“The descendants of negroes and Indian women bear at Mexico, Lima and even at the Havannah the strange name of chino [….]”
Alexander von Humboldt
Apparently unaware of the existence of at least three Spanish language homonyms of “chino” with different significations, times and places of origin, there is a considerable research corpus inaccurately translating as “Chinese” the colonial name “chino,” found in Mexican colonial documents from the late sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. For the most part, those “chinos” are Afro-Mexicans. “Chino” in New Spain archival records is a referent to people of African heritage whose lineage was perceived by the Spanish as tainted by African blood and therefore they were nicknamed “chino” comparing them to “dirty pigs.” Although the animal connotation has disappeared, the Afro implication of the term has survived until present. The homonym “chino,” meaning Chinese, arose in the nineteenth century in Manila, Philippines as a synonym of Sangley, the name given to Chinese merchants up to that time.
The distortion appears to have originated with Alexander von Humboldt during his visit to New Spain in 1800. Although von Humboldt understood the meaning of the term “chino” as applied in Mexico at the time, he failed to realize that he was dealing with homonyms of “chino” when he mentioned that it was “strange” to call Afrodescendants “Chinese.” In the end, von Humboldt reported that “chino” in Mexico referred to the offspring of Blacks and “Indian women” [First Nations herein after], (184). John Black (1783-1855) translated von Humboldt’s essay from French to English for the 1811 publication. While applying the term “Chinese” to Afrodescendants made no sense, John Black overlooked the problem as he translated, “On the coasts of Caraccas, and, as appears from the laws, even in New Spain, they [meaning “chinos”] are called zambos. This last denomination is now principally limited to the descendants of a negro and a female mulatto, or a negro and a Chinese female” (von Humboldt, 184) (emphasis added). John Black mistranslated “chino” as “Chinese” and “china” as “Chinese female” which in context were referents of male and female African offspring. To avoid misinterpretations, John Black should have translated “china” as “china female” and not “Chinese female.” Magnus Morner cites von Humboldt where he states, “The offspring of Indian and Negro were called chinos in both Mexico and Peru” (59 n.22). Von Humboldt was an observer in situ as he traveled in the American Spanish colonies from 1799 to 1804.
Within context, it is clear that von Humboldt is reporting on the mixes of Blacks, First Nations and Europeans,
“The casts of Indian and African blood preserve the odour peculiar to the cutaneous transpiration of those two primitive races. The Peruvian Indians […] have formed three words to express the odour of the European, the Indian American and the negro […] Moreover, the mixtures in which the color of the children becomes deeper than that of the mother, are called salta-atrás, or back-leaps ” (184).
The Americana: A Universal Reference Library, in the section entitled “Mexico: History and Modern Development” reports in 1912,
In 1827 the British Minister to Mexico divided the population into seven classes: (1.) Old Spanish or Gachupines. (2.) Creoles or Mixed whites of pure European race, born in America and regarded as natives. (3.) Indians or indigenous copper colored races. (4) Mestizos or mixed whites and Indians gradually merging into Creoles. (5.) Mulattoes or descendants of whites and negroes. (6.) Zambos or Chinos, descendants of negroes and Indians. (7.) African negroes, either manumitted or slaves. The first and last three classes he claimed to be pure and to have “given rise, in their various combinations” to the fourth class, which in turn was subdivided many times. (Beach 12-13) (emphasis added)
The same source explains that in 1900 Mexico had a foreign born population of 57,507 of which: “2,565 were Germans; 278 Arabs; 234 Austro-Hungarians; 140 Canadians; 2,721 Cubans; 2,834 Chinese; 16,258 Spaniards; 3,976 French; 3,325 Greeks; 5,804 Guatemalans; 2,845, English; 2,564 Italians; 15,265 North Americans; 391 Turks” (Beach 12)(emphasis added).
The misguided research mentioned at the onset, disregards New Spain’s meaning of “chino” as a referent of African-First Nations offspring. Said work ignores that the Spanish tagged as “chinos” the enslaved people who arrived in Mexico through Acapulco, including Africans, given their perceived “impure” lineage. Instead, those studies have applied “chino” as meaning “Chinese” indiscriminately to all non-European people who arrived in New Spain via Manila. With this light, the suggestion that 40,000 to 100,000 Chinese arrived in New Spain during the colonial period, besides being a physical impossibility is founded on a mistranslation.
A case in point is “The Chinos in New Spain: A Corrective Lens for a Distorted Image” (herein after referred to as “The Chinos in New Spain”) published in the Journal of World History, Volume 20, Number 1 (2009): 35 to 67. “The Chinos in New Spain” seeks to obtain recognition of the “Chinese” roots of Mexico. The essay’s main thesis is that during the almost 250 years (1571-1815) of the Philippine-Acapulco trade, Spanish galleons transported the,
“first wave” of transpacific Asian migration, [composed of] travelers from Cathay, Cipango (Japan), the Philippines, various kingdoms in Southeast Asia, and India [who] were known collectively in New Spain as chinos (Chinese) or indios chinos (Chinese Indians), as the word chino/china became synonymous with Asia. (35)
“The Chinos in New Spain” and like research, if left unchallenged, would erase a major portion of African Mexican archival history from the national memory and lead to further misinterpretation of Mexican historical data. Paradoxically, “The Chinos in New Spain” cites La población negra de México (The Black Population of Mexico) by Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán to support its premise. Notably, La población has a full paragraph dedicated to explaining that the name “Chino” in Colonial Puebla, Mexico was a referent to the offspring of a Black male and a First Nations woman; and that “circa the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Mulatto and Chino were synonyms” in that region (Aguirre 179). La población also quotes nineteenth-century Colonial Casta documents where: “Chino” is a referent to the offspring of a “Morisco” and a “Spanish woman” (Aguirre 177); Morisco is the offspring of a Spanish male and a Mulatto woman (Aguirre 175); and that “china, lépera [foul mouthed woman] or prostitute meant the same thing” (Aguirre 179).
