Emergence of the Multi-Ethnic State

Latin America is an incredibly huge region full of ethnic diversity. It is complicated and messy, but this is what makes the region so interesting. We will try to show the multi-ethnicity throughout the region by comparing three main areas: The Caribbean, Central America, including Mexico, and South America. Since the colonization of the Europeans in Latin America and the division of different countries there has been an impact on the indigenous minority as well as the people of migrant heritage and their citizenship and their civil rights within their national borders while trying to fit in with the "mestizo" majority. The definition of a multi-ethnic state is a homogenous nation where a small percentage of the minority takes up the population.

Caribbean Islands
Map of the Caribbean Region
Map of the Caribbean Region
Spanish explorers were the first to come across the Carribean islands in search of gold and published Antilia on a map, they eradicated the indigenous groups of Caribs and Taínos of the islands through this process. The colonization of Santo Domingo came seventy-two years later. More than a century later in the 1600s France conquers Tortuga, St Kitts (along with England), Guadeloupe and Martinique, and San Domingue (present Haiti). The English established Barbados as a colony and captured Jamaica from Spain and the Dutch colonized the Antilles. With the establishment of the Europeans in the different islands with hybridization of the Amerindians and forced migration of African people, later followed by Asian labourers (predominantly Indian and Chinese) during the thrive of sugar plantation and slave trade there has been an emergence of a multi-ethnic population as well as interracial mixing. The cultural identity of the Carribean region is therefore diverse and has relative lawful implications on the citizens. Each Caribbean nation owes its identity to the past European colonials, its native legacy as well as African influence and other immigrant minorities.
With the events of colonialism and enslavement, the Caribbean identity has been molded by a blend of ethnicities and cultural history with each respective country. Some countries for example are:
  • Dominican Republic: Strong Spanish colonial legacy (although the white minority) 17%, large African descent (but not culturally recognized) 11%, Mixed- 73% (Mulatto, Mestizo) who all speak Spanish. Identify as Dominicans. The Majority immigrate to the U.S. or Puerto Rico.
  • Haiti: African ancestry, practice of voodoo and celebration of African culture (95%), white and mulatto minority (5%) who speak French (only by well-educated) and Creole. National identity is Haitian. The majority immigrate to the Dominican.
  • St. Kitts and Nevis: Predominantly black with British, Portugese and Lebanese minorities. Official language is English.

Political And Cultural Implications
Dominican Republic: They follow a democratic republic (representative democratic) government whose laws are based on French civil codes. The population is Hispanicized, meaning they are fluent in Spanish and practice Roman Catholicism (95%) as a majority. Social class varies through racial concepts and appearance, i.e. white-skinned are elite and rich, dark-skinned are poor and descendants of slaves or Haitians while the majority (mixed) are middle-class, this perception results in little social mobility. The age of suffrage is 18 years old for the Dominican citizen.

Haiti: Gained independence in 1801 from French colonialism and gained reputation as the World's first black independent republic. Consequently there was a strife between the light-skinned mulatto elite (1%) and the rest of the population over wealth and social inequality, and were obligated to pay reparations. The first nation in the northern hemisphere to have an AIDS epidemic caused a downfall in tourism and economy and eventually disparity in wealth for the nation. Under dictatorship since the 1940s, UN made attempts to restore its democracy and to provide social necessities but Haiti was in ruins once the UN peacekeepers left in 2000. They are ruled under a Republic with an elected government.

St. Kitts and Nevis: Initially fought and battled over between the French, British, and its indigenous people, but won by the English in 1692. Presently governed under parliamentary democracy and follows English common law. The official language is English and the main religion is Anglican, followed by other Protestant religions and Roman Catholicism and the population is mostly African-American.

