A Transpacific Maritime Enterprise and America’s First Chinatown
This essay depicts the beginning of the Spanish Empire in the Asia-Pacific in the mid-sixteenth century (Ming dynasty), when Spaniard Miguel de Legazpi from Mexico in the Americas colonized the Philippines and established Manila as an extension of Spain’s American colony of New Spain. Sustaining this trans-Pacific relationship for 250 year was the Manila Galleon Trade between Acapulco, Mexico and Manila, trading American silver for Chinese silk, porcelain and other fine goods. The large community (twenty to thirty thousand) of Hokkien-speaking migrants from South Fujian (Minnan) which quickly arose and confined to ethnic neighbourhood outside the Manila city wall, became indispensable to the galleon trade by transporting from China all the luxury goods for the galleons, while resident artisans and labourers provided all the everyday consumer items, food, and services to the small Spanish population in Manila city. This first American “Chinatown” was the first large and permanent overseas Chinese community of Southeast Asia/Nanyang, which launched the worldwide Chinese diasporic movement that continues to this day, stretching all over the Americas, Europe and Africa.
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