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Las castas
. Casta painting showing 16 racial groupings, likely not depicting social reality. Anonymous, 18th century, oil on canvas, 148x104 cm, Museo Nacional del Virreinato
, Tepotzotlan
, Mexico. Casta painting all.jpg
Las castas. Casta painting showing 16 racial groupings, likely not depicting social reality. Anonymous, 18th century, oil on canvas, 148×104 cm, Museo Nacional del Virreinato, Tepotzotlán , Mexico.
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A casta (Spanish:  [ˈkasta] ) is a term which has been interpreted by certain historians during the 20th century to describe mixed-race individuals in Spanish America, resulting from unions of Spaniards (españoles), Amerindians (Indios), and Africans ( Negros ). Basic mixed-race categories that appeared in official colonial documentation include Mestizo , generally offspring of a Spaniard and an India; Castizo , offspring of a Spaniard and a Mestiza; Mulatto , offspring of a Spaniard and a Negra; Morisco was the offspring of a Spaniard and a Mulatta. There were a plethora of terms for mixed-race persons of indigenous and African ancestry, some of which appear in official documentation, but many do not.


Racial category labels had legal and social consequences, since racial status was a key organizing principle of Spanish colonial rule. Often called the sistema de castas or the sociedad de castas, there was, in fact, no fixed system of classification for individuals, as careful archival research has shown. There was considerable fluidity in society, with individuals being identified by different categories simultaneously or over time. Individuals self-identified by particular terms, often to shift their status from one category to another to their advantage. For example, Mestizos were exempt from tribute obligations, but were subject to the Inquisition, unlike Indios, who paid tribute and were exempt from the Inquisition. A Mestizo might try to "pass" as an Indio to escape the Inquisition. An Indio might try to pass as a Mestizo to escape tribute obligations.

A number of historians have explicitly questioned the actual existence of this phenomenon, considering it a fabrication of Historians starting from the 1940s. Pilar Gonzalbo, in her study La trampa de las castas discards the idea of the existence of a caste society in New Spain, understood as a "social organization based on the race and supported by coercive power". [1] A recent study by Ben Vinson III based on Mexican archives shows how racial diversity operated in Mexico and how it affect both Mexico and imperial Spain. [2] Joanne Rappaport, in her book on colonial New Granada, rejects the caste system as an interpretative framework for that time, discussing both the legitimacy of a model valid for the entire colonial world and the usual association between "caste" and "race". [3]

The process of mixing ancestries in the union of people of different races is known in the modern era as mestizaje (Portuguese : mestiçagem [meʃtʃiˈsaʒẽj] , [mɨʃtiˈsaʒɐ̃j] ). In Spanish colonial law, mixed-race castas were classified as part of the república de españoles and not the república de indios, which set Amerindians outside the Hispanic sphere. Other terminology for classification is categorization based on the degree of acculturation to Hispanic culture, which distinguished between gente de razón (Hispanics, literally, "people of reason") and gente sin razón (non-acculturated natives), concurrently existed and supported the idea of the racial classification system. Created by Hispanic elites, the sistema de castas or the sociedad de castas, varied largely due to their birth, color, race and origin of ethnic types.

Casta paintings in produced largely in 18th-century Mexico have influenced modern understandings of race in Spanish America. They purport to show a fixed "system" of racial hierarchy. These paintings should be evaluated as the production by elites in New Spain for an elite viewership in New Spain and Spain, with pejorative portrayals of mixed-race groupings outside of mixtures with Spaniards. They are useful for understanding elites and their attitudes toward non-elites, and quite valuable as illustrations of aspects of material culture in the colonial era. [4]


Casta is an Iberian word (existing in Spanish, Portuguese and other Iberian languages since the Middle Ages), meaning "lineage", "breed" or "race". It is derived from the older Latin word castus, "chaste", implying that the lineage has been kept pure. Casta gave rise to the English word caste during the Early Modern Period. [5] [6]

Use of casta terminology

There is no question that in the colonial period that ideas of racial difference existed and colonial documentation records categories of difference that had legal and social consequences. In the historical literature, how racial distinction, hierarchy, and social status functioned over time in colonial Spanish America has been an evolving and contested discussion. [7] [8] Although the term sistema de castas (system of castes) or sociedad de castas ("society of castes") are utilized in modern historical analyses to describe the social hierarchy based on race, with Spaniards at the apex, archival research shows that there is not a rigid "system" with fixed places for individuals. [9] [10] [11] rather, a more fluid social structure where individuals could move from one category to another, or maintain or be given different labels depending on the context. In the eighteenth century, "casta paintings," imply a fixed racial hierarchy, but this genre may well have been an attempt to bring order into a system that was more fluid. "For colonial elites, casta paintings might well have been an attempt to fix in place rigid divisions based on race, even as they were disappearing in social reality." [12]

In New Spain (colonial Mexico) during the Mexican War of Independence race and racial distinctions were an important issue and the end of imperial had a strong appeal for non-whites. Mixed-race insurgent priest José María Morelos called for the abolition of the formal distinctions the imperial regime made between racial groups, advocating for "calling them one and all Americans." [13] As leader of a large mixed-race insurgent force in southern Mexico, Morelos issued regulations in 1810 to prevent disturbances between Indians and castas, black against whites, and whites against mulattos. "He who raises his voice should be immediately punished." [14] In 1821 race was an issue in the negotiations resulting in the Plan of Iguala. Royalist military officer-turned insurgent, Agustín de Iturbide, and Vicente Guerrero, a mixed-race leader of the insurgency in the south, differed on the matter. Iturbide and other American-born Spaniards, who saw political independence from Spain increasingly a viable option, did not want to grant legal equality to Afro-Mexicans. Guerrero held his ground for equality, since he would have been unable to convince fellow insurgents to support the plan if equality were not explicitly written into it. [15] Article 11 of the Plan reads: "The distinction of castes is abolished, which was made by the Spanish law, excluding them from the rights of citizenship. All the inhabitants of the country are citizens, and equal, and the door of advancement is open to virtue and merit." [16] The imperial regime ("Spanish law") created the distinctions between races; independence and the creation of the sovereign Mexican state abolished them.

"Purity of blood" and the evolution of racial classification

The idea of "purity of blood", limpieza de sangre , originating under Moorish rule, developed in Christian Spain to denote those without the "taint" of Jewish (or, later Muslim/Moorish) heritage ("blood"). It was directly linked to religion and notions of legitimacy, lineage and honor following Spain's reconquest of Moorish territory. It was institutionalized during the Inquisition. [17] The Inquisition only allowed those Spaniards who could demonstrate not to have Jewish and Moorish blood to emigrate to Latin America. Both in Spain and in the New World crypto-Jews (converts who continued to secretly practice Judaism) were aggressively prosecuted. Some emigrated as Portuguese merchants to Mexico City and Lima, following the successful revolt of Portugal in 1640 against the Castillian Crown. Several spectacular autos de fe in New Spain in the mid-seventeenth century featured the public punishment of those convicted of being "Judaizers" (judaizantes). [18]

In Spanish America, the idea of purity of blood was in a complex fashion linked to ideas of race, particularly pertaining to mixing of whites ("españoles") and non-whites (Indians and mixed-race castas). Spaniards had become obsessed with lineage, following the expulsion of Moors and Jews, and forced conversion of those who chose to remain. Evidence of lack of purity of blood had consequences for marriage, eligibility for office, entrance into the priesthood, and emigration to Spain's overseas territories. Having to produce genealogical records to prove one's pure ancestry gave rise to a trade in the creation of false genealogies. [19]

When the concept of purity of blood was transferred overseas, it retained the concerns about tainted ancestry of Jews or Muslims in a family line. During the early colonial decades, the Spanish in the New World had unions and marriages with indigenous women, resulting in generations of mixed-race children. In the late sixteenth century, some investigations of ancestry classified as "stains" any connection with Black Africans ("negros", which resulted in "mulatos") and sometimes mixtures with indigenous that produced Mestizos. [20] While some illustrations from the period show men of African descent dressed in fashionable clothing and as aristocrats in upper-class surroundings, the idea that any hint of black ancestry was a stain developed by the end of the colonial period. It was illustrated in eighteenth-century paintings of racial hierarchy, known as casta paintings.

