Sweet, succulent Sp*m & a bitter taste.
Updated: Feb 2
So my ‘ Sweet, succulent Sp*m’ pin was just removed from Etsy due to Hormel Foods claiming intellectual property infringement – and I’m dirty about it.
Sp*m, among many other canned foods, was introduced to the ‘Philippines’ by American colonial forces during their imperial occupation of the country. This was a brutal, violent period where many Filipinos (over 600,000 in Luzon & Batangas alone) were killed, denigrated and humiliated, with ongoing impacts lasting to now.
Back then, American forces were given canned foods because settlers & troops didn’t want to be ‘contaminated’ by what they considered was the dirty & unhygienic food of a dirty & unhygienic people.
Spanish invaders had already created 300 years worth of harm, scarcity & deprivation in the country prior to US invasion. As the US colonial project continued in the country, Filipinos were further starved off our lands and waters. And when the US left, they left behind a changed landscape of food – but “when Americans left behind their shit, Filipinos turned that shit into sustenance and celebration” (https://www.tastecooking.com/colonialism-in-a-can/ by Elaine Castillo).
Fast forward, canned foods (especially Sp*m) became a household staple in many colonised or previously colonised peoples’ households. But the prevalence, accessibility & cheapness of processed meat also meant this relationship with Sp*m was largely based on reliance, classism and poverty.
I remember feeling ashamed of my love of Sp*m in my earlier years in ‘Australia’, fearing it proved my inferiority as a broke, brown-skinned, flat-nosed, thick haired Filipino child in a predominantly white, middle-class area. Though I love my features now, back then, they made me feel unsafe in this country - for myself and for my single ma who was here without any other family. So things like eating Sp*m was like a guilty, private treat – to be shared & celebrated quietly with others in the small local Filo, SE Asian & Pasifikas communities.
Then there’s the health impacts. Colonialism & capitalism separated & continues to separate Indigenous peoples from the lands & waters which provide natural sustenance for our needs. An overreliance on cheap n’ easy foods has been attributed to higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, etc.
I made this pin in my 20’s as a cheeky ode to all this. Part of my learning & unlearning of our colonised history – and learning how to leave room for nuance & complexity, to have mingled feelings about certain things that are seen as symbols of our colonisation – but which are also undeniable parts of our culture & history.
Anyway I know there are many, many worse things in the world, but I’m still dirty that this corporation gets to pull my harmless little pin, which brought joy to myself & others with similar stories and complicated yet undeniable appreciation of Sp*m.