The present analysis exposes that Tagalogs, Japanese, South East Asians, Hindi and Africans who arrived through Acapulco were perceived as colored, non-Christians or dirty pigs therefore subject to enslavement. It is stipulated that (long before China was called China and its people Chinese) there were “Slaves from the Great China taken to Mexico” but they were “scarce; as generally were all slaves from the Portuguese India” (Aguirre, La población 148). Much higher costs of transportation seem to have been the main obstacle.
To disentangle the confusion of the linguistic problem outlined above, the present work will track the distinct etymologies of “chino” meaning curly-haired African-First Nations offspring or dirty-blooded-cochino (pig); and of “chino” as Chinese. The objective is to show that the name chino as referent of Afrodescendant, derives from “chino” a synonym of “pig” and/ or through aphaeresis from “co-chino” used often as “chino cochino” meaning “dirty pig.” The imaginary dirtiness is a referent to the African bloodline or ancestry of a non-white person.
Conversely, it will be shown that another homonym of “chino” that emerged in nineteenth-century Philippines arose as a synonym of Sangley, the Tagalog name of the merchants from Cathay (the Middle Kingdom). Based upon the foregoing, three findings will be exposed. First, that the term “chino” in Mexican colonial documents is not a referent of Chinese, but to Afro-Mexicans. Second, that the word “chino” meaning Chinese, which emerged in nineteenth-century Philippines, applies to the Sangley exclusively. Third, that the ethnically diverse people who entered Mexico via Acapulco were called “chinos” meaning that they were perceived as people with tainted blood, just as African-Mexican chinos cochinos were.
Preceding that, the history of the Spanish arrival to Mexico in 1519, the catastrophic decline of the original inhabitants, the transatlantic trade of Africans brought to Mexico up to 1570, the establishment of a “racial” classification system, and the commencement of the Manila–Acapulco–Manila commerce and slave trade in 1571 will be reviewed concisely. To conclude, “The Chinos in New Spain,” will be read critically from a multidisciplinary perspective. It is noted that, even if inadvertently, the archival research work of “The Chinos in New Spain” contributes to African Mexican studies.
The Spanish colonization of the lands occupied by Mexico and much of the United States South West and Central South started in 1519. The Spanish christened these territories as “New Spain.” As many as 50,000,000 First Nations people inhabited those lands at the time of contact. By 1570, their number was reduced to 3,336,860 and to 1, 269,607 by 1646. The Spanish, to penetrate the land, started to bring Africans across the Atlantic immediately after 1519. It is reported that by 1570, there were 20,559 Africans; and 6,464 Spanish (Aguirre 198). By 1571, the Spanish established a shipping line across the Pacific between Acapulco and Manila, in the Philippine Archipelago. For the next 244 years one to two ships sailed regularly, although not always annually: “At times [ships] got lost or were unable to go back given the storms, shipwrecks or Hollandaise harassment” (Ollé 41). Diverse Asian and African people entered that port, many enslaved (Aguirre 49-52).
In accordance to the social structure and ideology on race they had developed in Spain, the Spaniards established in Mexico, and elsewhere in their colonies, a social pyramid or pigmentocracy based upon the amount of the perceived whiteness or blackness of a person. Peninsular Spanish who saw themselves as “pure-white-blooded” positioned themselves at the top. To keep under control and in their place all people they invented as non-white, various “racial” labels were forged along the lines of the so-called miscegenation occurring in Mexico. One of such “distinctions” was the tag “Chino.” In the Spanish American colonies, including New Spain, “chino” meaning “pig” was a referent to the African-First Nations’ offspring. This “chino” voice emerged independently and earlier than its homonym “chino” for Chinese. Chino meaning Chinese developed in the Philippines in the nineteenth century as a new name for the Sangley merchants; more regarding this will follow later. Sangley was the Tagalog name applied to Middle Kingdom or Cathay merchants (“Middle Kingdom” and “Cathay” are earlier names referring to the area later called China).
