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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The term Creole and its cognates in other languages — such as crioulo, criollo, créole, kriolu, criol, kreyol, kreol, kriulo, kriol, krio, etc. — have been applied to people in different countries and epochs, with rather different meanings. Those terms are almost always used in the general area of present or former colonies in other continents, and originally referred to locally born people with foreign ancestry.


United States



In the United States, the word "Creole" refers to people of any race or mixture thereof who are descended from settlers in colonial French Louisiana before it became part of the United States in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase. Some writers from other parts of the country have mistakenly assumed the term to refer only to people of mixed racial descent, but this is not the traditional Louisiana usage. Originally it referred to people of French and then Spanish descent who were born in Louisiana, to distinguish them from immigrants. Later Creole was sometimes used as well to refer to people of African descent born in Louisiana. Later the terms were differentiated, by French Creole (European ancestry) and Louisiana Creole (meaning someone of mixed racial ancestry).

Contemporary usage has broadened the meaning of Louisiana Creoles to describe a broad cultural group of people of all races who share a French or Spanish background. Louisianans who identify themselves as "Creole" are most commonly from historically Francophone communities, with some ancestors who came to Louisiana either directly from France or via the French colonies in the Caribbean. They generally are Roman Catholic and influenced by the traditional French culture of the early part of the state. The term is also often used to mean simply "pertaining to New Orleans". Louisiana's Creole People (Creoles of Color) are of mixed (mainly) French, Spanish, African American, and Native American heritage[1]

(Those Louisianans descended from the Acadians of French Canada usually identify as Cajuns, rather than Creoles.)

Chesapeake Colonies

During the early settlement of the colonies, children born of immigrants in the colonies were often referred to as creole. This is found more often in the Chesapeake Colonies[2]


Portuguese Africa

The English word creole derives from the French créole, which in turn came from Portuguese crioulo. This word, a derivative of the verb criar ("to raise"), was coined in the 15th century, in the trading and military outposts established by Portugal in West Africa and Cape Verde. It originally referred to descendants of the Portuguese settlers who were born and "raised" locally. The word then spread to other languages, probably adopted from Portuguese slave traders who supplied most of the slaves to South America through the 16th century.

While the Portuguese may have originally reserved the term crioulo for people of strictly European descent, the crioulo population came to be dominated by numerous people of mixed Portuguese and African ancestry. This mixing happened relatively quickly in most Portuguese colonies of the time. The growth of a mixed population was due to both the scarcity of Portuguese-born women in the settlements, and to the Portuguese Crown policy of encouraging mixed marriages in the colonies to create more stable populations.

The crioulos of mixed Portuguese and African descent eventually gave rise to several major ethnic groups in Africa, especially in Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé e Príncipe, Ziguinchor (Casamance), Angola, Mozambique. Only a few of these groups have retained the name crioulo or variations of it:

the dominant ethnic group, called Kriolus or Kriols in the local language; the language itself is also called "Creole";

Ethnic groups in Africa of African-American descent

Sierra Leone, founded by the British to serve as a colony for freed slaves, has a Creole ethnic group whose ancestors migrated from Canada, where many were Americans who had fought with the British and settled there after the American Revolutionary War; the British West Indies, and various parts of West Africa. Their offspring (born in the Freetown colony) came to be known as Creoles or its cognate Krio. Some of these Creoles or Krios were of mixed ancestry.

Similarly, the United States established a colony for freed slaves in what became Liberia. Descendants of African-American immigrants were often called Creoles. Many of the African-American immigrants and their descendants were of mixed ancestry.

Creoles from these two nations emigrated to other African countries, such as Equatorial Guinea, where they were known as Krios; or Nigeria, where they were known as Saros. Some scholars report that a new wave of Krio immigrant descendants of freed slaves of Sierra Leone and Liberia are known as Fernandinos (see Fernando Po).[citation needed]

An additional sub-group of African descent from the Americans in Equatorial Guinea were descendants of native Bubi and freed Cuban slaves brought to the islands during the 1800s. People of this specific ancestry were part of the emancipado population which included other distinct groups assimilated into the local colonial society.


In Brazil, the word crioulo initially denoted persons of Portuguese parentage born in Brazil (as distinct from colonists that migrated from Portugal), like in Portuguese-speaking Africa. It eventually came to denote a person of predominantly African ancestry. In colonial Brazil, it was common refer to a Brazilian-born slave as a crioulo, whereas slaves from Africa were known as "Africans". Thus crioulo came to refer to slaves born and raised in Brazil. Later, crioulos was used to refer to all people of African ancestry.

African slaves were imported into the country from the 17th century until the first half of the 19th century. Due to their multiple ethnic roots and to the wide geographic expanse of the country, the slaves and their descendants did not constitute a cohesive ethnic group. On the other hand, as in the Portuguese colonies in Africa, people of mixed Portuguese and African ancestry soon came to constitute a large segment of the population. There were no sharp class divisions based on degrees of African heritage.

