Castes of New Spain

The castes of New Spain were a system of social, economic and political hierarchy that prevailed in the American continent during European colonization (15th century) and that lasted until the 17th century.

The castes were made up of different ethnic and social groups that little by little were integrated to give way to new castes and a slow but progressive process of miscegenation in most of the countries of the continent.


Caste system of New Spain

The castes of New Spain were not a rigid system, since although there was a more or less official hierarchy made up of almost 20 groups, the reality is that the mixtures between them gave rise to a diversity of new castes or crosses that is difficult to quantify.

What has been recorded is the existence of three main castes (European whites or peninsular whites, American Indians and blacks) Africans) and the most common combinations that arose from them, which are:

  1. Creole : Europeans settled in America.
  2. Mestizo : European man and indigenous woman.
  3. Mulatto : European white man and black woman.
  4. Castizo : mestizo man and European woman.
  5. Spanish : Castizo man and European white woman.
  6. Zambo / Jarocho : black man and indigenous woman.
  7. Zambo prieto : black man and zamba woman.
  8. Moorish : European man with mulatto.
  9. Chinese : mulatto man and indigenous woman.
  10. Back Saltapa : albino man with European woman.
  11. Wolf : backslider man with mulatto woman.
  12. Gíbaro : werewolf with Chinese woman.
  13. Albarazado : gíbaro man with mulatto woman.
  14. Cambujo : Albarazado man with black woman.
  15. Zambaigo : Cambujo man with indigenous woman.
  16. Calpamulato : zambaigo man with wolf woman.
  17. Tente en el aire : Calpamulate man with Cambuja woman.
  18. I don’t understand you : a man tente in the air with a mulatto woman.
  19. Back to the back : I don’t understand you with an indigenous woman.

This interracial stratification system was not rigid, since the classifications included or excluded certain groups or the names of the castes changed depending on the country, the region or the time. For example, the caste system in Mexico responded to the previous classification, but in South America the cholos were included, who came from the mixture of mestizos and indigenous people or the harnizos, a mixture of cholos with Spaniards.

Although the caste system of New Spain had a clearly racial purpose, for some authors it was more of a socio-economic classification, since they argue that at that time there was no conception of race like the one we have today. That being the case, it was possible for a mestizo to have as many privileges as a peninsular white if he had the financial resources.

However, the systematic discrimination against the indigenous and black population throughout the history of the continent seems to indicate that it was not only an economic issue but, in fact, there was a clear intention of racial division that, for multiple reasons, it did not meet its objective.

See also Difference between Indian and indigenous .

New Spanish castes and miscegenation

In principle, the caste system was designed to organize social and racial stratification in the then recently discovered American continent by the Spanish colonizers, who occupied the highest position, followed by the indigenous people, who considered themselves working labor. and finally the blacks from Africa, who lived as slaves.

However, this hierarchy based on race did not achieve its purpose for long, since little by little mixtures between the three main castes began to be generated either through legitimate or illegitimate unions, which resulted not only in an expansion of the caste system, but also they were erasing the boundaries between each of these classifications.

These crosses between the three main castes gave rise to a slow but progressive process of miscegenation that generated a complex system of social stratification but, above all, generated important demographic, social and cultural changes that were decisive in what are now the countries of America. Latin.

The independence wars in the region and the abolition of slavery were processes that contributed to catalyzing miscegenation and making the caste system obsolete, which had lost the original meaning with which it was implanted by the Spanish thanks to the melting pot of new social groups. that had been generated.

For this reason, today many of the countries that make up Latin America are characterized by a unique ethnic wealth in which they are present, to a greater or lesser degree, European, indigenous and African genetic backgrounds.

See also:

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