“Nuestros salvajes filipinos”: Settler Encounters and Black Indigeneities in Mexico and the Philippines


  • Sony Coráñez Bolton Amherst College


Ethnology; Blackness; Indigeneity; Mestizaje; Race; Philippines


In this essay I develop a relational analysis placing Asian and Latin American racial discourses into conversation. My analysis here seeks to grasp with greater clarity the discrepant ways that Blackness, Indigeneity, and Asian identities are articulated in distinctly and distantly elaborated nation-building projects through mestizaje—a Philippine mestizaje and one originating in Mexico. I move us through an analysis of both Pedro A. Paterno’s ethnological study on Indigenous Philippine Blackness, Los Itas (1915), and José Vasconcelos’s La raza cósmica (1925) as part of a global mestizo archive that is situated in the longue durée of the nineteenth century. The Aetas (or Itas), also commonly known by the Spanish term “Negritos,” are a community of phenotypically Black peoples that inhabit the mountainous regions of the northern Philippines in the island group known as Luzon. They have been a well-known community in the historical and cultural construction of Filipino racial identity. I examine the ways that the Aetas offered evidence of a Blackness that was transformed into a marker indexing the retrogression and development of the “Orient.” The dyad of civilization and barbarism in the Philippines pivoted on the dialectical antinomy of the Orient and Blackness. While the Philippines was not a site of and was far-removed from the transatlantic world, the physical darkness and qualitative Blackness of Indigenous peoples in the Philippines, the Indian subcontinent, and the Antipodes braid together the logics of Orientalism and Blackness in ways that are of interest to a transnational vista of race. This gesture of theoretical braiding of racial logics seemingly more germane to the Atlantic world with racial discourse in the Philippines invites questions on the ways that Blackness and Indigeneity in US-based and Latin American scholarship are treated. In the final analysis, I argue that through the comparison of these different mestizajes that the Asian political subject formation breaks from Indigeneity through the disarticulation of both Asianness and Indianness from Blackness. However, Blackness, as I'll explore, counterintuitively serves as a foundational heuristic device articulating Philippine racial identity through the prism of settler-native encounter. In my view, the racial scientific basis for Philippine racial identity being rooted in a conquest narrative of Malays conquering Indigenous “Filipinos” whose primitivity is indexed by Blackness has the potential to greatly reshape Philippine and Filipinx historiographies of race. This case study, I argue, provides compelling historical paradigms for thinking creatively and in coalition across Asian American, Latinx, Black, and Indigenous community and political formations in the present. 


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How to Cite

Coráñez Bolton, S. (2023). “Nuestros salvajes filipinos”: Settler Encounters and Black Indigeneities in Mexico and the Philippines. Periphērica: Journal of Social, Cultural, and Literary History, 2(2). Retrieved from https://journals.oregondigital.org/peripherica/article/view/6012



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