|est. 60–107 million (50–90% of population) Varies depending on the criteria used|
|Mexican Spanish and minority languages|
|Roman Catholicism, Protestantism|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Indigenous Mexicans, White Mexicans, Afro-Mexicans, Asian Mexicans, Arab Mexicans|
Mexican Mestizos are an ethnic group in Mexico which can be defined either by cultural criteria (the language spoken) or a more strict biological criteria. Because of this, estimates of the number of Mestizos in Mexico can vary.
The application of the term Mestizo (lit. mixed) has changed over time. The word was originally used in the colonial era to refer to individuals who were of half-Spanish and half-indigenous American ancestry. It was one of the many extant castes used to classify individuals. Once Mexico achieved its independence, the casta system was abandoned and mestizo was used to refer to all the people who were mixed race. After the Mexican Revolution, the term became cultural and was used to refer to the segment of the Mexican population who did not speak indigenous languages. The term mestizo thus became a cultural identity that grouped racially mixed people (including African and Asian ancestry) and unmixed individuals with a mestizo culture. This change of definition was the product of an ideology known as “mestizaje” which was promoted by the early post-Revolution government, seeking to create a unified Mexican identity with no racial distinctions. The advent of DNA sequencing since then has allowed for the study of Mexico's mestizo population.
Today, people of various different phenotypes make up the Mestizo population in Mexico. However, since the term carries a variety of socio-cultural, economic, racial, and genetic meanings, estimates of the Mexican Mestizo population vary widely. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, which uses a biology-based approach, between one half and two thirds of the Mexican population is Mestizo. A culture-based estimate gives the percentage of Mestizos as high as 90%. Paradoxically, the word Mestizo has long been dropped from popular Mexican vocabulary, with the word even having pejorative connotations, which further complicates attempts to quantify Mestizos via self-identification.
Miscegenation and culture-mixing have been occurring in Mexico for nearly five centuries, and have resulted in a unique Mestizo, and more broadly, Mexican identity. Mexicans who are biologically Mestizos are primarily of European and Native American ancestry. The third largest component are sub-Saharan African, a legacy of the slavery in New Spain (which saw the importation of some 100,000-200,000 black slaves). However, geneticists theorize that in regions of Mexico that did not have any presence of slaves, traces of African ancestry might have come from Spanish colonists and not African slaves themselves, as said ancestry is of North African and Near East origin. Depending on the region, some may have small traces of Asian admixture due the thousands of Filipinos and Chinos (Asian slaves of diverse origin, not just Chinese) that arrived on the Nao de China. More recent Asian immigration (specifically Chinese) may help explain the comparatively high Asian contribution in Northwest Mexico (i.e., Sonora). The INMEGEN report also notes that on average, the largest genetic component of the self-identified Mestizo Mexicans is indigenous, while African and Asian genetic markers are diminishing with each generation and will continue to do so without new migration. For example, there were an estimated 600,000 Afromestizos (Mestizos of significant African descent) at the end of the colonial period (10% of the population), while as of 2015, the number of self identified Afro-Mexicans was 1.38 million (1.2% of the population).
The large majority of Mexicans can be classified as "Mestizos", meaning in modern Mexican usage that they do not speak indigenous languages. By the deliberate efforts of post-revolutionary governments the "Mestizo identity" was constructed as the basis of the modern Mexican national identity, through a process of cultural synthesis referred to as mestizaje ([mes.tiˈsa.xe]). Mexican politicians and reformers such as José Vasconcelos and Manuel Gamio were instrumental in building a Mexican national identity on the concept of mestizaje (the process of race mixture).
Cultural policies in early post-revolutionary Mexico were paternalistic towards the indigenous people, with efforts designed to "help" indigenous peoples achieve the same level of progress as the Mestizo society, eventually assimilating indigenous peoples completely to mainstream Mexican culture, working toward the goal of eventually solving the "Indian problem" by transforming indigenous communities into Mestizo communities.
