By: Joan E. Supplee

Type: General Entry

Published: April 1, 1995

Updated: September 17, 2020

In New Spain a mestizo was a person born in the New World with one Spanish-born and one Indian parent. Frequently, mulattos passed into this group as racial characteristics blended over centuries of settlement. On the social ladder, mestizos occupied a middle rung below pure bloods, but above Indians, free Blacks, and slaves. The legal status of mestizos, like their heritage, was mixed. They paid the same taxes as the upper classes, obeyed the same laws, and owed military service. They were additionally subject to the same sumptuary laws as Indians, although enforcement of these laws was lax.

When José de Escandón took colonists across the Rio Grande into Texas in 1748, some areas were already occupied by settlers; among them were mestizos. Many Tejanos were descendants of mestizos. On the frontier this group rapidly became the largest segment of the population. They were eligible for all kinds of lower administrative positions and occasionally rose to positions of power, depending upon their abilities. They also acquired property. In spite of the fluidity of the social structure on the frontier, mestizos remained behind peninsulares and criollos in access to power.

Oakah L. Jones, Los Paisanos: Spanish Settlers on the Northern Frontier of New Spain (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1979). Oakah L. Jones, ed., The Spanish Borderlands: A First Reader (Los Angeles: Morrison, 1974). Joaquin Roncal, "The Negro Race in Mexico," Hispanic American Historical Review 24 (August 1944). Robert Jones Shafer, A History of Latin America (Lexington, Massachusetts: Heath, 1978).

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, “Mestizo,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 22, 2022,

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April 1, 1995
September 17, 2020

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