According to María Luisa Herrera Casasús,
The Spanish China Ship or Galleon, —that from the end of the sixteenth century, until the beginning of the nineteenth, traveled periodically from Manila in the Philippine Islands to Acapulco in [New Spain’s] Pacific Coasts—transported slaves from West Africa, India, Malacca, China and other Asian countries. African and Asian enslaved who entered [New Spain] via the Pacific, were commonly nicked named “Chinos.” (467)
In this same historical line Aguirre elucidates,
Soon after Manila was conquered [by the Spaniards], enslaved people from the West began to arrive in New Spain. General López de Legazpi sent some, who were the property of his heirs until the early seventeenth century. These slaves obtained their freedom afterward and founded a borough in the small port [of Acapulco]. They called themselves Philippine Indians, but among them, there were many Mulattoes. This allows one to suppose that they were not only natives from the [Philippine] Archipelago, but from many other places of the West (50). They were called “Chinos, even though they were not exactly—in effect in the majority of the cases—as it will be seen of the Mongolian race (144). Almost all Philippine slaves came under individual contracts between the slave’s owner and a sailor of the ship. The sailor would take the slave to New Spain under his care, responsible to give him food and water, and upon arrival to the port to sell the slave at the best possible price, taking for himself, as commission, a third of the slave’s value (52)
The individual contracts, the size and number of ships, the number of trips made, and the Spanish archives allow one to project the number of enslaved people who entered New Spain through the Pacific. Hugh Thomas expounds,
Many captives were also obtained from Madagascar “a vast Island abounding with slaves” in the words of William Beckford, lord major of London. In the seventeenth century, these were sometimes shipped eastward, via Manila across the Pacific to Acapulco, where they were sold as “chinos.” (369)
Thomas cautions that these Madagascar “chinos” should not “be confused with the small number of Chinese and Filipinos, also known as chinos, who after the opening up of the Pacific by Miguel de Legazpi in 1564-65, were carried to Mexico in the Manila galleons” (369 note) (emphasis added). In Manila, the indigenous Tagalogs had traded long before the Spanish arrival with people from Cathay (that was China’s name at the time). As mentioned, the Tagalogs referred to those merchants they traded with as Sangleys. The Spaniards adopted the term Sangley in the sixteenth century and used it until the nineteenth century when the term Chino (translated as Chinese in English) emerged to replace Sangley.
Benedict Anderson explains, “Only very slowly the Sangley turned into ‘Chinese’—until the word disappeared in the early nineteenth century to make way for a VOC-style chino” (168). Caroline Sy Hau affirms that by Jose Rizal’s (1861-1896) time “chino replaced Sangley in bureaucratic usage” (141). Thus, the homonym “chino” connoting Chinese did not emerge until the nineteenth century. During prior centuries, the Africans, Hindi, Southeast Asians, Filipinos, Negritos, Sangley, etc. who entered New Spain via Acapulco were labeled “chinos” meaning “pigs” and had no reference to China, Cathay, Philippines or Asia.
As the above mentioned were not Christian, European, and lacked a noble lineage, Spaniards perceived them as savages, bad, despicable, treacherous, vicious, etc. They were an inferior Other (la brosa, los de abajo, la chinaca, la morenada, etc.). Sangleys lived outside the city walls of Manila. They were periodically exterminated by the Spaniards to quell revolts just as had been done to the: Jewish and Moriscos populations in Spain; and First Nations, Africans, and their offspring in the Americas.
In addition to lumping all transpacific arrivals to New Spain as Chinese, “The Chinos in New Spain” ignores Southeast Asia and Philippine diversity and diminishes to a “small number” the Africans from “Mozambique, Guinea and Cabo Verde” among them (41). The African Malagasy and “Negritos” presence throughout Southeast Asia and the Pacific Archipelagoes is bypassed. Much of the theory supporting “The Chinos in New Spain…” comes from Race, Class and Politics in Mexico 1610-1670 by Jonathan I. Israel. Race, Class and Politics in Mexico misinterprets that the voice chino found in colonial documents means “pig.” Roberto Gómez Ciriza the translator makes no clarifications to the Spanish language readers. Afro-Mexican chinos thus are lost in translation.
A parallel misreading is present in Africans in Colonial Mexico (120-21). Herman Bennett mentions, “The increasing presence of chinos in the archival records indicates that Mexico’s chino population experienced growth in the first half of the seventeenth century;” he notes also a Chino “proclivity for partners of African descent” (121). That Bennett does not translate the term, rather uses it in its Spanish form denotes his uneasiness. However, the last part of the sentence quoted above reveals that he does not see Mexican chinos as Afrodescendants i.e. he would not state that chinos (meaning Afrodescendants) have a “proclivity for partners of African descent.” Bennett may have assumed this because mentioned in the archival documents is: some of the people had met in Philippines during childhood or that they had arrived in Mexico via the Manila Galleon. Nevertheless, Philippine people were not Chinese then or now.
The Tagalogs from the Philippines were known as Philippine Indians and not Chinese. The term “Chino” was applied to the diverse people who entered New Spain via Acapulco (including Africans), because they were perceived as “cochinos,” or people of tainted lineage, just as the offspring of Africans and First Nations were viewed in the same place and time.
In the 1950 Pequeño Larousse Ilustrado dictionary, there are two entries for “chino.” In the first instance, chino/china means Chinese man or woman. The second chino/china is an American adjective and substantive that given the country has diverse meanings. In some countries the child of a Mulatto man and a Black woman is called “chino;” in others, “chino” is applied to the children of “Indian and Zambo; in Colombia chino means young man, ass; in Salvador chino signifies bold headed or foul mouthed; in Cost Rica, chino refers to a furious or arrogant person; in Chile a person of the lower classes is called “chino/china;” in Cuba, Mexico and Colombia “chino” is a term of endearment. These three countries have a considerable population of Afrodecendant chinos.
