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Mestizo (Portuguese, Mestiço; French, Métis: from Late Latin mixticius, from Latin mixtus, past participle of miscere, "to mix") is a term of Spanish origin used to designate people of mixed European and indigenous non-European ancestry. The term has traditionally been applied mostly to those of mixed European and indigenous Amerindian ancestry who inhabit the region spanning Latin America: from Mexico in the north to Argentina and Chile's Patagonia in the south.

In other regions and countries previously under Spanish, Portuguese or French colonial rule, variants of the term may also be in usage for people of other mixtures. In the Philippines, the term Mestizo is a broad reference to individuals of any non-specific foreign admixture to an ethnic Filipino base stock.



Hispanic America and Brazil

The Mestizo/Mestiço

A representation of Mestizos in "Pintura de Castas" during the Latin American colonial period. "De español e india, produce mestizo" (Of a Spaniard and an Amerindian, produces a Mestizo).
Under the caste system of colonial Latin America and Spain, the term originally applied only 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 (castizo, cuarterón de indio, cholo, etc.) were in use to denote other individuals of European/Amerindian ancestry in ratios smaller or greater than the 50:50 of mestizos. Today, mestizo refers to all people with discernible amounts of both European and Amerindian ancestry.

Mestizos are thought to make up the majority of the populations of Colombia (58%), Ecuador (65%), El Salvador (90%), Honduras2 (90%), Mexico2 (60%), Nicaragua (69%), Panama2 (70%), Paraguay (95%) and Venezuela (67%).

In other American countries where mestizos do not constitute a majority, they nonetheless represent a significant portion of their populations; Argentina3 (approx. 3%), Belize (49%), Bolivia (30%), Peru (37%), and Uruguay3 (8%). In Brazil, the word "mestiço" is used to describe individuals born from any mixture of different ethnicities, not only Amerindians and European; individuals that fit this specific case are commonly known as caboclos or, more commonly in the past, mamelucos. In the Brazilian State of Amazon, in the North of the country, there is the "Dia do Mestiço" (Day of the Mestizo), on June, 27. In Chile1 and Costa Rica mestizos are combined with whites and accounted for as a single figure.

File:Porfirio Diaz civilian.jpg
Porfirio Díaz Mori, President of Mexico from 1876 until 1911. Mexican mestizo of Spanish / Mixtec ancestry.
In Puerto Rico, an analysis of blood groups and protein markers determined that the Puerto Rican gene pool was comprised of 45% European contribution, 37% African, and 18% Native American.<ref>Hanis, C. L., et. al 1991. Origins of the United States Hispanics–Implications for diabetes. Diabetes Care 14:618-627.</ref>. Recent genetic research has revealed matrilineal Native American ancestry in roughly 61% of the population and patrilineal European ancestry in 75%, thus deeming most to be mestizos.

In Mexico and Peru, mestizo has also come to be used as a cultural label. In a cultural context, people are considered indígena (Amerindian) if they live following their traditional ways of life (clothing, customs and indigenous languages), otherwise they are also deemed mestizo, or what in Central America would be called a ladino, not directly related to the ladino people of Europe. Additionally in the Mexican case, most of the Afro-Mexican minority would also simply identify as mestizo by virtue of their cultural traits, rather than as black, mulatto or zambo by their ancestry. These cultural implications of "mestizo" can result in an overcount of the population - in the Mexican case, as high as 80% according to some sources - which would otherwise be mestizo on a racial level. Also, race is not recorded by the Mexican or Peruvian census, so that any calculations performed by government bodies or independent agencies are always estimates.

Furthermore, though Cuba and the Dominican Republic are recorded as primarily mulatto nations, evidence of Amerindian bloodlines exists and traces of indigenous Taino culture are ubiquitous.

Mestizos from Hispanic America in Europe

Martín Cortés, son of the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés and of the Náhuatl-Maya indigenous Mexican interpreter Malinche, was the first mestizo to arrive in Spain, though he did so against his will after being exiled in punishment for leading a rebellion.

The first mestizos of whom there is verified evidence of willingly having set foot on European soil are the grandchildren of Moctezuma II, Aztec emperor of Mexico, whose royal descent the Spanish crown acknowledged. Of this family, the most publicized descendants are the Acosta family and the Spanish counts Miravalle, in Andalucía, Spain, who in 2003 demanded that Mexico recommence payment of the so called Moctezuma pensions the government cancelled in 1934. The interest alone of such pensions is said to be enough for every single one of Moctezuma's modern descendants to live comfortable lives.

