in limited form, but it was in this period they truly began to spread.
Towards the end of the century, the nation was a dramatically different place than it had been in the beginning. It did not change completely however. Maize remained the primary staple, despite the introduction of alternatives (and of those, rice from Fúsāng became the primary one). Chickens and sheep quickly became widely adopted, the latter particularly in the north, but cattle and pig remained rare and neither completely supplanted dog as a source of protein. Every village had access to iron items, but it remained rather expensive and was often passed down through inheritances. The nation was changed by contact with the outside world, but remained distinctly vespuccian in character.
Moreover, the spirit fields had by this time grown to such an extent that their production had an effect on the nation and limited the damage caused by famines and epidemics (which still tended to hit natives harder than Europeans).
Much of this did not start in this period, and it certainly wasn’t at Ce Xochitl’s initiative. It was a transition, but it was at this time it started to become truly noticeable that it had a positive effect.
The Huey Tlatoani of Tenochtitlan was an excellent general and a better statesman. After his pacification of Tenochtitlan and Tlacopan he turned on the rest of the nation and one by one brought the warlords to heel. Some he allied with. Some he defeated but spared. And some he outright destroyed together with their families. In some cases he spared their families if they allowed themselves to be sacrificed to the spirit fields or the Amicqui guard.
He secured an alliance with the priesthood and the nobility, which together helped form a core around which his empire could be governed.
The arrival of more Europeans prompted intense dealing with the powers from over the seas. Frequently deals were made with the French out of the newly established Nouvelle Orleans, with the Dutch based in Curacao and with the English based in Nassau, Carolina and eventually Jamaica. The Spanish too, were frequently dealt with: Sometimes business partner, sometimes friend but most often enemy. A policy that would prove to last well beyond the Tlatoani’s life.
For the peoples in Tepechiapan and the chichimecan tribes his rule was to their detriment. The Zoque asked for help against the Tzotzils who demanded tribute from the former, Ce Xochitl obliged and sent armies south to assist them. Once the Tzotzils were driven out however, a permanent force was left behind and governed by allies of the huey tlatoani. In essence, the Zoque had simply traded one would-be conqueror for another.
The chichimecans too saw the armies of Tenochtitlan conquer them. During the trade wars they had raided the north and now the armies of the mexica came to secure the borders by pushing those outwards and conquering any tribe that didn’t flee fast enough. Establishing a militarized border zone that gradually expanded to pacify its northern neighbours. This campaign continued after Ce Xochitls death in 1637, becoming something of a career for young soldiers and nobles that sought to prove themselves and gain experience.
Throughout the remainder of the century, the other neighbours would see the armies of the mexica try their strength. Tzintzuntzan would lose some of its easternmost lands to their great neighbor. The mixteca, despite their attempts to limit the anger the mexica felt because of their responses faced punitive invasions and lost some of its northern lands. The Zapotecs had to defend their homeland together with their allies no less than four times in 60 years. Veracruz saw itself invaded once but its walls held thanks to being supplied through the sea.
In addition, the empire managed to resist several attempts to weaken it. Both incursions by the increasing amount of pirates of its shores, but also but a proper invasion by the Spaniards in 1658.
It was not all successes however. In 1677, the armies faced a massive uprising in Azcapotzalco and spent 3 years campaigning against the rebels. Eventually narrowly defeating and dispersing them in the field. In 1682 Tzintzuntzan took some territory along the pacific coast, expanding their lifeline to the trade networks outside the coast.
As the turn of the century happened, Aztatlan was a regional power to be reckoned with.
Spoiler: Tzintzuntzan, Mixteca, Iximche, Itzá and B’alam
Like Aztatlan it was in this period many of its neighbors crystallized into the nations they are today. Many suffered because of the strength of their much more powerful neighbor and relied heavily on their access to the sea for their survival.
Tzintzuntzan developed extremely close ties to the Hǎiyuánrén, supporting a relatively large population of them in its port cities and frequently hiring them as engineers, mercenaries and advisors. The nation held a premier position as the leading metal-producer in mesovespuccia, both in terms of quantity and in terms of quality, as well as a prosperous trade. Though it lost some of its easternmost land it compensated much later by securing and cementing its access to the sea.
