White Latin Americans

White Latin Americans, or European Latin Americans, are Latin Americans who are considered white, typically due to European, or in some cases Levantine, descent. Latin American countries have often encouraged mixing of different ethnic groups for procreation, and even a small amount of European ancestry could entail significant upwards social mobility.[22][23][24]

White Latin Americans
Total population
178.6 million – 219.4 million[1][2]
31.8 – 39.0% of Latin American population
  • Figures excludes Belize, Guyana, Suriname, non-Romance-speaking areas of the Caribbean and North America
Regions with significant populations
 Mexico11M-56M (est.)[4][5][6]
 Chile10M (est.)[2]
 Costa Rica3.5M[2]
 Puerto Rico2.6M[14]
 Dominican Republic1.6M[15]
 Nicaragua1M – 4.3M (est.)[17]
 El Salvador0.812M
 Panama0.366 [19]
Major languages
Spanish and Portuguese
Minor languages
Italian, French, English, German, Dutch, and other languages[20]
Predominantly Christian (mainly Roman Catholics, with a minority of Protestants),[21] Judaism

aWhites and mulattos

People descended from European settlers who arrived in the Americas during the colonial and post-independence periods can be found throughout Latin America. Most of the earliest settlers were Spanish and Portuguese; after independence, the most numerous immigrants have been Spanish and Italians, followed by Germans, Levantine Semites, Poles, Irish, British, French, Russians, Belgians, Dutch, Scandinavians, Ukrainians, Hungarians, Croats, Swiss, Greeks, and other Europeans.[25][26][27]

Composing from 33% to 36% of the population as of 2010, according to some sources,[1][2][28] White Latin Americans constitute the largest racial-ethnic group in the region. White is the self-identification of many Latin Americans in some national censuses. According to a survey conducted by Cohesión Social in Latin America, conducted on a sample of 10,000 people from seven countries of the region, 34% of those interviewed identified themselves as white.[29]

Being white

Being white is a term that emerged from a tradition of racial classification that developed as Europeans colonized large parts of the world and employed classificatory systems to distinguish themselves from the local inhabitants. However, while most present-day racial classifications include a concept of being white that is ideologically connected to European heritage and specific phenotypic and biological features associated with European heritage, there are differences in how people are classified. These differences arise from the various historical processes and social contexts in which a given racial classification is used. As Latin America is characterized by differing histories and social contexts, there is also variance in the perception of whiteness throughout Latin America.[30]

According to Peter Wade, a specialist in race concepts of Latin America,

...racial categories and racial ideologies are not simply those that elaborate social constructions on the basis of phenotypical variation or ideas about innate difference but those that do so using the particular aspects of phenotypical variation that were worked into vital signifiers of difference during European colonial encounters with others.[31]

In many parts of Latin America being white is more a matter of socio-economic status than specific phenotypic traits, and it is often said that in Latin America "money whitens".[32] Within Latin America there are variations in how racial boundaries have been defined. In Argentina, for example, the notion of mixture has been downplayed. Alternately, in countries like Mexico and Brazil mixture has been emphasized as fundamental for nation-building, resulting in a large group of bi-racial mestizos, in Mexico, or tri-racial pardos, in Brazil,[33][34] who are considered neither fully white nor fully non-white.[35]

Unlike in the United States where ancestry may be used exclusively to define race, by the 1970s, Latin American scholars came to agree that race in Latin America could not be understood as the "genetic composition of individuals" but instead must be "based upon a combination of cultural, social, and somatic considerations". In Latin America, a person's ancestry may not be decisive in racial classification. For example, full-blooded siblings can often be classified as belonging to different races (Harris 1964).[36][37]

For these reasons the distinction between "white" and "mixed", and between "mixed" and "black" and "indigenous", is largely subjective and situational, meaning that any attempt to classify by discrete racial categories is fraught with problems.[38]


People of European origin began to arrive in the Americas in the 15th century since the first voyage of Christopher Columbus in 1492. After the Wars of Independence, the elites of most of the countries of the region concluded that their underdevelopment was caused by their populations being mostly Amerindian, Mestizo or Mulatto;[39] so a major process of "whitening" was required, or at least desirable.[40][41] Most Latin American countries then implemented blanqueamiento policies to promote European immigration, and some were quite successful, especially Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, the number of European immigrants who arrived far surpassed the number of original colonists. Between 1821 and 1932, of a total 15 million immigrants who arrived in Latin America,[25] Argentina received 6.4 million, and Brazil 5.5 million.[42]

Historical demographic growth

The following table shows estimates (in thousands) of white, black/mulatto, Amerindian, and mestizo populations of Latin America, from the 17th to the 20th centuries. The figures shown are, for the years between 1650 and 1980, from the Arias' The Cry of My People...,[43] for 2000, from Lizcano's Composición Étnica....[2] Percentages are by the editor.



