Why were Spanish colonists more prone to mix with Native Americans than English colonists were?

Unlike the English colonists, who usually arrived as families, most of the Spanish conquistadors came to the New World without women.

Rather than send back to Spain for wives, they took Native American women to bear their children. The racially mixed children became a new group, called mestizos.

In many Latin American countries today, mestizos are a large part of the population. When African slaves were brought to Latin America, the Africans intermarried with other racial groups, adding another element to the mix.

The willingness of Spanish colonists to mix races is in part due to the culture of Spain itself. Located on the Iberian Peninsula in southwest Europe, Spain has been settled and invaded many times. Some invaders, such as the Moors, have come from Africa: at the Strait of Gibraltar, Spain is separated from North Africa by fewer than twenty-five miles of water.

As a result of this history, a Spanish person at the time of Columbus was likely to be a blend of cultural influences and ethnic backgrounds, Iberian, Basque, Phoenician, Celt, Italian, Visigoth, Jew, Moor.

The English, in the isolated British Isles, had a far more limited tradition of ethnic mixing: pretty much just Celts and Germanic peoples. The idea of mixing races tended to shock the English in a way that it never shocked the Spanish.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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