Libmonster ID: U.S.-1511

New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. XIV, 282 p., il. Cambridge Latin American Studies; 100. (ISBN 9781107635777).

The book of a researcher from the University of Miami (Ohio, USA) Tatiana Seijas "Asian slaves in colonial Mexico. From Chinos to Indians " is one of those rare books directly or indirectly related to China and the Chinese, which tell the reader a lot of unknown, surprising facts and circumstances. In the 16th century in Mexico as Chinos ("Chinese") officially registered all arrivals to New Spain from Asia. Those who were brought from Africa were recorded as "negros" - "black" or " cafres "(toponym). Chinos in common Latin American Spanish are still called Indians, this is a very ambiguous word for descendants of people of different races, as well as servants and all people of low social status. If in the 16th century "chinos" and "negros" were slaves from Asia and Africa, respectively, and "indio" was the entire indigenous population, then in the 17th century the phrase "indios chinos" appeared in reference to personally free Filipinos who settled in Mexico. Slaves of Asian origin were never called so, because, according to Spanish law, the entire indigenous population of New Spain was free, i.e. an Indian could not be a slave. In the 18th century, "chinos" were already people of mixed Indian and African bloodlines. T. Seijas notes that even in serious historical studies, the terms "indios chinos" and simply "chinos" are often confused (p.6).

As far as can be judged, T. Seijas 'book is the first serious study that traces where the "Chinese" came from, reconstructs their life in Mexico; we have an extraordinary story of the transformation of slaves of Asian origin into personally free "Indians". T. Seijas studied the archives of the Philippines and colonial Mexico, the results of archival work are placed in a single, a well-thought-out scheme. The number of records left by slaves and slaveholders is surprising, they formed the basis of the book, giving scientific research vividness and authenticity.

About the main character of the book, a woman whose story inspired the author of the study, much is known from her life. Catarina de San Juan (c. 1610-1688) was a Chinese-born slave who became a folk saint in the city of Puebla. She herself did not know exactly where she was born or where she was taken from as an infant. In Puebla, Catarina was a servant in the family of a Portuguese merchant who brought her to Mexico. Later, the owner granted her freedom, but she had no money. She went to work as a servant in the rectory of the Jesuit College in Puebla, which she visited. Catarina wanted to devote herself to God, but at the will of the priest, she married Chino, and only when she became a widow was she able to lead the religious life she aspired to. She gave a detailed account of herself to a certain Alonso Ramos, who recorded her story and published it as a life of the saint in 1689, a year after Catarina's death. Her funeral became a big event in the life of the city, the residents wanted to have their own city saint. The Inquisition resisted her beatification, and in 1691 it was forbidden to worship the unofficial saint and her images, which were popularly attributed to healing power. The life recorded by Ramos was also forbidden.

Catarina's story is now part of Mexican folklore. She is considered the creator of the Mexican women's national costume, which is called "China Poblana" (China Poblana). In fact, such a costume in bright green, white and red tones - the colors of the Mexican flag-became fashionable in the 1870s. The dress has nothing to do with Far Eastern outfits, the style is borrowed from Bavarian peasant dresses, it is impossible to assume that the blessed of the XVII century could wear something like this.

In 1565, the first batch of Asian ra-

page 176

bov arrived from the Spanish Philippines to Mexico on the galleons Manila-Acapulco, all of them called "Chinese", although in reality they were Japanese from Nagasaki, Malays, Filipinos, Javanese, Timorese, natives of various parts of India. Filipinos were in the majority. Portuguese slave traders brought mostly men from the Portuguese colonial possessions in Asia to the Manila market. Many Spaniards took Asian slaves to Spain, where the possession of a Chinese slave emphasized the high status of the owner. The story of Gregorio Moreno, "a Chinese Indian from the Philippine Islands,"is noteworthy. A Spanish official took him to Mexico, then to Peru, then back to Mexico, then to Seville, where he demanded money from the government to return to the Philippines. The king granted his numerous requests, ordering him to give one hundred gold ducats for travel expenses. Moreno received, however, not the actual money, but only a credit receipt...

Over time, the Chinos became legally "Indians", this is a general term for all aborigines of the Spanish colonies, after 1672, the" Chinese "were already considered as" local " vassals of the Spanish crown and as such could not remain slaves for long.