Since European colonization, Latin America's population has had a long history of intermixing, so that many Latin Americans who have Native American or sub-Saharan African or, rarely, East Asian ancestry have European ancestry as well. The casta system, a primarily race-based classification that was used in colonial Latin America designated people according to its racial background, with the main classifications being indio (used to refer to Native American people), criollo (those of complete European ancestry born in Latin America, or in cases, people who were 7/8 or more European and 1/8 Indigenous or less), castizo (3/4 European, 1/4 Indigenous), or mestizo (1/2 European, 1/2 Indigenous), negro (Sub-Saharan Africans) mulato (1/2 European, 1/2 African), zambo (1/2 African, 1/2 Indigenous), Pardo (persons with European, African and Indigenous ancestry), and Peninsulares who were Europeans born in Spain or other European countries such as Portugal in the case of Portuguese colonies.

As in Spain, persons of even remote Jewish or Moorish ancestry were not allowed to enroll in the Spanish Army or the Catholic Church in the colonies. Applicants to both institutions, and their spouses, had to obtain a Limpieza de sangre (purity of blood) certificate that proved that they had no Jewish or Moorish ancestors, in the same way as those in the Peninsula did. However, being a medieval concept that targeted exclusively those religious groups, it was never an issue among the native population in the colonies of the Spanish Empire, which by law allowed people from all racial groups to join the army, with being of the Catholic faith the only prerequisite. One notable example was that of Francisco Menendez, a freed-black military officer of the Spanish Army during the 18th century at the Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose fort in St. Augustine, Florida.[44]

Although historically both Colonial and Imperial Brazil had institutionalized discrimination against citizens who were deemed people of color, it never had a casta system like that of Hispanic America. White Brazilians equivalent in status to the Hispanic criollo could have less than 80% European (overwhelmingly Portuguese) ancestry. Having some Amerindian and black African ancestry—which is widespread among white Brazilians, among all social classes in its five geographic regions since the 16th to 17th centuries–as well as having Moorish, Jewish, Arab, or Romani ancestry, affected social status less than in Hispanic America, This does not mean that the social status of "fully non-white" people (people of color who are not mulattoes, mestizos, zambos, pardos, etc.—in short, Mixed-race Brazilians—even with Caucasian features), "westernized" Brazilians with non-Caucasian phenotypes, or people with known non-European ancestry was equal to that of Brazilian elites.


The largest white population in Latin America is in Brazil, with 91 million whites out of 190.7 million total Brazilians,[45] or 47.7% of the total population, as of the 2010 census. Brazil's southern region contains the highest concentration, at 79% of the population.[3] Argentina also contains a large numbers of whites. In terms of percentage of the total population, Uruguay, Argentina, and Costa Rica have the highest concentrations of whites, who constitute 80–90% of their total populations. The smallest concentration is in Honduras, with only 1%.

CountryPercentage of the local populationPopulation in
Uruguay 88[46] 3.1
Argentina 85[47][48][49] 38
Costa Rica 82.7[50][51] 3.2
Puerto Rico 75.8[52] 2.6
Cuba 64.1[53] 7.16
Chile 52[51] 9.1
Brazil 47.7[54][55] 91
Mexico 47[4][5] 56
Venezuela 43.6[8][9] 13.1
Colombia 37[7][29] 18.2
Paraguay 20.0[2] 1.7
Guatemala 18.5[13] 2.7
Nicaragua 17[17][56] 4.3
Dominican Republic 16[57][58] 2.0
El Salvador 12.0[59][60] 0.6
Panama 10[61] 0.720
Ecuador 6.1[18] 0.883
Peru 5.9[62] 1.3
Bolivia 5[63] 0.950
Haiti 5 (est.)[64] 0.524 (est.)
Honduras 1.0[65][66] 0.089