From Peru also arrived the mestizo historian known as "El Inca" Garcilaso de la Vega, son of conquistador Sebastián Garcilaso de la Vega and of the Inca princess Isabel Chimpo Oclloun. He lived in the town of Montilla, in 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 mestizos and whites, 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.


The Métis

Main article: Métis people

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 French Canadian and British employees of the Hudson's Bay Company. Their history dates to the mid 17th century, and they have been recognized as a people since the early eighteenth.

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.

Estimates of the number of Métis vary from 300,000 to 700,000 or more. 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 Métis Nation citizens in Canada , although many Métis classify anyoneas Métis that can prove that an ancestor applied for money scrip or land scrip as part of nineteenth-century treaties with the Canadian government.

The Métis are not recognized as a First Nation by the Canadian government and do not receive the benefits granted to First Nation peoples (see Indian Act). However, the new Canadian constitution of 1982 recognizes the Métis as an Aboriginal people and has 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

"Mixed-Bloods" and Mestizos

The infant Jean Baptiste Charbonneau depicted on the U.S. dollar coin with his mother, Sacagawea.

In the United States the term "mixed-blood" is more often employed for non-Hispanic individuals of mixed European and Native American ancestry, while mestizo is the term of choice for Hispanic individuals (whether U.S.-born or immigrant) of that same mixed ancestry.

Of the Hispanic Americans who have lived in the Southwestern United States for several generations prior to annexation and incorporation of that region into the United States, many have identified as racially white but many others have classified themselves as mestizo, particularly those who also identify as Chicano. See also Tejanos.

Of the over 35 million Hispanics counted in the Federal 2000 Census, the overwhelming majority of the 42.2% who identified as "some other race" ([1]) are believed to be mestizos. Of the 47.9% of Hispanics who identified as White Hispanic, many are thought to possess at least some Amerindian ancestry. Hispanics identifying as multiracial amounted to 6.3% (2.2 million) of all Hispanics and presumably included many mestizos.

Renowned mixed-blooded persons in United States' history are many. One such example is Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, who guided the Mormon Battalion from New Mexico to the city of San Diego in California in 1846, and then accepted an appointment there as alcalde of Mission San Luis Rey. His father, Toussaint Charbonneau, was a French Canadian interpreter, and his mother Sacagawea was the Shoshone guide of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He can be found depicted on the United States dollar coin along with his mother, Sacagawea.

The group of Americans in the Appalachia region known as Melungeons are another mixed-race population. See also Passing.


The Philippines

Main article: Filipino Mestizo
Filipino-Spanish mestizo Andrés Bonifacio, national hero of the Philippines.

During the colonial period of the Philippines, the term "Mestizo" originally referred only to those of mixed Filipino and Spanish or Mexican ancestry. However, the term soon became generic and synonymous for "mixed race".

The term has since been freely used to refer to all Filipinos of physically traceable mixed ancestry, irrespective of racial combination or ratio, but typically including an ethnic Filipino base stock. A recent genetic study by Stanford University, indicates that 3.6% of the population have Spanish, Mexican or other European ancestries.

See also Demographics of the Philippines and Ethnic groups of the Philippines.

Modern day Filipino mestizos include Filipinos with Spanish ancestry or Filipinos mixed with Chinese, Japanese (those of mixed Filipino and Japanese descent) and/or American ancestry (those of mixed Filipino and American4 descent), et cetera. Although those Filipinos of Chinese, Japanese and other East Asian ancestry is also interchangeably referred to as "Chinito/a" (diminutive of Chino/a; Chinese) to specify the type of racial Mestizo background, this would more correctly be applied only to those mestizos of Chinese descent. More correct terms denoting Filipino-Chinese mestizos include Sangley and the vernacular "Tsinoy". That of Spanish and Chinese would be Tornatras.

