Posted by: turtlebella | 14 September 2006

Caste System in Colonial Mexico

The second post revolving about Mexican Independence Day.

After yesterday’s post I became more interested in all the racial distinctions made in colonial Mexico, most of which I had never heard of.  Onlymestizo was I familiar with, which is a word often heard within la raza, usually in discussions of how we need to embrace our mestizo ness and all.  Turns out that the racial distinctions was a lawful caste system, imposed by the Spanish government.  At the top were the guachpines (also knows as peninsulars) and at the bottom were negroes.   This is a table explaining the different castes, from

European born whites
Criollos Colonial born whites
Mestizo Mixed blood (Spanish-Indian)
Mulattos Mixed blood (Spanish-Negro)
Indians Natives
Negroes African


So everyone who was not a guachapine was not only socially inferior but also legally inferior as well.  One was assigned to a caste, for life, at baptism by the priest. Since the caste was based on race one could not “move up” to a better caste. So there was literally no way to improve one’s lot.  You – and your children (if you didn’t manage to marry someone of a better caste) – were fated to live a very harsh life if you were Indian or Black and an inferior life if criollo, mestizo, or mulatto.

Is it any wonder that Mexicans- of all the inferior castes- were ready for a revolution, as the only way to make their lives better?



  1. girl, go on about the revolutions!!!! haha!

    and I’m really glad that you found something that included african blood–it would be really interesting to learn about the space that asian mexicans have in society–for example, in my research (referenced in the picture post), i found a couple of books written by americans who went into the slave camps in mexico during the porfiato days–and the writers talked about how the natives were the last great race–typical, nobel savage shit. But within that rhetoric, there was a lot of discussion on the disgusting nature of the “china man” and about how those women who married “The china man” were invariably treated poorly blah blah blah because the “china man” is an inferior race. I wonder how much of that attitude was reflected in the revolutionary communist elites, you know?

    • There were no ” china man” in colonial Mexico. CHINO was an insulting term used to describe one who was mixed with Indian, African, and White. In my opinion LATINOS are of descendants of Indian and African slave women who were raped by white slave masters(Spaniards). WE are strong people because of our mothers!

      • Actually, there were pacific islanders brought to mexico by way of the phillipines.

  2. hey turtlebella,
    i don’t know if anyone told you this already, but i just learned that you could move up — by buying a “certificate of whiteness.” since these were legal categories, you could change it legally, too. crazy.

  3. I think its fair to assume that this caste system was used through out spanish America.

    It goes a long way to explaining why in that part of the World, beautiful women in their media productions and in beauty contest are usually European looking.

  4. 5c0F6NZCAHiKJ

    • how old r u?

  5. hola amigos:)

  6. hello!

  7. There were many more terms to describe the children of a black person with a native and others. Like Ryon C said most rich Mexicans are white and of European descent. White women are always said to look more beautiful.

    • i see a bunch of pink ugly fat ladies where i live

  8. It’s not fair to assume all mexicans are part african. today there are various villages in mexico consisting of african descendants (guerrero, oaxaca, veracruz). however, no where near the number of indian villages in mexico today. most mexicans are spanish/indian mix. some look more indian, some look more spanish. even within a mexican family this is the case. besides, if mexicans were part black you would see the influences of african in the music and food like one would see in puerto ricans or cubans. even the way mexicans look is consistant with indian and spanish physical features.

  9. yep

  10. I found out who my ancestors were by looking through old parish records online. I started with my paternal grandfather and carefully worked my way down the family tree. I managed to get pretty far (colonial era). According the colonial baptism/marriage records, from my paternal grandfather’s side, we had mostly white (Spanish) ancestors with a bit of Native. During my recent trip to Mexico, I asked my great aunt to show me a photo of my paternal great-grandfather (who I never got to meet). She pulled out an early 1900s photo of him. He had blonde hair and colored eyes. She also mentioned that my great-great grandfather looked the same. Very interesting family history that I never knew about up until now.

  11. cast system is still alive in mexico

  12. Something you failed to mention was… 80% of the caste members in Mexico were Mestizo (Spanish/Indian).

  13. The reason why you see such little evidence of the african presence is because of the immediate intermarrying that began in 1510. More slaves were brought to Mexico than to the US. It is not that they segregated themselves; they intermarried, mostly with indians.

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