North America


White Mexicans are for the most part descendants of Spanish immigrants who arrived mainly from northern regions of Spain such as Cantabria, Navarra, Galicia and the Basque Country;[67] however in the 19th and 20th century many non-Iberian immigrants arrived to the country, either motivated by economic opportunity (Americans, Canadians, English), government programs (Italians, Irish, Germans) or political motives such as the French during the Second Mexican Empire.[68][69] In the 20th century, international political instability was a key factor to drive immigration to Mexico; in this era Greeks, Romanians, Portuguese, Armenians, Poles, Russians, Lebanese, Palestinians and Jews,[69] along with many Spanish refugees fleeing the Spanish Civil War, also settled in Mexico[70] whereas in the 21st century, due to Mexico's economic growth, immigration from Europe has increased (mainly France and Spain), people from the United States have arrived as well, nowadays making up more than three-quarters of Mexico's roughly one million legal migrants. In that time, more people from the United States have been added to the population of Mexico than Mexicans to that of the United States, according to government data in both nations.[71]

Mexico's northern and western regions have the highest percentages of European population, according to the American historian Howard F. Cline the majority of Mexicans in these regions have no native admixture and their aspect resemble that of northern Spaniards.[72] In the north and west of Mexico, the indigenous tribes were substantially smaller than those found in central and southern Mexico, and also much less organized, thus they remained isolated from the rest of the population or even in some cases were hostile towards Mexican colonists. Because of this, Europeans often were the most numerous ethnic group within colonial cities in northern and western Mexico (albeit this trend is also seen in large central Mexican cities such as Mexico City) and became the regions with the highest proportion of whites during the Spanish colonial period.[73][74] However, recent immigrants from southern Mexico have been changing, to some degree, its demographic trends.

Estimates of Mexico's white population differ greatly in both, methodology and percentages given, extra-official sources such as the World factbook and Encyclopædia Britannica, which use the 1921 census results as the base of their estimations calculate Mexico's White population as only 9%[75] or between one tenth to one fifth[76] (the results of the 1921 census, however, have been contested by various historians and deemed inaccurate).[77] Surveys that account for phenotypical traits and have performed actual field research suggest rather higher percentages: using the presence of blond hair as reference to classify a Mexican as white, the Metropolitan Autonomous University of Mexico calculated the percentage of said ethnic group at 23%.[78] With a similar methodology, the American Sociological Association obtained a percentage of 18.8% having its higher frequency on the North region (22.3%–23.9%) followed by the Center region (18.4%–21.3%) and the South region (11.9%).[79] Another study made by the University College London in collaboration with Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History found that the frequencies of blond hair and light eyes in Mexicans are of 18% and 28% respectively,[80] surveys that use as reference skin color such as those made by Mexico's National Council to Prevent Discrimination and Mexico's National Institute of Statistics and Geography reported a percentages of 47% in 2010[81] and 49% in 2017[82][83] respectively. Another survey published in 2018 reported a percentage significativelly lower at 29%,[84] this time however, the surveying of Mexicans from "vulnerable groups" was prioritized, which among other measures meant that states known to have high numbers of people from said groups surveyed more people.[85]

A study performed in hospitals of Mexico City reported that an average 51.8% of Mexican newborns presented the congenital skin birthmark known as the Mongolian spot whilst it was absent in 48.2% of the analyzed babies.[86] The Mongolian spot appears with a very high frequency (85-95%) in Asian, Native American, and African children.[87] The skin lesion reportedly almost always appears on South American[88] and Mexican children who are racially Mestizos,[89] while having a very low frequency (5–10%) in Caucasian children.[90] According to the Mexican Social Security Institute (shortened as IMSS) nationwide, around half of Mexican babies have the Mongolian spot.[91]

Genetic research
  • 37.0% European; 56.0% Amerindian; 5.0% African (Ruiz-Linares et al., 2014). A study conducted by University College of London including several Latin American countries with the collaboration of each country's anthropology and genetics insititutes, in the case of Mexico, above 90% of the analyzed samples hailed from southern Mexico and Mexico City, meaning that the northern and western regions of Mexico were underrepresented as 45% of Mexico's population lives there.
  • 25.4%-48.7% European; 70.2%-46.2% Amerindian; 5.2%-2.8% African (Martínez-Cortés et al., 2017). Blood study, made from 114 polymorphisms by the Molecular Genetics Research Institute of the University of Guadalajara, in genetically heterogeneous sample, from Sinaloa, Jalisco, Yucatán and Mexico City.[94]
  • In 2012, A study used a different format to present results: since from a sample in which all Mexicans participants self-identified as mestizos they were classified in a specific ethnic conglomerate depending on which was the genetic component controlling. Thus, 17.0% were classified in the African ethnic conglomerate, 44.0% in the Amerindian and 39.0% in the European. The samples came from Mexico City as well as from the states of Guanajuato, Querétaro and Puebla (Noris-Santana et al., 2012).[95]

