Tale of two ‘Infidentes’

During those more than 300 years in a convent (according to Carmen Guerrero Nakpil), the Philippines was never considered a settler colony, unlike its Latin American counterparts. Perhaps it was because of the distance from the metropolis. However, there were certain categories of non-permanent migrants like government officials, military volunteers, members of religious orders and of the clergy, traders and exiled criminals.

Significantly, in the 19th century, “infidentes” was added to that list.

“Infidente” is derived from two Latin words, “in” which means to deprive and “fidentia” which is trustor confidence. Those who were deemed unfaithful to the Spanish Crown, those who cavorted with its enemies (for example, adictos a los franceses) were charged with “infidencia.” In our terms, “infidentes” are insurrectos and rebeldes. Between 1810 to 1821, the period of anti-colonial independence movements in Latin America, the Virreinato de la Nueva Espana (Mexico) established a “Tribunal de Infidencias” to monitor, pursue, and arrest those who committed the crime of rebellion. In Mexico, 40 of the “infidentes” found guilty by Tribunal were unceremoniously exiled to the Philippines.

Among the 40 were two brothers from Queretaro — Epigmenio and Emeterio Gonzalez. They were members of the Academia Literaria along with future generals and heroes of the Independence movement like Ignacio Allende and the brothers Juan and Ignacio Aldama.

In the family hacienda in Huichapan, Epigmenio and Emeterio accumulated a cache of arms and organized a group of 300 with whom they made plans to join the anti-colonial movement to liberate Mexico from Spain. Unfortunately, they were denounced, arrested, and imprisoned for several years while their trial was going on at the Tribunal de Infidentes. The relentless Epigmenio organized the prisoners and wrote the now famous revolutionary pamphlet “La Aurora Queretana y la proclama a los electores” where he referred to Mexico as “mi patria.” The Tribunal denounced Epigmenio’s manifesto as libelous, incendiary, heretical, and offensive to the Holy Inquisition. The brothers were sentenced to death in March, 1816, but their family probably had connections so the Viceroy commuted the death sentence to exile in the Philippines.

Emeterio died here; as for Epigenio, his request to return to Mexico was finally granted after 28 years. The administration of Gen. Nicolas Bravo, the 11th president of Mexico, gave Epigenio a hero’s welcome. He was offered a yearly pension of 100 and was appointed to an honorary position in the state of Guadalajara where he died in 1858. His remains were later transferred to his hometown, Queretaro, and interred in the Pantheon de los Queretaro’s Lusters (Pantheon of Illustrious Queretanos).

Mexicans venerate Epigenio Gonzalez as one of the precursors of Independence; during their centennial, Mexico issued postage stamps to honor their heroes. Among them was Epigenio. His name was engraved on the Independence Monument (Columna de la Independencia) on the Paseo de la Reforma, the main avenue of Mexico City.

During the Spanish colonial period in the Philippines, there were government officials who were Mexicans, particularly in the military sector, who were quickly replace by Spaniards. It was a precautionary measure, especially after the revolt of Andres Novales in 1823. Novales was a Mexican Creole, a captain in the Spanish Army who led a revolt against the Crown. He and his followers captured Intramuros; Novales declared himself Emperor of the Philippines, but he was defeated at the end of the day by Spanish troops reinforced with contingents from Pampanga. The Filipinos were just beginning to think of themselves as a nation.

(Source: Del Castillo, Andres, “Los Infidentes Mexicanos en Filipinas,” El Galeon de Manila: Un mar de historias, JGH Editores, Mexico D. F. 1997)