This close contact changed the nation. Rice became something of a staple and the teachings of the Dao, Confucianism and Buddhism made inroads into the nation. Never co-opting the P’urepácha, but influencing them. The contact worked both ways as well, the close contact is part of the reason that Hǎiyuánrén food relies so heavily on mesovespuccian spices and maize.
Mixteca also relied on its contact with the sea, but less so on the Hǎiyuánrén exclusively. The port cities frequently featured Spanish in addition to mandarin and Tu’un Sávi (language of the mixtecs) as a widely spoken language and in Panamá Mixteca were known as a reliable and great place for people to stay for a year or two to earn a decent wage. In the war against Aztatlan, Mixteca made use of an entire regiment of Spanish-speaking volunteers from Castilla del Oro and the Philippines.
Zapoteca relied heavily on the protection of Iximche in the beginning of the century, but though the mayans of the highlands were skilled and reliable allies the tribute they required in return made the nobles in Mictla sour to the idea. Aztatlans expansion both served to fuel and quell these thoughts; the former because despite everything Huaxyacac (the land of the Zapotecs) was left alone but the conquest of the Zoque close by was a source of great concern.
Furthermore, the border between Huaxyacac and Mixteca was anything but clean. A considerable amount of Mixtecs lived far into what the Zapotecs considered theirs and vice versa. With the zapotecs undergoing a period of establishing their identity however, this became a source of conflict and many mixtec resented having Mictla impose its culture on them.
Iximche had problems of its own, it made use of considerable amounts of soldiers to protect the Zapotecs and collect tribute, but the land in-between them was primarily held by other mayans. As a means to secure the region, Iximche had backed the Tzoztils in their attempts to conquer the Zoque. Intending the tzotzil maya to serve as a client and help protect their interests in the region. Naturally the whole thing backfired horribly when Aztatlan intervened. The tzotzil ability to control the region was decimated, the zoque was conquered but by the mexica rather than fellow maya and put the region’s primary power within striking ranges of the trade roads in Tepechiapan (the region between zapoteca and Iximche). Nothing short of an unmitigated disaster.
The domestic political situation turned upside down as the king was assassinated and the noble families turned on one another. The people largely didn’t notice except with the increased amount of lavish noble burials, but the whole situation didn’t stabilize until after roughly 40 influential persons had been assassinated over a 3 year period.
In the end, the nobles managed to settle for a weak compromise of a monarch and their whole region enterprise came at the cost of Huaxyacac as a client. It remained a trade partner, but from that point on Mictla would handle its own affairs and not pay any tribute to the king in Iximche. Tepechiapan and the lowland coast of Cuauhtēmallān however, were both incorporated proper into the kingdom during the period.
Where Iximche went through a period of weakness, Itzá proved to be more successful in its ambitions. The conquest of Belix was a slow process, but went rather smoothly. Rather than trying to take everything at once, the Itzá took one small region at a time and secured it. The way they used their armies was novel for the region and would in time spread to both B’alam and Iximche and from there to the remainder of mesovespuccia.
In 1638 the Baymen, sailors and pirates from England and Scotland, began settling the coast and a few years later they and the professional armies of Itzá would come into contact. Initially it led to conflict. The Baymen thought they’d face crude savages and instead was confronted by a well drilled professional army, well acquainted with jungle warfare, horses and gundpowder (which had been adopted by the mercenaries during the trade war and then brought to Péten with their return). On the other hand, the Itzá could not dislodge the Baymen from the coastline.
So instead a deal was struck. The Baymen would acknowledge the Itzá as the regional overlords and pay a small tribute to them; in return the Itzá would protect them from the Spanish and allow them to govern themselves. Neither Nojpéten nor Holzuz (the Baymen primary settlement) expected the deal to last, both merely agreed to buy themselves time to figure one another out. To theirs, and everyone else’s, surprise it did. Both peoples brought something that the other needed to one another and over time the ties between them strengthened.
B’alam developed into something of a black sheep of a nation, though that it is a very liberal use of the word nation. Sometimes referred to as the Pirate nation, given that it’s largely mercenary elite decided early to provide harbor to the pirates that started to plague the Caribbean trade. It also became a safe haven for African slaves fleeing slavery in the Caribbean colonies and exiled nobles fleeing the Mexica and Mayan kingdoms. It was a kingdom, in the loosest sense of the word, ruled from Ah-Kim-Pech (Campech) by a warlord. An elite of warriors, in practice essentially robber barons, imposing their rule over the rural population, frequently warring with one another for control over villages or prestige but always paying lip service to the big man in Ah-Kim-Pech.
