Themes: Trade

Trade in the Americas

History of trade in the Americas

Large markets existed in major pueblos (towns) in pre-Columbian times, where parrot feathers, turquoise, and exotic shells were exchanged as well as more locally available luxury commodities.   This continued after the Spanish conquest, but developed into an even wider inter-regional trade, resulting in the expansion of wealth and elite culture represented today by modern Mexico City.   In the second half of the 19th century trade between towns and cities in the Americas was greatly facilitated by the introduction of rail transport, and in more recent times transport by air and sea has made Mexican, Central and South American products internationally available.

Market stalls

The indigenous arts and crafts of the Americas today are an important part of the export trade, and a key component of tourism. The traditional outlet in rural areas is the market stall, where a colourful array of various wares will often be displayed in baskets and spread out on blankets laid on the ground.  Commonly available items include: highly patterned textiles, both decorative and functional; unglazed or brightly painted pottery and ceramic items; toys, dolls, masks and miniatures, often associated with festivals; and more utilitarian items, including baskets and woven hats.  You will also find more ‘kitsch’ items, including: shot glasses, keychains, postcards, and trinket boxes decorated with pre-Columbian motifs.