Ethnic groups in Latin America

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Juniti Saito, head of the Brazilian Air Force and one of over a million Japanese Brazilians.
Enrique Maciel, an Argentine of Mulatto ancestry.
Anita Page was a Salvadoran actress; she was referred to as the "blond, blue-eyed Latin".
Ethnic composition by the 21st century in Latin America, according to a non genetic based estimate by Dr. Lizcano. It is important to remark that the mestizo classification in Dr. Lizcano's work is done under a cultural criteria, therefore a large part of biologically white people might be classified as mestizo in countries like Mexico, Guatemala, Bolivia, and Paraguay; or, conversely in the case of Chile: a large part of biologically mestizo people is classified as white.[1]

The inhabitants of Latin America are from a variety of ancestries, ethnic groups and races, making the region one of the most diverse in the world.[2] The specific composition of the group varies from country to country. Many have a predominance of European-Amerindian or Mestizo population; in others, Amerindians are a majority; some are dominated by inhabitants of European ancestry; and some countries' populations have large Black or Mulatto populations.

Ethnic groups[edit]

  • Native American. The indigenous population of Latin America, the Native Americans, arrived during the Lithic stage. In post-Columbian times they experienced tremendous population decline, particularly in the early decades of colonization. They have since recovered in numbers, surpassing sixty million by some estimates.[3] With the growth of other groups, they now compose a majority only in Bolivia and Guatemala, and possibly in Peru. In Ecuador, Native Americans are a large minority who comprise two-fifths of the population. Mexico's 14%[4] (9.8% in the official 2005 census) is the next largest population, and one of the largest Amerindian populations in the Americas in absolute numbers. Most of the remaining countries have Native American minorities, in every case making up less than one-tenth of the respective country's population. In many countries, people of mixed Native American and European ancestry make up the majority of the population (see Mestizo).
  • Asians. People of Asian descent number several million in Latin America. The first Asians to settle in the region were Filipino, as a result of Spain trading in Asia and the Americas. The majority of Asian Latin Americans are of Japanese or Chinese ancestry and reside mainly in Brazil and Peru; there is also a growing Chinese minority in Panama. Brazil is home to about two million people of Asian descent; this includes the largest ethnic Japanese community outside of Japan itself (estimated as high as 1.5 million), and about 200,000 ethnic Chinese and 100,000 ethnic Koreans.[5][6] Ethnic Koreans also number tens of thousands in Argentina and Mexico.[7] Peru, with 1.47 million people of Asian descent,[8][9] has one of the largest Chinese communities in the world, with nearly one million Peruvians being of Chinese ancestry. There is a strong ethnic-Japanese presence in Peru, where a past president and a number of politicians are of Japanese descent. The Martiniquais population includes an African-White-Indian mixed population, and an East Indian (Asian Indian) population.[10] The Guadeloupe an East Indian population is estimated at 14% of the population.
  • Blacks. Millions of African slaves were brought to Latin America from the 16th century onward, the majority of whom were sent to the Caribbean region and Brazil. Today, people identified as "Black" are most numerous in Brazil (more than 10 million) and in Haiti (more than 7 million).[11] Among the Hispanic nations and Brazil, Puerto Rico leads this category in relative numbers with 15% of the population being Afro-Latin American. Significant populations are also found in Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Panama, Colombia, and Venezuela. Latin Americans of mixed Black and White ancestry, called Mulattoes, are far more numerous than Blacks.
  • Mestizos. Intermixing between Europeans and Native Americans began early in the colonial period and was extensive. The resulting people, known as Mestizos, make up the majority of the population in half of the countries of Latin America. Additionally, Mestizos compose large minorities in nearly all the other mainland countries.
  • Mulattoes. Mulattoes are people of mixed European and African ancestry. In Latin America, Mulattoes descend primarily from Spanish or Portuguese settlers on one side, and African on the other. Brazil is home to Latin America's largest mulatto population. Mulattoes are a population majority in the Dominican Republic and, depending on the source, Cuba as well. Mulattoes are also numerous in Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia, Puerto Rico, and Ecuador. Smaller populations of mulattoes are found in other Latin American countries.[3]
  • Whites. Beginning in the late 15th century, large numbers of Iberian colonists settled in what became Latin America. The Portuguese colonized Brazil primaily, and the Spaniards settled elsewhere in the region. At present, most white Latin Americans are of Spanish or Portuguese origin. Iberians brought the Spanish and Portuguese languages, the Catholic faith, and many Iberian traditions. Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico contain the largest numbers of whites in Latin America.[4] Whites make up the majorities of Argentina, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, and depending on the source in both Chile and Cuba. Whites make up nearly half of Brazil's population.[4][12][13] Ever since most of Latin America gained independence in the 1810s–1820s, millions of people have immigrated there. Of these immigrants, Italians formed the largest group, and next were Spaniards and Portuguese.[14] Many others arrived, such as French, Germans, Greeks, Poles, Ukrainians, Russians, Estonians, Latvians, Jews, Irish, and Welsh. Also included are Middle Easterners of Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian descent; most of them are Christian.[15] Whites presently compose the largest racial group in Latin America (36% in the table herein) and, whether as White, Mestizo, or Mulatto, the vast majority of Latin Americans have white ancestry.[16]
  • Zambos: Intermixing between Africans and Native Americans was especially prevalent in Colombia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Brazil, often due to slaves's running away (becoming cimarrones: maroons) and being taken in by Amerindian villagers. In Spanish speaking nations, people of this mixed ancestry are known as Zambos[17] in Middle America, and Cafuzos in Brazil.