Its decentralized nature is precisely what helped the nation survive, since it was frequently the target of punitive action from the Spanish and its neighbors. They’d come in and eliminate the local “noble”, but after they left a new one would show up in a manner on months. On occasion Ah-Kim-Pech would offer to handle someone in exchange for compensation.
The period marked decline of Spanish superiority in the region. First because Spain got embroiled in the 30-year war as the principal power on the Catholic side and thus all resources was shifted to funding that. Secondly because the war made Spanish targets in the new world acceptable and led to several colonies being seized by other nations. Thirdly because the 12-year truce between Spain and the Netherlands ended and the Dutch once more began their economic warfare… initiating the golden era of piracy. Fourthly, Europeans fleeing the sectarian violence in Europe peaked in this period.
Much like during the dawn era, the 30-year war sucked massive amounts manpower from Spain, made worse by the terrible plagues that hit the country during the country. This led to that not only was there precious few men available to protect their Caribbean interests, but that the few men that could’ve been hired were instead recruited for the war. Most forts were held by little more than a skeleton crew of soldiers, the one sole exception being Veracruz. Moreover, the war demanded huge amounts of money and the empire turned its pockets inside out to fund the entire effort. It took out massive loans from the Bank of Panamá and pressured all the colonies to produce as much money as possible.
Yet the bankers in Castilla del Oro still had interests to protect, but no soldiers with which to protect them. A few of the bankers that had contacts with the newly established Nuevo Granada (Colombia) colony found a solution however. The local Zenú, Tairona and Muisca peoples had two things they wanted: manpower and gold. So they negotiated a deal with the peoples where they’d trade weapons, horses, cloth, tools and alcohol for gold and soldiers: soldiers that would go on and be stationed all over Spanish Carribean as the El Dorado Regiments.
The war, and its subsequent ones, saw considerable losses of colonies to other nations. Santiago was taken by the English and redubbed Jamaica, western La Española was taken by the French and became their prized Haiti. Several of the smaller Caribbean islands were taken by both of them, as well as a few by the Dutch and the Portuguese.
Not all new colonies were taken through the war however. The French established Lousiana in the delta of the Mississippi (its premier city would not be founded until 1718 however). England created colonies in the Carolinas and in the Bahamas. The Scottish and English Baymen settled along the coast of Belix.
During the 16th century, the Spanish crown had sold the rights to Venezuela to a german banker. This banker had then gone on to convert to the teachings of Jean Calvin and opened up his “Kleine-Venedig” to fellow adherents fleeing persecution, a prospect that attracted many French Huguenots in the 1590’s and Germans and Czechs fleeing the persecution of the 30-year war.
All this helped erode the control the Spanish had held over the region, previously only isolated merchants had made inroads but now there was a permanent presence of ports offering to shelter anyone fleeing Spanish wrath.
It was the presence of these ports and the restart of the war between the Dutch and the Spanish that would initiate the Golden Era of Pirates. Piracy was nothing new, but now it was supported and easy to get away with. The infamous letters of marque offered to privateers targeting Spanish trade between the Caribbean and the Spanish homeland. Four ports in particular developed as the cornerstones of the piracy: Port Royal in Jamaica, Tortuga in Haiti, Ah-Kim-Pech in B’alam and Belize City in Itzá.
Piracy would above all mark the region from 1650 onwards, prior to that point it was still a muted and occasional affair.
All these factors helped spell the end of the Spanish Hegemony in the region, even if Cuba and Castilla del Oro remained the principal powers that be among the colonies it was not near the ultimate control they previously had held. The Mexica and Maya shipping that started to develop too put a dent in this control, not a great one since they were still inexperienced and had poorly built ships but the presence of their homeports had an impact.
The new world order 1700-1750
The 18th century was a period of great flux for Aztatlan. It had during the previous century asserted itself as a regional power to be respected and even earned a bit of a legend of a land of great adventure and wealth. There were quite a few adventure novels of the era featuring a dashing young European man adventuring in the jungle. As such, Aztatlan saw many ambitious young men seek their ways to its cities to try their luck. Some managed to earn a place through charm, skill or luck, others simply found themselves out of money or chased out… the unlucky ones found themselves in a ditch bleeding to death or on a sacrificial altar. In a lot of ways, Aztatlan had a similar reputation as the Ottoman Empire did.