The following four studies are etiological studies. Etiological studies are genetic studies on which all volunteers suffer of a specific health condition/disease, as the presence of diseases tend to be influenced by a determined genetic ancestry and in cases also by a person's socioeconomic level, the results of said studies are not accurate to represent the genetics of the population said volunteers belong to as a whole

  • 27.3% European; 69.5% Amerindian; 3.2% African, for ashtmatic children in Mexico City (Hancock et al., 2009).[96]
  • 37.0% European; 61.0% Amerindian; 2.0% African, from 128 AIMs, for asthmatic Mexicans in Mexico City (Kosoy et al., 2009).[97]
  • 30.0% European; 65.0% Amerindian; 5.0% African for Mexico City, from 69 AIMs, made for Mexicans with diabetes mellitus type 2(Martínez-Marignac et al., 2007).[98]
  • 38% European; 56.0% Amerindian; 6% African for northeastern Mexicans, from 74 AIMs, a study made in Nuevo León as part of a public health campaign for the detection of prostate cancer in northeastern Mexicans (Martínez-Fierro et al., 2009).[99]

While according to the 1921 census only 9.8% of the Mexican population self-identified as white[100] in modern genetic studies Mexico consistently shows a European admixture comparable to countries whose white populations reportedly range from 52%  to 77% such as Chile, (which reports a European genetic admixture of around 51%)[101] and Costa Rica (which reports a European admixture of around 60%).[102] Studies of the general Mexican population have found percentages with European ancestry of 56%[103] 60%,[104] 64%,[105] and 78%.[106] Various authors assert that the reason for said discrepancies may lie in the "mestizaje" ideology promoted by the Mexican government at the time, which asserted that all Mexicans who didn't speak indigenous languages were "Mestizos" with no exception, thus leading white Mexicans to be identified as Mestizos.[107] The "mestizaje" ideology was completely installed in 1930, thus the white category disappeared from Mexican censuses.[108]

The aforementioned ideology has blurred the lines of race at an institutional level and has also had a significative influence in genetic studies done in Mexico:[109] As the criteria used in studies to determine if a Mexican is Mestizo or indigenous often lies in cultural traits such as the language spoken instead of racial self-identification or a phenotype-based selection there are studies on which populations who are considered to be Indigenous per virtue of the language spoken such as Nahua peoples from the state of Veracruz (located in central Mexico) show a higher degree of European genetic admixture than the one populations considered to be Mestizo report in other studies.[110] The opposite also happens, as there instances on which populations considered to be Mestizo show genetic frequencies very similar to continental European peoples in the case of Mestizos from the state of Durango (located in northern Mexico)[111] or to European derived Americans in the case of Mestizos from the state of Jalisco (located in western Mexico).[112]

A 2012 study published by the Journal of Human Genetics found the ancestry of the Mexican mestizo population to be predominantly European (64.9%), followed by Native American (30.8%) and African (4.2%). Those with European ancestry were most prevalent in the north and west (66.7–95%), with Native American ancestry in the center and southeast (37–50%), and with African ancestry being evenly distributed throughout (0–8.8%).[105] The states that participated in this study were Aguascalientes, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Durango, Guerrero, Jalisco, Oaxaca, Sinaloa, Veracruz and Yucatan.[113]

Another study, conducted by Mexico's National Institute of Genomic Medicine (INMEGEN), reported that mestizo Mexicans were 58.96% European, 35.05% "Asian" (Amerindian mostly), and 5.03% African. Those in Sonora had the highest percentage of European ancestry (70.63%) and in Guerrero the lowest (51.98%), those in Guerrero also having shown the highest Asian percentage (37.17%). The African percentages ranged from 2.8%, in Sonora, to 11.13%, in Veracruz. 80% of the Mexican population was classed as mestizo (defined as "being racially mixed in some degree"). The study was conducted with volunteers from 6 states (Sonora, Zacatecas, Veracruz, Guanajuato, Oaxaca, and Yucatan) and an indigenous group known as Zapotecs.[114]

