Ethnicities in Latin America

Ethnicity is based on a combination of physical characteristics (race) and cultural traits (customs, traditions, language, religion, etc). It is often a source of cultural identity but can sometimes denote inequality if the society uses it to subjugate power.

Mestizos are the descendants of children of mixed marriages between Amerindians and the Spanish conquistadors who arrived in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Mestizos make up the majority of the people in Latin American countries.

Native Americans
Native Americans were the original inhabitants of Latin America. Many of the old cultures were lost and some of the indigenous tribes have been wiped out due to the Spanish invasion, which brought with it the deadly disease of smallpox.However, many Native American groups in Latin America still keep their culture thriving.


Many Africans who were kidnapped and sold into slavery were brought to Latin America, particularly Brazil and the Caribbean, to work on plantations growing sugar, coffee, tobacco, and other crops. The result was a distinct African influence on some Latin American societies. In Brazil in particular there is a thriving Afro-Brazilian culture that manifests itself with the introduction of African rhythms in music. Also, the Latin American island of Haiti was the first black republic, after the African slaves staged a revolution 1804.

A smaller ethnic distinction is that of "Zambos". Zambos are people of mixed African and Amerindian descent. They are also called Lobos in Mexico.

In some parts of Latin America, particularly South America, there are large populations of European immigrants. During and after World War II, many people fleeing Germany, Italy, Poland, and other parts of Europe found refuge in countries like Argentina and Chile.