For a lot of the Huey Tlatoani’s these young Europeans were often something of a novelty to show off at court. Some were dependent on them, some treated them essentially like pets and some shun them altogether. The throne frequently changed hands during this period, gone were the days of the strong monarchs from the past era. Their lasting legacy however was that the state endured these poor leaders.
The constant shift in leadership led the state to constantly shift its priorities. Sometimes it was allied to this or that European powers a result of Aztatlan increasingly getting dragged into European affairs due to the interests in the Americas and its position in the Caribbean. For instance: In 1704-1706 Aztatlan was allied to Spain and sent soldiers to help them in Florida whereas later in the war of Spanish succession Aztatlan fought as an ally of France and with their help landed an army on Cuba (which got wiped out). At other times it promptly rejected European influence (often in favor of Fúsāng), resulting in the Mexica-Anglo war in 1716 after it drove out some English merchants from Huastecapan (resulting in Aztatlan being forced to reopen its ports to English and American merchants again).
Despite everything, the growth of the Columbian colonies (as they were called more and more) was by and large beneficial for Aztatlan. It was without a doubt the greatest food producer in the new world, and sold much of its produce to the new colonies in exchange for metals, tools, weapons and slaves. The produce of the spirit fields were sometimes sold as well and was worth its weight in gold, incredibly prized in Columbia and Europe. Partly because the priesthood was so hesitant to sell even their surplus. But it also sold incredible amounts of chili, vanilla, xocolatl, tobacco and cotton. Moreover, during this period it began operating several silver mines. All this helped make Aztatlan an incredibly wealthy nation.
On and off it also was a very aggressive state. The campaigns northward continued, reaching the rio grande and eventually encountering the Pueblo and Navajo peoples. Encroaching on the sphere of influence of the very recent Cahokian league. This led to the Mexica-Apache war in 1738, which is what firmly led to most Apache bands aligning themselves with Cahokia. A lot of these conquests were partly to try to secure the overland trade route between Fúsāng and Columbia and partly because of a constant need for slaves (for labour and sacrifice) and partly as a security valve, by letting nobles earn a career fighting in the north.
The mayans, the P’urépacha, Mixtecs and Zapotecs also were subject to this aggression. Tzintzuntzan managed to fight them off several times, the Mixtecs both lost territory and later won it back and the Zapotecs were completely conquered between 1720 and 1726 before breaking off again in 1744. The Zoque rebelled in 1736 and fought the mexica off successfully for a year, but were eventually defeated. However a significant resistant movement hides in the hills, supported from nearby B’alam and Iximche.
As the 1740s developed however, Aztatlan once more started to view Spain as its eternal enemy: even sending a large raiding party at Veracruz and a small cadre of ships to attack Castilla del Oro. It did not devolve into war that time, but it was close.
Powerful factions are moving in Tenochnitlan, gauging one another for strength. Some see the time being ripe for seizing control of the trade routes north of the Rio Grande, others that their neighbours need to be brought to heel and others openly preach in the streets that the gods wants their chosen people to eradicate the Caxtilteca. Others still preach stability and peace.
Spoiler: Tzintzuntzan, Mixteca, Huaxyacac and Mayalahtolli
The 18th century formalized Tzintzuntzan as its modern nation. A nation politically dominanted by it nobility and its Fúsāngrén-P’urépacha mixed merchant class. A lot of its success came from that it was well supplies and well fortified, a nation almost entirely defined by its massive fortresses and supply lines. Surrounded by Aztatlan on all sides save the one facing the sea, this was more or less a necessity. This, it’s links with Fúsāng and it’s well developed metal industry helped prove to Aztatlan it was easier to trade with them than to conquer them (even if they tried several times).
The mixtecs found themselves on the losing side of three wars, and then thanks to excellent leadership on the Mixtec side it led to the them retaking what they had lost in a single struggle. These wars helped spell a change in Mixteca however, both the king and the priesthood had been thoroughly discredited in the previous war, and with the defeat of the Mexica, the general Iin Kuiñi (1 Jaguar) seized opportunity and took power in Achiutla. He deposed the king and empowered the Mixtec city states to collectively elect a leader that would lead them. He had been to Castilla del Oro as a youth and come into contact with some of the ideas there and been inspired. As it happened, the leader that was elected was him and he was relected twice in the period 1639 and 1642 but stepped down in 1645 in favour of a new leader. Remaining in the background as an influential figure and de facto protector of this new and shaky noble republic.