The idea in New Spain that native or "Indian" (indio) blood in a lineage was an impurity may well have come about as the optimism of the early Franciscans faded about creating Indian priests trained at the Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco, which ceased that function in the mid-sixteenth century. In addition, the Indian nobility, which was recognized by the Spanish colonists, had declined in importance, and there were fewer formal marriages between Spaniards and indigenous women than during the early decades of the colonial era. [20] In the seventeenth century in New Spain, the ideas of purity of blood became associated with "Spanishness and whiteness, but it came to work together with socio-economic categories", such that a lineage with someone engaged in work with their hands was tainted by that connection. [21]

Indians in Central Mexico were affected by ideas of purity of blood from the other side. Crown decrees on purity of blood were affirmed by indigenous communities, which barred Indians from holding office who had any non-Indians (Spaniards and/or Blacks) in their lineage. In indigenous communities "local caciques [rulers] and principales were granted a set of privileges and rights on the basis of their pre-Hispanic noble bloodlines and acceptance of the Catholic faith." [22] Indigenous nobles submitted proofs (probanzas) of their purity of blood to affirm their rights and privileges that were extended to themselves and their communities. This supported the república de indios, a legal division of society that separated indigenous from non-Indians (república de españoles). [23]

In the mid to late eighteenth century, the pace of race mixture (mestizaje),a term coined in the modern era, increased in New Spain, political changes of the Bourbon Reforms privileged peninsular Spaniards over American-born Spaniards, and casta paintings began to be produced in great numbers in Mexico. It was also the period when the power of racial classifications declined significantly. [24]

From Spaniard and Indian woman, Mestiza. Miguel Cabrera, 1763 Castas 01mestiza max.jpg
From Spaniard and Indian woman, Mestiza. Miguel Cabrera, 1763
Spanish (espanol) father, Mestiza (mixed Spanish-Indian) mother, and their Castiza daughter. Miguel Cabrera. De espanol y mestiza, castiza.jpg
Spanish (español) father, Mestiza (mixed Spanish-Indian) mother, and their Castiza daughter. Miguel Cabrera.

In Spanish America (and many other places), racial categories were formal legal classifications. Initially in Spanish America there were three racial categories. They generally referred to the multiplicity of indigenous American peoples as "Indians" (indios), a Spanish term applied to, but seldom used by Amerinds themselves. Those from Spain called themselves españoles, which in the late colonial period was further refined to those born in Iberia, called politely peninsulares, while American-born españoles were called Criollos. The third group were black Africans, called negros ("Blacks"), brought as slaves from the earliest days of Spanish empire in the Caribbean.

There were fewer Spanish women than men who immigrated to the New World and fewer black women than men, so that mixed-race offspring of Spaniards and of Blacks were often the product of liaisons with indigenous women. The process of race mixture is now termed mestizaje, a term coined in the modern era.

In the sixteenth century, the term casta, a collective category for mixed-race individuals, came into existence as the numbers grew, particularly in urban areas. The crown had divided the population of its overseas empire into two categories, separating Indians from non-Indians. Indigenous were the República de Indios, the other the República de Españoles, essentially the Hispanic sphere, so that Spaniards, Blacks, and mixed-race castas were lumped into this category. Official censuses and ecclesiastical records noted an individual's racial category, so that these sources can be used to chart socio-economic standard, residence patterns, and other important data.

General racial groupings had their own set of privileges and restrictions, both legal and customary. So, for example, only Spaniards and indigenous, who were deemed to be the original societies of the Spanish dominions, had recognized aristocracies. [25] [26] Also, in America and other overseas possessions, all Spaniards, regardless of their family's class background in Europe, came to consider themselves equal to the Peninsular hidalgía and expected to be treated as such. Access to these privileges and even a person's perceived and accepted racial classification, however, were also determined by that person's socioeconomic standing in society. [27] [28] [29]

Official censuses and ecclesiastical records noted an individual's racial category, so that these sources can be used to chart socio-economic standards, residence patterns, and other important data. Parish registers, where baptism, marriage, and burial were recorded, had three basic categories: Español (European whites), Indio, and Color Quebrado ("broken color", indicating a mixed-race person). In some parishes in colonial Mexico, Indios were recorded with other non-Spaniards in the Color quebrado register. [30] Españoles and mestizos could be ordained as priests and were exempt from payment of tribute to the crown. Free blacks, Amerindians, and mixed-race castas were required to pay tribute and barred from the priesthood. Being designated as an Español or mestizo conferred social and financial advantages. Men of color began to apply to the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico, but in 1688 Bishop Juan de Palafox y Mendoza attempted to prevent their entrance by drafting new regulations barring blacks and mulattoes. In small Mexican parishes, dark complected priests served while their mixed-race heritage was left unacknowledged. [31] In 1776, the crown attempted to prevent marriages between racially unequal partners by issuing the Royal Pragmatic on Marriage, taking approval of marriages away from the couple and placing it in their parents' hands. The marriage between Luisa de Abrego, a free black domestic servant from Seville and Miguel Rodríguez, a white Segovian conquistador in 1565 in St. Augustine (Spanish Florida), is the first known and recorded Christian marriage anywhere in the continental United States. [32]

Long lists of different terms found in casta paintings do not appear in official documentation; only counts of Spaniards, mestizos, Blacks and mulattoes, and indigenous (indios) were found in censuses. By the end of the colonial period in 1821, over one hundred categories of possible variations of mixture existed. [33]

Race mixture in Mexico City

View of the Plaza Mayor of Mexico city (ca. 1695) by Cristobal de Villalpando. Public spaces in the capital provided an opportunity for interaction between individuals of different strata. The painting shows the damage to the viceroy's palace following the riot of 1692. Vista de la Plaza Mayor de la Ciudad de Mexico - Cristobal de Villalpando.jpg
View of the Plaza Mayor of Mexico city (ca. 1695) by Cristóbal de Villalpando. Public spaces in the capital provided an opportunity for interaction between individuals of different strata. The painting shows the damage to the viceroy's palace following the riot of 1692.

