In 1898, the United States took control of the Philippines from the Spanish. The U.S. then entered into a brutal war to make the Filipinos submit to the new colonial power. The war and subsequent decades of U.S. rule meant a small, but continuous presence of American soldiers on the islands, which, unsurprisingly, produced a notable population of children born to Filipino mothers and American fathers. Nicholas Trajano Molnar's new book, American Mestizos, the Philippines, and the Malleability of Race, 1898-1961
(University of Missouri Press, 2017), examines the contested racial identities of these children. The United States brought a strong and binary sense of racial hierarchy to the discussion. Yet, as Molnar shows, Filipino understandings of race prevented a simple application of American ideas. The children were defined as American Mestizos locally, but many simply lived as Filipinos. Molnar's book examines the ongoing contest over this mixed nationality and mixed race populations identity. By examining the process of racial formation of a group that never cohered as a separate identity group, American Mestizos
provides uncommon insight into, as the title suggests, the malleability of race, and does so in a very readable narrative.
In this episode, Molnar discusses the insights of American Mestizos
about this history of racial identity in the Philippines and in the U.S. He explains some of the efforts within the Philippines and by U.S. policymakers to shape the racial identity of the Mestizos and the stakes of this debate for various segments of the U.S. military. Finally, he also discusses the research involved in the project.
Christine Lamberson is an Assistant Professor of History at Angelo State University. Her research and teaching focuses on 20th-century U.S. political and cultural history. She's currently working on a book manuscript about the role of violence in shaping U.S. political culture in the 1960s and 1970s. She can be reached at email@example.com.