Meaning of Casta

What is Casta:

The word caste, as a noun, refers to the lineage or ancestry of a certain social group. Those who belong to this lineage share phenotypic, religious, cultural or historical traits, from which a series of duties and / or rights attributed in society emerge.

The origin of the word caste is indeterminate. In some sources, such as Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, it is argued that it derives from the Gothic term kastan, associated with the zoological meaning of ‘group of animals’.

There are also those who maintain that it comes from Latin castus, which means ‘pure’, meaning applied by the Portuguese during the period of explorations (16th-17th centuries) to refer to certain social groups in India, organized in endogamous systems.

Caste system

Caste system is an expression that refers to those societies whose organization and functioning are based on castes, that is, in groups of people classified according to their line of birth, which determines their role and social function for life.

Caste systems were widely used in ancient societies, and still remain in force in certain non-Western societies.

Examples of caste systems

An example of a non-Western caste system still in force is the caste system in India.

A historical example already repealed, although close, is the colonial caste system in Latin America.

Characteristics of caste systems

Every caste system is different.However, some common features can be established.

  • The company is divided by segments;
  • Segments are determined by degree of racial or ethnic purity;
  • The social hierarchy is determined by ethnic origin;
  • The distribution of social roles and work is also adapted to ethnic origin;
  • The occupations of each caste are hereditary;
  • In some societies, a religious justification is attributed to the caste system;
  • Some caste systems are totally inbred; others allow miscegenation but only formally validate unions between equals or between castes with a similar degree of purity;
  • Each caste in the same society has its own eating habits.

Colonial caste system

The castes in Latin America arose in the colonial period from the process of miscegenation among whites, coming from Europe; the Indians, settlers of the American territory, and the blacks, slaves brought from Africa.

The nomenclatures of the caste system varied from locality to locality and, even there, varied in popular usage, so that confusion could be registered. There were various lists and criteria to represent the caste universe of colonial society.

Types of castes in the viceroyalty of New Spain

According to the image below, the most clearly defined caste types in New Spain during the 18th century were:

Caste chart in New Spain according to anonymous eighteenth century (Tepotzotlán)

  1. Mestizo: Spanish with India
  2. Castizo: mestizo with Spanish
  3. Spanish: Castizo with Spanish
  4. Mulato: Spanish with blackberry (black)
  5. Morisco: mulatto with Spanish
  6. Chinese: Moorish with Spanish
  7. Sata back: Chinese with India
  8. Wolf: jump back with mulatto
  9. Gíbaro or jíbaro: wolf with china
  10. Albarazado: gíbaro (jíbaro) with mulatto
  11. Cambujo: albarazado with black
  12. Sambaigo (zambaigo): cambujo with india
  13. Calpamulato: sambaigo with she-wolf
  14. Tente en el aire: calpamulato with cambuja
  15. I don't understand you: tente in the air with a mulatto
  16. Torna back: I don't understand you with india

Types of castes in South America

There were also other classifications of the caste system widely used in South America, although they also came to be used in New Spain. To know how many castes came into existence in that society, just review this list:

  1. Creole: Europeans in America
  2. Mestizo: Spanish and indigenous
  3. Castizo, castizo cuatralbo or cuarterón de mestizo: Spanish with mestizo
  4. Spanish: castizo con español
  5. Zambo or jarocho: indigenous with black
  6. Zambo prieto: black with zambo
  7. Mulato: Spanish with black
  8. Morisco (different from Peninsular Moors) or cuarterón de mulata: mulatto with Spanish
  9. Albino or octavón: Spanish with Moorish
  10. Jump back or jump back: albino with Spanish
  11. Crowded: mestizo with mulatto
  12. Cholo, coyote or meslindio: indigenous with mestizo
  13. Chinese or dark mulatto: mulatto with indigenous
  14. Galfarro: mulatto with black
  15. Harnizo: Spanish with cholo
  16. Harnizo: castizo with mestizo
  17. Chamizo or chamiso: coyote with indigenous
  18. Half-breed coyote: chamizo with half-breed
  19. Cambujo: Chinese with indigenous
  20. Wolf: jump back with mulatto
  21. Gíbaro or jíbaro: wolf with Chinese
  22. Albarazado: gíbaro with mulatto
  23. Cambujo: albarazado with black
  24. Sambaigo: cambujo with indigenous
  25. Campamulato: sambaigo with wolf
  26. Tente en el aire: campamulato with cambujo
  27. I don't understand you: tente in the air with a mulatto
  28. Torna back: I don't understand you with india
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