As mentioned, the term “Chino” in New Spain was a synonym of “pig.” It linked this casta with an animal, just as did Mulatto (Mule), Coyote, Lobo (wolf), and Cimarron (wild horse), among others. According to the Diccionario de la lengua española, Cochino derives from “cocho” which comes from “coch” (sound to call pigs) and two of its pertinent meanings are: a very dirty and untidy man; and a lewd man lacking manners. The first entry for “chino” in the Diccionario breve de mexicanismos (Brief Dictionary of Mexican Terms) presents “chino” as the masculine voice for a curl of hair; and “chino” and “china” as masculine and feminine adjectives that refer to curly hair. The Nahuatl term “cuculuste” meaning “curly hair” provides another piece of the puzzle.
Deborah E. Kanter in “Their Hair was Curly,” in addition to historicizing First Nations-African relations and the birth of Mexican Red-Black people elucidates, “Given this shared blood, physical differences between Afro-Mexicans and Indians were not always obvious. Sometimes a person’s ‘true’ race could be determined only by searching for a grand parent in a dusty old parish register or by a recollection of telltale curly hair” (165). “The native population, so devastated in the first centuries of colonial rule, had recovered and was growing after 1700 [….] As a result competition over land, even house sites, became endemic [….] Individuals who could not deny their mix heritage face dispossession, even expulsion from the pueblos” (171). Although she makes no mention, Kanter’s work allows one to see the relation between the Nahuatl term “cuculuste” and “pelo chino” meaning curly hair.
Norma Angélica Castillo Palma and Susan Kellog in “Conflict and Cohabitation Between Afro-Mexicans and Nahuas in Central Mexico” explain further, “In Puebla, Tlaxcala and Veracruz, a chino or china was an individual of both indigenous and African descent, with the term referring to an individual of African heritage mixed with mestizo or indigenous heritage. In Guerrero such individuals were termed cambujos” (135 n. 22).
Those interpretations above and the white aesthetic mentality underlying the name “chino,” within the context of New Spain, are further illustrated by the terms “Jarocho,” and “Cocho.” Jarocho was applied in the Veracruz region of New Spain to the African-First Nations offspring and “Cocho” was applied to the same in Michoacán. Aguirre expounds,
The Mulatto-Pardo was the product of the mix between the Black male with the Indian woman. Mulatto-Pardos were the most abundant in New Spain and the color of their skin produced the most varied and curious naming. [….] In general terms, we can assert that they were called Cochos en Michoacán, Cambujos in Oaxaca, Chinos in Puebla, Jarochos in Veracruz, Loros in Chiapas and Zambos in Guerrero; just to mention the most common. (169) (emphasis added)
Thus, Cocho, Cambujo, Chino, Jarocho, and Loro were synonyms and referents to people perceived as dirty, due to their African-First Nations lineage.
Beyond the Mexican colonial and current connotation of “chino” meaning “curly hair,” the link of the word “chino” with pig (cochino) is lodged in the history of Spanish medieval mentality. The term Morisco was forged in Spain in the late fifteenth century as a referent to the defeated Black Moors who converted to Catholicism to avoid expulsion. The Moriscos, just as the converted Jewish, who were suspected of practicing their original faiths, were called marranos, meaning dirty pigs. “Cochino” is a synonym of pig and dirty. Moriscos “were forbidden to wear their customary clothes, and were expressly prohibited from taking baths. Bathing was presumed to be prima facie evidence of apostasy. The phrase ‘the accused was known to take baths…’ is a common one in the records of the Inquisition” (Crow 149).
Antonia Ibarra Lario shows that “chino” is a synonym of pig in the speech of Lorca and its surrounding area in Andalusia. According to the Diccionario de la lengua española, the voice “china” signifies a small stone sometimes round. It is informed that the word derived from the child voice “chin,” an interjection used to call pigs. Cochino, as discussed earlier, derives from “cocho” which comes from “coch” (sound to call pigs) and two of its pertinent meanings are: a very dirty and untidy man; and a lewd man lacking manners. Thus, the voices “chin” and “coch” are both pig calls. Inverted and juxtaposed these pig calls produce the voice “coch-chin.” With the addition of a final “a” or “o” the word signals a feminine or masculine gender. The result is, coch-chin-a/ coch-chin-o. The loss of one of the two “ch” sounds is a matter of economy, the meaning is unaffected by the elimination of one, thus the terms cochina/cochino emerge.
The statutes regarding “Limpieza de sangre” (blood purity) appeared in isolated manner in Spain in the fifteenth century. Henceforth, in the sixteenth century, they were validated when all religious, military and civil congregations adopted them. It can be said that they are policies that barred Jewish who had converted to Christianity and their descendants from diverse posts in the Church, universities, military, guilds and civil institutions. Later, the statutes were extended to the Moors, Protestants and people tried by the Saint Inquisition. (Chami)
The conversos (people who converted to Christianity) were the Jewish in Spain who adopted Christianity by force in the fourteenth century; or those who had adopted it instead of being banished from Spain in the fifteenth by order of the Catholic King and Queen. Moriscos were those Moors who had converted to Christianity.“These statutes of blood purity are race statutes as they depend on the origin and heritage of a person, and not on a crime or fault. The crime is to belong to the ‘Caste of New Jewish’ or Moriscos” (Chami). Converted Jewish and Moriscos suspected of practicing Judaism and Islamism secretly were called marranos (pigs).
