The Lone Star State of Texas was Once the Philippines' Replicate in the 1700s

Jhemmylrut Teng

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1819 New Spain's map, where Texas was named New Philippines(Source: THSA)

At the height of the Spanish powerful empire, the Philippines was Spain's model colony. Manila, the capital of the Philippines, was then known as the Spanish Empire's dazzling oriental pearl.

The archipelago was even named after King Philip II of the Kingdom of Spain, and the Philippines' reputation in the 1700s even crossed the great Pacific Ocean to New Spain in the Americas.

When the Franciscan missionaries landed in North America, they established Texas—the lone star state as Nuevas Filipinas or the New Philippines to replicate Spain's model colony.

Spanish colonization of the Americas

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Spanish and Portuguese Empire in Americas(Source: Wikicommons)

The Spanish colonization of the Americas began under the Crown of Castile and was spearheaded by the Spanish conquistadors. The Americas were invaded and incorporated into the Spanish Empire, except for Brazil, British America, and other small South America and Caribbean regions.

The Crown created civil and religious structures to administer this vast territory. The two main motivations for colonial expansion were resource extraction and the spread of Catholicism via indigenous conversions.

Beginning with the 1492 arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean and gaining control over more territory for over three centuries, the Spanish Empire eventually expanded across the Caribbean Islands, half of South America, most of Central America, and much of North America.

It is estimated that during the colonial period (1492–1832), a total of 1.86 million Spaniards settled in the Americas and a further 3.5 million immigrated during the post-colonial era (1850–1950); the estimate was 250,000 in the 16th century, and most during the 18th century as immigration was encouraged by the new Bourbon Dynasty.

Spaniard's discovery of Texas

In 1521, Ferdinand Magellan's discovered the Philippine Islands in Asia, a century after Colombus landed in the Americas. But even so, it was only in 1689 Spanish expedition of Alonso de Leon, and Damian Massanet discovered the State of Texas. At that time, the land was just half the size of the current state.

During this period, Manila, across the sea, under Spain, were already well-established

When de Leon and Massanet arrived in Texas, they met some natives who called themselves thecas (friends). On his report to Spain, Massanet said that they met the tribes' chief and dubbed the land as the "great kingdom of the Texas." Ancient Spanish documents initially applied the name "Texas" to the tribe people and not about the geographical location.

The Spaniards initially attempted to Christianize the natives, but it was a failure. The native tribes resisted the Spanish invasion of their homeland, the missionaries returned to Mexico, abandoning Texas for the next two decades.

However, France became a serious threat to Spain in the area. The French expansion from neighboring Louisiana prompted the Spanish to install their people, mainly in East Texas, as a defensive measure.

The New Philippines

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Depiction of Antonio Margil de Jesus(Source: John Carter Brown Library)

In establishing their strong presence in the land, the Spaniards hastened the development of Catholicism and presidios (military forces) in Texas. The role of the presidios was to defend Spain's religious missions by protecting their Franciscan priests. With the presidio as a home base, the priests could then establish missions in nearby regions and Christianize the regions' indigenous people.

In 1717, a famous missionary, Antonio Margil de Jesus, wrote a letter to the viceroy of New Spain about Texas and called it Nuevas Filipinas or the New Philippines. At that point, the Philippines was already considered by the Spanish Crown as the ideal colony, and Margil de Jesus wanted to transform Texas into another one.

He hoped his evangelization work in the new land would gain him the favor of King Philip V of Spain. Naming Texas as Nuevas Filipinas was also his goal to get the King's support. Another letter from a Franciscan embassy to the viceroy shared similar thoughts, expressing their “great hopes that this province shall be the new Philippines.”

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Nuevas Filipinas Map, ca. 1790(Source: Raremaps)

Nuevas Filipinas first appeared in an official 1718 document that gave instructions to governor Martin de Alarcon to reinforce the colony. Alarcon gave himself the grand title “Governor and Lieutenant Captain-General of the Provinces of Coahuila, the New Kingdom of the Philippines, Province of the Texas.” His capital was San Antonio de Bexar (currently San Antonio City).

For 40-years, the Spanish officially declared the province the New Philippines.

The fall of the Spanish Empire

In the 19th century, the Spanish Crown started to lose its influence across the globe. Soon the empire fell, and its colonies, including the Philippines and New Philippines, thrive on having their respective independence.

Accordingly, series of revolutions against the Empire transpired, especially in the Americas. When the Mexican War of Independence of 1810 to 1821 occurred, Texas experienced much turmoil. Rebels overthrew the Spanish Governor Manuel María de Salcedo in 1810, but he persuaded his warden to release him and to assist him in organizing a counter-coup.

Three years later, the Republican Army of the North, consisting primarily of Indians and citizens of the United States, overthrew the Spanish government in Texas and executed Salcedo.

The Spanish responded brutally, and by 1820 fewer than 2,000 Hispanic citizens remained in Texas. In 1821, the Mexican independence movement forced Spain to surrender its control of New Spain, and Texas became part of the United Mexican States in 1824.

However, the newly-established country didn't last for so long. Texas stood as its own independent state and eventually entered the United States of America in 1845. Its citizens used Texas as the state's name.

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Mission Concepcion in Texas(Source: National Park Service)

The Philippines and Texas are two different states from two separate continents. Their shared history of being former Spanish colonies left a deep mark on the Filipinos and Texans' cultures.

Both states have many places named in the Spanish language, and the Spanish architectural landmarks are still standing even up to this day.

The New Philippines may have been a thing of the past for many Texans, a history already lost in the footnotes. But it is good to recognize that Filipinos were not merely thecas or friends for Texans; they were once their brethren.

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I am a PR officer and a professional journalist with a master's degree in international development. I write history, geopolitics, food, and culture. Since I am a member of the API community, I make sure to highlight our stories to promote diversity and create awareness for cultural understanding.

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