The definitive account of transpacific Asian movement through the Spanish empire—from Manila to Acapulco and beyond—and its implications for the history of race and colonization in the Americas.
Between 1565 and 1815, the so-called Manila galleons enjoyed a near-complete monopoly on transpacific trade between Spain’s Asian and American colonies. Sailing from the Philippines to Mexico and back, these Spanish trading ships also facilitated the earliest migrations and displacements of Asian peoples to the Americas. Hailing from Gujarat, Nagasaki, and many places in between, both free and enslaved Asians boarded the galleons and made the treacherous transpacific journey each year. Once in Mexico, they became “chinos” within the New Spanish caste system.
Diego Javier Luis chronicles this first sustained wave of Asian mobility to the early Americas. Uncovering how and why Asian peoples crossed the Pacific, he sheds new light on the daily lives of those who disembarked at Acapulco. There, the term “chino” officially racialized diverse ethnolinguistic populations into a single caste, vulnerable to New Spanish policies of colonial control. Yet Asians resisted these strictures, often by forging new connections across ethnic groups. Social adaptation and cultural convergence, Luis argues, defined Asian experiences in the Spanish Americas from the colonial invasions of the sixteenth century to the first cries for Mexican independence in the nineteenth.
The First Asians in the Americas speaks to an important era in the construction of race, vividly unfolding what it meant to be “chino” in the early modern Spanish empire. In so doing, it demonstrates the significance of colonial Latin America to Asian diasporic history and reveals the fundamental role of transpacific connections to the development of colonial societies in the Americas.
The First Asians in the Americas is essential reading for anybody interested in the histories of global migration, race, and colonization in the Americas. Through painstaking archival research in Spain, Mexico, the United States, and the Philippines, Diego Javier Luis offers a bold reconceptualization of Asian migration to the Americas and restores heretofore little-known people and communities to their rightful places in history.
No clue is too small for this modern-day detective-historian. Diego Javier Luis has pieced together the most comprehensive and fascinating history to date of Asians in colonial Mexico.
A groundbreaking study of Asian diasporic experiences in the Spanish Empire. The decks of the Manila galleons, the coastal Acapulco-to-Colima corridor, and much of Pacific Mexico emerge here as spaces of Asian adaptability and social, cultural, and linguistic exchanges. Through the lens of global microhistory, Luis recovers and humanizes the history of colonial ‘chino’ populations in all their complexity.
Diego Javier Luis has given us the first of its kind: a study of the transpacific Asian migration to the Americas under Spanish imperial rule. This book radically revolutionizes our understanding of race-making and mestizaje in the Spanish Americas and the Spanish transpacific.
A broadly thought-provoking book. …Although the modern Western use of ‘Asian’ is perhaps better (and arguably more benign) than the colonial use of ‘chino’ as an identifier, it suffers from much the same problem of ‘collapsing’ various ‘diverse ethnolinguistic groups’ to the benefit of some, perhaps, but the detriment of others. Luis’s book is a salutary reminder that all this started long ago.
- 368 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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