Those lineage statutes were transferred to the Spanish colonies including New Spain and applied with unprecedented rigor to the Castas, in particular Afrodescendants. The meaning behind the names Jarocho, Cocho and Chino in New Spain, all synonyms of “pig,” reveals a direct link to the above mentality. Spaniards forged white supremacy. They believed they were the latest product in a chain of evolution. That Spaniards saw Afro-Mexicans as inferior, comparable to animals, becomes clear in the following quote “Especially in central Mexico, peasant rebels insulted district officials in the same terms that Spaniards had heaped upon them—“dog,” “nigger,” and “pig” (Taylor 117).
As mentioned earlier, several ethnic groups tagged as “chinos” (pigs) entered New Spain via Acapulco, among them an unknown number of Sangleys, Southeast Asians, Hindi and Africans, among others. Still, “The Chinos in New Spain..,” fallaciously takes the voice chino as meaning “Chinese” and applies it to all and sundry. “The Chinos in New Spain…” bypasses the etymology of the term and completely misses its primary meaning of “chino cochino” (pig) as applied in New Spain and in various places of the Spanish empire until the nineteenth century. The term has preserved up to present its original reference to Afrodescendants in Mexico (chino) and Peru (cholo-chino). This is documented in any accredited Spanish language dictionary.
“The Chinos in New Spain…” asserts that the image of the chino is distorted in the colonial casta paintings, because there is no Chinese image recorded. La pintura de castas: representaciones raciales en el Mexico del siglo XVIII (simultaneously published as: Casta Painting: Images of Race in Eighteenth-Century Mexico, in 2004) by Ilona Katzew reports: “Chino cambujo” is the offspring of an “Indian male and Black female” (Casta Painting 108 circa 1761); “China cambuja” is the daughter of a “Black male and an Indian female” (Casta Painting 112, circa 1763); the mix between “Barcina” and an “Indian” male produces “china” (Casta Painting 156 circa 1770-1780). Noticeably, there is no image of an Asian component. The casta paintings have guided much of the research regarding colonial Mexico. In addition to the casta paintings, von Humboldt, and the current use of the term in Mexico, various reputable dictionaries confirm the connotation of chino as a referent to African offspring.
“The Chinos in New Spain…” declares that “During the two and a half centuries of contact between the Philippines and the Viceroyalty of New Spain, a minimum of 40,000 to 60,000 Asian immigrants would set foot in the ‘City of Kings,’ while a figure double that amount (100,000) would be within the bounds of probability” (37). In footnote 3, “The Chinos in New Spain…” cites that “Jonathan Israel contends that 6,000 Asian slaves were arriving [to Acapulco from Philippines] each decade of the early 1600s.” According to such figures, 600 slaves would have entered Acapulco annually.
The Manila galleon was supposed to leave Manila and arrive in Acapulco annually, although they did not arrive every year: many were lost, others succumbed to the weather, mutiny, or to pirates. Peter Gerhard, for the 214-year period between 1566 and 1784 mentions 148 recorded sailings from Acapulco (40 n. 34). To transport 600 slaves, and the food and water required for each individual’s survival (850 kg), it would have required a displacement of around 600 tons. In the light that one to two 300-ton galleons traveled during the last decades of the sixteenth century and the first of the seventeenth, of the Manila-Acapulco route, arithmetic would expose the impossibility of transporting that number of slaves even if the ships were used exclusively as slave transports, which was not the reported case.
To transport forty thousand individuals enslaved over 244 years the following is reveled: 40,000 divided by 244 (years of trade) equals 163 slaves per year: 163 times 850 Kg of food and water per person equals 138 tons, slightly under half the 300 ton weight capacity of the first Manila Galleons. Keep in mind that slave contracts were handled on an individual basis (Aguirre 51). This would mean an additional 163 people to care for the enslaved and an additional 138 tons of food and water supplies. Even where the Manila Galleons were built to displaced up to 1200 tons of cargo by the seventeenth century, it is hard to conceive that that was the case where the Atlantic enslavers kept a watchful eye to protect a line of business they considered theirs. Precious stones, silk, cinnamon, etc. did not need water and food, could not revolt and were the declared main business of the Manila-Acapulco route.
At the beginning of the Manila-Acapulco carrera (route) small vessels of two to three hundred tons were used. Aguirre recounts,
toward the end of the sixteenth century a galleon laden with slaves and merchandise began to depart [Manila] toward New Spain; it unloaded its cargo in Acapulco and returned with Mexican silver, a metal appreciated by the Sangley. Later, 26 August 1633, the number of galleons was increased to four and then reduced again to one with larger cargo capacity of 600 to 800 tons. (50)
According to Cindy Vallar,
Spain eventually built much larger, more elaborate galleons with the combined purpose of carrying cargo and soldiers. More than two thousand trees--pine, cedar, oak, and mahogany--were required to build the largest of these, some of which became the warships that guarded the flota, or fleet, of vessels bound for Spain from the New World with holds laden with riches. A typical galleon weighed five hundred tons, but the largest were 1,200 tons. The high superstructure, which clearly identified a Spanish galleon, made the ship clumsy and slow. While larger […], life aboard the galleon was no better for mariners than previously designed ships. Wealthy or influential passengers plus their servants could put the total number of people aboard a galleon at two hundred soldiers and sailors and up to fifty civilians, which made for very cramped quarters.
