Eva Mehl – Transportation of Mexican Recruits and Vagrants to the Philippines: Relationships of Power in the Periphery of the Spanish Empire, 1765-1811

 

Event Dates: 13 – 16 September 2015
College Court Conference Centre
Knighton Road,
Leicester LE2 3UF

The Carceral Archipelago: Transnational Circulations in Global Perspective, 1415-1960

Eva Mehl (North Carolina) – Transportation of Mexican Recruits and Vagrants to the Philippines: Relationships of Power in the Periphery of the Spanish Empire, 1765-1811

Between 1765 and 1811, Mexico City sent to Manila, Philippines about 4,000 Mexicans, including recruits and vagrants who had been sentenced to military service or public works. At this time, the Spanish empire was undertaking a military overhaul of its overseas possessions in the Pacific. However, viceregal authorities used Manila’s need for military replacements as an outlet to exile individuals who embodied moral attributes despised by the Mexican governing elites.  Yet the office of the viceroy was apparently unaware of or unconcerned by the insurmountable difficulties faced by the governor in Manila and his subordinates as they tried to employ these difficult men in defense of the archipelago. By showing that the viceroyalty of Mexico played a central role in sculpting Spain’s relationship with her most remote possession, my study makes a contribution to the scholarship that challenges the interpretation of the absolutist state as absolute.  My work argues instead that recognizing a greater degree of local and regional autonomy on the part of viceroys and governors will help us understand how the Spanish Empire was governed. This transportation process also illuminates that the history of the Spanish Philippines is better apprehended by including the history of colonial Mexico, and vice versa. The Philippines have been almost exclusively ascribed to the field of South East Asian history and the historiographical discourse of colonial Mexico –and Spanish America- has largely ignored the role of the Philippines as the far western frontier of the Mexican viceroyalty.

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