In the early 18th century, the relations between Achiutla and Mictla was reaching a new low as the two nations disuputed over who had the rights to demand tributes from villages in the border region between the two. Several times armed parties skirmished with one another and in Micta there was frequently cries for war. The people living in the border regions found themselves increasingly pressured and many seized the opportunity to flee, some north into Aztatlan. Which prompted the local mexica nobles to gather support for an invasion to stabilize their border region, an invasion that was launched into Huaxyacac in 1720.
It took two years for Mictla to fall, but the countryside was never completely put under control despite six years of war that took most major settlements. Discontent brewed and in 1744 a major uprising rose up in Yagul during which the mexica governors lost control of the city, soon the uprising spread and the Mexica was forced out of Huaxyacac. Iximche had not sat idly by but provided the Zapotecs with weapons and supplies, and managed to once more establish influence among the people on their border.
In the highlands Iximche maintained and expanded the influence it had over its neighboring regions: It supported the Zapotecs against the Mexica. Providing weapons and supplies, and even letting soldiers seek refuge in Tepechiapan. The kingdom funded Zoque rebels hiding in the hills in northern tepechiapan. It began establishing influence in B’alam and Itzá and in the fledgling nation that was developing in the southeast. Telling perhaps was that a common accusation in the region was to accuse rival merchants or nobles for being spies for the highlanders, regardless of the validity of the claim. In truth, Iximche probably had less influence than it was given credit for… but it had some and more importantly capitalized on them beautifully. Regardless of what happened in the first fifty years of the 18th century, Iximche seemed to benefit from it in some way.
The Itzá success story wound down as the 17th century came to a close and the nation settled on carefully maintaining stability. The Baymen constituted a significant amount of its coastal population and the relations between the capitol in the basin and the people along the coast were frequently strained, often because of religious reasons. But access to European markets on the Itzá side and on precious mahogany on the Baymen side outweighed the conflicts between the two. Furthermore, they were increasingly intertwined and most had family on the other side.
In 1725, following a raid from B’alam the Itzá army invaded under the pretext to protect its people and secure the borders of the kingdom. It became a long and hard campaign that was equally disastrous for the Itzá army as it was for the local populace. The warlords themselves avoided fair fights and ambushed smaller units. They would vanish into the jungles as the army approached and then reappear after it had left. After five fruitless years the Itzá pulled out and focused on fortifying its border instead. The only thing it had to show for its effort was a significant loss of life.
The whole disaster sparked a massive purge among the nobility; many were executed, sacrificed or sent into exile accused of being traitors or spies from Iximche.
Like Itzá B’alam had been a state which had ridden on a wave of incredible luck, and as the 18th century began that luck had run out. Partly because it had gained considerable wealth for being a having for pirates and indeed, between 1701 and 1714 this sparked up again with the privateers of the Caribbean once more attacking trade and seeking harbor in Ah-kim-Pech and on Cozumel island.
But as the fleet presence of the major maritime nations increased the pirate era drew to a close. Unlike Belize city however, the pirate havens of B’alam had little else to fall back on and once this external source of revenue vanished the domestic politics began to fall apart. The nation maintained its independence against Itzá well enough and supported the Zoque against Aztatlan.
But increasingly the warlords turned to pressuring the local yucateks for more and more tribute and started preying on one another. Some tried to experiment with the creation of plantations to grow cash crops, essentially enslaving people to work them, but found their effort hampered by significant amounts of armed peasants violently resisting.
The 18th century also saw the development of the last of the Maya kingdoms, although kingdom is the wrong word in this case. In the lands between Mayalahtolli and Castilla del Oro there had been very little of value for the Spanish and so they had been left alone save for a few missions and some people fleeing Castilla del Oro (usually to escape debt). However, cattle, sheep, horses and llamas had been accidentally introduced and readily adopted by the locals. This had led to a rancher culture developing in the region from the Ch'orti' maya, the Pipil and the Mískitu, forming a mixed culture centered on family units owning large herds. Gradually these people expanded and established a degree of control over the region, but it was never particularly rich. By the 1730s, it had become something of a peasant confederation: ruled by an oligarchy of the richest and most influential peasants who voted on what to do collectively. Often refered to as Kuskatan.
