Spanish East Indies

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Islas Filipinas
Spanish East Indies
Spanish colony
1565 – 1898 Philippines flag original.png

Flag of Philippines Spanish War Ensign (1785)

Location of Las Islas Filipinas in Asia and the Pacific
Capital Manila (Cebu City until 1595)
Language(s) Spanish (official), Austronesian languages, Spanish creoles
Religion Roman Catholicism
Political structure Colony
King List of Spanish monarchs
Governor-General List of governors-general
Historical era Spanish colonization
 - Colonization April 27
 - Treaty of Paris December 10
Currency Peso fuerte

The Spanish East Indies was a term to describe Spanish possessions in the East IndieLas Islas Filipinas (Eng.: The Philippine Islands): the Philippines and its dependencies (Guam, the Marianas, Micronesia, and Palau). Following the Spanish-American War in 1898, most of the islands, primarily the Philippines and Guam, were occupied by the United States while the rest were sold to Germany. However, the kings of Spain (including the current monarch) still continued to use the title King of the Spanish East Indies as part of their full style.



The Spanish East Indies formerly included the present-day nations of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Palau, the Philippines, as well as the Unincorporated territory|American territories of Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands.

At some point in history, the territory also included Ternate and Tidore in the Moluccas and parts of Formosa. It also had influence over North Borneo|Northern Borneo and Brunei.


Ferdinand Magellan
See also: History of the Philippines (1521-1898) and History_of_Guam#The_Spanish_Era

Before the Spaniards arrived, the area was divided between Austronesian tribal groups.

Spanish contact began on March 6, 1521, when Ferdinand Magellan reached the Marianas Islands. He initially named Guam the "Island of Sails" because his crew saw a lot of sailboats there. However, it was renamed to "Ladrones Island" because a lot of small boats of the ship Trinidad were stolen there.

Magellan's crew eventually left the island and reached the island of Homonhon in the Philippines on March 16, with only 150 crewmen. There, they met the native peoples and were able to communicate with them because the Malay interpreter, Enrique of Malacca, could understand the natives' language.


An 1858 German map of the Far East showing the limits of Spanish Posessions (Spanische Besitzungen) in the Philippines

The Spanish East Indies was governed from Mexico City in the Viceroyalty of New Spain until Mexican independence on September 27, 1821. After which, the territory became a province of Spain. The province was governed from Manila, which is the seat of government of the Spanish governor-general, while the Religious orders were governed from Cebu City.

Captaincy General (1565-1821)

The Captaincy General of the Philippines was an administrative district in Spanish colonial times. It encompassed the modern country of the Philippines and associated Spanish Pacific possessions comprising the Spanish East Indies. It was founded in 1565 with the first permanent Spanish settlements, and for centuries was ruled under the Viceroyalty of New Spain (Mexico). However, in 1821, Mexico gained its independence, and the Spanish crown took direct control and the area was given provincial status.

Following the Spanish-American War, several parts of the Spanish East Indies were ceded to other countries. One example of such is the cession of the Caroline Islands to Germany.

Cultural Influence


See also: Hispanic culture in the Philippines
Augustinian Friar Fr. Blanco in the Manila district of Intramuros, photographed by Robby Dela Vega in 2004
Spain's influence on her former colonies in Asia and Oceania are undebatable, and to this day, the majority of the people of the Philippines, Guam, Marianas Islands and Palau have remained Roman Catholics. Also, a minority, particularly in the Philippines, Guam and the Marianas Islands, have Mestizo ancestry.


Spanish political prisoners (primarily Filipino revolutionaries) were deported to both Guam and the Marianas Islands. This caused the native Chamorros bloodline and their culture to become strongly influenced by the Filipinos. Currently, the Chamorro, are of mixed Micronesian, Spanish, and Filipino blood, and three in ten Guamanians have a direct Filipino ancestor. The Chamorro language have also been affected which caused it to have word cognates with languages found in the Philippines.

In Palau, 16% of the population is composed of ethnic Filipinos, most of whom are primarily descendants of exiled political prisoners. Filipinos also constitute the majority in the Northern Mariana Islands, and the second most numerous ethnic group in both Guam and Palau, and a minority in the Caroline Islands.

While Palau and the Marianas Islands were heavily affected by Filipino culture, the Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia|Micronesia remained relatively unaffected.


The Spaniards named several places in the islands that are not currently used. Examples of such are Gran Moluccas (Great Molluccas) for Mindanao, Nueva Castilla (New Castile) for Luzon, and Nueva Filipinas (New Philippines) for the Caroline Islands.

See also

External links

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