Zambo: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Total population
Regions with significant populations
Latin America

Spanish and Portuguese


Christianity (Predominantly Roman Catholic, minority practices Protestantism or other religions.

Related ethnic groups

Garifuna, African people, and Amerindian people.

Zambo is a Spanish term (the Portuguese language term is cafuzo) used in the Spanish Empire and today to identify individuals in the Americas who are of mixed African and Amerindian ancestry (the analogous English term, considered a slur, is sambo). The word originated from the Romance and Latin language. The feminine word is Zamba (not to be confused with the Afro-Brazilian Samba folk dance or Samba music, or with Argentine Zamba folk dance).

The term is not often used in English, but people of mixed race of course exist in the United States and Canada; performer James Brown, the singer and guitarist Jimi Hendrix, baseball player Willie Stargell, singer Tina Turner and model/actress Stacey Dash are African Americans known to have claimed some Native American ancestry, however limited.

Under the caste system of Spanish and Portuguese colonial America, the term originally applied to the children of one African and one Amerindian parent, or the children of two zambo parents. During this period a myriad of other terms denoted individuals of African / Amerindian ancestry in ratios smaller or greater than the 50:50 of zambos: "Cambujo" (Zambo/Amerindian mixture) for example. Today, zambo refers to all people with significant amounts of both African and Amerindian ancestry.



A representation of an infant Zambo, in an 18th-century "Pintura de Castas" from New Spain. The painting illustrates "a Black and Amerindian produce a Lobo, here a synonym for Zambo.

The first zambos were initially the offspring of slaves who escaped from shipwrecks and plantations, and ventured into various Central American, South American, and Caribbean jungles seeking refuge. They joined remote Amerindian communities to hide and escape capture by colonial authorities. An example is on the island of Hispaniola (the present day Haiti and the Dominican Republic), where some escaped slaves encountered the few remaining Tainos. Racial mixing occurred and today Afro-Amerindians make up a small percentage of the populations of both Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The Amerindians — sometimes under threat from encroaching European colonizers — were sympathetic to the plight of the fleeing slaves and welcomed them into their communities, offered them food and sanctuary and, in many cases, their daughters as wives.The African ancestry of the Garifuna is usually attributed to escaping shipwrecked slaves. The zambos of north-western South America, the lobos of Mexico, and most other zambos were generally believed to have been descendants of escaped plantation slaves.

As in the United States during slavery, Latin American history had instances of Africans and Amerindians' joining together and forming free renegade encampments to fight European colonizers and slaveholders. In Latin America, these primarily African settlements of runaways or maroons, were called quilombos. The most famous of all quilombos is the legendary Palmares in Brazil. At its height, it was believed to have a population of over 30,000.

Population today

"A black man with a mulata produce a Sambo", Indian school, 1770.

Officially, zambos represent small minorities in the northwestern South American countries of Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador. A small but noticeable number of zambos resulting from recent unions of Amerindian women to Afro-Ecuadorian men are not uncommon in major coastal cities of Ecuador. Prior to the rural to urban migration, the Amerindian and Afro-Ecuadorian ethnicities were mostly constrained to the Andes region and province of Esmeraldas and the Chota Valley in the province of Imbabura respectively. The communities that exist in Brazil, mainly along the northwestern region of the country, are known as Cafuzos.

In Honduras, they are known as garifunas. While zambos can also be found in other Caribbean and Central America countries, such as the Dominican Republic, Belize, and Nicaragua, their history and origins are not linked to that of the garifuna.

In Mexico, where they were known as lobos (literally meaning wolf), they formed a sizeable minority in the past. The great majority of lobos have now been absorbed into the much larger Mexican Mestizo population. Greater concentrations can only be found in tiny communities scattered around the southern coastal states, including Michoacán, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Campeche, Quintana Roo, Yucatán, and Veracruz, where the country's Afro-Mexicans reside.

Culturally, Mexican lobos followed Amerindian traditions rather than African influences. This acculturation also took place in Bolivia, where the Afro-Bolivian community absorbed and retained many aspects of Amerindian cultural influences, such as dress and use of the Aymara language.

Racism and discrimination

These populations of mixed Amerindian and African ancestry are generally marginalized and discriminated against, with color bias being pervasive throughout much of Latin America. Beyond the pockets of these specifically identified ethnic communities, in Latin American nations with large populations of people of African descent, the percentage of those with Amerindian ancestry is relatively high (though not as a ratio of the make up of the individuals). Such is the case in nations such as Nicaragua, Panama, and Brazil.

Long-standing problems of race and class discrimination in Latin America confront Latin Americans of African and Amerindian ancestry to varying degrees, depending on their membership in or identification with a specific Afro-Amerindian ethnic group such as those mentioned above, or the degree to which their ancestry is expressed in their physical characeristics. Generally, those with dark skin and frizzy hair tend to be among the region's poorest and most disenfranchised. For instance, in 1998, when Hurricane Mitch battered the northeast coast of Honduras, the nation's Garifuna communities were among the hardest hit, yet because of a history of racism and discrimination, they were virtually ignored by government relief efforts.

See also


  1. ^ "Peoples Listing: Zambo". Joshua Project. U.S. Center for World Mission. Retrieved 2008-08-27.  

External links

Miscegenation in Spanish colonies
Mulatto Criollo Mestizo Zambo


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also zambo


Proper noun




  1. Alternative spelling of Sambo.
  2. A person with African and Native American/indigenous heritage.


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