In his analysis of the 1790 census of Mexico City and its surrounding area, Dennis Nodin Valdés shows that the major colonial metropolis had a higher proportion of Spaniards and castas than Indians. In addition, there were higher rates of persons of mixed race, or mestizaje, than in the surrounding countryside, which was dominated by indios. He compared the population of the capital of New Spain with the census of the Intendancy of Mexico in 1794. [34] The total number of Mexico City residents counted in 1793 was 104,760 (which excludes 8,166 officials) and in the intendancy as a whole 1,043,223, excluding 2,299 officials. In both the capital and the intendancy, the European population was the smallest percentage, with 2,335 in the capital (2.2%) and the intendancy 1,330 (.1%). The listing for Spaniard (español) was 50,371 (48.1%), with the intendancy showing 134,695 (12.9%). For mestizos (in which he has merged the castizos), in the capital there were 19,357 (18.5%) and in the intendancy 112,113 (10.7%). For the mulatto category, the capital listed 7,094 (6.8%) with the intendancy showing 52,629 (5.0%). There is apparently no separate category for blacks (Negros). The category Indian showed 25,603 (24.4%) in the capital, with the intendancy having 742,186 (71.1). The capital had the largest concentration of Spaniards and castas, and the countryside was overwhelmingly Indian. The population of the capital “indicates that conditions favoring mestizaje were more favorable in the city than the outlying area". [35] In the 1811 census of Mexico City by residential sectors, there is no evidence of absolute segregation by race, an important finding. [36] The highest concentration of Spaniards was around the traza, the central sector of the city where the civil and religious institutions were based and where there was the highest concentration of wealthy merchants. But non-Spaniards also lived there. Indians were found in higher concentrations in the sectors on the fringes of the capital. Castas appear as residents in all sectors of the capital.

Casta paintings

Luis de Mena, Virgin of Guadalupe and castas, 1750. Museo de America, Madrid. Casta Painting by Luis de Mena.jpg
Luis de Mena, Virgin of Guadalupe and castas, 1750. Museo de América, Madrid.
Casta painting showing 16 hierarchically arranged, mixed-race groupings, with indios mecos set outside of the orderly set of "civilized" society. Ignacio Maria Barreda, 1777. Real Academia Espanola de la Lengua, Madrid. Ignacio Maria Barreda - Las castas mexicanas.jpg
Casta painting showing 16 hierarchically arranged, mixed-race groupings, with indios mecos set outside of the orderly set of "civilized" society. Ignacio Maria Barreda, 1777. Real Academia Española de la Lengua, Madrid.
Spanish father and Albina mother, Torna atras. Miguel Cabrera, eighteenth century Mexico Castas 07tornatras max.jpg
Spanish father and Albina mother, Torna atrás. Miguel Cabrera, eighteenth century Mexico
Jose Joaquin Magon, Spaniard + India = Mestizo. I. "Born of the Spaniard and the India is a Mestizo, who is generally humble, tranquil, and straightforward." Museo de Antropologia, Madrid. 115 x 141 cm. Jose Joaquin Magon - El Mestizo.jpg
José Joaquín Magón, Spaniard + India = Mestizo. I. "Born of the Spaniard and the India is a Mestizo, who is generally humble, tranquil, and straightforward." Museo de Antropología, Madrid. 115 x 141 cm.
Spanish father, Torna atras mother, Tente en el aire ("floating in mid air") offspring. X. De espanol y torna atras, tente en el aire (Casta painting) LACMA M.2011.20.3 (1 of 6).jpg
Spanish father, Torna atrás mother, Tente en el aire ("floating in mid air") offspring.
Indios Gentiles. Miguel Cabrera Castas 16indios max.jpg
Indios Gentiles. Miguel Cabrera

Artwork created mainly in eighteenth-century Mexico purports to show race mixture as a hierarchy. These paintings have had tremendous influence in how scholars have approached difference in the colonial era, but should not be taken as definitive description of racial difference. For approximately a century, casta paintings are by elite artists for an elite viewership. They ceased to be produced following Mexico's independence in 1821 when casta designations were abolished. The vast majority of casta paintings were produced in Mexico, by a variety of artists, with a single group of canvases clearly identified for eighteenth-century Peru. In the colonial era, artists primary painted religious art and portraits, but in the eighteenth century, casta paintings emerged as a completely secular genre of art. An exception to that is the painting by Luis de Mena, a single canvas that has the central figure of the Virgin of Guadalupe and a set of casta groupings. [37] Most sets of casta paintings have 16 separate canvases, but a few, such as Mena's, Ignacio María Barreda, and the anonymous painting in the Museo de Virreinato in Tepozotlan, Mexico, are frequently reproduced as examples of the genre, likely because their composition gives a single, tidy image of the racial classification (from the elite viewpoint).

It is unclear why casta paintings emerged as a genre, why they became such a popular genre of artwork, who commissioned them, and who collected them. One scholar suggests they can be seen as "proud renditions of the local," [38] at a point when American-born Spaniards began forming a clearer identification with their place of birth rather than the metropole of Spain. [39] The single-canvas casta artwork could well have been as a curiosity or souvenir for Spaniards to take home to Spain; two frequently reproduced casta paintings are Mena's and Barreda's, both of which are in Madrid museums. [40] There is only one set of casta paintings definitively done in Peru, commissioned by Viceroy Manuel Amat y Junyent (1770), and sent to Spain for the Cabinet of Natural History of the Prince of Asturias. [41]

The interest of the Spanish Enlightenment in organizing knowledge and scientific description might have resulted in the commission of many series of pictures that document the racial combinations that existed in the exotic lands that Spain possessed on the other side of the world. Many sets of these paintings still exist (around one hundred complete sets in museums and private collections and many more individual paintings), of varying artistic quality, usually consisting of sixteen paintings representing as many racial combinations. It must be emphasized that these paintings reflected the views of the economically established Criollo society and officialdom, but not all Criollos were pleased with casta paintings. One remarked that they show "what harms us, not what benefits us, what dishonors us, not what ennobles us." [42] Many paintings are in Spain in major museums, but many remain in private collections in Mexico, perhaps commissioned and kept because they show the character of late colonial Mexico and a source of pride. [43]

Some of the finer sets were done by prominent Mexican artists, such as José de Alcíbar, Miguel Cabrera, José de Ibarra, José Joaquín Magón, (who painted two sets); Juan Patricio Morlete Ruiz, José de Páez, and Juan Rodríguez Juárez. One of Magón's sets includes descriptions of the "character and moral standing" of his subjects. These artists worked together in the painting guilds of New Spain. They were important transitional artists in 18th-century casta painting. At least one Spaniard, Francisco Clapera, also contributed to the casta genre. In general, little is known of most artists who did sign their work; most casta paintings are unsigned.

