The Calesa Vote: Street Politics and Local Governance in 1930s to 1940s Manila

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The cocheros (drivers of horse-drawn vehicles) of early twentieth-century Manila posed an interesting paradox in the theatre of populist politics. By the 1930s they were among the most economically deprived occupational group, as their carromatas and calesas (horse-drawn vehicles) struggled to compete with the electric tram and automobiles. Yet, simultaneously, these cocheros were a strong political force because of the so-called ‘calesa vote’: they wielded an inordinate level of clout vis-à-vis Manila councillors because of the number of voters they could influence. Their collusion with city officials represents an early instance of populism, which remains potent in Philippine politics at present.