In addition to the foregoing groups, Latin America also has millions of tri-racial peoples of African, Native American, and European ancestry. Most are found in Dominican Republic, Colombia, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and Brazil, with a much smaller presence in other countries.

Ethnic groups according to self-identification[edit]

The Latinobarómetro surveys have asked respondents in 18 Latin American countries what race they considered themselves to belong to. The figures shown below are averages for 2007 through 2011.[18]

Country Mestizo White Mulatto Black Amerindian Asian Other DK/NR1
 Argentina 20% 68% 1% 1% 1% 0% 3% 7%
 Bolivia 60% 4% 1% 0% 27% 0% 1% 6%
 Brazil 18% 45% 15% 15% 2% 0% 2% 2%
 Chile 26% 59% 1% 0% 7% 1% 1% 5%
 Colombia 43% 29% 5% 7% 5% 0% 1% 9%
 Costa Rica 28% 46% 14% 2% 3% 1% 1% 6%
 Dominican Republic 28% 12% 25% 27% 5% 2% 0% 2%
 Ecuador 78% 6% 3% 3% 7% 0% 0% 3%
 El Salvador 64% 10% 3% 2% 5% 1% 2% 12%
 Guatemala 29% 17% 2% 1% 44% 1% 2% 6%
 Honduras 56% 14% 3% 3% 12% 2% 1% 10%
 Mexico 53% 7% 2% 0% 15% 1% 3% 20%
 Nicaragua 66% 8% 3% 4% 7% 1% 1% 11%
 Panama 55% 17% 5% 11% 5% 2% 1% 4%
 Paraguay 36% 35% 1% 1% 2% 0% 4% 20%
 Peru 72% 7% 2% 2% 8% 0% 1% 8%
 Uruguay 6% 78% 3% 2% 1% 0% 3% 6%
 Venezuela 35% 30% 17% 7% 4% 1% 0% 5%
Weighted average2 36% 31% 8% 7% 7% 0% 2% 8%

1 Don't know/No response.
2 Weighted using 2011 population.

Ethnic groups according to Dr. Lizcano[edit]

The following table contains information based on work by National Autonomous University of Mexico professor Dr. Francisco Lizcano Fernández in 2005, a non genetic based estimate.[4]

