Madrid, 1887

11 Aug

by Freda Changat

José Rizal was touring Europe in 1887 when Spain still ruled the Philippines. He was infuriated about the news that a group of Igorots was brought to Madrid for the Exposición de las Islas Filipinas, held in the city’s Zoological Garden.

For many years, he had worked towards a Philippine Exposition in Madrid which would attract Spain’s attention to the products and handicrafts of the Philippines- ¨but not on exposition of persons so the lazy inhabitants of Madrid might amuse themselves through this display of our country folk as curiosity.¨

Contemporary Spanish reacted in the same way as many Americans in Seattle did two decades later, with fascinated contempt.  Rizal was outraged. In his letter exchange with Ferdinand Blumentritt, he expressed his great concern:

“I have worked hard against this degradation of my fellow Filipinos that they should not be exhibited among the animals and plants!  But I was helpless.  One woman has just died of pneumonia … and the newspaper El Resumen has made a smutty wisecrack about it!  And La Correspondencia de España even says ‘The Filipino colony in Madrid is enjoying the most perfect health; up to the present, no more than two or three have fallen ill of colds and bronchitis.’  I need hardly comment on this.

“I would rather that they all got sick and died so they would suffer no more.  Let the Philippines forget that her sons have been treated like this — to be exhibited and ridiculed.”

This was the first of all Igorot shows. It was condemned by Rizal but his persuasion had no more effect than many American voices, including Teddy Roosevelt’s, that protested Igorot shows.  There was money to be made and a prejudiced public to be pandered to.

Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis, Missouri, 1904

Alaska-Yukon Pacific Exhibition, Seattle, Washington, 1909

Universal Exposition, Ghent, Belgium, 1913. Photo of a Senegalese Village where the Igorot Village was an add on

The Philippine colonial government did not succeed in banning Igorot shows until 1914, just in time to countermine American entrepreneurs’ plans for a major Igorot village at San Francisco’s 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition.


Jose Rizal-Ferdinand Blumentritt correspondence-22 November 1886 Exhibition of Igorots-1887 Rizal’s scholarly activities in Europe

The Rizal quote is from William Henry Scott’s History on the Cordillera (Baguio, 1975, p 13).; data on the end of Igorot shows are from Patricia Afable, Journeys from Bontoc 1904-1915 in Philippine Studies, 2004, pp 445-474; the image of Rizal is from Wikipedia Commons


4 Responses to “Madrid, 1887”

  1. fargo BIBAK August 12, 2010 at 11:04 am #

    Dan and the whole team, iyaman ko unay nan gawis ay nem-nem yu kenda kami ay Igorot isna Barcelona… men yaman ak tay naibilang ak isnan angbagongfilipino writers and researhers team tako isna España…(i´ll explain what does that mean later, ok? hehehe) Let´s continue to work as a team regardless of our cultural differences. Kabunyan is great!!!

  2. michelle marie antang November 25, 2010 at 5:06 am #

    this site is really great it helps me find my research and assignments faster and easy.i also get some interesting view about,even if we are different races we should be able to treat everyone as unique.and not at that kind of exhibition.that’s all.

    • Daniel November 25, 2010 at 11:22 am #

      thanks for the comment. good luck in your research and assignments 🙂

  3. Annette Sebya Deppas Tanglib February 12, 2015 at 12:49 pm #

    For how many years of studying the Philippine History, edwanik lang ay na-am-muwan nan na-ey da ay banag. Thank you for posting this information’s!
    Matago tago tako am-in ay IGOROT!

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