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El Inca Garcilaso de la Vega.gifPorfirio Diaz civilian.jpg
Notable Mestizos:
Inca Garcilaso de la Vega · Porfirio Díaz
Total population
Worldwide figures unknown; 30% of Latin America's population, approx. 170 million people[1]
Regions with significant populations
Latin America
 Paraguay 95%[2]
 El Salvador 90%[2]
 Honduras 90%[2]
 Mexico 60%[2] or 70%[3] or >80%[4]
 Panama 58%[2]
 Nicaragua 69%[5]
 Venezuela 50%[6]
 Ecuador 65%[2]
 Guatemala 59%[2]
 Colombia 58%[2]
 Chile 44%[7]
 Peru 35%[2]
 Belize 33%
 Bolivia 30%

Predominantly Spanish, (with a minority of other languages), while Mestiço speaks Portuguese, and Métis speak French; English in the United States, Kriol and English in Belize; and English


Christianity (predominantly Roman Catholic, with a minority of Protestant); and other religions.

Related ethnic groups

European (mostly Spaniards, Portuguese, French and Italian), and Amerindian people

Mestizo is a colonial Spanish and Portuguese (Mestiço) term that was used in the Spanish Empire and Portuguese Empire in Latin America to refer to people of mixed European and Amerindian ancestry.[8]

The term was created specifically for those people of the particular racial mixture of Amerindian and European who comprise much of the population of Latin America. The term is also used in other parts of the world, although with different meanings.



The word mestizo originated from the Romance / Latin word mixticius, meaning mixed. In the Portuguese and French languages, the words caboclo and métis were also used in the Portuguese and French Empires to identify individuals of mixed European and Amerindian ancestry.

In the early stages of racial intermingling in the Americas, if a child was born in wedlock, the child was considered and raised as a member of the prominent parent's ethnicity (See Hyperdescent). Often, the term "Mestizo" was associated with illegitimacy, however, it evolved in the ensuing centuries. According to historians Michael C. Meyer and William L. Sherman, early in the 16th century Spanish colonial usage of the term mestizo "was almost synonymous with bastard" (illegitimate child)[9].



Spanish-speaking Latin America

Under the casta system of Spanish America and Spain, the term originally applied to the children resulting from the union of one European and one Amerindian parent or the children of two mestizo parents. During this era, a myriad of other terms including castizo (three-quarters European and one-quarter Amerindian), cuarterón de indio, and cholo (one-quarter European and three-quarters Amerindian), were in use to denote other individuals of European-Amerindian ancestry in ratios smaller or greater than the 50:50 of mestizos.

Mestizos do not appear in large numbers in official censuses until the second half of the seventeenth century, when a sizable and stable community of mixed-race people with no claims to being either Indian or Spanish appeared, although, of course, a large population of biological Mestizos had already existed for over a century in Mexico.

Mestizos form the majority of the population in most of Latin America; however, it would be difficult to know with any reasonable "biological" precision how extensive the mestizo population is, except through genetic studies. Various censuses since colonial times have tracked the race of inhabitants of the Spanish American countries, but these statistics are only generally indicative of what could be considered biological race, since they really captured the "social" race of a person. A person's legal racial classification in colonial Spanish America was closely tied to social status, wealth, culture and language use. Wealthy people paid to change or obscure their actual ancestry. Many indigenous people left their traditional villages and sought to be counted as mestizos to avoid tribute payments to the Spanish[10]. Many indigenous people, and sometimes those with partial African descent, were classified as mestizo if they spoke Spanish and lived as mestizos.

In general, the countries believed to have a majority mestizo population today are Mexico, with the largest population[11], Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Guatemala, Paraguay, and Venezuela. In Bolivia and Peru, mestizos form the second largest group.

In some countries like Costa Rica and Chile, sources such as the CIA classify the population into a single "White and mestizo" or "White and 'white-Amerindian'" group respectively, leading to a combined figure of over 95% in each country, as whites and mestizos are not tallied separately. In Argentina and Uruguay, the official mestizo population form a considerable of 29% to 54% of the population.

In Mexico, the degree of admixture varies with region, although population mobility in recent decades has changed this somewhat. Generally, the degree of indigenous Amerindian ancestry among Mexican mestizos increases as one goes south, and conversely, decreases the more one goes north. This pattern reflects both the preferential trend of Spanish settlement (actual settlers, not concentration of cities founded by Spaniards) in central and northern regions during the colony and also the greater concentration of Amerindians that inhabited the central to southern regions.

A representation of a Mestizo, in a Pintura de Castas from Mexico during the Spanish colonial period. The painting illustrates "A Spaniard and Amerindian, produce a Mestizo".

Noted mestizos migrating to Europe

Martín Cortés, son of the Spanish Conquistador Hernán Cortés and of the Nahuatl-Maya indigenous Mexican interpreter Malinche, was one of the first documented mestizos to arrive in Spain.[citation needed] His first trip occurred in 1528, when he accompanied his father, Hernán Cortés, who sought to have him legitimized by the Pope.