The overall themes that emerge in these paintings are the "supremacy of the Spaniards", the possibility that mixtures of Spaniards and Spanish-Indian offspring could return to the status of Spaniards through marriage to Spaniards over generations, what can be considered "restoration of racial purity," [44]  or "racial mending" [45] was seen visually in many sets of casta paintings. It was also articulated by a visitor to Mexico, Don Pedro Alonso O’Crouley, in 1774. "If the mixed-blood is the offspring of a Spaniard and an Indian, the stigma [of race mixture] disappears at the third step in descent because it is held as systematic that a Spaniard and an Indian produce a mestizo; a mestizo and a Spaniard, a castizo; and a castizo and a Spaniard, a Spaniard. The admixture of Indian blood should not indeed be regarded as a blemish, since the provisions  of law give the  Indian all  that he could wish for, and Philip II granted to mestizos the privilege of becoming priests. On this consideration is based the common estimation of  descent  from a  union of  Indian and European or creole Spaniard." [46]  

O’Crouley states that the same process of restoration of racial purity does not occur over generations for European-African offspring marrying whites. “From the union of a Spaniard and a Negro the mixed-blood  retains  the stigma for generations without losing the original quality of a mulato." [47] Casta paintings show increasing whitening over generations with the mixes of Spaniards and Africans. The sequence is the offspring of a Spaniard + Negra, Mulatto; Spaniard with a Mulatta, Morisco; Spaniard with a Morisca, Albino (a racial category, derived from Alba, "white"); Spaniard with an Albina, Torna atrás , or "throw back" black. Negro, Mulatto, and Morisco were labels found in colonial-era documentation, but Albino and Torna atrás exist only as fairly standard categories in casta paintings.

In contrast, mixtures with Blacks, both by Indians and Spaniards, led to a bewildering number of combinations, with "fanciful terms" to describe them. Instead of leading to a new racial type or equilibrium, they led to apparent disorder. Terms such as the above-mentioned tente en el aire ("floating in mid air") and no te entiendo ("I don't understand you")—and others based on terms used for animals: coyote and lobo (wolf). [48] —reflect the fear and mistrust that Spanish officials, society and those who commissioned these paintings saw these new racial types. [49] [ page needed ]

Castas defined themselves in different ways, and how they were recorded in official records was a process of negotiation between the casta and the person creating the document, whether it was a birth certificate, a marriage certificate or a court deposition. In real life, many casta individuals were assigned different racial categories in different documents, revealing the malleable nature of racial identity in colonial, Spanish American society. [50]

In New Spain, one of the Viceroyalties of the Spanish Empire, casta paintings illustrated where each person in the New World ranked in the system. These paintings from 18th and 19th centuries were popular in Spain and other parts of Europe. They reflected the Spaniards’ sense of racial superiority by illustrating an orderly hierarchical society where socio-economic status depended on skin color and limpieza de sangre (purity of blood). [51] [52]

Some paintings depicted the supposed "innate" character and quality of people because of their birth and ethnic origin. For example, according to one painting by José Joaquín Magón, a mestizo (mixed Indian + Spanish) was considered generally humble, tranquil, and straightforward; while another painting claims "from Lobo and Indian woman is born the Cambujo, one usually slow, lazy, and cumbersome." Ultimately, the casta paintings are reminders of the colonial biases in modern human history that linked a caste/ethnic society based on descent, skin color, social status, and one's birth. [51] [52]

Often, casta paintings depicted commodity items from Latin America like pulque, the fermented alcohol drink of the lower classes. Painters depicted interpretations of pulque that were attributed to specific castas. Pulque abuse was shown in some casta paintings as a social criticism of the lower castas, and the Spanish desire for regulation over pulque consumption and distribution.

The Indias in casta paintings depict them as partners to Spaniards, Blacks, and castas, and thus part of Hispanic society. But in a number of casta paintings, they are also shown apart from "civilized society," such as Miguel Cabrera's Indios Gentiles, or indios bárbaros or Chichimecas barely clothed indigenous in a wild, setting. [53] In the single-canvas casta painting by José María Barreda, there are a canonical 16 casta groupings and then in a separate cell below are "Mecos". Although the so-called "barbarian Indians" (indios bárbaros) were fierce warriors on horseback, indios in casta paintings are not shown as bellicose, but as weak, a trope that developed in the colonial era. [54] A casta painting by Luis de Mena that is often reproduced as an example of the genre shows an unusual couple with a pale, well-dressed Spanish woman paired with a nearly naked indio, producing a Mestizo offspring. "The aberrant combination not only mocks social protocol but also seems to underscore the very artificiality of a casta system that pretends to circumscribe social fluidity and economic mobility." [55] The image "would have seemed frankly bizarre and offensive by eighteenth-century Creole elites, if taken literally", but if the pair were considered allegorical figures, the Spanish woman represents "Europe" and the indio "America." [56] The image "functions as an allegory for the 'civilizing' and Christianizing process." [57]

Sample sets of casta paintings

Presented here are casta lists from three sets of paintings. Note that they only agree on the first five combinations, which are essentially the Indian-White ones. There is no agreement on the Black mixtures, however. Also, no one list should be taken as "authoritative". These terms would have varied from region to region and across time periods. The lists here probably reflect the names that the artist knew or preferred, the ones the patron requested to be painted, or a combination of both.

Miguel Cabrera, 1763 [58] Andrés de Islas, 1774 [59] Anonymous (Museo del Virreinato) [60]
  1. De Español y d'India; Mestiza
  2. De español y Mestiza, Castiza
  3. De Español y Castiza, Español
  4. De Español y Negra, Mulata
  5. De Español y Mulata; Morisca
  6. De Español y Morisca; Albina [61]
  7. De Español y Albina; Torna atrás
  8. De Español y Torna atrás; Tente en el aire
  9. De Negro y d'India, China cambuja.
  10. De Chino cambujo y d'India; Loba
  11. De Lobo y d'India, Albarazado
  12. De Albarazado y Mestiza, Barcino
  13. De Indio y Barcina; Zambuigua
  14. De Castizo y Mestiza; Chamizo
  15. De Mestizo y d'India; Coyote
  16. Indios gentiles (Heathen Indians)
  1. De Español e India, nace Mestizo
  2. De Español y Mestiza, nace Castizo
  3. De Castizo y Española, nace Española
  4. De Español y Negra, nace Mulata
  5. De Español y Mulata, nace Morisco
  6. De Español y Morisca, nace Albino
  7. De Español y Albina, nace Torna atrás
  8. De Indio y Negra, nace Lobo
  9. De Indio y Mestiza, nace Coyote
  10. De Lobo y Negra, nace Chino
  11. De Chino e India, nace Cambujo
  12. De Cambujo e India, nace Tente en el aire
  13. De Tente en el aire y Mulata, nace Albarazado
  14. De Albarazado e India, nace Barcino
  15. De Barcino y Cambuja, nace Calpamulato
  16. Indios Mecos bárbaros (Barbarian Meco Indians)
  1. Español con India, Mestizo
  2. Mestizo con Española, Castizo
  3. Castiza con Español, Española
  4. Español con Negra, Mulato
  5. Mulato con Española, Morisca
  6. Morisco con Española, Chino
  7. Chino con India, Salta atrás
  8. Salta atras con Mulata, Lobo
  9. Lobo con China, Gíbaro (Jíbaro)
  10. Gíbaro con Mulata, Albarazado
  11. Albarazado con Negra, Cambujo
  12. Cambujo con India, Sambiaga (Zambiaga)
  13. Sambiago con Loba, Calpamulato
  14. Calpamulto con Cambuja, Tente en el aire
  15. Tente en el aire con Mulata, No te entiendo
  16. No te entiendo con India, Torna atrás