Country Population
2011[19]
Whites Mestizos Mulattoes Amerindians Blacks Asians Creoles &
Garifunas
 Argentina 41,769,726 85.0% 11.1% 0.0% 1.0% 0.0% 2.9% 0.0%
 Bolivia 10,118,683 15.0% 28.0% 2.0% 55.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
 Brazil 203,429,773 53.8% 0.0% 39.1% 0.4% 6.2% 0.5% 0.0%
 Chile 16,888,760 68.7% 26.3% 0.0% 5.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
 Colombia 44,725,543 20.0% 53.2% 21.0% 1.8% 3.9% 0.0% 0.1%
 Costa Rica 4,576,562 82.0% 15.0% 0.0% 0.8% 0.0% 0.2% 2.0%
 Cuba 11,087,330 37.0% 0.0% 51.0% 0.0% 11.0% 1.0% 0.0%
 Dominican Republic 9,956,648 14.6% 0.0% 75.0% 0.0% 7.7% 0.4% 2.3%
 Ecuador 15,007,343 9.9% 41.0% 5.0% 39.0% 5.0% 0.1% 0.0%
 El Salvador 6,071,774 1.0% 91.0% 0.0% 8.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
 Guatemala 13,824,463 4.0% 42.0% 0.0% 53.0% 0.0% 0.8% 0.2%
 Honduras 8,143,564 1.0% 85.6% 1.7% 7.7% 0.0% 0.7% 3.3%
 Mexico 113,724,226 15.0% 70.0% 0.5% 14.0% 0.0% 0.5% 0.0%
 Nicaragua 5,666,301 14.0% 78.3% 0.0% 6.9% 0.0% 0.2% 0.6%
 Panama 3,460,462 10.0% 32.0% 27.0% 8.0% 5.0% 4.0% 14.0%
 Paraguay 6,459,058 20.0% 74.5% 3.5% 1.5% 0.0% 0.5% 0.0%
 Peru 29,248,943 12.0% 32.0% 9.7% 45.5% 0.0% 0.8% 0.0%
 Puerto Rico 3,989,133 74.8% 0.0% 10.0% 0.0% 15.0% 0.2% 0.0%
 Uruguay 3,308,535 88.0% 8.0% 4.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
 Venezuela 27,635,743 16.9% 37.7% 37.7% 2.7% 2.8% 2.2% 0.0%
Total 579,092,570 36.2% 29.9% 20.5% 9.3% 3.2% 0.7% 0.2%

Note: "Creoles" refer to people of African descent who emigrated from British and French colonies in the Caribbean to Central America.[4]

Ethnic groups according to The World Factbook[edit]

The following table shows the different racial groups and their percentages for all Latin American countries and territories, according to information provided by The World Factbook.[3]

Country Population
(2011)[19]
White Mestizo Mulatto Amerindian Black White and
mestizo
Mixed Other1
 Argentina 41,769,726 97.0% 3.0%
 Aruba 106,113 80.0% 20.0%
 Bolivia 10,118,683 15.0% 30.0% 55.0%
 Brazil 203,429,773 53.7% 38.5% 6.2% 1.6%
 Chile 16,888,760 4.6% 95.4%
 Colombia 44,725,543 20.0% 58.0% 14.0% 1.0% 4.0% 3.0%
 Costa Rica 4,576,562 1.0% 3.0% 94.0% 2.0%
 Cuba 11,087,330 65.1% 10.1% 24.8%
 Curaçao 144,688 100.0%
 Dominican Republic 9,956,648 16.0% 11.0% 73.0%
 Ecuador 15,007,343 65.0% 25.0% 3.0% 7.0%
 El Salvador 6,071,774 9.0% 90.0% 1.0%
 Guatemala 13,824,463 40.5% 59.4% 0.1%
 Haiti 9,719,932 95.0% 5.0%
 Honduras 8,143,564 1.0% 90.0% 7.0% 2.0%
 Mexico 113,724,226 9.0% 60.0% 30.0% 1.0%
 Nicaragua 5,666,301 17.0% 69.0% 5.0% 9.0%
 Panama 3,460,462 10.0% 70.0% 6.0% 14.0%
 Paraguay 6,459,058 95.0% 5.0%
 Peru 29,248,943 15.0% 37.0% 45.0% 3.0%
 Puerto Rico 3,989,133 76.2% 0.2% 6.9% 4.4% 12.3%
 Saint Barthélemy 7,367 100.0%
 Saint Martin 30,615 100.0%
 Saint Pierre and Miquelon 5,888 100.0%
 Uruguay 3,308,535 88.0% 8.0% 4.0%
 Venezuela[20] 27,635,743 21.0% 67.0% 2.0% 10.0%
Total 589,107,173 33.5% 27.5% 14.4% 11.1% 5.1% 4.9% 2.1% 1.5%

1 May include one or more of the other groups.

Ethnic groups according to other sources[edit]

This is a list of ethnic groups based on national or other sources.

