Race and Social Status
The conquistadores of Mexico were adventurers, not true colonists. They sought no religious haven, nor were they searching for fields to cultivate or shops to tend. Heirs of a military tradition, they responded to the allure of danger and the promise of wealth in the New World. Not for them the prosaic toil of the pioneer.
The married among them left their wives and children in Spain; thus the restraints of domesticity were absent, and few felt any moral qualms about their sexual behavior in the Indies. From the beginning Spaniards mixed freely with female natives, leaving offspring of a new ethnic type. Just as readily they consorted with black women, fathering more progeny of mixed blood. Later cohabitation of the mixed children themselves resulted in additional racial distinctions, so that within a couple of generations the ethnic pattern was quite diverse.
Society in New Spain was composed of three basic ethnic groups: Spanish, Indian, and African. Miscegenation, however, produced offspring of mixed bloods who were called mestizos. Commonly, a mestizo is considered to be of Spanish-Indian parentage, but it is helpful to distinguish the racial categories more precisely:
Euromestizos: those of a Spanish–Indian mixture, with European (Span-
ish) ethnic and cultural characteristics predominating. Such persons in
the early colony were often considered as Spanish and later as criollo.
Indomestizos: persons of a Spanish–Indian mixture, with Indian eth-
nic and cultural characteristics predominating. They formed the bulk of
those termed mestizo.
Afromestizos: persons of mixed bloods in which a black strain was
evident. If Spanish–black, the designation was mulatto; if black–Indian,
the designation was zambo.