Reflections on the Spanish Conquest and its Representation in the Philippines: El Pacto de Sangre (1886, The Blood Compact) by Juan Luna (1857-1899)
REGIONAL SOCIAL AND CULTURAL STUDIES PROGRAMME
The Politics of Art in Southeast Asia Seminar Series
About the Seminar
The Spanish Conquest represents a founding event, a genuine milestone, for the societies of the Spanish Empire, including the Philippines, and still permeates the national imaginaries of Latin American countries. The Conquista has been constantly reinterpreted for political and identity purposes since the 16th century. In the 19th century, the new American republics referred to it as a devastating cataclysm in their nationalist discourses, in order to legitimize the idea of independence from the Spanish metropole. Surprisingly, from the same period, the oil-on-canvas El pacto de sangre (1886, The Blood Compact) by Juan Luna y Novicio (1857–1899), today a Filipino “national” hero, assumes a different representation and meaning.
Luna was a close friend of José Rizal in Europe and a leading representative of the Propaganda Movement, expressing a growing Filipino national consciousness. However, analyzing The Blood Compact from the perspective of Hispanic cultural studies shows that Luna painted the perfect opposite of the Leyenda Negra (Black Legend), a version of the Conquista highlighting the illegitimacy of the Spanish colonial presence in the Philippines. In contrast, The Blood Compact depicts the peaceful and even friendly meeting of the two peoples, through the sandugo ritual between Datu Sikatuna de Bohol and Miguel López de Legazpi, in 1565. This version of the Conquista invites us to comprehend the Philippineness underlined by the pictorial discourse in connection with a larger belonging and cultural identity, the Hispanidad (Hispanity), and to consider Luna’s ilustrado position as proto-nationalistic – as defined by Eric Hobsbawm – rather than nationalistic.
About the Speaker
Emmanuelle Sinardet is a professor of Latin American studies at Paris Ouest Nanterre University, where she teaches Latin American economic, political and cultural history. She is in charge of the Centre d’Études Équatoriennes in the CRIIA (Centre de Recherches Ibériques et Ibéro-américaines). Her research focuses on nation-building, nationalism and cultural policies in the 19th and 20th centuries. Since 2015, she has been a member of the Academia Nacional de Historia del Ecuador. Her last published book as an author (in French) is Shaping the New Ecuadorian Citizen (1895-1925): Nation Building Process during the Liberal Revolution through Moral and Civic Instruction (Presses Universitaires de Paris Ouest, 2015). Her last published work as an editor (in French and Spanish) is Cultural heritage(s) in Ecuador: Cultural and conservation policies (HISTOIRE(S) de l’Amérique latine, n° 10, 2014, hisal.org).