Compiled by T. Seijas from archival data, the database contains 598 names of Chinese slaves in Mexico. Various documents confirm the origin of 225 people. The difficulty is that most people were taken out in infancy, and their memories are very vague. Many indicated the place of "departure", and not the place of birth. Information about these people is summarized in a table from which it is clear that of these 225 people, 62 "Spaniards" came from the Philippines, i.e. Catholics and 17 Muslims, 68 people from India, 30 from Bengal, 15 from Indonesia, 6 from Ceylon, 4 from Japan, and 3 from Macau, Timor - 2 people, and another 9 people named toponyms that cannot be identified.

T. Seijas describes the Philippine society of the XVII-XVII centuries as slave-owning: Manila was one continuous slave market, where Filipinos, prisoners of war, Muslims and other people were sold both for internal use and for"export". The new owners of the Philippines, the Spaniards, were shocked by the abundance of their native Muslim enemies on the islands. The slave-owning nature of the Philippine economy has sparked fierce legal and theological disputes about slavery. In 1574, a special law on the Philippines was issued, but it did not protect foreigners, i.e. non-Filipinos and Muslims. Foreigners were supplied by the Portuguese, and Muslims were most often prisoners of war.

To send goods (textiles, porcelain, wax and spices) and people from Manila to Mexico, a galleon was equipped annually, which sailed from Manila in September and reached Acapulco in February. The route of Asian slaves from Acapulco, where the Manila galleon arrived, to Mexico City and Puebla, was called the" Chinese Way " (Via de China).

To regulate trade flows and protect against pirates, the galleon was prepared by royal officials, there was a constant danger of overloading, on average, 250 to 400 people were transported annually. Despite government prohibitions and protests by naval officers against the presence of women on ships, female slaves were passed off as personal servants of free passengers. An official is described who brought 15 such slave girls at one time, and all of them became pregnant during the journey. Later, there was a ban on the transportation of unmarried women, but it was constantly violated. Severe conditions on ships led to a large death rate among passengers and slaves, so in 1629, one hundred people died, the bodies were taken to Acapulco, where there was a special rate for funerals-10 pesos for a Spaniard, 5 for an Indian and one for a slave.

For human trafficking on the Manila galleon, it was necessary to issue a special license, while in the XVI century the crown issued licenses directly to private individuals, later only companies that promised to bring as many African slaves as possible could get licenses. These were the Portuguese, Genoese, and Dutch monopolies. T. Seijas writes extensively about how the transportation of huge numbers of African slaves across the Atlantic eventually led to a significant restriction of the Pacific slave trade.

In addition to slaves, from Manila to Mexico

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there were also free emigrants, which further confuses the situation with Asians in Mexico. Filipinos and residents of other regions of Asia were eager to go to the galleon in search of a better life. Many sailors, exhausted by the six-month voyage, decided not to return to their homeland and settle in New Spain. These people received a special status.

T. Seijas pays much attention to the situation in Mexico, which made it necessary for the economy to bring a large amount of labor. The demographic collapse was caused by the high mortality of the local population from infectious diseases imported from the Old World. The death of 15 million Indians from 1530 to 1608 was a political and economic disaster for the Spaniards. The cities and monasteries built by the Spaniards were empty. Special laws were passed to protect the surviving Indians.

The complex administrative structure of colonial Mexico included two political communities, the so-called republics-the Indians (La Republica de Indios) and the Spaniards (La Republica de Espanoles). "Republics" were initially established in places where Indians lived compactly in rural areas, and later each new arrival had to be assigned to one of the communities, so registration and segregation of the population by place of residence were ensured. The republic of the Spaniards included the Spaniards themselves, personally free mestizos and all slaves. Personally, free Asians were assigned to the Republic of the Indians and received the rights of the local population, they could marry Indian women, proving that they were not previously married. The Inquisition at this time brought many cases of polygamy. Unlike free Filipinos, relatively few Chinese slaves married Indian women, although this was not legally prohibited. Marrying Indian women did not change their social status. As a rule, slaves married female slaves, "Chinese women", Negresses and mulatto women.

