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Criollo people

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Criollo people

Criollo
Agustín de Iturbide Juan Ponce de León II Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
Simón Bolívar Luisa Cáceres de Arismendi Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla
Regions with significant populations
Spanish colonial empire in the Americas
Languages
Spanish
Religion
Predominantly Roman Catholic

The Criollo (Spanish pronunciation:  or "creole" people) were a social class in the caste system of the overseas colonies established by Spain in the 16th century, especially in Latin America, comprising the locally born people of confirmed Spanish ancestry.[1]

The Criollo class ranked below that of the Iberian Spanish American wars of independence.

The term criollo is not to be confused with the English/French creole. The word "creole" is applied to many ethnic groups around the world who have no historic connection to Spain or to any colonial system. Indeed, many of those creole peoples were never a distinct social caste, and were never defined by purity of descent.

Origin of the term

The word criollo and its Portuguese cognate crioulo are believed to come from the Spanish/Portuguese verb criar, meaning "to breed" or "to raise". Originally the term was meant to distinguish the members of any foreign ethnic group who were born and "raised" locally, from those born in the group's homeland, as well as from persons of mixed ethnic ancestry. Thus, in the Portuguese colonies of Africa, português crioulo was a locally born person of Portuguese descent; in the Americas, negro criollo or negro crioulo was a locally born person of pure black ancestry; and, in Spanish colonies, an español criollo was an ethnic Spaniard who had been born in the colonies, as opposed to an español peninsular born in Spain.[3]

Limpieza de sangre or "cleanliness of blood" was a legal conception derived from the Spanish Reconquista, and later introduced to the Spanish colonies in the Americas. In Spain, the concept was used to distinguish old Christians of "pure" unmixed Iberian Christian ancestry (either Southern Spanish Mozarabs or Christians from the Northern Kingdoms of Spain) from new Christians descending from baptized Moriscos (Iberian Muslims) and Sephardim (Iberian Jews), together known as conversos (converts), whose real faith was institutionally suspected.

The English word "creole" was a loan from French créole, which in turn is believed to come from Spanish criollo or Portuguese crioulo.

Spanish colonial caste system

Most Spanish colonies started with a sizable population of indigenous Amerindians. Because the Spanish colonists were mostly men, they had liaisons with Amerindian women, thus resulting in their children being mixed race. The population of mixed Spanish-Amerindian ancestry grew large enough to become a rather distinct group. In the 17th century, some Spanish colonies also imported large numbers of enslaved Africans, who contributed to the racial mix of the populace.

In theory, Criollo status was attained by people of mixed origin who had one-eighth or less (the equivalent of a great grandparent) Amerindian ancestry, although in some cases individuals had much more. Such cases might include the offspring of a Castizo parent and one Peninsular or Criollo parent.[2] This one-eighth rule, also in theory, did not apply to African admixture. In reality, officials assigned various racial categories to mix-raced people depending on their social status, what they were told or due to testimony from friends and neighbors.

To preserve the Spanish Crown's power in the colonies, the Spanish colonial society was based on an elaborate caste system, which related to a person's degree of descent from Spaniards. The highest-ranking castes were the españoles, Spaniards by birth or descent. The Peninsulares were the persons born in Spain, while the Criollo comprised locally born people of proven unmixed Spanish ancestry, that is, the Americas-born child of two Spanish-born Spaniards or mainland Spaniards (peninsulares), of two Criollos, or a Spaniard and a Criollo. People of mixed ancestry were classified in other castes — such as castizos, mestizos, cholos, mulatos, indios, zambos, and enslaved Africans, called blacks.

While the casta system was in force, the top ecclesiastical, military and administrative positions were reserved for crown-appointed Peninsulares, most of the local land-owning elite and nobility belonged to the Criollo caste.

