Sistema de Castas - The Cast System of New Mexico from the initial colonization of Mexico to Today

Essay by atomblondeUniversity, Master'sB, November 2009

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During their initial colonization of what is now Mexico, around 1500 A.D., Spain established a legalized racial classification system called the Sistema de Castas. Later, in the mid-1800s, when Spain began to colonize New Mexico, they adapted the Sistema de Castas and it was renamed the Régimen de Castas.

The original system was nothing more than legalized, governmental racism. The Castas gave all of the social prominence and economic benefit to the Spaniards and denied the same rights to everyone else. According to class lecture and lecture notes the breakdown of the original Sistema de Castas was as follows: The Spaniards (who were, obviously, 100% Spanish) were the only people legally allowed to hold important and advantageous positions in the government and/or the church. They were also allowed to trade fully and openly with Spain. The Castizos, who were children of Spanish and Mestizo parents (making them 75% Spanish and 25% Indian), were only allowed to hold mid-level administration positions in the church and/or the government.

They had minimal rights to land ownership, but they were not allowed to trade with Spain. Next were the Moriscos, children of mulatto and Spanish descent (who were also 75% Spanish, but 25% Black). They weren't allowed any land rights, nor were they allowed to hold government or church positions of any level. They Mestizos came next in line. They were children of Spanish and Indian parents (making them 50% Spanish and 50% Indian). They were allowed some land rights, but could hold no official positions within the church and/or government. The Indians were next. This group contained (or tried to) only 100% pure Indians. They could own land but has very little social prowess and were completely subjugated by the church. Very last in the system were the Blacks. They were referred to...