The same study found that the haplogroup of Mexico's population was most similar to that of Europeans, with the percentage of haplotypes shared being 81%, followed by the Asian haplogroup, at 74%, and finally the African haplogroup, at 64%. Investigators noted that the African admixture in general did not come from the African slaves brought by the Europeans, but was already part of the genetic makeup of the colonizers themselves.[115] Another study, of people in Mexico city, found the Mexican mestizo population—where individuals tend to be either predominantly European or Amerindian rather than tending toward an average—to be the one which shows the largest variation out of all the mestizo groups of Latin America. The results of this study are similar to the ones made by INMEGEN, with European admixture averaging 56.8%, followed by Asian (Native American) at 39.8% and African at 3.4%.[103] Additional studies suggests a higher European admixture correlates with higher socioeconomic status, and a higher Amerindian ancestry with lower: a study exclusively of low-income Mexicans found the mean admixture to be 59%, 34.8%, and 6.2% for Amerindian, European, and African respectively,[116] while a study made on Mexicans whose income was higher than the mean found their European admixture to be 81%.[117] Besides socioeconomic factors, it has been observed that European ancestry varies significativelly depending of the Mexican region that is analyzed, with it being the dominant ancestry in northern and western Mexico. Said increase however, is not progressive as European ancestry peaks in the inner-northern regions of Mexico, where states such as Zacatecas, San Luis Potosí and Nuevo León report an average of 78%.[106] Conversely, in towns and cities near the Mexico-United States border Native American and African ancestry have a notorious resurgence.[118]



White people in Cuba make up 64.1% of the total population, according to the 2012 census,[119][120] with the majority being of diverse Spanish descent. However, after the mass exodus resulting from the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the number of white Cubans actually residing in Cuba diminished. Today, the various records that claim to show the percentage of whites in Cuba are conflicting and uncertain; some reports (usually coming from Cuba) still report a similar-to-pre-1959 number of 65%, and others (usually from outside observers) report 40–45%. Despite most white Cubans being of Spanish descent, many others are of French, Portuguese, German, Italian, or Russian descent.[121] During the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, large waves of Canarians, Catalans, Andalusians, Castilians, and Galicians immigrated to Cuba. Between 1901 and 1958, more than a million Spaniards arrived in Cuba from Spain; many of these and their descendants left after Castro's Communist regime took power. One further significant ethnic influx was from various Middle Eastern ethnic groups, and many Jews in particular.[122]

An autosomal study from 2014 found the genetic makeup in Cuba to be 72% European, 20% African, and 8% Native American with different proportions depending on the self-reported ancestry (White, Mulatto or Mestizo, and Black). According to this study Whites are on average 86% European, 6.7% African and 7.8% Native American with European ancestry ranging from 65% to 99%. 75% of whites are over 80% European and 50% are over 88% European[123] According to a study in 2011 Whites are on average 5.8% African with African ancestry ranging from 0% to 13%. 75% of whites are under 8% African and 50% are under 5% African[124] A study from 2009 analysed the genetic structure of the three principal ethnic groups from Havana City (209 individuals), and the contribution of parental populations to its genetic pool. A contribution from Indigenous peoples of the Americas was not detectable in the studied sample.[125]

Self-reported ancestry European African Native American
White (Havana)86%14%0%
Mulatto/Mestizo (Havana)60%40%0%
Black (Havana)23%77%0%

Dominican Republic

The 1750 estimates show that there were 30,863 whites, out of a total population of 70,625, in the colony of Santo Domingo.[126] The census of 1920 was the first national enumeration. The second census, taken in 1935, covered race, religion, literacy, nationality, labor force, and urban–rural residence.[127]

Self-identifies as European / white 1750-1960 Census
Year Population Percent Total population Ref(s)
1750 30,863 43.7% 70,625 [126][128]
1790 40,000 32.0% 125,000 [129][130]
1846 80,000 48.5% [131]
1920 223,144 24.9% 894,665 [132]
1935 192,732 13.0% 1,479,417 [133][134]
1950 600,994 28.14% 2,135,872 [132]
1960 489,580 16.1% 3,047,070 [135][136]
2006 Survey 1.6 Million 13.6% [137]

