“Tavern” by the Saltpan: New England Seafarers and the Politics of Punch on La Tortuga Island, Venezuela, 1682–1781

Article

Abstract

New England seafarers from small merchant ships visited the natural saltpans of the Venezuelan island of La Tortuga from the late seventeenth century up until 1781. The liminal space of the island set the stage for the creation of an improvised “tavern” where the communalism of shipboard life was suddenly changed to more markedly vertical relations. Drawing from archaeological excavations and original documentary sources it is argued that, while on land, captains no longer worked alongside their crews who now labored extracting salt. With leisure time available to them, punch drinking offered captains a means of discursive practice through the manipulation of fashionable material culture and an opportunity to negotiate their social position among peers. When given to the crew, punch served as a labor incentive and a way of obfuscating the sudden change in customary captain-crew relations while on the island.

Keywords

Punch bowls Drinking Seafarers Caribbean salt exploitation 

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyThe College of William and MaryWilliamsburgUSA

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