The term "Mestizo" is not in wide use in Mexican society today and has been dropped as a category in population censuses; it is, however, still used in social and cultural studies when referring to the non-indigenous part of the Mexican population. The word has somewhat pejorative connotations and most of the Mexican citizens who would be defined as mestizos in the sociological literature would probably self-identify primarily as Mexicans. In the Yucatán peninsula the word mestizo is even used about Maya-speaking populations living in traditional communities, because during the caste war of the late 19th century those Maya who did not join the rebellion were classified as mestizos. In Chiapas, the term Ladino is used instead of mestizo.
Sometimes, particularly outside of Mexico, the word "mestizo" is used with the meaning of Mexican persons with mixed Indigenous and European blood. This usage does not conform to the Mexican social reality where a person of pure indigenous genetic heritage would be considered mestizo either by rejecting his indigenous culture or by not speaking an indigenous language, and a person with a very low or without any percentage of indigenous genetic heritage would be considered fully indigenous either by speaking an indigenous language or by identifying with a particular indigenous cultural heritage.
While for most of its history the concept of Mestizo and Mestizaje has been lauded by Mexico’s intellectual circles, in recent times the concept has been target of criticism, with it's detractors claiming that it delegitimizes racist practices in Mexico under the idea of “(Racism) Not existing here (Mexico), as everybody is Mestizo” the Mestizo ideology thus, has cemented a terrain of resistance in regards to social, politic and academic mobility around the theme of race in Mexico. In general, the authors conclude that Mexico introducing a real racial classification and accepting itself as a multicultural country opposed to a monolithic Mestizo country would bring benefits to the Mexican society as a whole.
Genetic research in the Mexican population is numerous and has yielded a myriad of different results, it is not rare that different genetic studies done in the same location vary greatly, clear examples of said variation are the city of Monterrey in the state of Nuevo León, which, depending of the study presents an average European ancestry ranging from 38% to 78%, and Mexico City, whose European admixture ranges from as little as 21% to 70%, reasons behind such variation may include the socioeconomic background of the analyzed samples as well as the criteria to recruit volunteers: some studies only analyze Mexicans who self-identify as Mestizos, others may classify the entire Mexican population as "mestizo", other studies may do both, such as the 2009 genetic study published by the INMEGEN (Mexico's National Institute of Genomic Medicine), which states that 93% of the Mexican population is Mestizo with the remaining being Amerindian, however for its study the institute only recruited people who explicitly self-identified as mestizos. Finally there are studies who avoid using any racial classification whatsoever, including in them any person that self-identifies as Mexican, these studies are the ones who usually report the highest European admixture for a given location.
Regardless of the criteria used all the autosomal DNA studies made coincide on there being a significant genetic variation depending on the region analyzed, with southern Mexico having prevalent Amerindian and small but higher than average African genetic contributions, the central region of Mexico showing a balance between Amerindian and European components, and the latter gradually increasing as one travels northwards and westwards, where European ancestry becomes the majority of the genetic contribution up until cities located at the Mexico-United States border, where studies suggest there is a significant resurgence of Amerindian and African admixture.
A 2006 study conducted by Mexico's National Institute of Genomic Medicine (INMEGEN), which genotyped 104 samples, reported that mestizo Mexicans are 59% European, 35% "Asian" (primarily Amerindian), and 5% Other.
Research conducted by the country's Instituto Nacional de Medicina Genómica (INMEGEN) has found that Mexico's Mestizo population is not uniform in its genetic composition, with there being significant regional variation. For example, mestizos of primarily European ancestry predominate in Sonora, while mestizos from the central region (Guanajuato and Zacatecas) have a more even split between indigenous and European. The highest African contribution in the twelve participating states (picked to be representative of the major regions of Mexico) was found in Guerrero and Veracruz, while the highest Asian contribution was found in Guerrero and Sonora.