There is also verified evidence of the grandchildren of Moctezuma II, Aztec emperor, whose royal descent the Spanish crown acknowledged, willingly having set foot on European soil. Among these descendants are the Counts of Miravalle, and the Dukes of Moctezuma, who became part of the Spanish peerage and left many descendants in Europe[12]. The Counts of Miravalle, residing in Andalucía, Spain, demanded in 2003 that Mexico recommence payment of the so called 'Moctezuma pensions' the government cancelled in 1934.

From Peru also arrived the mestizo historian Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, son of Spanish Conquistador Sebastián Garcilaso de la Vega and of the Inca princess Isabel Chimpo Oclloun. He lived in the town of Montilla, Andalucía, where he died in 1616.

Starting from the early 1970s and throughout all of the 1980s, Europe saw the arrival of thousands of Chileans, both criollos and mestizos, seeking political refuge during the dictatorial government of Augusto Pinochet. Today, there is a growing number of mestizo immigrants in Western Europe, primarily from Ecuador and Colombia.


In Brazil, the word mestiço is used to describe individuals born from any mixture of different ethnicities. Individuals that fit the specific case of having Portuguese and Amerindian parents are commonly known as caboclo or, more commonly in the past, mameluco. Individuals of European and African ancestry are described as mulato. Cafuzos (known as zambo in the English language) are the production of Amerindian and African ancestors.


Louis Riel, Canadian Métis.

In Canada, the Métis are regarded as an independent ethnic group. This community of descent consists of individuals descended from marriages of First Nation women, specifically Cree, Ojibway, and Saulteaux with Europeans, usually French, English, and Scottish laborers or merchants employed in the North American Fur Trade. Their history dates to the mid 17th century, and they have been recognized as a people since the early 18th century.

Their territory roughly includes the three Prairie Provinces (Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan), parts of Ontario, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories, as well as parts of the northern United States (including North Dakota and Montana).

Traditionally, the Métis spoke a mixed language called Michif (with various regional dialects). Michif (a phonetic spelling of the Métis pronunciation of "Métif", a variant of Métis) is also used as the name of the Métis people. The name is most commonly applied to descendants of communities in what is now southern Manitoba. The name is also applied to the descendants of similar communities in what are now Ontario, Quebec, Labrador, and the Northwest Territories, although these groups' histories are different from that of the western Métis. In Northern Manitoba some communities spoke Bungee, a combination of Gaelic, Cree, and Ojibwe. Bungee is now extinct.

Estimates of the number of Métis vary from 300,000 to 700,000 or more.[citation needed] In September 2002, the Métis people adopted a national definition of Métis for citizenship within the "Métis Nation." Based on this definition, it is estimated that there are 350,000 to 400,000[citation needed] Métis Nation citizens in Canada, although many Métis classify anyone as Métis who can prove that an ancestor applied for money scrip or land scrip as part of nineteenth-century treaties with the Canadian government. However, Labrador, Quebec, and even some Acadian Metis communities are not accepted by the Metis National Council and are represented nationally by the "Congress of Aboriginal Peoples."

The Métis are not recognized as a First Nation by the Canadian government and do not receive the benefits granted to First Nation peoples. However, the 1982 amendments to the Canadian constitution recognize the Métis as an Aboriginal people and have enabled individual Métis to sue successfully for recognition of their traditional rights such as rights to hunt and trap. In 2003, a court ruling in Ontario found that the Métis deserve the same rights as other aboriginal communities in Canada.

The United States

In the United States, the term "multiracial" is used to identify individuals of mixed racial heritage. "Mixed-blood" is the most common term for Native Americans mixed with any other race. Thus, "mestizo" is used only by a select few.

The old English language cognate of mestizo is "mestee", a word originating from the Middle French term "mestis", which is translated to métis in the modern French language. It was widely used[citation needed] by people of mixed White and Native American ancestry before the American Civil War in the 19th century. After the Civil War, the One-drop rule started to include Black people, and the word fell into disuse — except for members of the old tri–racial ethnic groups such as Melungeons, Brass Ankles, Chestnut Ridge people (or mayles), and Redbones.

Nearly half (48%) of the 35 million Hispanic and Latino Americans counted in the Federal 2000 Census self-identified as "White", and another 3/7 (42%) as "Other". Multiracials came in at 6%.[13] There are many multiracial people of different ethnicities living in the United States. An explorer by the name of Jean Baptiste Charbonneau was perhaps the most notable person of mixed ancestry in the region. His father, Toussaint Charbonneau, was a French Canadian interpreter, and his mother Sacagawea was a Native American Shoshone guide of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Jean Baptiste can be found depicted on the United States dollar coin along with his mother, Sacagawea. Prior to 1848 it was unclear where the Canada-US border lay, and later still before it was enforced. Many Metis lived in Montana and North Dakota.

