German Conquistadors in Venezuela

  • The Welsers' Colony, Racialized Capitalism, and Cultural Memory

  • by Giovanna Montenegro

  • 372 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 , 61 b&w images, 2 b&w tables

  • Hardcover | 9780268203214 | December 2022

  • eBook (EPUB) | 9780268203207 | December 2022

  • eBook (Web PDF) | 9780268203238 | December 2022


This fascinating study traces sixteenth-century German colonialism in Venezuela through the lens of racialized capitalism and the subsequent memorialization of the period through to the twentieth century.

Giovanna Montenegro investigates one of the strangest and often-ignored episodes in the conquest and colonization of the Americas––the governance of the Province of Venezuela by the Welsers, a German banking family from Augsburg, in the sixteenth century. Using a comparative and interdisciplinary approach, the book chronicles the Welsers’ business expansion beyond banking to colonization and the slave trade in the Spanish Indies and the eventual failure of the colony. Montenegro follows the money that financed the Habsburg empire, tackling a multifaceted, multilingual corpus of primary documents. She examines numerous legal documents, from contracts granting colonization and slave trade rights (capitulaciones, asientos) to complex financial transactions (interests, exchange rates). She also analyzes maps, literary texts, and various chronicles and poems of the period. The book examines a history of violence perpetrated upon enslaved Indigenous and African people, but it is also the story of how different generations across the Atlantic, up to Nazi Germany in the twentieth century, have remembered and recalled this Welser period of governance in Venezuela to serve other social and political purposes. Montenegro positions her research in relation to current critical discussion on inequality, slavery, White supremacy, and neoconservative nationalist movements in contemporary Latin America and Germany. German Conquistadors in Venezuela is a stimulating read. The book will appeal to Latin Americanists, Germanists, early modernists, and scholars and students interested in postcolonial studies, cultural studies, and memory studies.