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|Colonial Spanish America and Spanish East Indies|
In the context of the Spanish colonial caste system, a peninsular (Spanish pronunciation: [peninsuˈlar], pl. peninsulares) was a Spanish-born Spaniard residing in the New World or the Spanish East Indies. The word "peninsulars" makes reference to Peninsular Spain and was originally used in contrast to the "islanders" (isleños), viz. the native Canary Islanders (also known as guanches).
Higher offices in the Americas and Philippines were held by peninsulares. Apart from the distinction of peninsulares from criollos, the castas system distinguished also mestizos (of mixed Spanish and Amerindian ancestry in the Americas, and mixed Spanish and Chinese or native Filipino in the Philippines), mulatos (of mixed Spanish and black ancestry), indios, zambos (mixed Amerindian and black ancestry) and finally negros. In some places and times, such as during the wars of independence, peninsulares were called deprecatively godos (meaning Goths, referring to the "Visigoths", who had ruled Spain) or, in Mexico, gachupines or gauchos.
Colonial officials at the highest levels arrived from Spain to fulfill their duty to govern Spanish colonies in Latin America and the Philippines. Often, the peninsulares possessed large quantities of land. They defended Cádiz's monopoly on trade, upsetting the criollos, who turned to contraband with British and French colonies, especially in areas away from the main ports of call for the Flota de Indias. They worked to preserve Spanish power and sometimes acted as agents of patrol.
In a colonial social hierarchy, the peninsulares were nominally at the top, followed by criollos, who developed a fully entrenched powerful local aristocracy in the 17th and the 18th centuries. During the French Revolution, the peninsulares were generally conservative.