Are Filipinos Hispanic? I was very puzzled because this is not the first time I come across this question. I decided to do some research and personally call Dr. Gaerlan and Dr. Nadal, two qualified professionals at different universities in the U.S. to speak about the matter. Below are their answers…
Can Filipinos Be Hispanic?
Barbara S. Gaerlan, Ph.D., Assistant Director at the UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies
The answer could be “yes” or “no” or even “yes and no.” It is a personal choice on how people wanted to identify themselves. The person’s definition of the word “Hispanic” would be crucial in making the decision.
The U.S. Census Bureau defines “Hispanic” as a person of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin. By this they usually mean people whose ancestors originated in Spain and/or Latin American countries that speak Spanish today as their main language. By this definition, Filipinos would not be Hispanics, since they come from an Asian country, and very few Filipinos today speak Spanish at home.
The most widely-spoken languages are Tagalog-based Filipino and English (the result of a U.S. colonial presence from 1898-1946 and continued close political, economic, migratory, and military ties with the U.S. since 1946). And, in the U.S. Census, Filipinos are included as a separate, Asian American category.
So for people for whom these criteria are most important, and who choose to define Filipino identity by the country’s evolution during the 20th century, the answer would be “no.”
On the other hand, a different definition of “Hispanic” could yield a different answer. Filipinos can be considered Hispanic if one prioritizes the definition that countries colonized by Spain are “Hispanic” because of that historical influence — no matter what their location on the globe or current linguistic status.
Spain colonized the Philippines in 1565 and ruled most of the country until 1898 (333 years) — a longer time period than in some Latin American countries. To research Philippine history during those 333 years, knowledge of Spanish is essential for scholars.
Ethnically, although there was not as much migration to the Philippines from Spain as there was to Latin America, quite a few Filipinos can claim some Spanish ancestry.
Migration to the Philippines from Spain was quite extensive after the Suez Canal opened in 1869. By this definition Filipinos could choose to self-identify as Hispanic.
Even today, the Philippines nationally continues to exhibit numerous traits inherited from Spain: overwhelmingly Roman Catholic religion and related cultural legacies, many Spanish personal names, Spanish musical traditions, many Spanish vocabulary words incorporated into Filipino indigenous languages, etc. People emphasizing this historical and cultural legacy could answer “yes,” Filipinos are Hispanic.
Finally, people could acknowledge the complexity of Filipino history and say “yes and no” — claiming some Hispanic heritage but recognizing that in the Philippines at least, it is receding as time goes by.
Are Filipinos Hispanic?
Why is this question being asked today?
In the United States, Filipino immigrants to the U.S. have come into close contact with immigrants from Latin America. This contact has helped to educate both groups about their shared “Hispanic” heritage. This bodes very well for increased investigation of the many centuries of shared colonial history even if there was a break during the 20th century.
Even if Filipinos immigrated to the U.S. without a thought of “Hispanic” identity, once here, Filipino Americans are more likely to study Spanish language than are Filipino students in the Philippines. Also once in the U.S. some Filipino Americans begin doing research on the history of Filipinos in California, Mexico, Louisiana, etc., in the days of the Galleon Trade between Manila and Acapulco (1565-1815).
All these activities help to expand consciousness about “Hispanic” Filipino identity, and lead to more and more people questioning the extent to which Filipinos are “Hispanic.”
Kevin L. Nadal, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology and Deputy Director of Forensic Mental Health Counseling Program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice- City University of New York
Dr. Nadal lectured on “Filipino American Psychology: A Handbook of Theory, Research, and Clinical Practice” at the Asian American Research institute of the City University of New York.
When I asked Dr. Nadal: Are Filipinos Hispanic? He answered…
In earlier censuses and other surveys, Filipinos have been classified as Hispanic, due to the 350+ years of Spanish colonization.
Filipinos share many commonalities with Latinos/Hispanics including Catholicism/Christianity, cultural and family values, gender roles, and even some aspects of language.
Also, because of their Spanish surnames and phenotype, some Filipinos often get mistaken for Hispanic, adding even more to their connection with Hispanic communities.