A study made by the University College London which included, which included the countries of Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Brazil, and was made with collaboration of each countries' antrophology and genetics institutes reported the genetic ancestry of Mexican Mestizos was 56% Native American, 37% European and 5% African making Mexico, after Peru, the country with the highest Amerindian ancestry out of the five sample populations. Additionally, different phenotypical traits were analyzed, with the study determining that that the frequency of blond hair and light eyes in Mexicans was of 18.5% and 28.5% respectively, making Mexico also the country with the second highest frequency of blond hair in the study. The reason behind such discrepancy between phenotypical traits and genetic ancestry may lie in the low African contribution found within the Mexican population relative to Brazil and Colombia. In addition, the samples used in Mexico's case were highly unproportional, as the northern and western regions of Mexico contain 45% of Mexico's population, but no more than 10% of the samples used in the study came from the states located in these regions. For the most part, the rest of the samples hailed from Mexico City and southern Mexican states.
Additional studies suggests a tendency relating a higher European admixture with a higher socioeconomic status and a higher Amerindian ancestry with a lower socioeconomic status: a study made exclusively on low income Mestizos residing in Mexico City found the mean admixture to be 0.590, 0.348, and 0.062 for Amerindian, European and African respectively whereas the European admixture increased to an average of around 70% on mestizos belonging to a higher socioeconomical level. In 2011, an autosomal dna study was conducted in Mexico city, with 1,310 samples, showing the average proportion of Native American, European, and African ancestry for the population to be 64%, 32%, and 4% respectively. Additional autosomal dna studies conducted on people from Mexico city show a predominate Native American background, with Native American ancestry ranging from 61-69% in 5 different studies. The number of people sampled in these studies ranged from 66 to 984 people. One outlier study showed a predominate European background for mestizos of Mexico City, showing 57% European ancestry, 40% Native American ancestry, and 3% African ancestry. The sample population for this study however, was only 19 people.
MtDna and Y DNA studies
A 2012 study published by the Journal of Human Genetics Y chromosomes found the deep paternal ancestry of the Mexican mestizo population to be predominately European (64.9%), followed by Amerindian (30.8%) and Asian (1.2%). The European Y chromosome was more prevalent in the north and west (66.7-95%) and Native American ancestry increased in the center and southeast (37-50%), the African ancestry was low and relatively homogeneous (0-8.8%). The states that participated in this study where Aguascalientes, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Durango, Guerrero, Jalisco, Oaxaca, Sinaloa, Veracruz and Yucatán. The largest amount of chromosomes found were identified as belonging to the haplogroups from Western Europe, East Europe and Eurasia, Siberia and the Americas and Northern Europe with relatively smaller traces of haplogroups from Central Asia, South-east Asia, South-central Asia, Western Asia, The Caucasus, North Africa, Near East, East Asia, North-east Asia, South-west Asia and the Middle East. Also a study published in 2011 on Mexican Mitochondrial DNA found that maternal ancestry was predominately Native American (85-90%), with a minority having European (5-7%) or African (3-5%) mtDNA.
An autosomal ancestry study performed on Mexico city reported that the European ancestry of Mexicans was 52% with the rest being Amerindian and a small African contribution, additionally maternal ancestry was analyzed, with 47% being of European origin. The only criteria for sample selection was that the volunteers self-identified as Mexicans.
References and footnotes
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- Figure 3 from Martínez-Cortés, Gabriela; Salazar-Flores, Joel; Gabriela Fernández-Rodríguez, Laura; Rubi-Castellanos, Rodrigo; Rodríguez-Loya, Carmen; Velarde-Félix, Jesús Salvador; Franciso Muñoz-Valle, José; Parra-Rojas, Isela; Rangel-Villalobos, Héctor (2012). "Admixture and population structure in Mexican-Mestizos based on paternal lineages". Journal of Human Genetics. 57 (9): 568–74. doi:10.1038/jhg.2012.67. PMID 22832385.
- Figure 2 from Martínez-Cortés, Gabriela; Salazar-Flores, Joel; Gabriela Fernández-Rodríguez, Laura; Rubi-Castellanos, Rodrigo; Rodríguez-Loya, Carmen; Velarde-Félix, Jesús Salvador; Franciso Muñoz-Valle, José; Parra-Rojas, Isela; Rangel-Villalobos, Héctor (2012). "Admixture and population structure in Mexican-Mestizos based on paternal lineages". Journal of Human Genetics. 57 (9): 568–74. doi:10.1038/jhg.2012.67. PMID 22832385.
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