The original naming of Texas was “Nueva Filipinas,” New Spain
Spanish conquistadors nearly ruled a third of the planet; the Philippines was a model colony. Spain hoped Texas’ fate would be similar. Decades before America gained independence from the British, “Spanish Texas” was part of several “New Spain.” The empire claimed ownership of Texas in 1519. [Davidson]
Progenitor of “Nuevas Filipinas”
Antonio Margil de Jesus
Padre de Jesus was a Spanish missionary who first referred to Texas as the “Nuevas Filipinas” or New Philippines in a letter to the King of Spain dated July 20, 1716.
He wanted to gain the favor of King Philip V. (Felipe el Prudente or ‘Philip the Prudent’). The goal of de Jesus was to evangelize Texas.
A letter from a Franciscan embassy expressed great hopes that this province (Texas) shall be the “New Philippines,” according to the Texas Historical Association.
The name Filipinas or the Philippines was King Philip’s namesake.
Governor Martin de Alarcón
Don Martin de Alarcon was the founder and governor of “Spanish Texas” in 1716. He based the capital in what is today San Antonio.
In 1718, Fray Isidro Félix de Espinosa, who was part of the expeditionary missions to Spanish Texas, asked Governor Alarcón to reinforce the name “Nuevas Filipinas Nueva Extremadura.” Friars have more power than government officials, and he had to oblige. [Bonilla Compendium]
Nuevo Reino de Filipinas, Provincia de Texas
Settling for the name Texas
Interestingly, Texans could have been called the “New Filipinos.” Towards the end of the 18th century, the name “Nuevas Filipinas” became outdated and out of sight. Legal documents eventually preferred to use only the name Texas.
Texas was not the lone star of “Nuevas Filipinas“
The Caroline Islands in the western Pacific Ocean were historically called “Nuevas Filipinas.” They were once part of the Spanish East Indies and governed from Manila. [W.H. Rosser]
Early Filipino settlers in Texas
Having “Filipinas” as its name would have been off, given that Texan colonizers were from Spain, not the Philippines. “Nueva España” was a broad label for the provinces of the Spanish Empire.
However, Filipino sailors traveled the Americas via the Manila Galleon for 250 years. Thus, just as Filipinos first landed in upper California in 1587 and Filipinos in Louisiana in 1763, undocumented Filipinos would likely have settled at “Nuevas Filipinas.”
The first documented Pinoy to settle in Texas was from Cebu. Francisco Flores settled at Port Isabel in 1822. He was a cabin boy in a merchant ship where he likely jumped off and made his way to the Southwest by way of Texas.
He later raised a family in Rockport, where he died in 1917 at 108 years old.
“Bonilla’s Brief Compendium of the History of Texas, 1772 (An Annotated Translation).” The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, vol. 8, no. 1, 1904, pp. 3–78. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/30242842.