The 18th century saw the end of the absolute control Spain had held over the Caribbean, though its decline had begun in the 17th century. But with the English in Jamaica, Georgia, South Carolina and the Bahamas, the French establishing Nouvelle Orleans (in 1718) in Louisiana and firmly controlling western Hispaniola and the Dutch in Curacao and all of these powers increasing their naval presence it was clear that Spain had been reduced to one power among many rather than –the- principal power. Especially since it had previously lost control of the lucrative slave trade to the English. With the Dutch expanding colonies halfway across the world in Indonesia, the Spaniards no longer had sole control over the lucrative Philippine trade either.
It was not, however, out of the game. The Spanish internal markets were significant, built up over the centuries by the Caribbean bankers and merchants. The Phillipine-Castilla del Oro-Havana-Florida-Seville trade route was still the most lucrative one in the world. Ciudad Panama was the largest colonist city in the new world (despite being in a malarial swamp), shortly followed by Havana.
However, the defining event of the early 18th century was the death of the last Habsburg monarch of Spain. Charles II. An event that plummeted much of the world into the war of Spanish succession: a war that took place in the new world, Europe and in India. It was as much about the succession of Spain as it was about control of colonies and trade.
One side there was France and their candidate to the Spanish throne: Philip, most of Spain, Castilla del Oro, Bavaria and Aztatlan. On the other were Austria and their candidate: Charles, England and Scotland (whom united their crowns into Great Britain in 1707), the Dutch Republic, Savoy, Portugal and the Spanish regions of Catalonia, Valencia, Aragon and Cuba.
In the end, the French side prevailed but their ambitions to unite the crowns of Spain and France was not reached (an ambition that wasn’t very popular in neither France nor Spain). Furthermore, both France and Spain had to give up significant territories as a result of this. Much of Spain’s Italian possessions (though not all of them) and the remainder of the Spanish Netherlands , and France gave up Acadia.
The war was devastating to Spain and Philip V as the new monarch was crowned did not help matters by engaging in more wars throughout Europe and the Caribbean.
In the colonies, things went slightly better. The prized jewels of the Spanish colonies in the new world were Castilla del Oro (to which New Granada was counted) and Cuba. The former as the hub of Spanish worldwide trade and the centre of the extremely powerful Bank of Panama, the latter as a plantation colony yielding massive quantities of cash crops.
Beyond that there was the military colony of Veracruz, at times yielding lucrative trade at other times requiring to be defended from raids from Aztatlan and B’alam. In the 18th century, the “El Dorado” regiments from New Granada were frequently deployed here.
Florida was a special case; the Spanish missions and forts had early allied with many of the local tribes (and soundly conquered the rest). A policy that had benefited the colony, and after the local garrisons protecting the missions had driven off English raids from South Carolina and Georgia aimed at their protectorates (with the assistance of an Aztatlan army no less). With this development Florida found itself being the destination of a large number of creek and Seminoles fleeing the wrath of the English settlers up north following conflicts involving them. Between 1706 and 1730 the population increased with somewhere between 30 and 60 thousand, most being settled in the Florida interior.
Philip V remained a very belligerent monarch, even despite dramatic failures in his Italian campaigns. He abdicated the throne in 1724 in an attempt to instead take the throne of France but his heir died, despite the best efforts of Spain’s best Scarred Monks, and he had to return 6 months later and resume kingship of Spain.
His, and his’ generals performances, in the War of Polish succession and the War of the Austrian succession was decent enough. But it put significant strain on the economy of Spain, despite its relative strength. Especially since British ships frequently attacked their shipping. Towards the end of his life his insistence of war started to gain him enemies in the Banks of Panama and Seville. They paid not only for much of the European front (technically the crown loaned money from them) but funded much of the Caribbean theater themselves, using their own small fleets and their El Dorado regiments. In Florida, the colony created the Los Regimientos Católicos Del la Florida. Consisting from volunteers recruited among natives that had converted to Catholicism.
Philip V died in 1746, replaced by Ferdinand VI of Spain. An Enlightenment monarch who had been courted by the bankers in the New World and were sympathetic to their interest and willing to support them rather than merely see them as an asset. A new period in Spain’s history began, one where the colonies would become increasingly important.