To be or not be mestizo

by , under All categories, Enrique

Mestizo is a term commonly used in Latin America to classify a person that has a Spanish and Amerindian ethnic background. 

There’s been an interesting debate in Bolivia recently that suggests that the country, whose inhabitants are mostly Amerindian, are mainly mestizo. An article published July 1 in La Paz daily La Razón reported that 64% of Bolivians identify themselves as mestizo.

Guatemala is another Latin American country where the majority (about 80%) of its inhabitants are Amerindians.

The debate in Bolivia, whether its population is mostly Amerindian or not, is odd. Are they debating the issue because the “minority” mestizo and European “white” population see themselves threatened by MAS (Movement Towards Socialism) President Evo Morales’ government?

I’ve always been amazed by how Latin Americans classify themselves ethnically.

If anything, the debate in Bolivia shows how underdeveloped the region is. How do you explain that being “white” is a zillion times better than being Ameridian or mestizo? If you don’t believe me, take a fast look at any Latin American soap opera. Normally the dark person is the servant and the white person the master.

This is pretty incredulous considering that the so-called Latin American whites are a minority compared to the mestizos, who are a majority.  

The situation is a bit like South Africa, when it imprisoned the Black majority with the help of apartheid.  In most of Latin America the same thing is happening with the help of lack of education, human rights and endemic poverty.

  1. savannah

    what’s even more bizarre to me is that the whole concept of “race” is a human construct…we are the human race made up of different ethnic groups…is it just human nature to assign stature based on color? or something other ..the whole exotic other concept? or as you say…just ignorance?

  2. suburbanlife

    I would like the one and only pure-bred person to stand up and declare himself/herself. Speaking as a mongrel, I find it rather laughable that people who themselves are mongrels would coin a term “mestizo” and use it in a discriminatory fashion. Mongrels of the world, UNITE! G

  3. nemoo

    Savannah, you make an excellent point: who’s made up these classifications? Certainly they were made to keep people from different ethnicities separate from each other. I will, with the help of both of you and others sound a charge: Mongrels of the world, UNITE! Isn’t it incredible that even with all this IT technology we still continue to educate our children in the same way as when we lived in the Stone Age? Our worldview of cultures is still chronically provincial and myopic.

  4. Enrique

    Hi Adam, thanks for informing me. I wonder if there is a good census or survey that shows how many Guatemalans consider themselves Amerindian. It is something that could be investigated and looked at more deeply.

  5. JethaLal

    Hi All,

    My GF is mestizo. She has spanish and American background. She is hot like hell!!!

    In my opinion mestizo people are always sexy. They just love sex over and over and over.

  6. Anne

    So called ”white americans” they always have the bad habit of making comments about ”south america’s mixture” and they talked as if every one in the continent is and indian or a mixture, and ”white americans” themselves despite their rigorous ”one drop of blood rule” they have a very high number of ”mestizos” and ”mulatos” and the mixture in the states is not only among native indians and african americans with the whites, is also ”whites with /asians/filipinos/chinese and if you remember the number of ”white” americans that married japanese women after the war finished, and during the vietnam war how many ”mixed” race children ”white” american soldiers produced ? the only difference is that the united states are lucky of the millions of ”white europeans” that migrated there and populated the states with more ”white people” to be seen as a ”white” country. Without that european migration the united states would have been a ”mestizo” country, as ”white” americans they always had the ”negro problem” however ”mestizos” seem to be growing in numbers and is about time that ”white americans” instead of pointing their finger at south america start looking into their own ”mestizo land”

    • Enrique

      Hi Anne and welcome to our blog, Migrant Tales. You bring some interesting points.I don’t like the term “mixed” either because it implies that somebody is pure, which is not the case. The truth of the matter is that we are all very “mixed.” Isn’t it interesting how ethnocentricm and racism works: In Latin America it is today more socially high-up to be “white” than be an Amerindian. This, as you know, has a lot to do with history and how racism has created a social pecking order in Latin America. If you look at the languge in the last century that was used to classify immigrants, people who were black or from Asia were “races” whereby European were “ethnicities.” Even though the Americas has a lot of work to do on the ethnic-equality front, where do you see Europe? Do you think that one reaso why many countries like Germany and France have failed in integrating immigrants is because they are very exclusive.

      What do you think?

  7. Demi

    I think guatemalan full natives are about 75% but the last sensual said about 45% , but the guatemalsn government classified on language and culture..and it has been known that many n. Americans hide or leave their culture because they’re ashamed or wish to be favoured. Personally I, being of Italian, Spanish, and some native American with family of other European descent, have seen how different the life of euro-american/mestizos is compared to that of native Americans. But many n. Americans have”whitened” themselves through money/status but true mestizos/euros can still see them for what they are.

    • Migrant Tales

      Hi Demi and welcome to Migrant Tales. What the exact percentage of the indigenous population of Guatemala or Bolivia depends on the government in power. It is a fascinating topic.