Spain filled its coffers through an elaborate, and heavy, system of taxes levied in its American colonies. It tried to siphon shipping through a small number of ports to keep control of transpacific and transatlantic trade. Acapulco was the designated port where goods from Asia, transshipped through the Philippines, would enter. This excerpt gives a sense of both the number of taxes the crown collected, and the difficulty it had doing so. Taxes included the averia, used to support the convoy of protective ships, and the almojarifazgo, a general import tax. Because the import tax on Manila goods hit a high of 33 percent in the 18th century, merchants were eager to find ways around it.
Silks, porcelain and furniture were luxury goods from Asia, brought to Acapulco on the Manila galleons, and then transshipped to Spain. But this excerpt also notes other imported goods—personal ornaments made of Chinese gold and silver, valued more for their unique style than their karat weight.