According to the CIA World Factbook, white persons in the Dominican Republic are 16% of the total population,[15] with the vast majority being of Spanish descent. Notable other ancestries includes French, Italian, Lebanese, German, and Portuguese.[138][139][140]

The government of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo made a point of increasing the white population, or "whitening" the racial composition of the country, by rejecting black immigrants from Haiti and local blacks as foreigners.[141] He also welcomed Jewish refugees in 1938 and Spanish farmers in the 1950s as part of this plan.[142][143] The country's German minority is the largest in the Caribbean.[144]


The white and the mulatto population of Haiti make up about 5% of its population, while 95% is "black".[64]

That 5% minority group comprises people of many different ethnic and national backgrounds, who are French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Dutch, Swiss, Armenian, Poles (Polish legion),[145][146] Middle Eastern (especially the Jewish diaspora, arriving from the Polish legion and during the Holocaust),[145][147] Germans (18th century and World War I),[148][149] and Italian.


White people in Martinique represent 5% of the population. As Martinique is an overseas French department, most whites are French.[150]

Puerto Rico

An early census on the island was conducted by Governor Francisco Manuel de Lando in 1530. An exhaustive 1765 census was taken by Lieutenant General Alexander O'Reilly, which, according to some sources, showed 17,572 whites out of a total population of 44,883.[126][151] The censuses from 1765 to 1887 were taken by the Spanish government who conducted them at irregular intervals. The 1899 census was taken by the United States War Department. Since 1910, Puerto Rico has been included in every decennial census taken by the United States.

European / white population 1530-2010 per census
Year Population Percent (%) Ref(s) Year Population Percent (%) Ref(s)
1530333a, 426b8-10.0a[152]b[153]1887474,93359.5[154]

White Puerto Ricans of European, mostly Spanish, descent are said to comprise the majority, with 75.8% of the population identifying as white.[160] In 1899, one year after the U.S invaded and took control of the island, 61.8% identified as white. In 2000, for the first time in fifty years, the census asked people to define their race and found the percentage of whites had risen to 80.5% (3,064,862); not because there has been an influx of whites to the island (or an exodus of non-White people), but a change of race perceptions, mainly because Puerto Rican elites wished to portray Puerto Rico as the "white island of the Antilles", partly as a response to scientific racism.[161]

From the beginning of the 20th century, American observers remarked on the "surprising preponderance of the white race" on the island. One travel writer called Puerto Rico "the whitest of the Antilles". In a widely distributed piece, a geologist wrote that the island was "notable among the West Indian group for the reason that its preponderant population is of the white race". In a more academic book he reiterated that "Porto Rico, at least, has not become Africanized".[162]

During the 19th century, hundreds of Corsican, French, Middle Eastern, and Portuguese families, along with large numbers of immigrants from Spain (mainly from Catalonia, Asturias, Galicia, the Balearic Islands, Andalusia, and the Canary Islands) and numerous Spanish loyalists from Spain's former colonies in South America, arrived in Puerto Rico. Other settlers have included Irish, Scots, Germans, and Italians. Thousands of immigrants were granted land from Spain during the Real Cedula de Gracias de 1815 (Royal Decree of Graces of 1815), which allowed European Catholics to settle in the island with a certain amount of free land.

According to a genetic research by the University of Brasilia, Puerto Rican genetic admixture consists in a 60.3% European, 26.4% African, and 13.2% Amerindian ancestry.[163]

Saint Barthélemy

Most of the population in Saint Barthélemy are French-speaking descendants of the first settlers from Normandy and Brittany.[164]

Central America

Costa Rica

From the late 19th century to when the Panama Canal opened, European migrants used Costa Rica to get across the isthmus of Central America to reach the west coast of the United States (California).

