Repost from the old site.
Following on the heels of a couple of posts on the racial composition of Hispanics and Latin America in general, let us look a little further into the issue.
First of all, let us look at the racial breakdown of Puerto Ricans. Genetic studies of Puerto Ricans have shown that they are on average 53.3% White (Spaniard), 29.1% Black, and 17.6% Amerindian, or, to put it another way, those numbers reflect their total genetic base.
So you can see that Puerto Ricans are very much mixed-race people, but on the other hand, they are mostly White, or at least much more White than Black or Amerindian. The predominance of White over Amerindian and/or Black genes is common in Latin America.
Rather than being a continent primarily of Amerindians or Blacks, the story of Latin America is one of mestizaje, the marriage of two great races – the White European and the Amerindian. In many cases, especially around the Caribbean, there are varying degrees of Black too, but they do not tend to predominate.
This sort of Black – Amerindian – White mixed race phenomenon is actually pretty common in and around the Caribbean. This is the predominant phenotype in Venezuela (Hugo Chavez is a good example), Panama and Brazil, and is also common in Cuba and Colombia. It is also common along the Caribbean coasts of Mexico, British Honduras, Honduras, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
Studies of race in Brazil has produced some interesting results.
For one thing, the concept of “White” in Brazil, and probably in Latin America in general, is not the same as in the US. Latin America is a mixed-race continent. White often means simply lighter-skinned than other folks. The concept of social race is also common, whereby a Black man with money becomes White simply by acquiring cash, education and upper class status.
In Brazil, a majority of the population refers to themselves as White, but as I said, that does not mean the same thing as in the US. Towards the southern end of Brazil, you do have some American-style relatively pure Whites.
A study of self-identified Whites in Rio Grande do Sul did find one group that was almost 100% Caucasian – they were mostly descendants of Italian immigrants. But another group of self-identified Whites had 18% Indian and 8% Black genes, all on the mother’s side. Therefore, they were 87% White, 9% Amerindian and 4% Black.
It is common in Latin America for non-White genes to be on the mother’s side, reflecting the common practice of European males taking Black or Indian spouses.
Whites in Brazil are not necessarily White in an American sense.
I spent a lot of time at One Drop Rule going over many studies of race in Latin America.
The results are variable and confusing, but one thing became clear. Race is not as clear-cut a category in Latin America as in the US. Latin American Whites typically had more Amerindian or Black blood than US Whites. Even Amerindians were rarely pure, at least in Mexico. However, Amerindians from Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guatemala and the Andes of Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia are probably pure Indian or close to it.
In one study, a Mexican Indian tribe was significantly mixed in with White at ~20% or so. Keep in mind that someone who is 80% Indian will look very Indian. We have a local Indian tribe where I live, and there is one full-blood left out of 800 Indians. Yet many of those who are a little mixed look very Indian.
With a mulatto President, mass immigration from Latin America, and increasing racial intermarriage, the story of the continent – mestizaje, and to a lesser extent, mulattoization, figures to be increasingly America’s story too in coming decades. As always, it promises to be interesting.
- Marrero, AR, Das Neves Leite, FOP, De Almeida Carvalho, B, Peres, LM, Kommers, TC, Da Cruz, IM, Salzano, FM, Ruiz-Linares, A, Da Silva Júnior, WA, Bortolini, MC. 2005. Heterogeneity of the Genome Ancestry of Individuals Classified As White in the State Of Rio Grande Do Sul, Brazil. Am J Hum Biol. (4): 496-506.
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