Country Amerindian White Mestizo Mulatto Black Asian Pardo or Mixed Garifuna or Zambo Montubio Other Undeclared Type of study Year
 Argentina[21] 600,329 Household survey 2004-2005
 Bolivia[22] 49.95% Census 2001
 Brazil[23] 0.28% 48.43% 6.84% 0.58% 43.80% 0.07% Household survey 2008
 Chile[24] 8.1% 91.9% Household survey 2011
 Chile[25] 5.0% 30.0% 65.0% N/A N/A
 Colombia[26] 3.43% 10.62% 0.01% 85.94% Census 2005
 Costa Rica[27] 1.68% 1.91% 0.21% 96.21% Census 2000
 Cuba[28] 65.0% 24.9% 10.1% Census 2002
 Dominican Republic[29] 13.6% 67.6% 18.3% Household survey 2006
 Ecuador[30] 7.0% 6.1% 71.9% 7.2% 7.4% 0.4% Census 2010
 Guatemala[31] 39.4% 60.0% 0.1% 0.5% Census 2002
 Honduras[32] 6.28% 0.76% 92.95% Census 2001
 Mexico[33] 14.86% 85.14% Census 2010
 Nicaragua[34] 8.63% 91.37% Census 2001
 Panama[35] 11.96% 8.70% 79.33% Census 2010
 Paraguay[36] 1.71% 98.29% Census 2002
 Peru[37] 13.89% Census 2007
 Puerto Rico[38] 0.5% 75.8% 12.4% 0.2% 3.3% 7.9% Census 2010
 Uruguay[39] 0.4% 87.4% 2.5% 6.3% 2.0% 0.1% 0.6% 0.2% 0.1% 0.3% Household survey 2006
 Venezuela[40] 2.8% Census 2011

Genetic studies[edit]

Argentina[edit]

A 2009 autosomal DNA study found the Argentine population 78.5 percent European, 17.3 percent Native American and 4.2 percent sub-Saharan African.[41]

A 2012 autosomal DNA study found out the following composition in Argentina: 65% european, 31% native american and 4% african [42]

Brazil[edit]

Genetic studies have shown the Brazilian population as a whole to have European, African and Native Americans components. The European ancestry is greater among "white" and "pardo" Brazilians, the African ancestry is greater among "black" Brazilians, and Native American input is present throughout though to a lower degree generally.

An autosomal study from 2013, with nearly 1300 samples from all of the Brazilian regions, found a pred. degree of European ancestry combined with African and Native American contributions, in varying degrees. 'Following an increasing North to South gradient, European ancestry was the most prevalent in all urban populations (with values up to 74%). The populations in the North consisted of a significant proportion of Native American ancestry that was about two times higher than the African contribution. Conversely, in the Northeast, Center-West and Southeast, African ancestry was the second most prevalent. At an intrapopulation level, all urban populations were highly admixed, and most of the variation in ancestry proportions was observed between individuals within each population rather than among population'.[43]

Region European African Native American
North Region 51% 17% 32%
Northeast Region 56% 28% 16%
Central-West Region 58% 26% 16%
Southeast Region 61% 27% 12%
South Region 74% 15% 11%

A recent autosomal DNA study (2011), with nearly 1000 samples from all over the country ("whites", "pardos" and "blacks"), according to their respective proportions, found out a major European contribution, followed by a high African contribution and an important Native American component.[44] "In all regions studied, the European ancestry was predominant, with proportions ranging from 60.6% in the Northeast to 77.7% in the South".[44] The 2011 autosomal study samples came from blood donors (the lowest classes constitute the great majority of blood donors in Brazil[45]), and also public health institutions personnel and health students. The study showed that Brazilians from different regions are more homogenous than previously thought by some based on the census alone. "Brazilian homogeneity is, therefore, a lot greater between Brazilian regions than within Brazilian regions".[46]

