Foundation of Spanish Casta System through Limpieza de Sangre
By Val Reynoso
Given the lack of information provided on the pan-ethnic group Latinx/Hispanic, many persons in the US do not know much on the subject and have misinformed preconceptions based primarily on ethnic stereotypes and mainstream media portrayals of said group.
Being provided with a detailed analysis of Spanish, French, and Portuguese colonialism in the Americas, and the racial hierarchies that were established as a result of that in said regions, is necessary to deconstruct and decolonize these terms. In The Origins and Demise of the Concept of Race, Charles Hirschman explicates that the racist beliefs of the European settlers is evident in the systems founded in nations they colonized, such as their racial categorizations in censuses and racial identities through limpieza.
White-supremacist ideologies and constructs of race became a new foundation in the societies of colonized peoples despite these ideas having originated in Western nations (Hirschman). Due to this, the formation of the terms Latinx/Hispanic are also informed by the white-supremacist institutions that are still intact in Latin America to this day.
Along with anti-Black racism and racial stratification, limpieza also played a key role in the formation of the Spanish casta system that was used to racially categorize Iberians and their descendants, as well as the Black and Native peoples they colonized and exploited throughout the Americas.
Casta means “lineage, breed or race” in numerous Iberian dialects and stems from the Latin “castus,” which is a term that suggests the encouragement of “white racial purity.” Castas was an Iberian term used in the 17th-18th Centuries to label the multiracial people of their colonies.
Casta ideology functioned simultaneously with the structure of grouping built upon assimilation and proximity to Hispanic culture, which differentiated gente de razón (people with rationale), which were Spaniards and colonized peoples who assimilated into their culture, and gente sin razón (people without rationale), which were Black and Native peoples who maintained their tribal affiliations and pre-colonial cultures independent from Iberia.
Val Reynoso is a Politics and Human Rights undergrad, journalist and Marxist-Leninist activist.