, Volume 43, Issue 6, pp 505-515

History of coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) in Mexico: 1539–1810

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Abstract

The genetic diversity of coconut palm in Mexico has arisen from introductions carried out during the Spanish colonial period (1539–1810). The interest of estimating the extent and origin of the genetic diversity motivated the investigation of sites, dates and origins of the introductions, the initial areas of production, the economic importance of the cultivation and its diffusion during the colonial era. Historical records indicate that the first introductions to the Atlantic coast were through the ports of Veracruz and Campeche around 1549 and originated from Cape Verde (West Africa) and the Caribbean islands. Introductions to the west coast were carried out through the ports of Colima and Acapulco and originated from Panama around 1539, from the Solomon Islands around 1569 and from the Philippines from 1571 onwards. Coconut was present in the west coast of Panama in pre-Columbian times, but its origin and introduction date is unknown. Commercial plantations of economic importance were established on the west coast stimulating further introductions and a wider diffusion of the plant during the 16th and 17th centuries. This diffusion may have brought about genetic flow between ecotypes from different origins. No commercial plantations were established on the east coast during the 16th and 17th centuries. Prohibitions of the cultivation of this plant brought about a halt in development on the west coast during the 18th century. This historical knowledge has enabled us to select key sites in which to gather samples to establish germplasm collections.