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Spanish Settlement and Rule, Open Trade and the New Filipino Elite
Taiping Rebellion, mixed people, mestizos, privileged class, abaca
In the 19th century the Industrial Revolution transformed the world. Modern methods of production and transportation, notably sugar mills and steamships, opened the Philippines for economic development. British, French, Dutch, and North American traders began to demand Philippine agricultural products, including sugar, cigars, and abaca (Manila hemp). Sugar became the leading export crop. In 1834 Spain lifted restrictions on trade between foreign nations and the Philippines.
Chinese merchants in Manila helped to finance and shape the new export opportunities, often acting as intermediaries between foreign traders and local producers. In 1839 the colonial government issued a decree granting Chinese freedom of occupation and residence. Many Chinese emigrated to the Philippines after the Taiping Rebellion (1851-1864) in China. Aware of the political and social advantages enjoyed by Roman Catholics in the colony, many Chinese converted to Catholicism and married Filipina women. Their descendants, called mestizos (a Spanish term for racially mixed people), were readily accepted by society. Through the acquisition of land, they became an economically privileged class in the new cash-crop economy. These mestizos formed the major component of a new Filipino elite of planters, merchants, and civil servants.
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