The Hinabi Project

   The Art of Philippine Textiles

Embroidered Histories: Spanish Manila, American Manila

Embroidered Histories: Spanish Manila, American Manila
(One goal of the Hinabi Project is to discover existing woven (indigenous and modern) artifacts that illustrate Philippine artisan skills, past and present, from archives, collections, or even memories. So when on Mother’s Day, on a weekend at Monterrey, we made an unlikely discovery. We celebrated the day at the  Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo. The mission was founded in 1770 and served as the headquarters for Father Junipero Serra, a soon-to-be-canonized saint and who founded missions from San Diego to San Francisco. It was a rather joyful service. The mothers each received a red rose and a special blessing for the day. After the mass, we wandered around the mission compound which housed several museums. For some reason, we gravitated towards a small cottage that was named Munras Family Heritage Museum and entered from the bright courtyard into its dimly lit sala (living room).  As our eyes adjusted to the shadows, several display cases came into focus. One quickly caught our attention - a shawl with rose and flower embroidery draped over a stand. A quick glance at the posted label said: “Early 19th century silk shawl from Manila”. The other items listed were various objects from China, Mexico, and Spain. On the wall the a sign described the collection: 
                         A Blended Heritage (Spain, North Africa, Mexico, Asia) 
As we peered closer into the display case, the shawl embroidery became apparent - large roses and leaves,  and sunflowers, stitched in profusion onto the silk until it ended where the strands of fringes began. It was, based on our familiarity with collection of similar shawls by our good friend, Edwin, that this was a Mantón de Manila. These shawls were embroidered either by Chinese and native Filipino workers and was in such demand in Europe. The rose and daisy motif indicated a later provenance, as embroiderers shifted from Chinese motifs of peacocks and pagodas to European designs and meanings. The rose signified secrecy and the sunflower, fidelity.  How it got here is a story worth investigating perhaps at a later date. It did seem to confirm that Mexican-California was a recipient of the rich and diverse cultural artifacts known as California Mission Art that circulated between Spain, North Africa, Mexico, Asia via the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade. One might want to say, that the wealthy residents of Monterrey subscribed to the notion of orientalism - the demand for chinoiserie in Spain and Europe and spilled over to the California elite. The California missions both as a economic (fresh water and oranges supplies to prevent scurvy during the long voyage) and religious strategy that served to support the Manila-Acapulco trade also introduced Manila to Mexican-California as a source of exquisite craft for religious worship and fashion. Spanish Monterrey at the turn of the century was an important port for foreign vessels.  Several decades later, as a U.S. colony, Americans re-discovered Philippine embroidery work introduced in the St. Louis World Exposition of 1904. Philippine crafts, specially  embroidered piña (pineapple) fabric artistry created a huge demand that reached its height before World War Two.  
 
 
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