Evading the Inquisition and Feasting the Ancestors in the Colonial Spanish Philippines

Saturday, January 6, 2018: 1:50 PM
Madison Room B (Marriott Wardman Park)
Matthew J. Furlong, University of Arizona
Much of the most recent historiography of the colonial Philippines has treated it as an appendage of the economies and societies of colonial Mexico and early modern China. These were crucial connections, but this paper emphasize how individuals from diverse island Southeast Asian cultures also shaped, constructed, and contested economic, cultural, and political practices in the colonial Philippines. This paper examines the role of Filipinos in heterodox shamanistic practices that informed intercultural relations in the countryside of the island of Panay, far from the colonial capital of Manila. The paper sheds light on colonial Mexican history, as well. Filipinos and other Asians maintained a strong presence in early Pacific Mexico, bringing many practices with them on the Manila galleon.

This paper explores the highly-mediated transcripts of the case of Antonio de Rojas, a Filipino mestizo accused by the Inquisition of summoning ancestor-spirits, or anitos, in the seventeenth-century Philippines. The paper illuminates how Southeast Asian cultural and religious practices shaped interactions in Spanish Asia, also revealing the social complexity and ethnic diversity of the countryside near the municipalities of Iloilo and villa of Arévalo, which hosted Visayan Filipino workers and peasants, Hokkien artisans and merchants, and Spanish and Filipino soldiers. Their unfree populations included indigenous debt servants and foreign enslaved people from societies influenced by Malay, Malukan, and Islamicate practices.