Mestizo ascendancy

In contrast to Latin America, where mestizos (European/Amerindian) came to comprise a large part of the population, in the Philippines the combined number of all types of Filipino mestizos never accounted for more than 4% of a population which, apart from full blooded Spanish, Mexican and Chinese minorities which together numbered fewer than the mestizos, was mainly and predominantly native Austronesian Filipino. Upon the retreat of Spain and Mexico at the end of colonial occupation, people of mestizo ancestry were able to position themselves at the top of a caste-based social structure which the Spanish had previously established and dominated. As a result, mestizos held the greatest governing influence in the country, almost absolute control of commerce and industry, and an excessively disproportionate share of wealth.

During the late 19th century, Filipino mestizos initiated most movements and revolts against Spain. One such movement lead by the national heroes of the Philippines, Filipino-Spanish mestizo Andrés Bonifacio and Filipino-Chinese mestizo José Rizal, were among the leaders of the revolution. Although these movements failed to achieve their intended goals, Filipino mestizos also initiated the calls for Filipino revolt and, with the aid of the Spanish-American War and the Philippine-American War, subsequently achieved independence.

Today, despite constituting one of the smallest minorities, mestizos continue to hold a monopoly over the country’s economic oligarchic political systems.

East Timor

In the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, the term mestiço applied to those of mixed native East Timorese and Portuguese ancestry. They form 1% of the population. Prominent mestiços in East Timor include Prime Minister (formerly Foreign Minister) José Ramos Horta.



In the former Portuguese colony of Macau, a small territory on the southern coast of China, the name mestiço was applied to those of mixed Portuguese and Chinese ancestry. Today they form a small minority of 1% of the population [2]. They are also known locally as Macanese.



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In Goa - formerly Portuguese India - the term descendentes was applied to mestiços of Portuguese and Indian ancestry. Though their European lineage is not English, they are often called Anglo Indians, as a result of the legal definition of that latter term encompassing persons "whose father or any of whose other male progenitors in the male line is or was of European descent."


Portuguese-speaking Africa

São Tomé & Príncipe and Cape Verde
Prior to Portuguese exploration and settlement of both São Tomé and Príncipe and Cape Verde, these islands were all uninhabited.

In both countries, the great majority of their current populations descend from the mixing of the Portuguese that initially settled the islands from the 15th Century onwards and the black Africans brought from the African mainland to work as slaves - mostly from Benin, Gabon, and the Congo.

Of São Tomé & Prícipe's 193,413 inhabitants, the largest segement is defined as mestiço [3], and 71 % of the population of Cape Verde is also classified as such. [4]

Currently, the most prominent and internationally known mestiço of São Tomé and Príncipe is president Fradique de Menezes.

Angola and Mozambique

In the other two Portuguese-speaking African countries including Angola and Mozambique, the term mestiço is also used to describe people of mixed European and African ancestry.

In both countries they constitue small but important minorities; 2% in Angola [5] and 0.2% in Mozambique[6]

French-speaking Africa

Métis (feminine Métisse) in French-speaking Africa is used to describe people of mixed European and native African ancestry.

In any French-speaking Africa country in which métis may be found, they constitute (1%) of the population.


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  • Since the late 1990s, the term is also used for a new musical genre. Artist like Manu Chao, Amparanoia, and many other bands create a blend of Urban Spanish music Latin, salsa, Reggae, Punk, Ska and Rock.
  • The sixth book of the popular Harry Potter series, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" was supposed to be titled "Harry Potter y el Príncipe Mestizo" in Spanish speaking countries, a translation which introduces connotations beyond the original meaning of the title in English. It finally will be titled "Harry Potter y el misterio del Principe", or "Harry Potter and Mystery of the Prince" attending to the publisher Company last minute decision.

Famous mestizos


  1. The ethnic composition of Chileans is marked by a socio-genetic gradient where Amerindian admixture typically correlates to social levels. Amerindian contribution tends to be strongest in the lower echelons of society, and in the upper class and middle class, tend to register the lowest degree of Amerindian contribution. Almost the entirety of the population, however, presents a racially mixed origin, but is not uncommon to encounter unmixed European or with more than 3/4 of european ancestry. Only a small minority can truly are unmixed Amerindian. See also Demographics of Chile
  2. In Honduras, Panama, and to a considerably smaller and less prominent degree in Mexico, the mestizo population has absorbed some African ancestry, either in the form of Mulattos, Zambos, or directly via the African slaves who were taken there during the colonial era.
  3. American-mestizos in the Philippines may be of any race or ethnic origin which includes White American, Hispanic American and African American.

See also

External links