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Multi-cultural Sunday readings

24 January 2010

… In volume 2 of the five-volume work entitled Five Thousand Years of History of China and Foreign Cultural Exchange from China’s World Knowledge Publishing House, section six of chapter 10 narrates the settlement of the Chinese in Latin America.

According to documents that date back to around the late 16th century and first half of the 17th century, Chinese merchants, artisans, sailors and helpers arrived in Mexico and Peru to do business or work there, through the Manila galleon trade.

Since Spanish colonizers monopolized the trade between the Philippines and Mexico, the Chinese who went to Latin America had to pass through Manila. Consequently, they were called Manila Chinese. They were mostly merchants, serfs and sailors.

In the late 16th century, in order to develop and exploit Latin America, the Spanish colonizers ordered and allowed Chinese artisans to enter Latin America. Thus, thousands of Chinese artisans, including weavers, tailors, carpenters, masons, blacksmiths, jewelry smiths and barbers were continuously transferred from Manila to work there.

Go Bon Juan, Manila Times, via Chinese In Mexico

Chinese In Mexico (which I had a hand in getting started, but has been since taken over, upgraded and turned in an invaluable resource on Asian-Latin history by Scott Parks) has several new postings, all making fascinating reading on an overlooked influence on Latin-American culture.

Another multi-cultural site that should be visited is vachiem eecha, which gives you your choice of learning about the Yaquí and Mayo people of Sonora in English, Spanish or Yoemi.  Lots of good material here:

From a back issue (way back in May 2009) of Mexico Premier is a visit to the Museo de Arte Popular in Mexico City… something that really, really, really should be toured in person:

The Museo de Arte Popular (MAP) is located downtown one block south of the Parque Alameda Central inside a handsome Art Deco building that would look perfectly at home in Gotham City. This former police and fire station may seem an unlikely spot for a museum, but it is one of the best of its kind in the country, bringing together folk art from all of Mexico’s 31 states.

Inaugurated on February 28, 2006, this new museum now showcases some 2000 contemporary and traditional pieces reflecting Mexico’s cultural and geographical diversity. The collections — which range from fanciful papier maché and ceramic sculptures (see photo above) to colorful indigenous costumes and religious art — are arrayed in spacious, well-lighted galleries occupying two upper floors. Descriptions in both Spanish and English accompany the exhibits, and video screens show the production of various crafts as well as festivals and dances from around the country. On the building’s ground floor is one of the best-stocked handicrafts stores that I’ve come across in Mexico City. There is also a peaceful courtyard café that makes an ideal spot to decompress in after roaming the city’s bustling streets.

King Farouk of Egypt remarked in exile that in the future, there would only be five kings — The Kings of Hearts, Spades, Clubs, Diamonds and England. He forgot Tonga. (Jerome Taylor, The Independent):

There aren’t many guides published on how to greet a Pacific island monarch, but an internet search the night before reveals that Tongans obey a strict code of ancient etiquette when addressing their royals including, I now know, making sure they never walk in front of them.

…  Siaosi Taufa’ahau Manumataongo Tuku’aho Tupou V, better known as King George Tupou V, sweeps into the room and warmly greets our respectful Western bows with smiles. Known for his love of bespoke couture he is dressed like the perfect country squire in a tailored double-breasted suit and a salmon pink shirt and sports an immaculate pencil moustache. His English accent, honed at Oxford and Sandhurst, is as spotless as his clothes.

King George ascended Tonga’s throne in 2006 following the death of his much loved father Taufa’ahau Tupou IV who, at 6ft 5in and 33 stone, was famously defined by the Guinness Book of Records as being the world’s largest monarch. Taufa’ahau ruled the Pacific’s last remaining monarchy with a mixture of paternalism and absolute control for more than four decades. His son was regarded in Tonga as something of a playboy – a rich kid, educated in boarding schools overseas who was detached from Tonga’s largely impoverished and deeply Christian population.

Overseas he was renowned for eccentric hobbies (collecting toy soldiers, military uniforms and pith helmets) and behaviour. For official engagements, for instance, he preferred to be chauffeured in a pristinely upholstered London cab because, he once explained, it was “easier to get in and out of when you’re wearing a sword”.

Had he not been made Crown Prince, King George would have been happy to continue living his quiet but gilded life. But duty inevitably came calling. And life has been anything but quiet since taking Tonga’s throne.

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