Quadroon is a term used to describe the amount of African ancestry a person has. It stems from the Casta system of colonial Spain in the 17th and 18th centuries in the Americas. The casta (caste) system was used to delineate a person’s racial identity. In Spanish America, it was believed a person’s character was based on their birth, color, race, and ethnic origin. Concomitantly, the castas system was used to determine a person’s place in society and controlled several aspects of their social and economic life (including taxation). Charts, like the one pictured above, were created to illustrate a social hierarchy, with “Peninsulars,” Spanish-born Spaniards, at the top of the social ladder, and “Negroes,” people of pure African decent, at the bottom.
Africans were first brought to “New Spain” to work on plantations and ranches. Their long history in Mexico includes notable figures like Gaspar Yanga, leader of the slave rebellion that started the first freed slave colony; José María Morelos, a freedom fighter during the War for Independence; and Vincente Guerrero, the first Black president of the Americas (Mexico 1828-1829). Guerrero abolished slavery in 1829 and was also a hero in the fight for independence.
Today in Mexico, the ancestors of colonial slavery, now referred to as AfroMexican, or the “Third Root,” live mostly in the coastal areas of Oaxaca, Guerrero, and Veracruz. AfroMexicans, a population of about ten percent, comprise a group that consists of the poorest population in these areas. They remain unrecognized on Mexico’s national list of ethnic groups. While there may no longer be an official castas system, the AfroMexican population remains a part of the largely forgotten struggle for recognition.
by Sophia La Valley