The Manila Chinese: Community, Trade, and Empire, c.1570-c.1770
Kueh, Joshua Eng Sin
This study focuses on the Chinese community of Manila from 1570 to 1770, revealing that the community was not an insular, ethnic enclave unified in its efforts and aspirations but one made up of different groups with varying goals. Not all Chinese saw the Spanish presence as conducive to their livelihoods but certain sectors of the community did. I argue the collaboration of these elements within the Chinese community was essential in maintaining the Spanish presence in Manila. Those whose interests most closely aligned with Spanish aims included a small group of wealthy Chinese merchants involved in supplying the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade with merchandise (mainly silk), merchants and artisans in the Chinese quarter called the Parián and Chinese leaders who acted as middlemen linking the needs of the regime with Southern Fujianese workers to supply the city with services, food, and labor. In return, Spaniards provided New Spanish silver, government monopolies and recognition of the authority of Chinese elites over laborers. In that way, the Spanish empire in the Asia-Pacific region was a collaborative enterprise, constructed in the cooperation of various interest groups.When the abuses of Spanish authorities threatened the lives of those they ruled, Chinese intermediaries could not maintain their claims of mitigating the demands of the regime on behalf of Chinese workers and lost control of those under their supervision. In 1603, 1639, and 1662, Chinese laborers raised the banner of revolt. These moments of violent rupture with the colonial order indicate that mediation was crucial to preserving the Spanish presence in Manila. Coercion could put down threats to control but on its own could not hold colonial society together.The Chinese, with others, created the ties that bound colonial society together through kinship and credit networks for mutual aid. Compadrazgo (coparenthood), padrinazgo (godparenthood), and marriage connected Chinese to colonial society and provided a means of profit, protection and recruiting labor. These links persisted into the nineteenth century and helped the Chinese shape the ecology of Manila to their purposes, albeit within the confines of Spanish sovereignty.Sources: baptismal records, notarial books (protocolos de Manila), court cases
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