Love Mexican-Filipino Style

Love Mexican-Filipino Style

There is a 1581 port town in the Philippines that has a surprising amount of similarities with Mexico, so many, it is actually named Mexico.  Similarities include:

  • Devout Catholicism. Not only are their many celebrations similar to our’s but the Virgin of Guadalupe is the mother of Filipino Mexico also.
  • Money in the form of a peso.
  • Fruits and vegetables from here thrive there including the pineapple, papaya and lima beans.
  • There are about 250 Nahuatl words from the Aztecs in the Filipino language including such every-day words for mother, father, market, chocolate, tamale, tomato, potato, guacamole, and mesquite.

Why is this?  Granted, both Mexicos (the country and port city) were far flung parts of the Spanish Empire for centuries but that doesn’t explain the Aztec-based Nahuatl words, for example.

The answer is geographic.  It was simply easier for the Philippines to trade with Mexico than Spain itself.  During the Inquisition’s three centuries a boat voyage from Acapulco to Manila took 4 months. Arriving from Madrid to Manila took up to a year. So, for practical reasons, the Philippines belonged to New Spain/Mexico and was officially ruled from Mexico City.

Named for the King of Spain, the Philippines were conquered by Spain in the same year, 1521, Cortez conquered the Aztecs.  Spain kept the Philippines isolated from their neighbors, but not from New Spain/Mexico.

Until 1811, large cargo ships called galleons traveled between Manila and Acapulco, Mexico. Most years one or two separate galleons from Acapulco would carry large amounts of Mexican silver to Manila to pay for all the exotic goods that would be brought to Manila from throughout Southeast Asia, especially China.

Sidebar:  Chinese porcelain shipped from the Philippines to Mexico came wrapped in thin tissue paper still called paper from China.  The paper was collected and used to make the Day of the Dead flags and streamers reminding Mexicans of the paper thin line between life and death.

The Mexican silver also helped to pay for the operation of the colony as the Philippines proved lackluster in producing the expected gold while Mexico had silver to spare.

Many of the Inquisition-Era Spaniards in the Filipino government, military, and Church were either born in Mexico or had lived there for a few years before coming to the Philippines. These colonial Mexicans to the Philippines brought with them the language, fruit and Guadalupe mentioned earlier but the influence wasn’t all one way.

Obviously some Filipino sailors stayed here and married Mexican women under the caste called ChinosYou don’t have to dig deep to find a Filipino man in many a Mexican family tree.

Also, Mexico’s most popular mango variety, Manila mango, originated from Filipino seedlings carried on the galleons.

When I first was planning to retire in Mexico I was surprised how many folks from the US assumed I meant the state, New Mexico.  Now I realize I’d have to add “the country” to stating Mexico to separate it from a Filipino port city with the same name!