Poole argues that the Virgin Mary, especially as Our Lady of Guadalupe, became the chief religious devotion of the criollos. They used the story to legitimize their own Mexican and infuse it with an almost messianic sense of mission and identity.[4]

Criollos and the wars of independence

Until 1760, the Spanish colonies were ruled under laws designed by the Spanish Habsburgs, which granted the American provinces great autonomy. That situation changed by the Bourbon Reforms during the reign of Charles III. Spain needed to extract increasing wealth from its colonies to support the European and global wars it needed to maintain the Spanish Empire. The Crown expanded the privileges of the Peninsulares, who took over many administrative offices which had been filled by Criollos. At the same time, reforms by the Catholic Church reduced the roles and privileges of the lower ranks of the clergy, who were mostly Criollos.

By the 19th century, this discriminatory policy of the Spanish Crown and the examples of the American and French revolutions, led the Criollos to rebel against the Peninsulares. With increasing support of the other castes, they engaged Spain in a fight for independence (1809–1826). The former Spanish Empire in the Americas separated into a number of independent republics.

Modern colloquial uses

The word criollo retains its original meaning in most Spanish-speaking countries in the Americas. In some countries, however, the word criollo has over time come to have additional meanings, such as "local" or "home grown". For instance, comida criolla in Spanish-speaking countries refers to "local cuisine", not "cuisine of the criollos". In Portuguese, "crioulo" is also a racist slang term referring to Blacks.[5][6]

In some Latin American countries, the term is also used to describe people from particular regions, such as the countryside or mountain areas:

  • In Puerto Rico, natives of the town of Caguas are usually referred to as criollos; professional sports teams from that town are also usually nicknamed Criollos de Caguas ("Caguas Creoles"). Caguas is located near Puerto Rico's Cordillera Central mountain area.
  • In Argentina, locals of Argentina's northern and northwestern countryside provinces are called criollos by their porteño counterparts from Buenos Aires. They are typically seen as more traditionally Hispanic in culture and ancestry than the melting pot of non-Hispanic European influences that define the people and culture of Buenos Aires. Misa criolla is the name of a very popular mass composed Ariel Ramirez, and sung by Mercedes Sosa among others.
  • In Perú, criollo is associated with the syncretic culture of the Pacific Coast, a mixture of Spanish, African, indigenous, and Gitano elements. Its meaning is therefore more similar to that of "Louisiana Creole people" than to the criollo of colonial times.

In the United States

As the United States expanded westward, it annexed lands with a long-established population of Spanish-speaking settlers, who were overwhelmingly or exclusively of white Spanish ancestry (cf. White Mexican). This group became known as Hispanos. Prior to incorporation into the United States (and briefly, into Independent Texas), Hispanos had enjoyed a privileged status in the society of New Spain, and later in post-colonial Mexico.
Map showing subdivisions of New Spain in 1800 (excluding the Spanish East Indies).

Regional subgroups of Hispanos were named for their geographic location in the so-called "internal provinces" of New Spain:

Another group of Hispanos, the Isleños ("Islanders"), are named after their geographic origin in the Old World, viz. the Canary Islands. In the US today, this group is primarily associated with the state of Louisiana.

References

  1. ^ Donghi, Tulio Halperín (1993). The Contemporary History of Latin America. Duke University Press. pp. page 49.  
  2. ^ a b Carrera, Magali M. (2003). Imagining Identity in New Spain: Race, Lineage, and the Colonial Body in Portraiture and Casta Paintings (Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Series in Latin American and Latino Art and Culture). University of Texas Press. p. 12.  
  3. ^ Genealogical historical guide to Latin America - Page 52
  4. ^ Stafford Poole, Our Lady of Guadalupe: The Origins and Sources of a Mexican National Symbol, 1531-1797 (1995)
  5. ^ http://www.asemana.publ.cv/spip.php?article34671
  6. ^ http://opiniaoenoticia.com.br/opiniao/tendencias-debates/racismo-na-controversa-unb/
  • Will Fowler. Latin America, 1800-2000: Modern History for Modern Languages. Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0-340-76351-3
  • Carrera, Magali Marie (2003). Imagining Identity in New Spain: Race, Lineage, and the Colonial Body in Portraiture and Casta Paintings. Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Series in Latin American and Latino Art and Culture. Austin: University of Texas.  
  • http://www.rena.edu.ve/cuartaEtapa/literatura/ModerCriollismo.html

See also

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