Statue of Jose Vasconcelos in Mexico City JoseVasconcelosStatueDF.JPG
Statue of José Vasconcelos in Mexico City

Mestizaje is a term that came into usage in the twentieth century for racial mixing and was not a colonial-era term. [62] In the modern era, is used to denote the positive unity of race mixtures in modern Latin America. This is ideological stance is in contrast to the term miscegenation, which usually has negative connotations. [63]  The main ideological advocate of mestizaje was José Vasconcelos (1882-1959), the Mexican Minister of Education in the 1920s. The term was in circulation in Mexico in the late nineteenth century, along with similar terms, cruzamiento (“crossing”) and mestización (process of “mestizo-izing”). In Spanish America, the colonial-era system of castas sought to differentiate between individuals and groups on the basis of a hierarchical classification by ancestry, skin color, and status (calidad), giving separate labels to the perceived categorical differences and privileging whiteness. In contrast, the idea of modern mestizaje is the positive unity of a nation's citizenry based on racial mixture. “Mestizaje placed greater emphasis [than the casta system] on commonality and hybridity to engineer order and unity… [it] operated within the context of the nation-state and sought to derive meaning from Latin America’s own internal experiences rather than the dictates and necessities of empire... ultimately [it] embraced racial mixture.” [64]

The ideology of mestizaje sought to reverse the longstanding prejudice against darker skinned, mixed race individuals, which in the colonial era was enshrined in Spanish law. Although in post-independence Mexico, legal distinctions based on race were abolished, urban elites’ racial prejudice remained.

Mestizaje as an ideology in modern Mexico

At independence in Mexico, the casta classifications were abolished, but discrimination based on skin color and socioeconomic status continued.  Liberal intellectuals grappled with the “Indian Problem,” that is the Indians’ lack of cultural assimilation to Mexican national life as citizens of the nation rather than members of their indigenous communities. Urban elites spurned mixed-race urban plebeians and Indians along with their traditional popular culture. In the late nineteenth century during the rule of Porfirio Díaz, elites’ sought to be, act, and look like modern Europeans, that is, different from the majority of the Mexican population.  Díaz was mixed race himself, but powdered his dark skin to hide his Mixtec indigenous ancestry.   At the end of the nineteenth century, however, as social and economic tensions increased in Mexico, two major works by Mexican intellectuals sought to rehabilitate the assessment of the mestizo. Díaz’s Minister of Education, Justo Sierra published The Political Evolution of the Mexican People (1902), which situated Mexican identity in the mixing of European whites and Indians. Mexicans are "the sons of two peoples, of two races. [This fact] dominates our whole history; to this we owe our soul." [65]  Intellectual Andrés Molina Enríquez also took a revisionist stance on mestizos in his work Los grandes problemas nacionales (The Great National Problems) (1909).  The Mexican state after the Mexican Revolution (1910-20) embraced the ideology of mestizaje as a nation-building tool, aimed at integrating Indians culturally and politically in the construction of national identity. As such it has meant a systematic effort to eliminate indigenous culture, in the name of integrating them into a supposedly inclusive mestizo identity.  For Afro-Mexicans,  the ideology has denied their historical contributions to Mexico and their current place in Mexican political life. In recent years, “The mestizos’ sole claim to Mexican national identity has begun to erode, at least rhetorically.” [66]   A constitutional changes to Article 4 that now says that the “Mexican Nation has a pluricultural composition, originally based on its indigenous peoples.  The law will protect and promote the development of their languages, cultures, uses, customs, resources, and specific forms of social organization and will guarantee their members effective access to the jurisdiction of the State.”

Mestizaje in other parts of Latin America

There has been considerable work on race and race mixture in various parts of Latin America in recent years. Including South America; [67] Venezuela [68] Brazil, [69] Peru [70] and Colombia. [71]  

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Mestizo</i> Term to denote a person with European and Native American blood

Mestizo is a term historically used in Spain and Hispanic America that originally referred to a person of combined European and Indigenous American descent, regardless of where the person was born. The term was used as an ethnic/racial category for mixed-race castas that evolved during the Spanish Empire. Although broadly speaking, Mestizo means someone of mixed European/indigenous heritage, and usually for someone considered a plebeian, the term did not have a fixed meaning in the colonial period. It was a formal label for individuals in official documentation, such as censuses, parish registers, Inquisition trials, and other matters. Individuals were labeled by priests and royal officials as mestizos, but the term was also used for self identification.

<i>Torna atrás</i>

Torna atrás or Tornatrás is a term once used in the Spanish Empire, colonial Spanish America and the Philippines, to describe a mixed race person (mestizo) that showed phenotypic characteristics of only one of the "original races", that is, white, black, Amerindian or Asian. The term was also used to describe an individual whose parentage was half white and half "albino".

<i>Castizo</i> Race

Castizo is a Spanish word with a general meaning of "pure", "genuine" or representative of its race being three quarters white Hispanic and a quarter native. The feminine form is castiza. From this meaning it evolved into other meanings, such as "typical of an area" and it was also used for one of the colonial Spanish mixed-race categories, the castas. The category Castizo/a was widely recognized by the 18th century in colonial Mexico and a standard category in eighteenth-century casta paintings. In the taxonomic chart accompanying a work on casta paintings, castizo is given as "uncertain origin" and appears in 1543 with the meaning "class, condition, social position".

Filipino people of Spanish ancestry

Spanish settlement in the Philippines first took place in the 16th century, during the Spanish colonial period of the islands. The conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi founded the first Spanish settlement in Cebu in 1565 and later established Manila as the capital of the Spanish East Indies in 1571. The Philippine Islands are named after King Philip II of Spain and it became a territory of the Viceroyalty of New Spain which was governed from Mexico City until the 19th century, when Mexico obtained independence. From 1821, the Philippine Islands were ruled directly from Madrid, Spain.

The Criollo are Latin Americans who are of full or near full Spanish descent, distinguishing them from both multi-racial Latin Americans and Latin Americans of post-colonial European immigrant origin.

Gente de razón is a Spanish term used in colonial Spanish America and modern Hispanic America to refer to people who were culturally Hispanicized. It was a social distinction that existed alongside the racial categories of the sistema de castas. Indigenous peoples, who maintained their culture and lived in their legally recognized communities, and mixed-race people, especially the poor in urban centers, were generally considered not to be gente de razón.

Race and ethnicity in Latin America

There is no single system of races or ethnicities that covers all modern Latin America, and usage of labels may vary substantially. In Mexico, for example, the category mestizo is not defined or applied the same as the corresponding category of mestiço in Brazil. In spite of these differences, the construction of race in Latin America can be contrasted with concepts of race and ethnicity in the United States. The ethno-racial composition of modern-day Latin American nations combines diverse Amerindian populations, with influence from Iberian and other European colonizers, and equally diverse African groups brought to the Americas as slave labor, and also recent immigrant groups from all over the world.

