Racial Background of Latin America

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1. Discuss the racial composition (racial groups) of colonial Latin America

In order to discuss the racial composition of Colonial Latin America, we must first examine the three civilizations that were present when the Europeans reached Latin America. The three civilizations present were: Mayans, Aztecs and Incans which could be considered native Indians. The people of Latin America are a mixture of racial groupings that include native Indians, white Europeans, black Africans.

The central foundation of economic activity in Colonial Latin America was Indian labor. Wars, disease and the acquisition of status led to the mixing of races. After the civil war in Mexico the ratio of men to women was greater which led to race mixing. The Mestizos were a mixture of Spanish (Spain) and Indians. Local families/Spanish seeking to ascend the socioeconomic ladder would often inter-marry to be a part of the elite status. As the Spaniards and Europeans arrived in the New World they also created a race of people called peninsulares (those that recently arrived from Spain) and Creoles (European descent but born in New World). There was some intermingling of the different racial groups but very rarely were there any interracial marriages between whites and Indians. Whites might marry mestizos and mestizos might marry Indians.

With this influx of population to the New World diseases such as small pox and influenza infiltrated and affected the indigenous population. The need for additional laborers to fill the void caused by disease turned the spotlight on the Slave Trade. The New World began importing Africans as slaves to fill the labor void. With the addition of African slaves the racial groupings diversified even more to include free blacks and mulattoes. This theme of racial mixing was the common throughout Latin America except for Brazil. Brazil had little indigenous population, mainly semi-nomadic or cannibalistic. This meant there had to be more...
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