El Valle de Anton, Panama. El Valle the Volcanic Village. El Valle’s History, Attractions and Information

Genetic Demographics of Latin America

It’s generally agreed that the reciprocal sharing of technology, cultivars and fauna between the Old and New Worlds help shaped both cultures. But many don’t associate the Colombian exchange with the racial and genetic demographic that changed Latin America’s population mix over the last two centuries. So after a brief population survey to that I’d like to illustrate two particularly ironic strings showing how the synergy between New and Old World cultivar exchange impacted the demographics of migration and cultural formation in LA.

This table [1] shows the blood quantum or genetic makeup of Latin American populations in 2000. By subtracting Old World numbers from 100 you’ll also arrive at an approximation for the indigenous demographic for each listed country.

COUNTRY                            OLDWORLD     AFRICAN         EUROPEAN

Haiti                                       100                             98                    02

Jamaica                                  100                             89                    08

Trinidad/Tobago                    100                             46                    07

Cuba                                        98                              34                    63

Dominican Republic                96                             44                    52

Uruguay                                   96                             04                     91

Guyana [44% E. Indian]          95                             39                     00

Argentina                                 95                             02                     84

Brazil                                        91                             10                     19

Puerto Rico                               82                             16                     66

Costa Rica                                70                             09                     60

Venezuela                                 69                             14                    55

Panama                                     64                             13                    45

Colombia                                  63                             17                   46

Chile                                          63                             01                   59

Belize                                         61                            17                    40

Nicaragua                                   60                            09                    51

Paraguay                                    54                            01                    52

El Salvador                                50                            00                    50

Honduras                                    48                           02                    46

Ecuador                                      39                           07                    32

Mexico                                       38                           07                    30

Peru                                            36                           06                    28

Bolivia                                        28                          01                     27

Guatemala                                  26                           04                     22

The above chart is not reflective of the Asian portion of the demographic but there are about four and a half million Asian Latin Americans or approximately 1% of LA’s total population. The number will be much higher if you include persons of mixed or blended ancestry. For example 5% of Peru’s population calls itself Asian while 15% claim Chinese ancestry. The ethnic breakdown of the Asian segment contains Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, and East Indians.

Much discussion has been given to the phylogentics of Old World diseases on the pre-Columbian indigenous population of LA. Researchers are not in agreement as to finite figure but it is estimated that between 80% and 95% of the New World’s indigenous population perished in the first two centuries of contact. These estimates will remain conjecture since few numerate European recorders where in LA to witness the devastation. In any case by the time Europeans began to serious colonization and set up agricultural enterprises the New World it was sparsely inhabited. The peoples of the Caribbean Islands, Central America and Mexico were hardest hit by this plague of new world diseases. Agricultural enterprises first begun in the Caribbean and it were here that Africans were initially imported to provide needed labor.

This transference of cultivars and Spanish proteins between the two worlds helped to create them in their modern guise. It’s a controversial topic but many believe that without this exchange of culture and cultivars the fortunes and technologies of both worlds would have stagnated for centuries until some other earth shaking event occurred. New World products, and fertile land better suited to the cultivation of established Old World commodities, meant a new, mostly forced, labor pool had to be imported if both were to be exploited. The potential for success in these and other ventures of the New World prompted the migration of many Old World Europeans and subjugated  This mixing of the races created social cleavages that still exist and influence many LA cultures today

This relationship was recognized and formalized during the Spanish Colonial epoch and the following chart is illustrative of the “caste” system used in LA during the period. Racial categories still exist today but without the variety expressed in the chart below. [3]

Castes African ——— Peninsular ——— Peninsular ——— Amerindian ——— African
1st   generation mulato criollo mestizo zambo
2nd   generation (with one Spaniard parent) morisco criollo castizo Moreno
2nd   generation (with one Amerindian parent) chino mestizo cholo Cambujo
2nd   generation (with one African parent) negro fino mulato cimarrón Prieto

Other examples of this well-known and accepted blending assumed the form of pintura de casta [4]. These were paintings with sixteen enclosed separate individual illustrations each showing the different genetic, or I should say prototypical, representation of Spanish interbreeding … all referencing the above classifications in the caste chart.

Spanish used casta painting for racial profiling

Several ironies relate to the agricultural/human cultural exchange between the Old and New Worlds … here are but three examples. Cassava [Manioc, Yuca, or Tapioca] was thought to have originated in Brazil and was first exported to Europe to starch the ruffled collars of the Spanish fashionistas at court. Subsequently it was introduced by the Portuguese to Africa where it became a foundation food, undergoing a variety of reformulations, and has been that continents most important staple since then. Many of these African recipes and constructs found their way back to LA with the influx of slave labor and were infused into majority of the cultures of the New World, especially in Brazil, while the top ten global consumers of cassava globally are the nations of Africa. [5]

Imports from the Old World of sugar and coffee were the impetus behind the original importation of African labor to the New World. And even today LA now supplies 48% of the globes sugar and almost 70% of the world’s coffee. Of course there are many more examples. [6] But in all its quite apparent that African and European migrations of the last 200 years have shaped the culture, language, ethnicity and food of LA.


Written by gamboa

July 9, 2013 at 10:09 am

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