Afro-Mexicans Mexicans of predominantly African descent

Afro-Mexicans also known as Black Mexicans, are Mexicans who have a predominant heritage from Sub-Saharan Africa and identify as such. As a single population, Afro-Mexicans includes individuals descended from Spanish colonial era transatlantic African slaves brought to Mexico, as well as others of more recent immigrant African descent, including Afro-descended persons from neighboring English, French, and Spanish-speaking countries of the Caribbean and Central America, descendants of fugitive slaves who escaped to Mexico from the Southern United States, and to a lesser extent recent immigrants directly from Africa. Afro-Mexicans are most concentrated in specific, largely isolated communities, including the populations of the Costa Chica of Oaxaca and Guerrero, Veracruz and in some cities in northern Mexico.

Juan Rodríguez Juárez Spanish painter

Juan Rodríguez Juárez was an artist in the Viceroyalty of New Spain. He was a member of a Spanish family long noted for their accomplishments in the world of painting. His brother was Nicolás Rodríguez Juárez, who was like himself, an established painter in New Spain. He was the son of Antonio Rodríguez (1636–91), a notable Spanish painter. His maternal grandfather José Juárez and maternal great great grandfather Luis Juárez were also notable painters in Spanish history and prominent in the Baroque era.

Luis de Mena

Luis de Mena was a Mexican artist who lived and worked predominantly in the middle of the eighteenth century. Mena painted religious works and has been described as "no more than a journeyman painter in 18th century Mexico." He signed a work entitled "Most Holy Mother of Light", now on display in the Serra Museum in San Diego, California.

An unpublished manuscript entitled Ordenanzas del Baratillo de México was signed and dated in 1754 by Pedro Anselmo Chreslos Jache, likely a pseudonym for an educated Spaniard. It is a satirical piece of eighteenth-century colonial literature written in New Spain, which sought to offer an alternative view of life in colonial Spanish America.

Francisco Clapera Spanish artist

Francisco Clapera (1746–1810) was a Spanish painter who after training in Spain lived and worked in Colonial Mexico. Here he was one of the few foreign painters to create casta paintings, a distinctive Mexican genre that depicts in sets of consecutive images scenes of racial mixing among the Indians, Spaniards and Africans who lived in the Spanish colony.

Juan Patricio Morlete Ruiz Mexican painter

Juan Patricio Morlete Ruiz was an 18th-century Mexican painter, a mestizo according to the system of racial classification. He is most well known for his casta paintings.

Pardo is a term used in the Portuguese and Spanish colonies in the Americas to refer to the multiracial descendants of Europeans, Indigenous Americans, and West Africans. In some places they were defined as neither exclusively mestizo, nor mulatto, nor zambo. In colonial Mexico, pardo "became virtually synonymous with mulatto, thereby losing much of its indigenous referencing." In the eighteenth century, pardo might have been the preferred label for blackness. Unlike negro, pardo had no association with slavery. Casta paintings from eighteenth-century Mexico use the label negro never pardo to identify Africans paired with Spaniards.

José de Páez Mexican painter (1720-1790)


Coyote (racial category)

Coyote, , is a derogatory colonial Spanish American racial term for a mixed-race person casta, usually referring to a person born of parents one of whom is a Mestizo and the other indigenous (indio). 

Lobo (racial category)

Lobo, is a racial category in the Spanish colonial racial label for a mixed-race casta, far down the racial hierarchy created by the Spanish colonial regime privileging European whites.

Ignacio Maria Barreda

Ignacio María Barreda was an eighteenth-century Mexican painter, self-identified as university graduate with a Bachiller in philosophy. Mexican art historian Manuel Toussaint noted him for his portraits, including two of elite women, reproduced in his publication, and others of elite religious men. Toussaint believed he might be the official painter for the Seminario de San Camila, His 1777 single-canvas casta painting is an exemplar of this eighteenth-century genre of secular art. It is similar in some ways to the 1750 single-canvas painting by Luis de Mena, which also includes outdoor scenes near Mexico City, particularly the Paseo de Ixtacalco.

José Joaquín Magón

José Joaquín Magón was a late eighteenth-century Mexican painter from Puebla de los Angeles. Little is known of his personal life, but he was a well-known artist who produced a large number of extant religious paintings and portraits of high ecclesiastics in Puebla. He also produced two sets of casta paintings in the 1770s, not mentioned in the works of art historians Manuel Toussaint and Francisco Pérez Salazar, who are silent on the genre of casta painting. One set of his casta paintings is signed and the other is identified as Magón’s by María Concepción García Sáiz. Most of Magón’s works are religious in theme and some can be found in churches in Puebla. He was commissioned to produce paintings “for the triumphal arch on the occasion of the crowning of Charles III." 

Chino (casta)

Chino was a casta used in colonial Mexico to refer to people of mixed ancestry. In the eighteenth century, individuals of mixed Amerindian and African ancestry came to be called chinos. A Mexican Inquisition bigamy case in Mexico City labeled one woman variously as a china, loba, and parda, one example of a person shifting racial categorization. In marriage applications where individuals had to include the names of their parents, chinos tended not to know this information.


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  2. Vinson, Ben III. Before Mestizaje: The Frontiers of Race and Caste in Colonial Mexico. New York: Cambridge University Press 2018.
  3. Rappaport, Joanne. The Disappearing Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial Kingdom of New Granada. Durham: Duke University Press 2014.
  4. Katzew, Ilona. Casta Painting: Images of Race in Eighteenth-Century Mexico. New Haven: Yale University Press 2004.
  5. "Caste," Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition. (Springfield, 1999.)
  6. "Caste," New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd edition. (Oxford, 2005).
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  8. Vinson, Ben III. Before Mestizaje: The Frontiers of Race and Caste in Colonial Mexico. New York: Cambridge University Press 2018.
  9. Cope, R. Douglas. The Limits of Racial Domination: Plebeian Society in Colonial Mexico City, 1660–1720. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994.
  10. Valdés, Dennis N., "Decline of the Sociedad de Castas in Eighteenth-Century Mexico." PhD diss. University of Michigan, 1978
  11. Rappaport, Joanne. The Disappearning Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial New Kingdom of Granada. Durham: Duke University Press 2014.
  12. Cline, Sarah. "Guadalupe and the Castas: The Power of a Singular Colonial Mexican Painting." Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos Vol. 31, Issue 2, Summer 2015, p. 222.
  13. quoted in Enrique Krauze, Mexico: Biography of Power. New York: HarperCollins 1997, p. 112
  14. quoted in Krauze, Mexico, p. 111.
  15. Vincent, Theodore. The Legacy of Vicente Guerrero, Mexico's First Black Indian President, esp. Chapter 7, "Iguala: Attaining Peace with an Equality Clause." Gainesville: University of Florida Press 2001, pp.117-140.
  16. [Plan of Iguala] accessed 3 August 2019.
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  18. Jonathan I. Israel, Race, Class, and Politics in Colonial Mexico, 1610-1670. Oxford: Oxford University Press 1975, pp. 245-46.
  19. Martinez, Genealogical Fictions, p. 266-67.
  20. 1 2 Martinez, Genealogical Fictions, p. 267.
  21. Martinez, Genealogical Fictions, p. 269.
  22. Martinez, Genealogical Fictions, p. 270.
  23. Martinez, Genealogical Fictions, p. 273.
  24. Dennis Nodin Valdés, "The Decline of the Sociedad de Castas in Mexico City". PhD dissertation, University of Michigan, 1978.
  25. MacLachlan, Colin; Jaime E. Rodríguez O. (1990). The Forging of the Cosmic Race: A Reinterprretation of Colonial Mexico (Expanded ed.). Berkeley: University of California. pp. 199, 208. ISBN   978-0-520-04280-3. [I]n the New World all Spaniards, no matter how poor, claimed hidalgo status. This unprecedented expansion of the privileged segment of society could be tolerated by the Crown because in Mexico the indigenous population assumed the burden of personal tribute.
  26. Gibson, Charles (1964). The Aztecs Under Spanish Rule . Stanford: Stanford University. pp.  154–165. ISBN   978-0-8047-0912-5.
  27. See Passing (racial identity) for a discussion of a related phenomenon, although in a later and very different cultural and legal context.
  28. Seed, Patricia (1988). To Love, Honor, and Obey in Colonial Mexico: Conflicts over Marriage Choice, 1574-1821. Stanford: Stanford University. pp. 21–23. ISBN   978-0-8047-2159-2.
  29. Bakewell, Peter (1997). A History of Latin America. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell. pp.  160–163. ISBN   978-0-631-16791-4. The Spaniards generally regarded [local Indian lords/caciques] as hidalgos, and used the honorific 'don' with the more eminent of them. […] Broadly speaking, Spaniards in the Indies in the sixteenth century arranged themselves socially less and less by Iberian criteria or frank, and increasingly by new American standards. […] simple wealth gained from using America's human and natural resources soon became a strong influence on social standing.
  30. Vinson, Before Mestizaje, p. 49.
  31. Ramos-Kittrell, Jesús (2016). Playing in the Cathedral: Music, Race, and Status in New Spain. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 39–40.
  32. J. Michael Francis, PhD, Luisa de Abrego: Marriage, Bigamy, and the Spanish Inquisition, University of Southern Florida
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  34. Nodin Valdés, “The Decline”, Table 2.2, p. 58. The census of the Intendancy is found in the Archivo General de la Nación (México), Impresos Officiales, 51.
  35. Nodin Valdés, “The Decline” p. 58.
  36. Nodin Valdés, “The Decline” p. 62; Chart 2.5, p. 64. The census is found in Archivo General de la Nación (México), Padrones 53-76.
  37. Cline, "Guadalupe and the Castas" pp. 222-23
  38. Katzew, Ilona, "Casta Painting: Identity and Social Stratification in Colonial Mexico," in New World Orders: Casta Painting and Colonial Latin America,ed. Ilona Katzew. New York: Americas Society Art Gallery 1996, 22
  39. Brading, D.A. The First America: The Spanish Monarchy, Creole Patriots, and the Liberal State, 1492-1867. New York: Cambridge University Press 1991.
  40. García Sáiz, María Concepción. Las castas mexicanas. Milan: Olivetti 1989, 20.
  41. Donahue-Wallace, Kelly. Art and Architecture of Viceregal Latin America, 1521-1821. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press 2008, p. 221. She reproduces a letter from Amat concerning the paintings.
  42. quoted in Katzew, Ilona, "Casta Painting: Identity and Social Stratification in Colonial Mexico, in New World Orders: Casta Painting and Colonial Latin America. exhib. cat. New York: Americas Society Art Gallery 1996, 14.
  43. Donahue-Wallace, p. 220.
  44. Cline, "Guadalupe and the Castas", p. 229
  45. Katzew, Casta Painting, pp. 48-51
  46. Sr. Don Pedro Alonso O’Crouley, A Description of the Kingdom of New Spain (1774),trans. and ed. Sean Galvin. San Francisco: John Howell Books, 1972, 20
  47. O’Crouley, “A Description of the Kingdom of New Spain’’, p. 20
  48. Hernández Cuevas, M.P. The Mexican Colonial Term “Chino” Is a Referent of Afrodescendant. The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.5, no.5, June 2012.
  49. Katzew, "Casta Painting."
  50. Cope, The Limits of Racial Domination and Seed, To Love, Honor, and Obey, in passim.
  51. 1 2 Maria Elena Martinez (2002). "The Spanish Concept of Limpieza de Sangre and the Emergence of the Race/caste System in the Viceroyalty of New Spain, PhD dissertation". University of Chicago.Missing or empty |url= (help)
  52. 1 2 María Elena Martínez (2010). "Social Order in the Spanish New World" (PDF). Public Broadcasting Service, United States.
  53. Estrada de Gerlero, Elena Isabel. "The Representation of 'Heathen Indians' in Mexican Casta Painting," in New World Orders: Casta Painting and Colonial Latin America, ed. Ilona Katzew. New York: Americas Society Art Gallery 1996.
  54. Lewis, Laura A. "The 'weakness' of women and the feminization of the Indian," Colonial Latin American Review5, no. 1 (1996).
  55. Peterson, Jeanette Favrot, Visualizing Guadalulpe. p. 258
  56. Cline, "Guadalupe and the Castas", p. 225
  57. Martinez, Maria Elena. Genealogical Fictions, p. 256
  58. Katzew (2004), Casta Painting, 101-106. Paintings 1 and 3-8 private collections; 2 and 9-16 Museo de América, Madrid; 15 Elisabeth Waldo-Dentzel, Multicultural Music and Art Center (Northridge California).
  59. Katzew, Ilona. Program for Inventing Race: Casta Painting and Eighteenth-Century Mexico, April 4-August 8, 2004. LACMA
  60. Gracia, J. E. and Pablo De Greiff, eds. Hispanics/Latinos in the United States: Ethnicity, Race and Rights. New York, Routledge, 2000, 53. ISBN   978-0-415-92620-1
  61. Christopher Knight, "A Most Rare Couch Find: LACMA acquires a recently unrolled masterpiece." Los Angeles Times, April 1, 2015, A1.
  62. Rappaport, Joanne. The Disappearing Mestizo, p. 247.
  63. Lewis, Stephen. “Mestizaje” in The Encyclopedia of Mexico. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997, p. 840.
  64. Vinson, Ben III. Before Mestizaje. New York: Cambridge University Press 2018, pp. 61-2.
  65. Sierra, Justo. The Political Evolution of the Mexican People’’. Trans. Charles Ramsdell. Austin: University of Texas Press.  P. xvii.
  66. Lewis, “Mestizaje”, p. 841.
  67. Hale, Charles R., ‘Mestizaje, Hybridity and the Cultural Politics of Difference in Post-Revolutionary Central  America,’Journal of Latin American Anthropology, vol. 2, no. 1 (1996)
  68. Winthrop Wright, Cafe ́Con Leche: Race, Class and National Image in Venezuela. Austin: University of Texas Press 1990
  69. Sueann Caulfield, ‘Interracial Courtship in the Rio de Janeiro Courts, 1918–1940,’ in Nancy P. Appelbaum, Anne S. Macpherson and Karin A. Rosemblatt (eds.) in Race and Nation in Modern Latin America.  Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003
  70. Marisol de la Cadena,Indigenous Mestizos: The Politics of Race and Culture in Cuzco, 1919–1991. Durham: Duke University Press 2000
  71. Wade, Peter, Blackness and Race Mixture: The Dynamics of Racial Identity in Colombia. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press 1993

