Luzones Indios - First Filipinos in the U.S.

Crewmen on Unamuno’s voyage of discovery

More than a century before the Mayflower crossed the Atlantic, Filipinos were crossing the Pacific Ocean as sailors on majestic Spanish galleons. Excellent seamen, the Spanish often enlisted them for service on the galleons.

During the first 250 years of Spanish rule in the Philippines, Spain tapped the wealth of the east with great ships that crossed the treacherous Pacific. From 1565 to 1815 the Spanish kept up a shuttle of ships between Manila and New Spain=now Mexico. Silk, gems and exotic spices from the Orient were exchanged for silver from Mexico and products from Europe. The Manila galleon trade era was one of the most persistent, perilous and profitable in European colonial history.

The galleon trade was instrumental in bringing the first Filipinos to the New World=now the United Sates. Called “Luzones Indios” by the Spaniards, Filipino sailors were among the crew of galleon Nuestra Senora de Esparanza commanded by Pedro de Unamuno, a voyage of discovery to explore the coast of northern California in 1587. On October 18 of that year, the ship entered Morro Bay and a landing party was sent ashore. The landing party included the “Luzones Indios” marking the first landing of Filipinos on the continental United States. They took official possession of the area for Spain by putting up a cross made of branches. However, one of the Filipinos was killed when the landing party was attacked by native Indians. When heavy fog rolled in, Unamuno and his crew gave up further exploration of that part of the California coast.

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