The history of the struggle for independence of the Philippines and Latin-American countries, such as Mexico, Argentina, Cuba, and Peru, is shown in this exhibit.


         The Philippine Declaration of Independence of 1898 is the only such declaration which mentions “el árbol de la libertad” or the tree of liberty.  This tree, in a sense, began with a seed.  This seed was planted in the rich earth of the global political events of the 19th Century.

         It was Jose Rizal himself (during the Philippine Studies Conference in Paris of 1889) who said that the origins of what would become the Filipino nation may be found in the events of 1808-1821.  These events included the formation of the Cadiz Constitution in Spain and the wars of independence of Latin America.

        In Mexico, as in the rest of Latin America, there were debates among the Creole populations.  There were conflicting views with regard to supporting the King of Spain on one hand or pushing for greater autonomy.  Similar aspirations and discussions would also be found in the Creole and mixed race or mestizo populations of the Philippines.  Along with this was the articulation of the idea of “Inang Bayan” as can be seen in the works of Francisco Balagtas, (Florante at Laura, 1838).  In Balagtas one sees a discussion of the possibility of Christians and Moros being part of the same nation.

       Many nations in Continental Latin America gained their independence in the first two decades of the 19th Century.  Yet it was only at the close of the 19th Century that three small former Spanish Colonies would see freedom:  Puerto Rico and Cuba in the Caribbean and the Philippines on the other side of the Pacific.  It was the defeat of the Spanish Empire in Manila in 1898 which would give these three island entities the chance to enjoy the first sprigs of liberty.  These three territories have interestingly similar experiences.  They all have flags which include a triangular design which evoke equality, fraternity, and liberty.  The trio’s major nationalistic movements also began with a “grito”, or a “sigaw”, or shout, or cry.

         In Mexico, it was the “Grito de Lares” of 1868 which was practically at the same time as the seminal Cavite mutiny in 1872.  Puerto Rico had the “Intentona de Yauco” of March 24, 1897 which was contemporary with the “Sigaw sa Balintawak” of the Philippines on August 23, 1896 and the “Grito de Baire” of Cuba of February 24, 1895.

        The constitutions of the three emerged from a republican perspective.  This stresses the recognition of the dignity of humans within a republican government.  Of course, the Philippines along with the nations of Latin America which managed to shake off the Spanish yoke, all had to face a new challenge.  This was the flourishing power of a new player on the world stage: the United States of America, the country of “norte americanos”.


         From Mexican documents, one gleans how complicated was the process of becoming a nation.  At the start, even with the Declaration of Independence, the impetus to call for a monarchy was still very strong.  In 1823, Agustin Iturbide was even named the King of Mexico.  Likewise, the Roman Catholic Church remained powerful.

        In the Philippines, one can see in the “Proclama Historial” of Rodriguez Varela an inclination towards King Fernando VII.  It was this monarch who was responsible for the massacre of liberals in Cadiz and throughout Spain.

         In the period 1801-1821, political divisions in Latin America were still unclear and fluid.  The insurgents often conceived of a “gran continente” rather than separate nations.  These sentiments may still be seen in the manifestations of Simon Bolivar and of San Martin or even those of Che Guevarra or Fidel Castro of Cuba, as well as Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

         Related to these views was Bolivar’s notion of a “gran Colombia” or the “gran emancipación” of Brazil.  It was this idea of universal emancipation which fuelled the independence aspirations of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Cuba.  These aspirations would later encounter the juggernaut of the United States of America.

         Meanwhile, the religious element will be seen in the pivotal role of Our Lady of Guadalupe as the patron of the Mexican Revolution.  In a similar vein, one can compare this to the feminization of the nation as “Inang Bayan” in the Philippine revolution of the late 19th Century.  Likewise, one has the perception of the People Power Revolution in EDSA of 1986 as a Marian Miracle.

         The “Acta de la Independencia” of Kawit would give way to the Philippines falling under the shadow of the United States.  This same shadow would be cast all over Latin America as well, as American business interests would help determine diplomatic relations between the United States and its southern neighbors.

         Eventually, the political paths of both the Philippines and Latin America would give rise to authoritarian regimes.  In what other ways will the trees of liberty rising on the two shores of the Pacific intertwine in the future?



Text by:

Jaime Veneracion
Bernard Karganilla
Victorino Manalo


This exhibit was produced in cooperation with the National Archives of Mexico (Archivo General de la Nacion).  It is being set up in the Philippines as part of the partnership program between the Mexican National Archives and the National Archives of the Philippines.