Further reading

Race and race mixture

  • Althouse, Aaron P. "Contested Mestizos, Alleged Mulattos: Racial Identity and Caste Hierarchy in Eighteenth-century Pátzcuaro." The Americas 62, no. 2 (October 2005), 151-175.
  • Anderson, Rodney. "Race and Social Stratification: A Comparison of Working-Class Spaniards, Indians, and Castas in Guadalajara, Mexico in 1821." Hispanic American Historical Review 68 (1988): 209-243.
  • Andrews, Norah. "Calidad, Genealogy, and Disputed Free-Colored Tributary Status in New Spain." The Americas 73, no. 2, 2016: 139-170.
  • Burns, Kathryn. "Unfixing Race," in Rereading the Black Legend: The Discourses of Religious and Racial Difference in the Renaissance Empires, ed. Margaret Greer et al. Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2007.
  • Castleman, Bruce A. "Social Climbers in a Colonial Mexican City: Individual Mobility within the Sistema de Castas in Orizaba, 1777-1791." Colonial Latin American Review, vol. 10, No. 2, 2001.
  • Chance, John K. Race and class in Colonial Oaxaca, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1978.
  • Cope, R. Douglas. The Limits of Racial Domination: Plebeian Society in Colonial Mexico City, 1660-1720. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994. ISBN   978-0-299-14044-1
  • Fisher, Andrew B. and Matthew D. O'Hara, eds. Imperial Subjects: Race and Identity in Colonial Latin America. Durham: Duke University Press 2009.
  • Garafalo, Leo and Rachel Sarah O'Toole. "Constructing Difference in Colonial Latin America". Colonialism and Colonial History 7, no. 1 (Spring 2006.
  • Giraudo, Laura. "Casta(s), 'sociedad de castas' e indigenismo: la interpretación del pasado colonial en el siglo XX", Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos [En ligne] URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/nuevomundo.72080
  • Gonzalbo Aizpuru, Pilar, "La trampa de las castas," in Alberro, Solange y Gonzalbo Aizpuru, Pilar, La sociedad novohispana. Estereotipos y realidades, México, El Colegio de México, 2013, p. 15-193.
  • Hill, Ruth. "Casta as Culture and the Sociedad de Castas a Literature," in Interpreting Colonialism. ed. Byron Wells and Philip Stewart. New York: Oxford University Press 2004.
  • Jackson, Robert H. Race, Caste, and Status: Indians in Colonial Spanish America. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press 1999.
  • Leibsohn, Dana, and Barbara E. Mundy, "Reckoning with Mestizaje," Vistas: Visual Culture in Spanish America, 1520-1820 (2015).
  • MacLachlan, Colin M. and Jaime E. Rodríguez O. The Forging of the Cosmic Race: A Reinterpretation of Colonial Mexico, expanded edition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990. ISBN   0-520-04280-8
  • Martínez, María Elena, Genealogical Fictions: Limpieza de Sangre, Religion, and Gender in Colonial Mexico, Stanford: Stanford University Press 2008,
  • McCaa, Robert. "Calidad, Class, and Marriage in Colonial Mexico: The Case of Parral 1788-90." Hispanic American Historical Review 64, no. 3. (aug. 1984): 477-501.
  • Mörner, Magnus. Race Mixture in the History of Latin America. Boston: Little Brown, 1967.
  • O'Crouley, Pedro Alonso. A Description of the Kingdom of New Spain. Translated and edited by Sean Galvin. John Howell Books 1972.
  • O'Toole, Rachel Sarah. Bound Lives: Africans, Indians, and the Making of Race in Colonial Peru. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press 2012. ISBN   978-0-8229-6193-2
  • Pitt-Rivers, Julian, "Sobre la palabra casta", América Indígena, 36-3, 1976, pp. 559-586.
  • Ramos-Kittrell, Jesús. Playing in the Cathedral: Music, Race, and Status in New Spain. New York: Oxford University Press 2016.
  • Rappaport, Joanne. The Disappearing Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial Kingdom of New Granada. Durham: Duke University Press 2014.
  • Rosenblat, Angel. El mestizaje y las castas coloniales: La población indígena y el mestizaje en América. buenos Aires, Editorial Nova 1954.
  • Seed, Patricia. To Love, Honor, and Obey in Colonial Mexico: Conflicts Over Marriage Choice, 1574-1821. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988. ISBN   978-0-8047-1457-0
  • Seed, Patricia. "Social Dimensions of Race: Mexico City 1753." Hispanic American Historical Review 62, no. 4. (Nov. 1982) pp. 569-606.
  • Twinam, Ann. Purchasing Whiteness: Pardos, Mulatos, and the Quest for Social Mobility in the Spanish Indies. Stanford: Stanford University Press 2015.
  • Valdés, Dennis N. "Decline of the Sociedad de Castas in Eighteenth-Century Mexico." PhD dissertation, University of Michigan 1978.
  • Vinson, Ben III. Before Mestizaje: The Frontiers of Race and Caste in Colonial Mexico. New York: Cambridge University Press 2018 ISBN   978-1-107-67081-5
  • Wade, Peter. "Rethinking 'Mestizaje': Ideology and Lived Experience." Journal of Latin American Studies 37, no. 2 (May 2005).

Casta painting

  • Carrera, Magali M. Imagining Identity in New Spain: Race, Lineage, and the Colonial Body in Portraiture and Casta Paintings. Austin, University of Texas Press, 2003. ISBN   978-0-292-71245-4
  • Cline, Sarah. "Guadalupe and the Castas: The Power of a Singular Colonial Mexican Painting." Mexican Studies/Esudios Mexicanos Vol. 31, Issue 2, Summer 2015, pages 218-46
  • *Cummins, Thomas BF. "Casta Paintings: Images of Race in Eighteenth-Century Mexico/Imagining Identity in New Spain: Race, Lineage, and the Colonial Body in Portraiture and Casta Paintings." The Art Bulletin 88.1 (2006).
  • Dean, Carolyn and Dana Leibsohn, "Hybridity and Its Discontents: Considering Visual Culture in Colonial Spanish America," Colonial Latin American Review, vol. 12, No. 1, 2003.
  • Earle, Rebecca, "The Pleasures of Taxonomy: Casta Paintings, Classification, and Colonialism." The William and Mary Quarterly, vol. 73, No. 2 (July 2016), pp. 427-466.
  • Estrada de Gerlero, Elena Isabel. "Representations of 'Heathen Indians' in Mexican Casta Painting," in New World Orders, Ilona Katzew, ed. New York: Americas Society Art Gallery 1996.
  • García Sáiz, María Concepción. Las castas mexicanas: Un género pictórico americano. Milan: Olivetti 1989.
  • García Sáiz, María Concepción, "The Artistic Development of Casta Painting," in New World Orders, Ilona Katzew, ed. New York: Americas Society Art Gallery, 1996.
  • Katzew, Ilona. "Casta Painting: Identity and Social Stratification in Colonial Mexico," New York University, 1996.
  • Katzew, Ilona, ed. New World Orders: Casta Painting and Colonial Latin America. New York: Americas Society Art Gallery 1996.
  • Katzew, Ilona. Casta Painting: Images of Race in Eighteenth-Century Mexico. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004. ISBN   978-0-300-10971-9