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Joan E. Supplee General Entry

In New Spain a criollo was a person born in the New World to Spanish-born parents. A criollo, although legally equal to a peninsular, was treated differently with regard to royal appointments to high colonial offices in administration, the military, and the church. The stigma of being born in America emerged from the difficulty of distinguishing between pure criollos and mestizos. In Spain it was also widely believed that exposure to the tropical sun in the New World retarded the development of children born there. Criollos therefore ranked one step below peninsulars on New Spain's social ladder. On the frontier of the Spanish empire, criollos held more important positions in the colonial administration because of the scarcity of peninsulars and their reluctance to serve in remote regions. The highest offices were usually reserved for the Spanish-born, and criollos and mestizos shared the other military and civil appointments. Criollos and mestizos also fared well in church positions because of their connections with local parishes. Social fluidity promoted miscegenation on the frontier, and the lines between criollos and mixed bloods quickly eroded.

Oakah L. Jones, Los Paisanos: Spanish Settlers on the Northern Frontier of New Spain (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1979). Lyle N. McAlister, "Social Structure and Social Change in New Spain," Hispanic American Historical Review 43 (August 1963). Magnus Mörner, Race Mixture in the History of Latin America (Boston: Little, Brown, 1967). David J. Weber, New Spain's Far Northern Frontier (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1979).

Time Periods:

  • Spanish Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Joan E. Supplee, “Criollo,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 21, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: