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Union of a Spaniard (right), a Mestiza (middle), Castiza (child). By Miguel Cabrera. (1763)

Castizo (Spanish: [kasˈtiθo] or [kasˈtiso]) is a Spanish word with a general meaning of "pure", "genuine" or representative of its race (from the Spanish: "casta"). The feminine form is castiza. From this meaning it evolved into other meanings, such as "typical of an area"[1] and it was also used for one of the colonial Spanish race categories, the castas, that some authors have claimed evolved in the 17th century.



Union: Spanish man (left) and a Castiza women (center): Spanish (children). (Painted in 1799)

Under the caste system which certain historians have alleged to exist in colonial Spanish America, the term originally applied to the offspring resulting from the union of a White person and a mestizo; that is, someone of three-quarters White and one-quarter Amerindian ancestry. During this era, various other terms (mestizo, cuarterón de indio, etc.) were also used. The word cuarterón usually denotes someone whose racial origin is three-quarters White and one-quarter Black, but sometimes it refers to a castizo, especially in Caribbean South America.[2]

Recently, 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 "The trap of the Caste", discards, on the basis of a careful revision of sources, 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». Joanne Rappaport, in his book on 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 ". In that same sense, the contribution of Berta Ares on the Peruvian case - the other great American viceroyalty - is going to review the term "Caste", its uses and possible meanings, returning to resume the sources, from employment in the peninsula to the Peruvian case and from the s. XVI to the s. XVIII. He can thus demonstrate his scanty use on the part of the virreinal authorities during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which would put into question such a period as the configuration and completeness of the "system". In the eighteenth century, its use would continue to be scarce and would normally appear in the plural, characterized by an ambiguity about who they were considered or not as caste: the word did not refer exclusively to the sectors of the population of mixed descent, but also to Spaniards and Indians, and appeared in addition to many other terms (commoners, nations, classes etc.)

As a whole, these recent contributions, which question the existence of a Caste system and review the use of Castes(s) and other terms in the sources, open new perspectives on the operability of these concepts as social practices in the colonial world. Discarding, or at least not assuming, the idea of ​​the existence of a stable and coherent system, allows us to avoid getting stuck in an epistemological framework that limits and biases our interpretation, as indicated by the use of Gonzalbo's "trap" and explicit Rappaport in its conclusion.Berta Ares tells us to ask ourselves, then, whether "a society of caste existed" really or if we would be rather in the face of a construct of the historians of the 20th century. From that question my contribution is born, which also retakes a track left by Pilar Gonzalbo when he states: "In the twentieth century, the prestige of authors such as Angel Rosenblat and Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán, who unreservedly admitted the concept of society of caste, has determined the perpetuation of a myth of ​​social stratification based on race».[3]

Nevertheless, under the colonial caste system, the narrative is that offspring of a Spaniard and a Castiza was classified as a criollo (a Spaniard born in the Americas), thus the offspring regained his or her purity of blood. (See the related concept of Limpieza de sangre.) For castizos whose residual quarter of Amerindian ancestry was not apparent at all, many simply consolidated themselves within the criollos and Peninsulares (Spaniards born in Spain).

With the fall of the Spanish Empire, the numerous caste terminologies fell out of use and lost all meaning, other than the categories of White, Black, Amerindian, and their three possible resulting combinations: mestizo, mulato and zambo (the latter three, now without blood quantum connotations), as these legal categories were seen as incompatible with the new concept of citizenship.

Furthermore, by the second part of the 19th century, most Hispanic countries had abolished even these surviving categories of distinction among their citizens, and so the racial heritage of a person was no longer compiled by the state as part of the individual's civil record, whether to legally hinder or privilege him in matters of civil life. Some countries, however, have recently reintroduced voluntary and anonymous declarations of race (or race mixture) in recent population censuses for statistical purposes, with no legal consequence to the individual.

A person who formerly would have been deemed a castizo would today simply identify as mestizo or White. The word "castizo" itself has lost all racial meaning.

Location within Latin AmericaEdit

Castizos were located in the Spanish territories in America and some Portuguese parts (Brazil ), they were in regions where arrivals and European settlements with small indigenous communities, so that the mestizos of these areas would be mixed with Europeans resulting in a large population with mostly Caucasian traits.

Today they are scattered in almost all Latin America but many focus on specific countries or regions of the same .

  • Argentina and Uruguay: The large majority of Argentinians and Uruguayans are castizos. Initially colonial Argentina and Uruguay had a predominately mestizo population like the rest of the Spanish colonies, but due to a flood of European migration in the 19th century, and the repeated intermarriage with white Europeans and Middle Easterners[citation needed]; the mestizo population became a so-called castizo population. With more Europeans arriving in the early 20th century, the face of Argentina and Uruguay has overwhelmingly become white and European (some Middle Eastern[citation needed]) in culture and tradition.[citation needed]
  • Brazil: Castiza population of Brazil was mainly in the center of the country because of the great cultural diversity that occurred in that area that were whites, mestizos, African minorities and some indigenous groups mainly in places like Río de Janeiro, Espírito Santo, Minas Gerais, Goias and Brasilia.
  • Chile: It might be the second country after Costa Rica with the highest percentage of castizos of America. They are located mainly in the central valleys of the country, in cities such as Santiago, Valparaíso, Viña del Mar, Rancagua and Talca. They also constitute an important percentage in Northern and Southern Chile. In Chile whites and castizos together represent the country's largest ethnic group.
  • Costa Rica: It is the country with the highest percentage of castizos of America due to continued European immigration and mixing with the mestizos. Castizos are located in almost all the national territory.
  • Mexico: Castiza population in Mexico is located mainly in north and west of the country. These areas have a similar castiza and white population to Costa Rica or Chile. There are important numbers of Castizos in states like Veracruz, Zacatecas, and the Bajio region as well for European immigration grew during the 19th and 20th centuries and in recent years after the economic recession of 2008. The western and northern parts of Mexico are mainly Castizo and European descendants today.
  • Paraguay: The population of Paraguay will be considered mainly castiza due to the various Europeans who came to repopulate the country after the War of the Triple Alliance that caused the partial loss of the original mestizo and indigenous population, which resulted that the immigrant population arrival after the war the country mixed with the mestizos and resulting in a large castiza population.
  • Peru: Peruvian castizos are concentrated in the departments of Lima, Cajamarca, Arequipa, La Libertad, Lambayeque and Piura, especially in major urban centers. A geographic area where this population is in a high percentage with respect to the local population, is the northern highlands, including the Ceja de Selva adjacent and the highlands of the departments of the north coast.
  • Guatemala: Most Guatemalan castizos inhabit the eastern region of the country such as the departments of Zacapa, Chiquimula, and Jalapa.

In MadridEdit

Castizo is used in Madrid for costumes, music, speech typical of the Madrid populace about the end of the 19th century. A person dressed in Castizo fashion can be called manolo/manola and chulapo/chulapa. Many zarzuelas are set in a Castizo environment, like La verbena de la Paloma.

Items associated with Castizo culture are the street swivel piano, barquillos, Schottisch music (spelled as chotis) and Manila shawls.

Casticismo in the Spanish languageEdit

Casticismo is a tendency among Spanish and Latin American intellectuals to reject foreign loanwords and stick to traditional Spanish roots. An example is deporte, a word recovered from Medieval Castilian meaning pastime, that successfully replaced the Anglicism sport, which has the same Latin origin as the Spanish word. It's closely related to costumbrismo in literature.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Castizo," Diccionario de la Real Academia.
  2. ^ "Consulta posible gracias al compromiso con la cultura de la". Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  3. ^