Mestizo is a Spanish term that was coined during the Spanish Empire to refer to people of mixed European and Amerindian ancestry in Latin America. The term continues to be used today in the Americas, and somewhat in Spain's ex-possessions, Guam and the Philippines, to refer to people of mixed European and other indigenous ancestry.
Mestizos form the majority of the population in most of Latin America; however, it is difficult to know with any reasonable precision except by genetic studies how extensive the Mestizo population is. Various censuses since Spanish colonial days tracked the race of inhabitants of the Latin American countries, but even these statistics are only generally indicative since race was closely tied to official legal status (the Spanish caste system) and language use. Wealthy people paid to change or obscure their actual ancestry. Many indigenous people sought to be counted as mestizos to avoid tribute payments to the Spanish. Many indigenous people were classified as mestizo if they spoke Spanish or lived as Mestizos.
In general, the countries believed to have a majority mestizo population today are Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Guatemala, and Paraguay. In some countries like Chile and Costa Rica, the majority of the population belongs to a group referred to as "White and Mestizo" where both groups are not easily separable. In Bolivia and Peru, mestizos form the second largest group. In Venezuela, they are nearly half the population and the largest group. In Argentina and Uruguay, the mestizo population form a small minority of 3% to 8% of the population.
In Mexico, the degree of admixture varies with region, although population mobility in recent decades has changed this somewhat. Generally, the degree of indigenous ancestry among mestizos increases from north to south. African ancestry is greater in the Gulf coast region, especially in the vicinity of Vera Cruz, and in the larger cities. Since the mid-nineteenth century, the African component has mostly been incorporated into the general mestizo population.
In Puerto Rico, genetic testing suggests that the largest component is Taíno, then European, and the smallest being African. The Taino element is considered to be the foundation of Puerto Rico's ancestral society. Taina women carried the children of Spanish, and African men. Genetic DNA is slanted towards Taino as being the largest component of the mtDNA, while yDNA testing shows a substantial contribution from North Africa, and Southern Spain.
In the Dominican Republic, mestizos of part Amerindian ancestry form a minority of the population ranging from 10% to 20%. Almost all of the population in those countries are composed of White, African, and Mulato (1/2 European and 1/2 African) ancestry who form the majority of the population.
The first mestizos of whom there is verified evidence of willingly having set foot on European soil are the grandchildren of Moctezuma II, Aztec emperor of Mexico, whose royal descent the Spanish crown acknowledged. Of this family, the most publicized descendants are the Acosta family and the Spanish Count Miravalle, in Andalucía, Spain, who in 2003 demanded that Mexico recommence payment of the so called 'Moctezuma pensions' the government cancelled in 1934. The interest alone of such pensions is said to be enough for every single one of Moctezuma's modern descendants to live comfortable lives.
From Peru also arrived the mestizo historian known as Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, son of Spanish Conquistador Sebastián Garcilaso de la Vega and of the Inca princess Isabel Chimpo Oclloun. He lived in the town of Montilla, in Andalucía, where he died in 1616.
Starting from the early 1970s and throughout all of the 1980s, Europe saw the arrival of thousands of Chileans, both mestizos and whites, seeking political refuge during the dictatorial government of Augusto Pinochet. Today, there is a growing number of mestizo immigrants in Western Europe, primarily from Ecuador and Colombia.
In Canada, the "Métis" are regarded as an independent ethnic group. This community of descent consists of individuals descended from marriages of First Nation women, specifically Cree, Ojibway, and Saulteaux with French Canadian and British employees of the Hudson's Bay Company. Their history dates to the mid 17th century, and they have been recognized as a people since the early 18th century.
Their territory roughly includes the three Prairie Provinces (Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan), parts of Ontario, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories, as well as parts of the northern United States (including North Dakota and Montana).
Traditionally, the Métis spoke a mixed language called Michif (with various regional dialects). Michif (a phonetic spelling of the Métis pronunciation of "Métif", a variant of Métis) is also used as the name of the Métis people. The name is most commonly applied to descendants of communities in what is now southern Manitoba. The name is also applied to the descendants of similar communities in what are now Ontario, Quebec, Labrador, and the Northwest Territories, although these groups' histories are different from that of the western Métis. In Northern Manitoba some communities spoke Bungee, a combination of Gaelic, Cree, and Ojibwe. Bungee is now extinct.
Estimates of the number of Métis vary from 300,000 to 700,000 or more. In September 2002, the Métis people adopted a national definition of Métis for citizenship within the "Métis Nation." Based on this definition, it is estimated that there are 350,000 to 400,000 Métis Nation citizens in Canada, although many Métis classify anyone as Métis who can prove that an ancestor applied for money scrip or land scrip as part of nineteenth-century treaties with the Canadian government. However, Labrador, Quebec, and even some Acadian Metis communities are not accepted by the Metis National Council and are represented nationally by the "Congress of Aboriginal Peoples."
The Métis are not recognized as a First Nation by the Canadian government and do not receive the benefits granted to First Nation peoples. However, the 1982 amendments to the Canadian constitution recognize the Métis as an Aboriginal people and have enabled individual Métis to sue successfully for recognition of their traditional rights such as rights to hunt and trap. In 2003, a court ruling in Ontario found that the Métis deserve the same rights as other aboriginal communities in Canada.
Nearly half (48%) of the 35 million Hispanic and Latino Americans counted in the Federal 2000 Census self-identified as "White", and another 3/7 (42%) as "Other". Multiracials came in at 6%. There are many multiracial people of different ethnicities living in the United States. An explorer by the name of Jean Baptiste Charbonneau was perhaps the most notable person of mixed ancestry in the region. His father, Toussaint Charbonneau, was a French Canadian interpreter, and his mother Sacagawea was a Native American Shoshone guide of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Jean Baptiste can be found depicted on the United States dollar coin along with his mother, Sacagawea. Prior to 1848 it was unclear where the Canada-US border lay, and later still before it was enforced. Many Metis lived in Montana and North Dakota.
It should be noted that the word "Mestizo" is a term used in regards to mixed–race Hispanic or Latino individuals. The word is not used among the mixed–race descendants of the North American Indian tribes, or in the United States cultural environment. The old English language cognate of mestizo is "Mestee", a word originating from the Middle French term "Mestis", which is translated to Métis in the modern French language. It was widely used by people of mixed White and Native American ancestry before the American Civil War in the 19th century. After the Civil War, the One-drop rule started to include Black people, and the word fell into disuse — except for members of the old tri–racial ethnic groups such as Melungeons, Brass Ankles, Chestnut Ridge people (or Mayles), and Redbones.
In the former Spanish colony of the Philippines, the term "Mestizo" originally referred to those of mixed indigenous Austronesian and Spanish ancestry; however, the term soon became generic and synonymous for "mixed race.", referring to all Filipinos of mixed indigenous Austronesian and other ancestry. A recent genetic study by Stanford University indicates that at least 3.6% of the population have European ancestries from both Spanish and United States colonization.
Modern day Filipino mestizos include Filipinos of Chinese, American, Hispanic, Arab and Indian ancestries. The correct term denoting Filipinos of Chinese ancestry would be "Sangley." The term used for people who possess Chinese, Spanish, and Filipino ancestries are called "Tornatrás."