detail from Labels for Hair Ribbons by Manuel Ocampo a delectable selection of oriental appetizers
Tuesday, October 07, 2008

: . Insurrectos without Overcoats

One of the most moving passages quoted in Benedict Anderson's Under Three Flags depicts a moment of sartorial solidarity among the restive subjects of the dying Spanish Empire. The passage was taken from the memoirs of a Catalan anarchist going by the nom de guerre Federico Urales (after the Siberian Ural Mountains). Along with Jose Rizal, Isabelo de los Reyes, and other Filipinos in the making, Urales was incarcerated in Montjuich for his real and suspected revolutionary activities. The event Urales captures seems made for the cinema: the shivering newly-arrived tropical deportees in their sheer "nipis" baro and trousers, the hilltop fortress overlooking the city of Barcelona, and then, from above, the unwashed woolen garments of Montjuich's detainees befouling the air, to the dismay and gratitude of the under-dressed Filipinos:
On his arrival in the Philippines Polavieja immediately began executions and deportations to Spain. One ship laden with insurrectionaries having arrived at
Barcelona, the prisoners were incarcerated in the same prison as ourselves. This happened in winter, and those poor Filipino deportees were (still) clothed in their native attire, which simply consisted of drawer-like pants and a cobweb thin shirt. It was both shaming and melancholy to see the poor Filipinos in the courtyard of the Barcelona prison, pacing about in a circle, kicking at the ground to warm their feet and shivering with cold. It was a noble, beautiful sight to see the prison inmates throwing down into the courtyard shoes, rope-sandals, trousers, vests, jackets, caps, and socks to warm the poor Filipino deportees, in whose country the cold is unknown. (pages 199-200)

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