Basques in the Philippines
The Basques, one of Spain's most distinct ethnic minorities, played a remarkably influential role in the creation and maintenance of Spain's vast colonial empire, including the Philippines. Basques were members of the Magellan expedition that discovered the Philippines in 1521, and a Basque-led expedition subsequently laid the foundation for Spain's conquest and pacitication of the archipelago. Despite the small population of their native provinces, the Basques' unique skills as shipbuilders, navigators, businessmen, and scribes; their evangelical zeal; and their ethnic cohesion and work-oriented culture made them well suited to serve as explorers, colonial administrators, missionaries, settlers, merchants, and shippers in the trans-Pacific galleon trade between China, Manila, and Acapulco, Mexico. After the Wars of Independence deprived Spain of most of its American empire, many Basques settled in the Philippines, fleeing political persecution and increasingly limited opportunities in their homeland. Basque emigration from Spain to the Philippines continued through the first half of the twentieth century. This work breaks new ground with its study of the Basque diaspora in the far East. It also addresses the long-unappreciated history of the Philippines as a vital part of the Spanish Empire, closely connected through trade and personal ties to the American colonies, and crucial to the European penetration of East Asia. Basques distinguished themselves in many areas of Filipino life, and their story, as told by Marciano de Borja, is rich in vivid characters and fascinating detail, while at the same time filling an important void in the scholarly literature about the Basque diaspora.
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