Another source reports:
On September 20, 1638, the Nuestra Senora de la Concepción, a Spanish galleon plying the lucrative trade route between Manila in the Philippines and Acapulco, foundered in bad weather and was hurled onto a reef. Most of the 400 people on board perished, and her precious cargo from the Orient spilled into the sea.
At the southernmost point of Saipan, in the Northern Mariana Islands (200 miles north of Guam), one of the grand Spanish merchant ships [foundered]-- loaded with Chinese silks/rugs, porcelain, ivory, cotton from India, ivory from Cambodia, camphor from Borneo, cinnamon and pepper and clove from the Spice Islands, band precious jewels from Burma, Ceylon, and Siam. (Spanish Galleon Trade)
Aguirre mentions that on occasion slaver ships entered Acapulco (52); and there are accounts of whole crews jumping ship in Acapulco. This is possible, but it is unlikely that this was the case with every trip and this cannot support the number of Chinese asserted as entering Mexico. Who were the crewmembers? Were all the crewmembers Tagalog or Sengley? How were the Tagalog called during the various centuries before Spanish bureaucrats adopted the name “chino,” to replace Sangley? Would the Spanish and the populations at large trust that many Sangleys in New Spain given their known rebelliousness? According to Thomas
In New Spain (Mexico) the scarcity of slaves from Africa did for a time lead colonists to use the Philippines as a source for a few workers: the Manila galloons which made their regular journeys across the Pacific from Manila to Acapulco after 1565 rarely failed to bring one or two slaves. (137)
“The Chinos in New Spain…” by mistranslating the Mexican term “Chino” as “Chinese” finds Chinese Catholic brotherhoods, Chinese militias, and Chinese generals of the Mexican Insurgent movement. Manel Ollé informs that soon after the Spanish conquest of the Archipelago, they named it “Philippines,” the Chinese merchants who came to Manila were identified in Spanish sources as “Sangleys” or “Sangleyes.” The Spanish authorities in Manila attempted to establish a quota for the accepted Sangley merchants; as the numbers swelled, the Spanish carried out a sort of “‘ethnic cleansing’ in which the Spanish of Manila executed in total many tens of thousands of [Sangleys] throughout the seventeenth century, as a response to rebellions, [and] indications of conspiracies” (43).
The first Sangley rebellions were related to their “quasi” forced recruitment for the diverse “pacifying” campaigns of the Philippine Islands. A case is cited where a crew made of 250 Sangley rebelled on board a Spanish “pacifying” ship and killed all Spaniards including “Governor Gómez Pérez Dasmariñas” (Ollé 44). “The recurring uprisings in protest and the ensuing summary repressions and exterminations with tens of thousands of dead Sangleys in each case, respond to precise historical circumstances” (Ollé 44-45). A few hundred armed Spaniards lived inside the city walls under constant fear that the Sangleys would overpower them. Henry Kamen cites, “The Spanish governor in 1768 calculated that there had been fourteen sanguinary [Sangley] insurrections since the funding of the colony, perhaps the most serious of them in 1603 when the [Sangley] killed nearly half of the Spanish population” (220).
Some 30,000 Sangley, who provided the Spaniards’ livelihood, inhabited outside the walls and in the towns surrounding the area. Thus, the question must be asked, would the few Spaniards who commanded the Manila Galleons risk navigating months with hundreds of Sangleys (who were well versed in the Spanish mentality) in the long lonely journey across the Pacific? Would the Spanish authorities in New Spain allow such a large migration of rebellious Sangley? How about the cultural endowments that such a sizable population of Sangley/Chinese would have brought along? Where is it?
Another claim of “The Chinos in New Spain…” is that in New Spain there were companies of Chinese militias (52). The essay positions these supposedly Chinese militias in the hot lands of Mexico and asserts that “Ethnically speaking they were mostly Tagal, Pampangan, or mestizos de Sangley who came over in the China ships in the eighteenth century as sailors, and included offspring from several generations of interracial unions” (52). According to the Spanish census of 1745, Acapulco has a population “of around four hundred families of chinos, mulattos and blacks” (Villaseñor 171). These Acapulco Chinos appear in the first position of importance signaling that they were the largest portion of the population. The chinos of the hot lands were acclimatized cuculustes or curly-haired people who had been there for generations. Where are the Sangley legacies of Acapulco, Atoya, or Coyuca towns? Nonetheless, the cultures of the South Pacific regions of Mexico, as in other places, reveal a rich African-First Nations heritage in the food, music, dance and world visions, among others.