Region[44] European African Native American
Northern Brazil 68,80% 10,50% 18,50%
Northeast of Brazil 60,10% 29,30% 8,90%
Southeast Brazil 74,20% 17,30% 7,30%
Southern Brazil 79,50% 10,30% 9,40%

According to an autosomal DNA study from 2010, the composition of Brazil would be about 77,1% european, 14,3% ssa african and 8,5% native american. It showed also that physical indicators such as skin colour, colour of the eyes and colour of the hair did not correlate perfectly well with the genetic ancestry of each person [47] [48] It is important to note that "the samples came from free of charge paternity test takers, thus as the researchers made it explicit: "the paternity tests were free of charge, the population samples involved people of variable socioeconomic strata, although likely to be leaning slightly towards the ‘‘pardo’’ group".[49]

Region[49] European African Native American
North Region 71,10% 18,20% 10,70%
Northeast Region 77,40% 13,60% 8,90%
Central-West Region 65,90% 18,70% 11,80%
Southeast Region 79,90% 14,10% 6,10%
South Region 87,70% 7,70% 5,20%

An autosomal DNA study from 2009 found a similar profile.[50]

Region[51] European African Native American
North Region 60,6% 21,3% 18,1%
Northeast Region 66,7% 23,3% 10,0%
Central-West Region 66,3% 21,7% 12,0%
Southeast Region 60.7% 32.0% 7.3%
South Region 81,5% 9,3% 9,2%

According to another autosomal DNA study from 2008, by the University of Brasília (UnB), European ancestry dominates in the whole of Brazil (in all regions), accounting for 65,90% of heritage of the population, followed by the African contribution (24,80%) and the Native American (9,3%).[52]

São Paulo state, the most populous state in Brazil, with about 40 million people, showed the following composition, according to an autosomal study from 2006: european genes account for 79% of the heritage of the people of São Paulo, 14% are of African origin, and 7% Native American.[53] A more recent study, from 2013, found the following composition in São Paulo state: 61,9% european, 25,5% african and 11,6% native american.[54]

Chile[edit]

An autosomal DNA study from 2014 found out Chile to be 44.34% (± 3.9%) native american, 51.85% (± 5.44%) european and 3.81% (± 0.45%) african.[55][56]

Chilean mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome studies indicate that European ancestry predominates in the Chilean upper class;[57] in the middle class the European component ranges from 72.3 to 76.8 percent,[57][58] and the Amerindian population ranges from 23.2 to 27.7 percent.[57][58] In the lower socioeconomic class, European ancestry is 62.9%–65 percent[57][58] and Amerindian ancestry is 35–37.1 percent.[57][58]

Colombia[edit]

In Colombia, an autosomal study found the population to be 60 percent European, 32 percent native and eight percent sub-Saharan African.[59]

Costa Rica[edit]

Map of Mexico in 1821, including parts of present Central America and the U.S.
Costa Rica was one of the more-isolated populations of New Spain.

While the majority of Costa Ricans identify as of criollo or castizo descent, genetic studies demonstrate considerable pre-Columbian Amerindian and a smaller African ancestry.

According to an autosomal study, the genetic makeup of Costa Rica is 61 percent European, 30 percent Amerindian and nine percent African. Regional variation was observed, with greater European influence in the northern (66%) and central (65%) regions. Increased Amerindian ancestry was found in the south (38%), and a higher African contribution in coastal regions (13% in the Atlantic and 14% in the Pacific).[60]

The Central Valley—where more than half of Costa Ricans live—has a mestizo population with one of the highest European components in Latin America (comparable to Medellin, Colombia and Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil), areas with low pre-Columbian Native ancestry (then occupied by heterogeneous groups of hunter-gatherers) and where the current Native population is sparse. During the Spanish colonization of the Americas, Costa Rica was one of the more isolated regions in the Americas. According to genetic studies, the average Costa Rican from the Central Valley is 75 percent European, 20 percent Native and five percent African.[61] By the late 20th century allusions in textbooks and political discourse to "whiteness" and Spain as the "mother country" of all Costa Ricans were diminishing, replaced with a recognition of the many peoples comprising the nation.[62]

