The Birth of the Mestizo in New Spain

The Birth of the Mestizo in New Spain

The Hispanic American Historical Review
Volume 19, Number 2 (May, 1939)
pages 161-184

C. E. Marshall

No colonizing nation of modern times has had, perhaps, a more interesting and significant history than Spain in the new world. Protestant commercial England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries built up a largely self-sufficing economic empire. Catholic medieval Spain created an empire inhabited by races of many colors. In the English colonies of North America, the Indians were brushed aside by land-hungry settlers who quickly took away their land and shot down their wild game. In the Spanish colonies the fate of the natives was far different. For the Spanish conquest of America, somewhat like the Norman conquest of England, had as its unique result the essential fusion of conqueror and conquered in the creation of a new society. It is estimated that, at the close of three centuries of Spanish rule, the total population in Spanish America was 16,910,000. Of these 7,530,000 were Indians; 5,328,000 were of mixed blood; 3,276,000 were white and 776,000 were Negroes.

Obviously such a society did not come into existence full-grown like Athena from the head of Zeus. It certainly is not to be explained in terms of unrestrained economic exploitation and ruthless extermination of aboriginal inhabitants by colonizing whites. It was owing rather to complex religious, social, economic, political, and geographical factors which in Spanish America brought the Spaniards and Negroes into intimate contacts with the Indians, mitigated the asperities of that contact, and made the readjustments necessary to a new environment a relatively easy and natural process. To describe this process is not only to explain the origin of a new race of mixed blood and cast much light upon the history of modern Hispanic America. It is not only to write an important chapter in the history of those abiding phenomena which…

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