Spanish-speaking countries

In regions that were formerly colonies of Spain, the Spanish word criollo (literally, "native," "local") historically referred to class in the colonial caste system, comprising people born in the colonies with unmixed Spanish descent. People with at most 1/8th of Amerindian ancestry, were also considered Criollos; but this rule did not apply to black African ancestry. The crown often passed over Criollos for the top military, administrative, and religious offices in the colonies in favor of the Spanish-born Peninsulares (literally "born in the Iberian Peninsula").

The word Criollo is a cognate of English "Creole", and often translated by it; even though many other Creole peoples never were historically connected to Spain or to the colonial system, and/or were never defined in terms of racial purity.

Spanish America

The racially-based caste system was in force throughout the Spanish colonies in the Americas, since the 16th century. By the 19th century, this discrimination and the example of the American Revolution and the ideals of the Enlightenment eventually led the Spanish American Criollo elite to rebel against the Spanish rule. With the support of the lower classes, they engaged Spain in the Spanish American wars of independence (1810–1826), which ended with the break-up of former Spanish Empire in America into a number of independent republics.


The Spanish caste system based on racial ancestry was enforced in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period, with minor differences. The terms criollo was used with the same sense as in Spanish America, namely for a person born in the Philippines with wholly Spanish ancestry, or in many cases in Latin America, mostly Spanish and some Amerindian.[3] However, those with Mongolian Asian blood were not regarded as Criollo in the Philippines. Criollos were more commonly called filipinos ("from the Philippines") or insulares ("from the islands") according to the original meaning of the word. The criollo class was below that of the peninsulares born in spain, but out-ranked the people of mixed Austronesian-Spanish descent, and the Christianized native Austronesian peoples.

The meaning of filipino changed drastically during the Philippine Revolution for Independence against Spain in 1896. It was adopted by nationalist movements and transformed into a national designation that encompassed the entire population of the Philippines, especially the descendants of the native Austronesian peoples. In fact, the meaning of Filipino today is the opposite of its colonial meaning, since it tends to refer only to the predominantly native Austronesian population and excludes the mestizos of mixed Spanish descent, as well as the non-mixed criollos, who are seen as foreigners despite the fact that they are Filipino like everybody else. This has to do with the American colonization of the Philippines after the Spanish-American war, as racial labels were applied to non-white peoples, and the term "Filipino" was mistakenly used by Americans in U.S. newspapers and magazines as a racial label (instead of as a nationality) to refer to those in the islands of pre-dominantly Austronesian descent — a sense that is the complete opposite of its original definition, and persists to this day.


In parts of the Caribbean region, the term Creole is sometimes used to describe anyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, who was born and raised in the region. In Guadeloupe and Martinique, 'creole' is used to refer to white people of mixed race and black/mulatto mixed of white, african and east indian. In French West Indies, people mixed of only African and Black East Indian are called "Bata-Indians" - which isn't a pejorative term.[4] In Haiti, it excludes white people.[4] It is sometimes used to refer to persons of European, African, or mixed Afro-European descent such as mixed race people of Dominica, Jamaica[citation needed], Barbados and Suriname, or in contradistinction to other ethnicities such as East Indians in Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana, or Mestizos & Creoles (African & European Decent) in Belize. It also refers to the syncretism of the various cultures (African ones as well as European ones for example French, British, Spanish and Portuguese among others) which influenced the area. This is also referred to as the creolization of society "due to its ability to suggest some of the complex sociocultural issues also involved in the process" (Manuel, p. 14). Creole, 'Kreyol' or 'Kweyol' also refers to the creole languages in the Caribbean, including Antillean Creole and Jamaican Creole among others.

In parts of the Southern Caribbean the term "Creolean" is used to refer to a French-speaking person of white ethnicity, especially if they are from the smaller islands belonging to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Today, centuries after slavery and colonization, the Franco-Caribbean people sometimes use this term as a term of empowerment and pride in their native culture. The movement of the pride, a literary movement led by the likes of Patrick Chamoiseau, is called Créolité which can be translated to “Creoleness”.

Indian Ocean

The usage of 'creole' in the islands of the southwest of the Indian Ocean varies according to the island. In Réunion and the Seychelles, the term 'creole' includes people born there of all ethnic groups.[4] In Mauritius, on the other hand, the term excludes white people.[4] In all three, 'creole' also refers to languages derived from French.

See also


  1. ^ "French Creole Heritage", Louisiana Heritage
  2. ^ "First Generations: Women in Colonial America", Carol Berkin
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ a b c d Robert Chaudenson (2001(of translation)). Creolization of Language and Culture. CRC press. p. 11. ISBN 9780203440292. 

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