CaribbeanFlag.jpg image by royalknight_photos
CaribbeanFlag.jpg image by royalknight_photos

West Indian Nationalism & Identity
Race and Racism in Latin America: The Caribbean

Central America&Mexico
Central America is composed of seven independent nations: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. The Spanish conquered in the 16th century, and the inhabitants of Central America have since had a similar history during the colonial period. The exception is British Honduras (now known as Belize).
In 1519-20, Hernan Cortés conquered the Aztec empire in Mexico. His lieutenant, Pedro de Alvarado, defeated the Maya in Yucatan. Expeditions were sent to conquer what is now Guatemala and Honduras. Cortés passed through the south-west corner of the Toledo District in 1525. Mopan and Chol Maya settlements in that area were devastated by the Spanish in the 17th century.
The Spanish never had lasting control over the Maya in Belize as they had in Mexico and other parts of Central America. However, they did cause social disruption. As much as 86 per cent of the population died after coming into contact with the Spanish, mostly due to new European diseases brought by the conquerors, though some died in war. Due to this devastation of the indigenous population. when the British came to Belize in the 17th century, the Maya were no longer living near the coast. There are no records of the British encountering the Maya inland until the 18th century.
Conflict often rose between the British and the Spanish about the Britain's right to settle in Belize and cut logwood. Spain attacked many times during the 18th century; they forced settlers to leave in 1717, 1730, 1754 and 1779. However, the Spanish never settled in Belize, and the British returned, expanding their settlements and trade. In 1763, the Treaty of Paris gave the British rights to cut and export logwood, but Spain still claimed sovereignty. By this time the logwood trade declined, but the mahogany trade started to grow, and the Baymen continued to log the area.
St. George's Caye
St. George's Caye
On September 15, 1779 the Spanish captured St. George's Caye, where most of the settlers lived. 140 prisoners and 250 slaves were captured and shipped to Havana, leaving the settlement deserted until a new peace was declared in 1783.
New agreements continued to be made between the Spanish and British about the rights of the Baymen, but the British continued to have only limited rights over the area. This changed on September 10, 1798. There was another Spanish attack on the Settlement of Belize. Despite the strength of the Spanish, the Baymen were more familiar with the coastal waters. This time, with the help of their African slaves, an armed sloop, and three companies of a West Indian Regiment, the British side won what became known as the Battle of St. George's Caye. The Spanish retreated and never again tried to control Belize.

Central America: History and Heritage
History of Mexico

Central America-Estimated Population by Ethnicity (Last updated 2005)

















El Salvador



Costa Rica


Mexico population by ethnicity: mestizo (Amerindian-Spanish) 60%, Amerindian or predominantly Amerindian 30%, white 9%, other 1%

As shown above, each country has a different ratio of ethnic backgrounds, depending on its past. These ethnic backgrounds aren't seen in the same view in each country. Here are a few examples of multiethnicity and how it's perceived in Central America and Mexico.

Belize: Belize's response to ethnic diversity and coexistence has been shaped by it's past. Belize has a history of slavery, but also has the richness and challenges of a viable indigenous population. Though it was the British who colonized Belize, it still has a strong Latino influence in its culture, and Spanish is commonly used. Creole can also be heard on the streets on a daily basis, despite English being the national language. Post independence, the many ethnic groups in Belize have had greater interaction with each other. There is an existing low ethnic tension and conflict, but unlike some other Latin American countries, it often doesn't lead to violence. It seems, from the outside, that Belize is a multicultural success story, but there are still real problems between ethnic groups. There needs to be explicit anti-discrimination and coexistence policies to maintain harmony among the different cultures, as there are, thus far, no such policies. For a more detailed look at the multi-ethnicity of Belize: http://www.brandeis.edu/coexistence/linked%20documents/Antoinette%20-%20Belize%20FINAL.pdf A look at policies and initiatives starts on page 4. Due to its British roots, there is a large catholic population and they follow a model set by the British for their constitutional monarchy.

Mexico: Mexico has a large indigenous population that faces systemic discrimination in many sectors. There has been military in Indian communities that United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson called "heavy and oppressive." These paramilitary groups have been linked with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the dominant political party prior to President Vicente Fox's election. Since the election of President Fox (2000), an effort has been made to focus more on the issue of indigenous rights. The presence of troops in Chiapas was reduced and dozens of prisoners were rediced in hopes of peace talks with the rebels. President Fox also attempted to bolster Indian representation in the government. He has reorganized the presidential cabinet to include new government offices dedicated to working in the name of indigenous rights. Though these steps are commendable, the government maintains that there is no racial discrimination in mexico. They acknowledge indigenous peoples suffering social, cultural and economic hardships, it contends that it is not caused by racial discrimination. This must be acknowledged before equal and impartial treatment before the law for all people is ensured.

