There are amusing stories about the first batch of Spanish lady immigrants who went to the colonies in the Caribbean and the South American continent. Some of them came with the entourage of wives of important government officials, while others were relatives of the ex-conquistadores and soldiers who had already settled in the
Americas. Apparently, there were dancing parties arranged so that the new arrivals would meet the yet unmarried veterans of the conquest who came as audacious young studs, but by then wereretired soldier-of-fortune, enriched with haciendas and repartimientos, but were growing old in the colonies.
Once at one of these parties, a batch of senoritas were shocked at the appearance of the gentlemen guests; they were much older than expected, many had missing limbs and ears, defaced with scars from skirmishes with the natives, wealthy but embittered. One of the veterans heard some of the senoritas mocking them and was cruel enough to say they would marry them anyway to inherit their haciendas and live as merry widows. The offended veteran lost no time in telling his colleagues about the unkind remarks. The day after, they all flocked tto church with their native concubines and married them.
There was something called “divorcio a la Espanola” which meant that husbands who sailed to the colonies abandoned their wives in Spain. The case of a certain Licenciado Arcillo was a rather celebrated one; he arrived in La EspaÑola in 1512 and lived a carefree bachelor’s life for six years totally abandoning his wife and family in Spain.; Unknown to him, his long-suffering wife Catalina de Zapata, demanded an audience with the King of Spain and begged him to uphold her rights as the legal wife of Arcillo . His Majesty ordered the faithless husband to return to his wife in the first available ship.
There were numerous cases like that so King Carlos I in May 1539 decreed that men who wanted to go to the New World for whatever reason had to bring their wives and families with them. He also forbade the immigration of single women because of reports about their scandalous behavior, and of unaccompanied married women many of whom claimed to be looking for their husbands but had no intentions of reuniting with them. What a problem that must have been for the very religious kings of Spain whose avowed objective for colonization was to spread the Word of God and Christianize the natives of the lands they conquered. In 1544, the Holy Inquisition was tasked to preserve the “buenas costumbres” and morals of the colonizers. .The Casa de Contratacion de Sevilla was also notified about this pro-family royal policy.
The arrival of Spanish women in the New World, first in the Caribbean and later to the Viceroyalties of New Spain and Peru became the template of colonization for the rest of the South American continent where Spain held sway. Interestingly, the presence of Spanish women had a very deep cultural impact; they taught their language to the Indian women but not in the rigid form of the friars. They developed their own sub-language, so to speak, one they would use while talking to Indian women while buying good in the markets, while haggling and bargaining or arguing about the quality of merchandise. They used that language while cooking with ingredients from Spain and from the colonies, concocting the most delicious combinations that to these days are considered delicacies.
The Spanish women also influenced native fashions, introducing designs from the metropolis; on the other hand, they also made use of the exquisite native weaves and adornments to enhance Spanish fashion. While their husbands were engaged in the first trans-Pacific trade, with administering the colonies and guarding its borders from predators, while the men built aqueducts, churches and palaces, the women were the harbingers of culture, inventing a language, enhancing tastes and flavors, raising their children to appreciate the two cultures they constantly melded in day- to- day life.
What about the Philippines? I am still looking for the answers.