Javier Blanco Portillo

The genetic legacy of the Manila galleon trade in Mexico

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 2022

Led by my collaborator and friend, Juan Esteban Rodríguez Rodríguez, this paper was part of a special issue published by the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions, ‘Celebrating 50 years since Lewontin’s apportionment of human diversity’. You can find it here.

And a piece written by Lizzie Wade for Science, Latin America’s lost histories revealed in modern DNA.

Abstract. The population of Mexico has a considerable genetic substructure due to both its pre-Columbian diversity and due to genetic admixture from post-Columbian trans-oceanic migrations. The latter primarily originated in Europe and Africa, but also, to a lesser extent, in Asia. We analyze previously understudied genetic connections between Asia and Mexico to infer the timing and source of this genetic ancestry in Mexico. We identify the predominant origin within Southeast Asia—specifically western Indonesian and non-Negrito Filipino sources—and we date its arrival in Mexico to approximately 13 generations ago (1620 CE). This points to a genetic legacy from the seventeenth century Manila galleon trade between the colonial Spanish Philippines and the Pacific port of Acapulco. Indeed, within Mexico we observe the highest level of this trans-Pacific ancestry in Acapulco, located in the state of Guerrero. This colonial Spanish trade route from East Asia to Europe was centred on Mexico and appears in historical records, but its legacy has been largely ignored. Identities and stories were suppressed due to slavery, assimilation of the immigrants as ‘Indios’ and incomplete historical records. Here we characterize this understudied Mexican ancestry.