Other non-specific uses


In the Philippines, formerly part of the Spanish East Indies, "mestizo" is a term that has become synonymous with "mixed race". It is used to denote Filipinos of mixed native (Austronesian/Malay/Malayo-Polynesian) and any other non-native ancestry.[14]

The official percentage of Filipinos of mixed ancestry, although thought to be small, is still unknown. The Philippine government does not honor any surveys or studies done by various institutions, since most of them are only considered guestimates. Racial intermixture occurred, on a small scale, during the Spanish colonial era, as well as in the 20th century with Americans of all races. Before and during these periods, significant Chinese admixture has also been introduced into the Filipino population. Some mestizos have ancestry from various Middle Eastern countries. Because most Filipinos were given Spanish surnames during their occupation by the Spanish crown via Mexico City and Madrid, Eurasians of non-Spanish descent with Spanish surnames may be mistaken as Filipino mestizos of such descent.

Sri Lanka

Mestiços are known collectively as Burghers and are the descendents of mixed Sri Lankan and Portuguese/Dutch/British colonists, Sri Lanka Indo-Portuguese language and Dutch Creole are still spoken on the island.

Guam and Northern Mariana Islands

In the former Spanish colonies of Guam and Northern Mariana Islands, the term "Mestizo" was formerly used to identify people of mixed Pacific Islander and Spanish ancestry; however, as the United States gained control of these islands after the Spanish American War in 1898, the term "Multiracial" became the contemporary term used to designate individuals of mixed indigenous and American or European descent. They currently form a small minority of the population.Because most Guamanians and Northern Mariana Islanders were also given Spanish surnames during their occupation by the Spanish crown via Mexico City and Madrid, persons of white American and other non-Spanish European descent with Spanish surnames may be mistaken having such descent.


In the former colony of the Dutch East Indies the majority of officially registered European citizens (Dutch: burgers) were in fact partly native Indonesian. Up to the 18th century they were also referred to as "Mestizo" (Dutch: Mestiezen)[15]. Currently this group is more commonly known as Indos and after the diaspora from Indonesia mostly live in the Netherlands, where they are the largest ethnic minority. Most family names in this Eurasian community are Dutch, with only a smaller number of surviving older Portuguese Mestizo family names such as Simao and De Fretes.

Criticisms of the term mestizo

There have been several critics of the mestizo racial ideology, both academic and activist. The most well-known academic critics of the mestizo racial term are anthropologist Guillermo Bonfil Batalla and historian Jack D. Forbes; the most visible activist critic is Olin Tezcatlipoca.

In terms of modern biological classifications, the term has been thoroughly discredited.[citation needed] In the late 19th century, the label was widely used by anthropologists and social scientists, but has fallen into disuse. It is today widely considered a colonial remnant without scientific value.[citation needed] However, many in Latin America still refer to themselves as mestizos, to describe their mixed heritage.

The term is almost never applied to Europeans (as some populations of Europe have genetic contributions from non-European people groups) or White Americans (who may possess Native American admixture). Outside of the usage of the term, there is no such thing as a distinct "mestizo" language, religion, or nation, per se. The term continues to be used by the CIA World Factbook.


  • Batalla, Guillermo, and Philip Dennis. Mexico Profundo: Reclaiming A Civilization. Univ of Texas Pr, 1996. ISBN 978-0292708433
  • Wang S, Ray N, Rojas W, Parra MV, Bedoya G, et al. (2008) Geographic Patterns of Genome Admixture in Latin American Mestizos. PLoS Genet 4(3): e1000037. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000037
  • "Genetic Study Of Latin Americans Sheds Light On A Troubled History" - Science Daily
  • Duno Gottberg, Luis, Solventando las diferencias: la ideología del mestizaje en Cuba. Madrid, Iberoamericana – Frankfurt am Main, Vervuert, 2003


  1. ^ Lizcano Fernández, Francisco (May–August 2005). "Composición Étnica de las Tres Áreas Culturales del Continente Americano al Comienzo del Siglo XXI" (in Spanish) (PDF). Convergencia (Mexico: Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, Centro de Investigación en Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades) 38: 185–232; table on p. 218. ISSN 1405-1435. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Field Listing – Ethnic Groups". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 2008-09-26. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ "Demografía y Sociedad" (in Spanish). Red de Oficinas Económicas y Comerciales de España en el Exterior.,,,00.bin?doc=486600. Retrieved 2008-09-26. "el 67% mestiza o mulata entre blanco-indionegro" 
  7. ^ Composición Étnica de las Tres Áreas Culturales del Continente Americano al Comienzo del Siglo XXI
  8. ^ "mestizo". Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. 2008. "a person of mixed blood; specifically: a person of mixed European and American Indian ancestry" 
  9. ^ Michael C. Meyer and William L. Sherman (2006). The Course of Mexican History. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 211. ISBN 019517836X. 
  10. ^ Peter N. Stearns and William L. Langer (2001). Encyclopedia of World History:Ancient, Medieval, and Modern, Chronologically Arranged. 
  11. ^ [2]
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin — Census 2000 Brief". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-06-18. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ University of Leiden publication

External links

Miscegenation in Spanish colonies
Mulatto Criollo Mestizo Zambo


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