Regarding religious brotherhoods or Cofradias, “The Chinos in New Spain…” cites the Italian traveler Gemelli Carreri as the source for identifying a Mexico City Cofradía de Chinos “through that which is called the procession of the Chinese, because those going out were Indians of the Philippines” (53). The zealous Catholic Church allowed this type of organization among Catholic orders who oversaw Casta Confraternities of Blacks, Mulattoes, Pardos, Zambos, Chinos, and Mestizos. Keeping in mind that the Spaniards did not exchange with other Middle Kingdom people, except the Sangley and the Sangley were systematically exterminated, when and where did the Sangley learn to trust the Spanish enough to convert to Catholicism by tens of thousands?
On the other hand, the Spanish never trusted the Moors, Jewish, First Nations, Blacks and Black offspring as true converts to Catholicism; this is lodged in the Spanish language spoken of earlier. Why would the Spanish view the Sangley differently and trust them in groups of several hundred across the Pacific ocean right into the heart of Spanish New Spain’s urban centers, mines, plantations, roads, transportation, homes, among others? Where are the Sangley Cowboys of Mexico, what do they sing and eat? Julio Cesar de Tavares in another context that applies elucidates, “there will never be a [cultural] space absolutely shielded and able to conceal the flow of the characteristics and parts of a civilization” (Tavares 85). The traveler Carreri cited in “The Chinos in New Spain…” mentions Philippine Indians and not Sangley. This begs the question, how can the confraternity be Chinese?
Although Tagalog, Malay, Javanese, Papuans, Timorous, Mozambique-ans, etc. entered Mexico, at the end of the day they were “scarce” (Aguirre 143-48) (Thomas 369 note). Otherwise, the cultures of the regions would show a Chinese influence of a sort. The lands, histories and cultures that “The Chinos in New Spain…” is usurping—even if unintentionally, belongs to the Black and their Diaspora offspring also known as Chinacos, Cochos, Jarochos, Boshitos, Chocos, Campechanos, Cambujos, Lobos, Coyotes, Loros, Mulatos, Prietos, Pintos, Pardos, Chilangos, Pelados, Costeñeos, etc. The Black female partners are known as “China Poblana,” “China Tehuana,” “China Jarocha,” “China Tapatía,” etc. During the Manumission war of 1810-1821, the Charro of today was known as Chinaco, which evolved from the term chino (pig). In Mexico, the Chinaco was the Insurgent soldier, who formed the Black Armies of the South. His female partner is known as the “China.”
The Chinacos came from all over the country as seen in the places in Map 1 of the “The Chinos in New Spain…” entitled “Chino Demographic Distribution in New Spain, 1590-1815.” The Chinacos, under the leadership of José María Morelos y Pavón, formed the Black Armies of the South who were instrumental in obtaining manumission and Independence from Spain. The Chinacos played a fundamental role in building the Mexican nation and its ethos. This is being reconstructed partially in upcoming studies and another portion has been documented in works and cultural texts previously analyzed.
“The Chinos in New Spain…” lacks the foundations necessary to demand sharing a cultural and physical space that was hard-won by the Children of Chango and Yemaya: the zamba rumberos who learned the pulse of the lands of Anahuac and its life forms. We are talking about the people who worked the land and fertilized it with their blood, sweat and tears. Those Chinos Cochinos, not Chinese but African and their descendants, produced Mexico and the rainbow of African-based identities, including those mentioned in this study.
There were Philippines, Sangleyes, Japanese, Tamils, Hindi, Malays, Cebuans, Negritos, Kefirs, Bantus, Malagasy, etc. who entered New Spain via Acapulco during the 244 years of the Acapulco-Manila trade. Upon arrival, as a whole, everybody as a unit entered as “chinos” meaning non-white. Archival documents refer to Tagalogs and others from the Philippine Archipelago as Indios Filipinos. If Filipinos Tagalogs were the majority of Asians who arrived in New Spain during the period 1571-1815 and not Sangley, then “Chino” meaning Chinese cannot apply to Indios Filipinos. It must also be understood that the homonym Chino meaning Chinese that developed in the nineteenth century Philippines applies only to the Sangley and therefore is not a referent to the Indios Filipinos, other Asians or the Mexican Chinos of African descent.
Up to the nineteenth century, “Chino” in New Spain was a Spanish-invented label to refer to those with tainted non-white lineages. Said people included a small number of diverse populations from areas today called China, the Philippines and other areas of Asia. However, it had no association specifically with the idea of being of Asian descent. Africans who entered via that route were called “chinos” as well. Starting in the nineteenth century, a new connotation or homonym of the term “Chino” began to be used to refer to Chinese people and their offspring. Thus, the term “Chino” in the Mexican colonial archives is mainly a referent to African-First Nations offspring.
The Mexico City “Chinese ghetto” of San Juan reported in “The Chinos in New Spain…” (43) is located in the area of San Juan market next to the Alameda central park. There are various Chinese restaurants and businesses sprinkled within a few blocks; whether Chinese merchants have occupied this area since colonial times or if it is a newer development connected to post-Colonial Chinese migrations needs to be documented. The Chinaca (Chinacos and Chinas as a group) however, is preponderant in San Juan and all surrounding barrios: Tepito, Lagunilla, Peralvillo, Centro, Viaducto, Doctores, Guerrero, San Simon, and Morelos, among others. Throughout various areas of the Mexico City, there are various “cafés de chinos,” Chinese cafes.
