The letters in this collection date from the early 19th century, and were written by Francisco Enriquez y Giron, a leading Spanish official in Manila, and by those close to him. At the outset of the 19th Century, the Industrial Revolution, combined with the end of the galleon trade between Acapulco in New Spain (Mexico) and Manila, forced Spain to end the isolationist policies that it had imposed on Philippines since it had taken control of the islands in 1542. In addition, many of Spain's colonies, most importantly Mexico, began to revolt against Spanish rule and gained their independence around this time period. Cut off from the lucrative trade that had been their main source of income and protected Latin American markets, the islands had to find a way to pay for themselves. Colonial authorities had no choice but to open the Philippines to foreign trade and promote economic development. As a result, a growing number of merchants arrived in Manila, spurring the integration of the Philippines into an international commercial system, which linked industrialized Europe and North America with sources of raw materials and markets in the Americas and Asia. In 1834, the Spanish Crown abolished the Royal Company of the Philippines and formally recognized free trade, opening the port of Manila to unrestricted foreign commerce. Economic development, free trade, and increased demand for raw materials resulted in the emergence of a new mestizo class, the descendants of Chinese merchants who had settled on the islands and married Filipino women. Through the acquisition of land, they became an economically privileged class in the new cash-crop economy. In the decades to come, this new Filipino elite would also produce notable nationalist leaders who would advocate reform and protest the injustices suffered under the colonial regime, eventually leading to a full-scale revolution.