The existence of such a structure and the practice of recording free "Asians" as Indians predetermined the further transformation of Asian slaves into Indians: from a legal point of view, this was the only way to record their new social status as a liberated Chino.

Spain began to actively import labor to Mexico to help the surviving Indians, in 1542 the first Africans were imported, in 1565 the first Chinos . Despite the fact that both were personally dependent people, their position in the economy and society was not the same. The Chinos were better servants than the Africans, as most of them already knew the Iberian languages and were literate. Many of the Asians, both free and slave, worked in weaving factories and monasteries. Physically stronger Africans were more expensive than Chinos and worked mainly in agriculture. The owners involved the Chinos in the same jobs that the Indians had done before, and gradually the Chinos became associated with the Indians. Chinos were often released for their exemplary service, and they found it easier to get released than Africans for a number of reasons. The "Chinese" were closer to their masters, actively mastered crafts, even started their own handicrafts and joined guilds where slave labor was generally prohibited. The more the "Chinese" merged with the free Asians and the local population, the more problematic the possession of Chinos became. The prohibition of slavery of "Asiatics" in 1672 was anticipated for a long time, and the owners either gave them free ones, or looked for different ways to preserve their property, i.e. they issued something like a lease, the so-called temporary slavery. Even before 1672, a kind of racism emerged in Mexico, only blacks were perceived as slaves.

T. Seijas pays much attention to the structure of the economy of free Asians, which later had a great influence on the nature of the occupations of freed Asian slaves. As members of the Native American Republic, Filipinos paid taxes to the treasury. They were engaged in sericulture and weaving; the coconut wine they produced quickly became popular among the local population; they made pulque and agave distillates. The colonial authorities, who protected the surviving "real" Indians in every way, only allowed them to trade in local agricultural products, Asians had to find different ways to circumvent these prohibitions. A lot of Asians have become hairdressers, so what do you think-

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called a wave of protests from Spanish hairdressers. These were perhaps the first cases in history of protests against the dominance of "Chinese" emigrants. Free Asians made many efforts to achieve the same rights that the indigenous population enjoyed, in particular, the right to bear arms and ride a horse. Asian slaves carefully followed all the nuances of the struggle of their personally free compatriots, whose experience helped them quickly establish themselves in a new social status after liberation.

Even before 1672, the Chinos made mass attempts to escape from their masters in order to join the Republic of Indians as a local population. To a large extent, this was due to the external similarity of Asians and Native Indians. Because of this similarity, "Chinese" were more often branded on the face than Africans who were branded on the shoulder or not at all. The similarity of Asians to Indians, the constant criticism of the practice of branding people also led to the fact that it was much easier and more profitable to own Africans.

Archival documents have preserved many remarkable stories of the Chinos ' constant attempts to secure their release. Chinese slaves became free Indians as a result of complex processes that took place over almost a hundred years. And although such an amazing transformation was predetermined by the presence of many conditions, it became possible only thanks to the individual efforts of each"Chinese".

All "Asiatics", both free and slave, converted to Catholicism upon arrival in New Spain and received Spanish names. The Church has never ignored newcomers and their descendants. The relationship between the Church and the" Asians " was complex and diverse. Not everyone was as devout a Catholic as Katarina, the main character of the book: the Inquisition had to deal with frequent cases of heresy and blasphemy. In general, the role of Catholic institutions, as shown by the materials collected by T. Seijas, in the integration of" Asians " into Mexican society was very high. The Church did much for the education and upbringing of Chinos, it took measures that allowed the adoption of a group of laws to abolish the slavery of Asians. The church also supported the poorest members of the new "Indians". Obviously, without church patronage, the process of converting "Chinese" slaves into free Indians would have been much more difficult and would have taken longer.

The amazing stories found by Tatiana Seijas in Mexican and Philippine archives, their scientific interpretation and multi-faceted analysis allow us to see the phenomenon of Asian slavery in colonial Mexico as an example of the formation of a special multi-cultural community as part of the globalization that began in the New Era.


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T. I. Vinogradova, Seijas Tatiana. Asian slaves in colonial Mexico. From Chinos to Indians // New-York: Libmonster (LIBMONSTER.COM). Updated: 22.06.2024. URL: (date of access: 25.07.2024).

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