Hispanic Heritage Month begins. It marks a celebration of our tie to the Spanish colonization of the world (Americas, Equatorial Guinea, and the Philippines). As a person of Spanish ancestry, I think about how I came to be: the colonizer and the colonized. Perhaps, love?
For my fellow Hispanic Filipinos and everyone else, here’s a brief history. Magellan “discovered” the islands in 1521 and “claimed” them for Spain. He was killed by a chieftain Lapu-Lapu with a spear that pierced his flesh in between the mental armor.
The colony was called Las Felipinas or King Felipe’s islands. Our identity is tied to a European king who never set foot in any of the 7,000 islands. It’s a uniqueness in Asia as being the only people colonized for over 377 years (gained independence in 1898 only to become a United States commonwealth until 1945).
Spaniards gained control in 1565 led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. They established a feudal system and created the principalia (the noble class) to rule. Conversions of the native population to Catholicism were extreme: you either accepted the cross or die by the sword.
The Philippines was administered by the Mexico-based Viceroyalty of New Spain. The famed Acapulco–Manila Galleon trade that exchanged goods and people lasted until Mexico gained independence in 1810. Afterward, the islands were governed directly by officials in Spain.
It was also a period where much of the “indigenous Filipino” culture was lost. Not many know there was written language, legal codes, and governments, but it served the Spanish empire to share none of it existed.
To make taxes easier (because it’s always about money) the Spanish governor required all subjects of the crown to adopt Spanish surnames or Hispanicize names in 1850s. Each town was assigned a letter and it went from there.
You’ll notice Filipinos have surnames like “de la cruz” or “de la santos” it was all chosen to show devotion to the Catholic religion. This system of surnames was also enforced on populations in colonial Mexico. Many of us…