Reconnect with Mexico

Colima, Mexico – Two years ago, the fact that there is a “Mexico” in the Philippines – in particular, a municipality in Pampanga (incidentally where, according to my Lolo Basilio, our patriarch Gavino Lasco is from ) – has gone viral on Mexican social networks. , causing the fascination of its Internet users, many of whom do not know the past relations of our two countries.

The media took the opportunity to question popular opinion. As El Universal says: “For most Mexicans the name of the Philippines is synonymous with a distant land, customs and traditions are radically different from ours; but we cannot be more wrong because we share much more than we imagine. Among the examples the paper provided were the similarity between our barong and their guayabera, the many Nahuatl words in our languages ​​(e.g. tukayo), and the fact that, thanks to Mexican telenovelas, some Filipinos born in the 1990s are called Thalia. and Marimar.

Today’s circumstances, I believe, are favorable to the renewal and deepening of these links.

Thanks to writers and academics around the world, we now know more about our shared past than at any time in history. I already mentioned some of the Mexico-based exchanges in my previous column. On the Filipino side, notable examples include “Manila Men in the New World” (2007) by Floro Mercene, a collection of essays edited by Ricardo Soler titled “Mexico and the Philippines – An Unwritten History” (2015), and the work of the historian Jaime Veneracion.

Mexicans and Filipinos who have traveled to each other’s countries also embody and rekindle these bonds. Former beauty queen and tourism secretary Gemma Cruz-Araneta, for example, has written often about her 18th birthday in Mexico. Pandemic aside, the relative ease of travel today has made this country more accessible to a growing middle class, and even now I have met or heard of Filipinos here – digital nomads seeking temporary refuge from (alas) the failure of the country’s pandemic response to artists such as the sculptor Eduardo Olbés and the late painter Romeo Tabuena who have found permanent homes there.

Conversely, I also met Mexicans in Manila, especially travel bloggers who wanted to climb our mountains or, as in the case of my friend Lenin, learn about our martial arts. Certainly at least some of these trips are guided by a desire – shared by Filipinos like me – to expand their cultural universe and go beyond usual Europe and America.

To capitalize on these efforts, we will need more investment in cultural and academic exchanges that further unearth our shared past and create opportunities for a more connected future. We must also revisit the kind of history we teach and, in doing so, correct the erasure of the various exchanges that make up the plurality of our identity, that which encompasses Asia, Austronesia and Latin America.

But while decentring Spain in our history, I think that we must rediscover Spanish not as the language of colonizer, but as the language of colonized and decolonizer. Much of the literature and history of our people is in danger of being lost if we do not recover them, whether in libraries in Mexico, archives in Spain, or in our own institutions. Given how much our vernacular has been shaped by Spanish, it will also enrich our appreciation of our local languages. And, of course, this will allow us to better connect with a whole continent of which we could very well have been a part culturally. “Despite their shared history, Filipinos do not generally identify as Hispanic or Latino,” writes Anthony Christian Ocampo in “The Latinos of Asia” (2016). “However, history tells us that this possibility cannot necessarily be ruled out.”

Beyond our historical ties, contemporary Mexico can teach us a lot about a variety of issues and can serve as a mirror of our own experiences, from church-state relations and indigenous struggles to ongoing drug wars in very different contexts. And it can inspire us in areas such as inclusive urban planning and transportation (I’ll write about the emerging bike culture in Mexico City in another column), gender equality and, beyond Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, the arts.

By recognizing the value of reclaiming our bonds with one another, we can still participate in what researcher Rudy Guevara Jr. (2011) calls a “multicultural experience”, one “that is deeply Mexican but also Filipino”.

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