The Asiento was set up, between 1492-1510, by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, at the Treaty of Tordesillas. Since it was a very costly, long-term investment, there was little interest, at first. No matter what revisionists and Hollywood want you to believe, it was never a goldmine.
A summary may give you some impression.
Holders of The Asiento, • 1595-1615 – Pedro Gomes Reinel. • 1602-1610 – João Rodrigues Coutinho, succeeded by Gonçalo Vaz Coutinho. • November 5, 1611 – Juan Alfonso de Molina-Cano for António Fernandes de Elvas. • January 24, 1615 – Melchor Maldonado. • 1615-1621 – António Fernandes de Elvas. • February 2, 1622 – Gaspar de Monteser for António Fernandes de Elvas. • 1623-1625 – Miguel Rodrigues Lamego. • 1631-1640? – Melchor Gómez Angel and Cristóvão Mendes de Sousa. • July 5, 1662-1669, Domingo Grillo and Ambrosio Lomelín, a treaty via Genua, promised to ship 24,000 slaves in seven years, assisted by the Dutch West India Company from Curaçao and the Royal African Company from Jamaica. ◦ The Asiento ended in mistrust and bankruptcy in 1672-1674 ◦ King Charles II of England tried to lay hands on the Asiento but without success.
• 1670-1675 António Garcia, a Portuguese (and Sebastian de Síliceo his guarantee). • 1676-1679 Manuel Hierro de Castro, and Manuel José Cortizos, members of the Consulado de Sevilla. Spanish are no longer allowed to buy slaves on Curaçao. • 1680 Juan Barroso-del Pozo, a former assistant Coymans (?) and Nicolas Porcio, his Venetian son-in-law, became Asientistas. • 1682-1688 Juan Barroso-del Pozo (-1683) and Nicolás Porcio succeeded in getting the Asiento for 6.5 years. It was probably Porcio who encountered many financial difficulties in 1684 and was unable to make his payments to the crown, alleging that the local authorities in Cartagena were working against his interests. • February 1685-1688 Balthasar Coymans (1652-1686). Coymans made an immediate payment towards some frigates for the Spanish Navy being built in Amsterdam and an advance on the dues he would be liable for on goods imported to Spanish America.
July 1686. King Charles II of Spain starts an investigation into the legitimacy of the Asiento and the Asiento with B. Coymans was annulled. October 1686 The Dutch refuse to accept the “Junta de Asiento de Negros,” a commission of dubious authority. There arose a risk of war between France and Spain; Jamaica is becoming more important than Curaçao. • 1687-1688 Jan Carçao, or Juan Carcán a former assistant of B. Coymans, takes over the Asiento. ◦ March 1688 Jan Carçao is put in prison in Cádiz, accused of fraud. In June 1688 the Commission delivered an opinion the Dutch must recognize its authority before discussions could proceed. • 1688-October 1691 Nicolás Porcio. • 1692-1695 Bernardo Francisco Marín de Guzmán • 1695-1701 Manuel Ferreira de Carvalho representing the Real Companhia de Cacheu or Real Companhia da Guiné do Reino de Portugal. ◦ 1698 The Royal African Company loses her monopoly. • 1701-1713 Jean du Casse in the name of the Compagnie de Guinée et de l’Assiente des Royaume de la France. ( 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, WIC lost all rights) • 1713-1750 South Sea Company. • 1750-1764 ??? • 1765-1772 Miguel de Uriarte in the name of Aguirre, Aristegui, J.M. Enrile y Compañía, or Compañía Gaditana. • 1773-1779 Aguirre, Aristegui y Compañía, or Compañía Gaditana.
Though, Willem Balthasar Coymans, who had his entire family fortune to support him as well as the West Indish Company, was not a politician, but no more than a legal trader with an international license. The Republic entered the trade rather later, in 1662, and was one of the first ones to lose its rights in 1713 ( Treaty of Utrecht, to England); and in 1730 it even lost its local Caribbean monopoly.
In total, at least seven Coymans of one and the same family became the leaders in setting up, and shaping the slave trade from Africa to the Spanish Colonies through transshipment via Curacao. This family was by far the most prominent family on the island because of the trade. You will fail to find a sculpture of any of these family members on Curacao, or in Holland, but their portraits, painted by Frans Hals, are on display at the National Gallery in Washington D.C.
Willem Balthasar Coymans and Bas Coymans referred to themselves as “cow salesman” and pointed nonchalantly at the family crest, featuring three cows, in the background of their formal family portrait. Willem had himself painted just before he left for Cadiz – Spain around 1640. It was officially still in a time of war since the Peace Treaty of Westfalen between The Republic and Spain over the 80-year war was not signed, yet.
It is a strike of historical chance that a namesake, Hensley Koeiman, or maybe a very far removed family member, is about to become the next Prime Minister and a leader and shaper of the island of Curacao. From the very first moment on, Koeiman positioned himself as a hater of the former Republic and presently the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Especially, the financial oversight by The Hague of the incredibly corrupt Administrations is a thorn in his fresh. Although the billion from the Hague were forging, Koeiman does not agree to financial audits and oversight. The most pressing issues on the political agenda of the island are the prosperity of an ailing economy, and security, which it thoroughly undercut by the illegal narco industry. Both are not on Koeiman list of emergencies. The Asiento is long gone, but the Islanders are still fighting to keep their right to free migration, transatlantic, but this time toward the former-Republic and present-Kingdom of the Netherlands. History makes no sense.
By Jacob Gelt Dekker
Opinion columnist for Curaçao Chronicle