South American independence drew the natural resources of the region into a broader orbit. This moved in uneven stages. On the one hand, it reflected the degree of progress of the independence movement itself. The ports of Brazil opened to international commerce in 1808 and the first portion of Spanish America open to international trade was Buenos Aires, starting on 25 May 1810. An extraordinary bubble of commercial activity followed. All manner of European products, mainly British, headed for South America, some of them highly inappropriate for the local markets. For example, John Luccock, active as a general merchant at Rio de Janeiro after 1808, could not see any rationale for sending a consignment of pocketbooks and wallets to a country “where there was no paper money, and where the coin was so heavy that slaves were employed to carry it.” 1 It was but one item from a long series of commercial absurdities. Once Northwest European merchants established themselves in South America, commercial intelligence grew. The geography of the mercantile presence focused heavily at first on the major ports, Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, and Valparaíso. These ports became the bases for the examination of a series of trading peripheries and their environments.