Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

The Salvational Currents of Emigration': Racial Theories and Social Disputes in the Philippines at the End of the Nineteenth Century

Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

The Salvational Currents of Emigration': Racial Theories and Social Disputes in the Philippines at the End of the Nineteenth Century

Article excerpt

Recurring disputes within the Spanish community in the Philippines among the so-called peninsulares (Spaniards born in Spain) and the insulares ('insulars': the Creoles and the mestizos of Spanish origin born in the islands) had two distinctive features during the last two decades of the nineteenth century. On the one hand, the increasing number of Spanish immigrants to the Philippines intensified rivalries. On the other, the immigrants' extensive use of malleable racialist theories to vindicate their role in the Philippines extended beyond the Spanish community. Although this racial theorising was initially addressed to a Spanish audience, it led to impassioned local disputes with the ilustrados, the proto-nationalist group of urban and cosmopolitan Filipinos. (1)

This article thus considers late nineteenth century racial theories in relation to rivalries within the Spanish community, which were to play a role in the ending of Spain's colonisation of the Philippines. As such this study seeks to contribute to the literature on the Philippines by emphasising the importance of racialism in these historical processes. The role of these disputes as part of the history of the Spanish community of the Philippines has received little historiographical attention. Studies of this community have focused mostiy on missionaries, their internal rivalries, and their struggles against the hacenderos. Recently, attention has expanded to the whole of the community, covering also the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. (2) The leadership, internal diversity and connections of this settler community with the rest of Philippine society via Creoles, mestizos and the many Filipinos who considered themselves to be Spanish, however, and the processes of inclusion and exclusion, need more attention, particularly in the wake of Jean Taylor's and Ann Stoler's studies on the Dutch East Indies and French Indochina. (3)

The impact of racial ideas on the end of Spanish colonisation in the Philippines also demands further research. There is a broader discussion about the role of the reforms set forth by the Madrid administration to renovate colonisation in the Philippines. While some scholars dismiss these changes as mere 'neo-mercantile forces', others argue for their significance. (4) Christopher Schmidt-Nowara, for instance, with reference to the combined governance of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, argues that these changes represented 'a new colonial project without historical precedence in the history of Spanish colonialism'. (5) Yet the legitimacy granted to these colonial reforms by racial theories has not received much attention, especially in Spanish language scholarship. This neglect has had various consequences and has prompted the criticism of under-theorisation. (6) With regard to the Philippines, however, accusations of the 'racism' of the administration and of a range of individuals from the conservative pro-friar Wenceslao Retana to the progressive liberal Pablo Feced (also known as Quioquiap), are simplistic. (7) Research questions have been limited to the reasons behind the emergence of extreme racism in certain texts, and the debate generally has been acrimonious and lacking in theoretical innovation. (8)

Nor has the impact of racial thought on the Philippine Revolution of 1896-98 received much attention. Exceptions include the work of Filomeno V. Aguilar, who emphasises the influence of new racist ideas on the growing Philippine national consciousness. Aguilar argues that the ilustrados 'had assimilated the European concept of civilization, modernity, and its racial hierarchy'. (9) John D. Blanco merges racialism with other social developments, noting the originality of the 'interface' that the Filipino national leader, Jose Rizal, 'establishes between scientific and religious understandings of enlightenment, which allowed folk Christianity to absorb and reinterpret the colonial legacy'. (10)

This article analyses the role of racial ideas in intra-Spanish disputes in the late nineteenth century Philippines by comparing the accounts produced by the well-known contemporary authors, Francisco Canamaque y Jimenez (Gaucin, Malaga, 1851-91) and Pablo Feced y Temprano (Aliaga, Teruel, 1834-1900), and to a lesser extent, Vicente Barrantes Moreno (Badajoz, 1829-98). …

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