Ethnipedia Wiki
Mestizo people
Los Mestizos
Regions with significant populations
Latin America
United States.png United States
Philippines.png Philippines

Spanish, Creole, Philippine languages, Hokkien


Predominantly Roman Catholicism, also Protestantism

Related ethnic groups

Spanish people, Native Americans, Filipinos, Chinese people, Latin Americans

Mestizo people (Spanish: los mestizos) are people of the Hispanic world that are of mixed Spanish and native descent. In the Philippines (a non-Latin American nation), the term is also often used to refer to Filipinos who are of any mixed descent whether it be Spanish or non-Spanish descent. Mestizo people were among the noble ruling class of the Spanish caste system, below the Creoles, the colony-born descendants of European settlers and to this day still often enjoy many privileges compared to native peoples.

Etymology and Definitions[]


The word mestizo is term of Spanish origin derived from the Late Latin mixiticius, ultimately from the Latin mixtus meaning "to mix". Although the first known colonial usage originates from the 1500s, there is historical evidence pointing to its use in Spanish as early as the 13th century.

In Latin America[]

In Latin America, a mestizo is an inhabitant of Spanish and native ancestry. Much more rarely, it is used to refer to someone of any Latin American person of mixed heritage/origin. Overall, Mestizos make up the majority populations of Latin America (Central America, South America and the Spanish-speaking regions of the United States). Indeed, very few countries contain majority native populations such as Belize and Bolivia. In other countries such as Argentina and Uruguay, the vast majority of the population is European with some Mestizos. Not only are Argentines of Spanish ancestry, but of others including Italian, German, Polish and Arab ancestry. The Latin American attitude towards mestizos, Europeans, and their descendants are usually very positive and favoring. However in Chile, mestizos are seen as criminals.

In the Philippines[]

The Philippine definition of a mestizo differs from the common Latin American definition and is much closer to the rare definition used in Latin America. Although it does refer to Filipinos of mixed Spanish-Filipino descent, in Philippine contexts, a mestizo can be any Filipino of mixed descent, not necessarily just Spanish or even other Europeans. The word mestizo was extensively used for Chinese-Filipinos, who were known as mestizo de sangley (from the Hokkien word, seng-li meaning business i.e. mixed-race person of business). Some mestizo de sangley additionally had Spanish ancestry or even Malay ancestry. The total Mestizo population of the Philippines is unknown since the government does not record mixed-origins. Today Chinese-Filipinos currently make up the largest Mestizo population in the Philippines. Spanish-Filipino people make a small minority in the Philippines (mainly in the region of Luzon and cities in Visayas) despite some Filipinos' claims of having true Spanish descent. Usually those of Spanish origin also contain some Chinese heritage. In fact, many Filipino politicians and economic leaders are Chinese mestizos.


With the rise of colonialism among European nations, Spain became an imperial power in the 1500's. The world's second largest empire, it competed against other European powers like France and Portugal. Much of their colonial ambitions came from a desire to gain access to the raw materials of Asia, the Americas, or perhaps any land outside of Europe and to convert people to Christianity. The Spanish were after spices and luxury goods from Asia, and minerals and gold from the Americas. Through soldiers known as consquistadores, (literally Spanish and Portuguese for "conquerer") and "explorers" such as Hernán Cortés, Francisco Pizarro, Ferdinand Magellan (although he was Portuguese, he was employed by the Spanish monarchy) and Miguel López de Legazpi, Spain was able to achieve their goal of settling colonial lands. The Spanish Empire contained territories in all continents except for Australia and Antarctica. Nearly all of Central and South America as well as about half of the Caribbean became Spanish territory

800px-Marinera trujillo.jpg

sharing borders with France, Portugal, and eventually the British. In the Asia-Pacific region, Spain colonized the Philippine and Micronesian islands. When Spain colonized Central America and South America, the native and black populations (known as indios and negros in Spanish caste terminology) formed the lowest caste in the Spanish caste system. During their conquest of empires like the Aztec, Maya

5197665022 3054a6c2dc z.jpg

and Inca, many indigenous women were taken captive. Interracial relationships between native women and Spanish men became common and many were characterized by abuse and sexual violence endured by the native peoples of Central and South America. This resulted in many children of mixed ancestry being born.

In the Philippines and Micronesia, much of the native peoples were scattered across thousands of islands and disorganized, offering no real resistance to Spanish conquest. Therefore many of the native rulers of the Philippines surrendered and those who converted to Roman Catholicism were given the right to retain the privileges, lordships and power they had enjoyed prior to conversions. Many interracial relationships and sexual abuses also came about in the Philippines and the former indigenous nobility were placed alongside the new Mestizo people in Spain's caste system in an elite class known as la Principalía, composed of native Filipino nobles who converted as well as Chinese-Filipino mestizos descended from Chinese traders and business-people. They assumed the titles cabeza (chief) and controlled

A Mestiza de Sangley from Philippines

native police forces, known as gobernadorcillos, an equivalent to a town sheriff or even a judge. Other highly privileged members of the caste system were Criollos or Creoles who were colony-born descendants of two European migrant parents. Mestizos and Creoles in Latin America and the Philippines enjoyed many political benefits and perks such as education. All of the elite members of Spanish territories were either Mestizo or Creole. Over time, many people including Europeans such as Bartolomé de las Casas argued for the natives' right to enjoy life unharmed. The Spanish eventually gave the natives more rights, simply to live but even then were not given the same exemptions and privileges as the Mestizos and Creoles. Eventually when the colonized territories of Spain such as Mexico gained independence from Spain, the new nations were still governed by an elite class of Mestizos and Creoles. In Mexico, this marked a civil war in the nation, the pro-native forces were led by Benito Juárez, a native Zapotec lawyer that restored the Mexican republic. Former Mexican territories like Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico then declared their independence, and became countries for a short while before becoming part of the United States. To this day, Mestizo people enjoy immense privilege as a result of their heritage. In fact, most of the Latin American and Filipino political and economic leaders are Mestizos, including Chinese-Filipino mestizos in the Philippines.


Latin America[]

The mestizos of Latin America speak the Spanish language. Due to Spanish colonization, many native languages, cultures, and of course, religions were lost. However many Mestizos can also speak their indigenous languages. In Paraguay for example, the Guarani language is co-official with Spanish and in Ecuador the Quechua language is a recognized language.


Although there is a small minority of speakers of Philippine Spanish, many Filipinos have renounced the Spanish language as a colonial and oppressive language. Today most are fluent in Filipino, English and various indigenous languages. There is a resurgence of Spanish in the Philippines for economic purposes to cater to international clients, especially in the call-center industry. A few groups of powerful Philippine aristocracy and politicians such as former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo or Filipino hero Jose Rizal, who are most likely descended from the native dynasties of the Principalía also retain the use of the Spanish language. Many Chinese-Filipinos on the other hand still speak the Hokkien language and use simple Spanish phrases.


The Spanish colonists converted the peoples of their territory to Roman Catholicism. Consequently, almost all Mestizos are Roman Catholics but a Protestant minority does exist. Folk practices still thrive, many have been tweaked to coincide with Christian holidays. For example in Mexico, the Day of the Dead celebration, a native an non-Christian holiday is celebrated by the nation and Mexican Americans in the United States as well. The mestizo de sangley of the Philippines also follow a mix of Chinese folk practices and Roman Catholicism, such as placing Mother Mary on a Buddhist altar. Outside of the low-lying areas of Luzon, many indigenous Filipino peoples also still practice native folk religions or animism. There are also Muslim minorities especially in the southern Philippines, such as in the Sulu Archipelago, however many in the Muslim community are not mestizo.