Filipinos & Cuba

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‘New Philippines’ in Cuba

First Posted 12:12:00 12/16/2009

MANILA, PhilippinesCuba and the Philippines share more than a common colonial past: The third largest province in Cuba, Pinar Del Rio was formerly called Nueva Filipinas (New Philippines) in the mid-18th century.

The area evidently became known as Nueva Filipinas as a result of the influx of Asians—Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos and other Asians—who came to work in the region's extensive tobacco fields, according to the Philippine embassy in Havana.

Philippine Ambassador to Cuba MacArthur Corsino led the Philippine delegation that visited the province on December 11 to 12 to strengthen the historical and cultural ties between the two countries. The delegation, which included Mrs. Bernadette C. Corsino, Vice Consul Jason J. Anasarias, and Mrs. Asteria D. Aguilloso, was welcomed by acting president Jesus Rafael Fernandez Echevarri of the Provincial Asssembly of Popular Power of Pinar del Rio province. City historian Juan Carlos Rodriguez Alfonso and provincial firector for international relations Juan Palados Menendez also led lectures on the province.

From the lectures, it was learned that Filipino and other Asian workers reached Cuba sailing in the Manila-Acapulco galleons that crossed the Pacific Ocean regularly from the late 16th century until 1815.

Manila was the jump-off point for all Spanish trade coming from East Asia, while Havana was the take-off point for Spanish trading ships sailing from Latin America to Spain.

Most of the Asians who landed in Cuba went on to work in Nueva Filipinas. They were generally called “Chinos Manila," as Manila was very famous among the Cuban population at that time.

Later in the 19th century, Nueva Filipinas was gradually supplanted with its present name, after a new capital of the same name overshadowed the former Nueva Filipinas capital of Guane.

The delegation was also given a tour of the Pinar del Rio provincial museum, the city museum of natural history, the Trinidad cigar factory, and the city cathedral. The Filipinos also visited the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) bio-heritage site of Vinales, where the town historian Ricardo Alvarez Perez acted as their guide