South America History is the collective history of the peoples of the Americas, including Cuba and other islands. Datable historical events occurring in the continent, advance the use of writing, especially since the rise of Caral civilization around 2600 BC C, and the Olmeca culture around 1500 BC C. during the Formative Period to the presen

Graph statistics; groups of indigenous in South America
Indigenous organizations in South America were populated by hundreds of indigenous groups many of which still maintain their identity and customs. These are some names of several major ethnic groups and countries:
quechua of the Inca Empire

    • Los quechuas ( Peru)
    • Los chipibos ( Peru)
    • Los aymaras (Bolivia)
    • Los chibchas (Colombia)
    • Los arawaks ( Venezuela & Brazil)
    • Los canaries (Ecuador)
    • Los guaranies (Paraguay)
    • Los charruas (Uruguay)
    • Los diaguitas (Argentina)
    • Los mapuches (Chile)

Quechua Inca Empire
Seeding Mayan Knowledge & Wisdom - South America (Audio/Visual)


Article 119 .- The State recognizes the existence of indigenous peoples and communities, their social, political and economic organization, their cultures, customs, languages and religions as well as their habitat and original rights to the lands they ancestrally and traditionally occupy and are necessary to develop and guarantee their way of life. Be for the National Executive, with the participation of indigenous peoples, to demarcate and guarantee the right to collective owenership of their lands, which shall be inalienable, indefeasible and transferable in accordance with the provisions of the constitution and law.

Make a count of violations of human rights of Indians in Latin America is a difficult and complex.
There is no systematic documentation about it, However, in recent years have accumulated documents and testimony that paint a grim and persistent human rights situation of indigenous groups in the continent, Perhaps the most glaring violations with some frequency and manage to be mentioned in newspapers and other mass media, are those of the civil and political rights, namely the right to life and freedom. But surely they are more persistent but are given less publicity, violations of economic, social and cultural rights, particularly as regards the ownership and use of land and other natural resources.

In recent years these violations have been reported in various international forums. Mention, by way of example, the International Conference of Nongovernmental Organizations United Nations on discrimination against indigenous peoples in the Americas, held in Geneva in September 1977. This event was attended by indigenous representatives from 15 countries of the continent (13 Latin American countries). The final resolution of this conference states:

Latin America in general, practically has the same politic problems, such as violence, forced immigration, low economy and education, etc. Colombia as example, the main the problem and the principle is the Education. As we can see in statistical analysis, we know the result of a series of problems that Colombia is facing. Most affected tend to be students, or better put, the future professionals and others in our country.
· Problems of education in Colombia
· 2.5 million Children and teenagers are outside the school system.
· 18% of children of primary school dropouts.
· 30% of rural children drop out.
· 100 enrolled in first grade, only 33 finish high schools.
· Only 17 per cent of young age to study in higher education goes.
· Only 9% of those enrolled come from the strata one and two, while 52% of university belongs to a family of layer five.
The average of population in years is over 15 years in Colombia (7.7) is equal to that developed countries had in 1970.
The education in Colombia is dropping every day and many people still do not have the ability to access due to high income they produce and the low quality of teachers not have adequate preparation or simply, there is an excellent training and support.
Furthermore, another problem that has education lies in the violence, for over 40 years Colombia has suffer from this plague. The problem is that there are several cities such as Chocó, Antioquia, Valle and others where the war does its damage and therefore, more children are displaced and unable to study.

UNICEF: Education provides hope for Colombia's children (Audio/Visual)
Fair Instant giving children in Colombia a brighter future (Audio/Visual)

In summary, with the European establishment and colonization of the Latin American region, it impacted the native inhabitants as well as its future generations in terms of governance, social perceptions and norms and their way of living. The Europeans abused the original occupants of the land as well as enslaved people, but left a visible legacy in each country displayed through the language, form of government, and the culture. As you can see that in each region, whether the Caribbean, Central America or South America, there is a diaspora of multi-ethnicity and that each country belonging to the appropriate region has social and ethnic status relative to the historical events of the nation. Latin America as a whole has a wide-array of ethnicities, culture, and history and should be perceived as such.

The Roots of Caribbean Identity: Language, Race and Ecology. Roberts, Peter A., 2008
CIA: World Factbook
Dominican Republic: Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette
The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis:
Constructing democratic governance in Latin America. Domínguez, Jorge I., 1997
Displacements and transformations in Caribbean cultures. Paravisini-Gebert, Lizabeth. 2008