Cuba[edit]

An autosomal study from 2014 has found out the genetic ancestry in Cuba to be 72% european, 20% african and 8% native american.[63]

Dominican Republic[edit]

According to a recent autosomal study, the genetic composition of the Dominican Republic was 51.2 percent European, 41.8 percent African and eight percent Native.[64]

Mexico[edit]

Triangle diagrams of genetic makeup of Mexico City and Quetalmahue, Chile
The Mexican mestizo population is the most diverse in Latin America, with people being either largely European or Amerindian rather than having an uniform admixture.[65]

A study by Mexico's National Institute of Genomic Medicine (INMEGEN) reported that mestizo Mexicans are 58.96% European, 35.05% "Asian" (primarily Amerindian) and 5.03 percent African. Sonora has the highest European contribution (70.63 percent) and Guerrero the lowest (51.98 percent, with the highest Asian contribution: 37.17 percent). The African contribution ranges from 2.8 percent in Sonora to 11.13 percent in Veracruz. Eighty percent of the population was classified as mestizo (racially mixed to some degree). The study was conducted among volunteers from six states (Sonora, Zacatecas, Veracruz, Guanajuato, Oaxaca and Yucatan) and an indigenous group, the Zapotecs.[66]

The same study found that the Mexico's haplogroup was most similar to the European group with 81 percent of haplotypes shared, followed by the Asian haplogroup with 74 percent and the African haplogroup with 64 percent. The investigators noted that the African admixture did not generally come from African slaves brought by Europeans, but was part of the genetic admixture of the colonists.[67] A study in Mexico City found that it's mestizo population had the greatest variation in Latin America, with its mestizos being either largely European or Amerindian rather than having an uniform admixture). The study's results are similar to those by INMEGEN on which the European admixture is 56.8 percent, followed by Asian (native American) ancestry with 39.8 percent and an African contribution of 3.4 percent.[68] Additional studies suggest a correlation between greater European admixture with a higher socioeconomic status, and greater Amerindian ancestry with a lower socioeconomic status. A study of low-income Mexicans found the mean admixture to br 0.590, 0.348 and 0.062 Amerindian, European and African respectively,[69] while a study of Mexicans with an inome higher than the mean found their European admixture to be 82 percent.[70]

Uruguay[edit]

A 2009 DNA study in the American Journal of Human Biology showed the genetic composition of Uruguay as primarily European, with Native American ancestry ranging from one to 20 percent and sub-Saharan African from seven to 15 percent (depending on region).[71]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Composición Étnica de las Tres Áreas Culturales del Continente Americano al Comienzo del Siglo XXI" (in Spanish). Redalyc.org. 2005-03-16. pp. 196–197, 227. Retrieved 2013-06-27. "Al respecto no debe olvidarse que en estos países buena parte de las personas consideradas biológicamente blancas son mestizas en el aspecto cultural, el que aquí nos interesa. (page 196) // En Chile la población mestiza alcanza porcentajes notables en todos los recuentos consultados, pero también en todos ellos el criterio para establecer dichas proporciones es biológico. En realidad, estos mestizos son culturalmente más criollos que mestizos. (page 197) Sin em bargo, la etnia mestiza es la mayoritaria de acuerdo con todas las fuentes recientes consultadas que especifican cifras: entre 65 y 70% en Waldmann, Coy y la Guía..., pero hasta 93% en la Biblioteca... Por su parte, como en el caso de Costa Rica, de forma menos comprometida, aunque quizá más realista, la CIA y Hud son estiman 95% para criollos y mes ti zos de manera conjunta. Grimes (2000, vol. I) sólo ofrece cifras de hablantes de lenguas europeas distintas del español en el caso de los alemanes: 35.000; es decir, 0.2% de la población nacional estimada en 1998, aunque también reseña la existencia de hablantes de gitano de Rumania y catalán. (page 227)" 
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