Friday, June 24, 2011


Fascinating re-counting of the racial categorization system that the Spanish brought to our continent by Dr. Richard Santos.




Richard G. Santos

The U. S. Census bureau report of the self-reported Latinos in the nation is most interesting. The state with the highest number is California with over three million accounted for. Texas is second with over 2.7 million registered. Florida came in third with over 1.5 million Latinos. Combative Arizona where it is not safe to be a Latino reported more than 599,500. New York State has the fifth largest Latino population at more than 549,300. Illinois reported at sixth place with more than 497,300. Small New Jersey surprisingly came in at seventh place with more than 437,900. Eight place went to anti-immigrant Georgia with more than 418,400. Colorado reported over 303,100 and tenth state as New Mexico with over 188,100.

As impressive as the numbers may seem, there are problems with the report. First, not all Latinos, whether legal or not, self registered by not filling out and returning the Census form. No matter how much they were assured that they would not be reported to La Migra, most illegal immigrants refused self register. Second, how many Black Latinos (first to fourth generation) did not identify themselves as Latinos? Due to stereotyping and racism, countless third and fourth Black Latinos are identified, or identify themselves, as Black and not Latino. Third, how many Latinos with non-Hispanic surnames identified themselves or are identified as Latinos? In this regard please consider the descendants of the Spanish colonial families of Louisiana, Georgia and Florida. Some have preserved the Hispanic surname but not the cultural/ethnic identity. The same applies to the descendants of the Spanish Colonial families of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and

In this regard it is best to first clarify who were the Spanish Colonial families who settled Texas pre 1836 and the Southwest pre 1848. The Spanish Catholic Church and Spanish Colonial government identified and classified people at baptism within 28 castas (genealogical background). Due to the worldwide nature of the Spanish Empire, Spanish citizens in the New World were mainly European born, or born on the American Continent. The top five socially and politically identified castas were (1) European born (2) Europeans born on the American Continent, (3) Native American, (4) Black and (5) Asian. The children and descendants of the mixture of the first five categories composed the remaining 23 castas.

The European born, if native to Spain or Portugal were called peninsular . If born in Spanish states outside the peninsular such as Italy, Greece, Sicily, Genoa, Rhodes or the Netherlands, they were commonly called Gachupin . Moreover, if a Spanish citizen did not speak Spanish he/she was called a gringo/gringa. If of French background he/she was called a bolillo/bolilla or gabacho/gabacha . A person of European stock born in the New World without Native American, Black or Asian mix was called an espanol or criollo. The European born Spanish citizens held all top political, military and religious positions from Viceroy to Governors, Generals and Archbishops. The American Continent born espanoles/criollos held the secondary positions including Lieutenant Governors, Colonels, mayors, council members, clerks, majordomos and priests.

Socially, the third class was composed of the mestizos and castizos who were the product of the union of European and Native American parents. Originally, a mestizo had a European father and a Native American mother. The castizo was the product of a European mother and Native American father. In time the term castizo was dropped and mestizo was universally used to identify a person of European and Native American parentage.

Ironically, the Native Americans composed the fourth social class. They fell into three categories. First the “ gente de razon ” (people of reason) who had been culturally assimilated into the Spanish American culture. They were Spanish speaking Roman Catholics who dressed like the Spaniards and were relied upon as colonists, militiamen, and management level labor. The second Native American social category were the mission or converted Native Americans. One step removed from becoming gente de razon , they were the farmers, cowboys, sheep herders, masons, carpenters, and usually the Spanish-Native American Language bilingual manual labor class. It is interesting to note based on the actas de fundacion of the villages of New Mexico, that many of the Native American slaves bought or traded by the Manitos from the Plains Indians were able to socially move upward and called jenizaros as the equivalent of being gente de razon . Hence by the end of the
Spanish Colonial period the jenizaros of New Mexico were settlers of townships, farmers, ranchers, sheep herders and holders of Spanish land grants.

The fourth social category were the Blacks. They also fell into three sub-groups. The African slaves were bought, sold, bartered and traded in the lucrative slave industry. Black slaves could gain their freedom when the “owner” set them free or when the slave was able to pay his purchase and maintenance cost (very rarely). The third level closely associated with the second just mentioned were the mulattoes. Like the children of Thomas Jefferson and Sally, they were the product of a European father and Black mother.

The Asians composed the fifth social class and unfortunately, they have not been properly studied. Associated with the Manila Galleons trade that sailed from Acapulco to the Philippine Islands, China, Japan, and South America they are mentioned in passing as wives, domestics and maritime labor. However, the chinas and chinitas are mentioned in folklore, music, literature and the unknown Chinese lady of Puebla, Mexico is renowned as La China Poblana. Moreover, in Southern Mexico chinita is a term of endearment as is “mi negra” in La Provincia and El Bajio of north central Mexico.

The afore described top five social, political, religious and military categories of the Spanish North American Colonial period existed in the areas now called Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona California and Puerto Rico. They were the original settlers, colonists absorbed through political treaties into the United States. Many still reside in the land of their ancestors but are lost in the generic Latino – Hispanic census identification label. Que pena.

End ……………………………. End …………………………… end

Zavala County Sentinel ,,,,,,,, 22 – 23 June 2011

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