To celebrate 200 years of Latin America, my university has organized various activities around Spain’s ex-colonies. This week saw the inauguration of a series of conferences entitled La Hispanidad en América. The organizers have filled the corridors with posters promoting the conferences (see photo). The countries where Spanish influence has reached are colored green, while the rest of the world map is in very faint pink. When I saw the poster, one thing immediately came to mind: the Philippines is not colored green! Then I calmed down and thought of course we’re not part of America (as they call Latin America). So it’s ok if we’re not colored green on the map. We can do with the light pink. But that brings me to my next point.
When I arrived in Spain in 2008 I realized how ignorant I was about our ex-“mother” country. It was absent from my imagination, except for Padre Damaso and guardia civil, and some other Spanish sounding word, like the filipinized version of Castilla (kastila). After talking to people here (even history scholars, mind you), I became aware of another very enlightening thing. The ignorance is mutual! The Philippines is generally absent from the Spanish imagination (even scholarly historical memory). In one Latin American history class I asked if we were going to talk about, or even just mention the Philippine revolution. The teacher politely advised me not to even expect it because the independencias tardías were not part of the program. Fine.
I think when older Spaniards hear “Philippines” they think “Los últimos de Filipinas” and the tragic loss of the Antilles in 1898. When they hear “Asia” or “Extremo Oriente” they think of China. I could be wrong but I have a feeling that history faculties here (at least in one university I know whose name I won’t mention) are digging up lost and forgotten relations with China using the Philippines as a jumping board, if they remember it at all. Of course this forgetfulness of the past is further reinforced by maps like the one I show you now, right? Obviously, I’m not blaming anyone for this mutual act of shelving the past. I know that as I write, many people here and in the Philippines in the areas of culture, commerce and industry are trying to pick up the pieces to reconnect severed ties. I’m glad they’re doing it. Why? Because Spain is part of our heritage, no matter how much we have filipinized Spanish traditions. And the Philippines is a small chunk of Spain’s past, despite the bitterness of 1898. Written by Grace Concepcion.
Filipinos: Latinos of Asia or Little Brown Americans? Photo from Kapisanan Philippine Centre for Arts and Culture http://kapisanan.wordpress.com/