One of Columbus’
principal officers on his second voyage to the New World was Miguel Diaz.
troubled crossing, many officers and men became embroiled
in quarrels and controversy, and the voyage ended badly. While
Columbus was away from La Ismirabela, Diaz, who was out ot
favor with the Admiral. left with some compatriots for the
south of Hispaniola, where a Taino tribe received them cordially.
A women chief named Zacatecas fell in love with Diaz, who
was as much interested in gold as anything else. In order
to avoid losing her handsome officer, Zacatecas showed Diaz
some gold deposits near the Haina River, which Diaz reported
to Columbus in order to regain his favor.
The queen Zacatecas became Christian
and took the name Catalina. Diaz and Catalina had two children
together-the first officially recorded offspring of a European-Indian
marriage. In the Caribbean and Central America, this combination
of people became known as mestizo.
After Spain conquered Mexico under Hernando
Cortes, the Spanish ruled for three centuries before a revolution
succeeded in 1821.
During the long period of conquest
and colonization, there was massive miscegenation between the
Spanish and the Indian populations, and some that involved African
blacks. At first the term "Mestizo" meant half-Spanish
and half-Indian, and it was often used to mean "illegitimate"
Eventually it came to refer to the entire
mixed population regardless of the degree of mixture. The terms
of reference listed in Table 1 show how finely tuned the Spanish
concern for racial ancestry became during the eighteenth century
in Mexico and in all the Spanish possessions in the Western
The term lobo, for example, means half-Indian, one
thirty-second African black, and rest (30 sixty-fourths) white
ancestry. The largest genetic contribution to the Mestizo population
today came from the Indian peoples, then the Spanish and other
Europeans, with small infusions from blacks and East Asian and
South Asians groups.
long Spanish rle, the Mestizos occupied a middle status position
while the Indians were on the bottom of the ethnic status ladder.
The Spanish colonial policy
was strongly assimilationist, requiring Indians to learn the
Spanish language and culture and give up their own tongues and
customs. Indian groups that would not comply could barely survive,
much less prosper.
The lighter Mestizos were given preference
by the Spanish, and there developed a structure of status levels
that was based on skin color and the degree of Spanish ancestry.
The belief that Europeans were biologically and culturally superior
to Indians became widespread, and Mestizos took pride in Hispanic
ancestry and tried to deny their Indian backgrounds.
Mixed Race combinations Mestizo,Mulatto,Black, White and Indian
Click Photo to enlarge...Courtesy New Yourk Public Library