The diverse Asian, including Chinese, immigration to New Spain requires and deserves further study. During the period 1521 and 1594, 36,000 slaves arrived in Mexico (Cope 13). “The vast majority of these slaves were Africans” although “parish records reveal the existence of a few enslaved Filipinos (called chinos) and Chichimecs (Indians from Northern New Spain captured during wars)” (Cope 174 n.27). Filipinos negotiated their new environment by relating to Afrodescendants. Filipinos appear in some colonial documents as Chinos Filipinos, this refers to their less than pure lineage, just as is the case of Afromexican Chinos. “The Chinos in New Spain…,” as are others, is based on the “Chino” mistranslation in von Humboldt and various works that have followed suit. The vitiated circle of misunderstanding needs to be broken. This will open the door for renewed research in the area of Mexican Asian Studies and a robust dialogue with African Mexican Studies.
Aguirre Beltrán, Gonzalo. La población negra de México. Estudio etnohistórico. México, D.F.: Fondo, 1972 (1st ed. 1946).
Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. New York: Verso, 2000 (1st ed. 1983).
Bennett, Herman. Africans in Colonial Mexico: Absolutism, Christianity, and Afro-Creole Consiouness, 1570-1640. Bloomington: IUP, 2005 (1st Ed. 2003).
Beach, Frederick Converse and George Edwin Rines Eds. The Americana: A Universal Referente Library: Comprising the Arts and Sciences, Literatura, History, Biography, Geography, Comerse, Etc., of the World. New York: Scientific American Compiling Department, 1912.
Castillo Palma, Norma Angélica and Susan Kellog. “Conflict and Cohabitation Between Afro-Mexicans and Nahuas in Central Mexico.” Beyond Black and Red: African-Native Relations in Colonial Latin America. Ed. Mathew Restall. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P, 2005.
Chami, Pablo A. “Estatutos de limpieza de sangre.” Curso: Centro de Investigación y Difusión de la Cultura Sefardí en Octubre del 2000. http://www.pachami.com/
Inquisicion/LimpiezaSangre.html. 11 February 2011.
Cope, Douglas R. The Limits of Racial Domination: Plebeian Society in Colonial Mexico City, 1660-1720. Madison: The U of Wisconsin P, 1994.
Crow, John A. Spain: The Root and the Flower. Berkeley: U of California P, 1985 (1st ed. 1963).
Gerhard, Peter. Pirates of the Pacific 1575-1742. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1990 (1st Ed. 1960 under the title Pirates of the West Coast of New Spain, 1575-1742).
Herrera Casasús, María Luisa. “Raíces africanas en la población de Tamaulipas.” Presencia africana en México. Coordinator Luz María Martínez Montiel. México, D.F.: CONACULTA, 1994.
Ibarra Lario, Antonia. Materiales para el conocimiento del habla de Lorca y su comarca. Murcia: Servicio de Publicaciones Universidad de Murcia, 1996.
Israel, Jonathan I. Razas, clases sociales y vida política en el México colonial 1610-1670. Trans. Roberto Gómez Ciriza. México, D.F.: Fondo, 1999 (Third Printing) (1st Spanish Ed. 1980).
Kamen, Henry. Empire: how Spain became a world power, 1492-1763. N.Y.: Perennial, 2004.
Kanter Deborah E. “Their Hair was Curly.” Crossing Waters Crossing Worlds: The African Diaspora in Indian Country. Eds. Tiya Miles and Sharon P. Holland. Durham: Duke U. Press, 2006.
Katzew, Ilona. La pintura de castas: representaciones raciales en el México del siglo XVIII. México, D.F.: CONACULTA, 2004.
Morner, Magnus. Race Mixture in the History of Latin America. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1967.
Ollé, Manel. “La formación del Parián de Manila: La construcción de un equilibrio inestable.” Chapter 2. La investigación sobre Asia Pacífico en España. http://www.ugr.es/~feiap/ceiap1/ceiap/capitulos/capitulo02.pdf. 31 Januray 2011.
Slack, Jr., Edward. “The Chinos in New Spain: A Corrective Lens for a Distorted Image.” Journal of World History, Vol. 20 No 1 (2009): 35067.
“Spanish Galleon Trade.” http://ns.gov.gu/galleon/index.html. 11 February 2011.
Sy Hau, Caroline. Necessary Fictions: Philippine Literature and the Nation, 1946-1980. Manila: Ateneo de Manila UP, 2000.
Tavares, Julio Cesar de and Januario Garcia. Diásporas Africanas na América do Sul—Uma ponte sobre o Atlántico. Brasilia DF: Fundação Alexandre de Gusmão, 2008.
Taylor, William B. Drinking, Homicide and Rebellion in Colonial Mexican Villages. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1979.
Thomas, Hugh. The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade 1440-1870. New York: Siemens & Schuster, 1997.
Vallar, Cindy. “The Spanish Galleons.” Pirates and Privateers: The History of Marine Piracy. http://www.cindyvallar.com/galleons.html. 11 February 2011.
Villaseñor y Sánchez, Joseph Antonio de. Theatro americano: Descripción general de los Reynos y Provincias de la Nueva España y sus jurisdicciones. Prologue, María del Carmen Velázquez. México, D.F.: Trillas, 1992.
Von Humboldt, Alexander. Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain. Translated from the original French by John Black. New York: F. Riley, 1811.