Wednesday, November 5, 2008

From Manila to Mexico

From Manila to Mexico
By Go Bon Juan

When people talk about the galleon trade between Manila and Acapulco (1565 to 1815), much attention is placed on the trade itself, its economic significance, and, to a certain degree, its cultural influence. Little attention is given to the movement of people, especially of the ethnic Chinese.

In volume 2 of the five-volume work entitled Five Thousand Years of History of China and Foreign Cultural Exchange from China’s World Knowledge Publishing House, section six of chapter 10 narrates the settlement of the Chinese in Latin America.

According to documents that date back to around the late 16th century and first half of the 17th century, Chinese merchants, artisans, sailors and helpers arrived in Mexico and Peru to do business or work there, through the Manila galleon trade.

Since Spanish colonizers monopolized the trade between the Philippines and Mexico, the Chinese who went to Latin America had to pass through Manila. Consequently, they were called Manila Chinese. They were mostly merchants, serfs and sailors.

In the late 16th century, in order to develop and exploit Latin America, the Spanish colonizers ordered and allowed Chinese artisans to enter Latin America. Thus, thousands of Chinese artisans, including weavers, tailors, carpenters, masons, blacksmiths, jewelry smiths and barbers were continuously transferred from Manila to work there.

Not only that, as it was said that there were some Chinese sailors on the Manila galleon who could not bear slave labor and the torture they suffered from the Spanish colonizers. Thus, they often escaped when the galleon reached the Acapulco port and settled down across Latin America. It was estimated that in the middle of the 17th century, Manila Chinese who moved to the Americas were about 5,000 to 6,000.

Persecution also encouraged the Chinese to catch the galleon out of Manila. There were periodic mass expulsions, plus five massacres during the 17th and 18th centuries when 70,000 to 80,000 Chinese were killed.

This is the role played by Manila in the history of the Chinese in Latin America. It is safe to say that the forefathers of the Chinese in Latin America, especially those in Mexico, were Chinese from the Philippines or the Manila Chinese.

Manila Times Article

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