In Costa Rica, estimates of the percentage of white people vary between 77%[50] and 82%,[2] or about 3.1–3.5 million people. The white and mestizo populations combined equal 83%, according to the CIA World Factbook.[165] Costa Rican European ancestry is mostly Spanish, although a significant number is descended from Italian, Greek, German, English, Dutch, French, Irish, Portuguese, Lebanese, or Polish families. Other ethnic groups include Russians, Danes, Belgians, Croats, Hungarians, Turks, Armenians and Georgians.[166]

Many of the first Spanish colonists in Costa Rica may have been Jewish converts to Christianity who were expelled from Spain in 1492 and fled to colonial backwaters to avoid the Inquisition.[167] The first sizable group of self-identified Jews immigrated from diaspora communities in Poland, beginning in 1929. From the 1930s to the early 1950s, journalistic and official anti-Semitic campaigns fueled harassment of Jews; however, by the 1950s and 1960s, the immigrants won greater acceptance. Most of the 3,500 Costa Rican Jews today are not highly observant, but they remain largely endogamous.[168]

El Salvador

According to the official 2007 Census in El Salvador, 12.7% of Salvadorans identified with being white.[169]

According to genetic research by the University of Brasilia, Salvadoran genetic admixture shows an average of 45.2% Amerindian, 45.2% European, and 9.7% African ancestry.[163]


Guatemalan census
Year White Mayan Mestizo Others/immigrants
Census[13][170][170][171][172] Racial composition by (%)

A 2010-2012 national study estimated that white Guatemalans are 18.5% of the population (2.7 million),[13] with the majority descendants of Germans, followed those of Spaniards, French, Italians, English, Swedish, Belgian, Swiss, Danish, Norwegian, Dutch, Russian, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, and other parts of Europe. There are also descendants of Americans, Canadians, and whites from Latin American nations such as Argentina and Costa Rica.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, Guatemala had massive immigration from Germany, Belgium, and Italy, as well as, to a lesser extent, Spain, France, Great Britain, Denmark, Switzerland, Netherlands, Scandinavian countries, Ireland, and other European countries. From the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth, immigration from Russia, Poland, and Greece was encouraged by grants of land for coffee fincas and vineyards in the areas of Cobán, Zacapa, Guatemala City, Quetzaltenango, Chiquimula, El Progreso, and other places.[173]

By 1940, the percentage of Guatemalans of European origin had reached 29%, becoming the majority in the capital and in the east, with significant populations in Verapaces, Quetzaltenango, and several areas in the southwest. But by 1980, with a fall-off of European immigration, and a significant increase in indigenous and mestizo families, that figure had fallen to 13%. Later, after armed conflict that destroyed many non-white families, the percentage had risen, as well as that of castizos (mixture of the mestizo population and European descent) and mestizos with European predominance.[171]


According to a 2014 research published in the journal Genetics and Molecular Biology and to a 2010 research published in the journal "Physical Anthropology", European ancestry predominates in majority of Nicaraguans at 69% genetic contribution, followed by Native American ancestry at 20%, and lastly Northwest African ancestry at 11%, making Nicaragua the country with one of the highest proportion of European ancestry in Latin America.[175][176] Non-genetic self-reported data from the CIA World Factbook consider that Nicaragua's population averages phenotypically at 69% Mestizo/Castizo, 17% White, 9% Afro-Latino and 5% Native American.[177] This fluctuates with changes in migration patterns. The population is 58% urban as of 2013.[178] Nicaraguan whites are mainly of Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese and Belgian ancestry.

In the 19th century, Nicaragua experienced a wave of immigration, primarily from Western Europe. In particular, families moved to Nicaragua to set up businesses with the money they brought from the old continent. They established many agricultural businesses, such as coffee and sugarcane plantations, as well as newspapers, hotels, and banks.

There is also a small but important Middle Eastern–Nicaraguan community of Syrian, Armenian, Palestinian, Jewish, and Lebanese descent in Nicaragua, with a total population of about approximately 30,000.

A Japanese study called “Genomic Components in America’s demography” published in 2017, estimates that the average Nicaraguan has from 58% and 62% of European genetic background, primarily of Spanish (43.63%) but also of German, French, and Italian ancestry; 28% of indigenous American ancestry; and 14% of Northwest African origins.[179]


White Panamanians are 10% of the population,[180] with those of Spanish ancestry being in the majority. Other ancestries includes Dutch, English, French, German, Swiss, Danish, Irish, Greek, Italian, Lebanese, Portuguese, Polish, Russian, and Ukrainian. There is also a sizable and influential Jewish community.


Honduras contains perhaps the smallest percentage of whites in Latin America, with only about 1% (about 89,000) of the total population being classified in this group.[11] Of these, the majority are people of Spanish descent. A white population—descendants of Palestinians—is found in the city of San Pedro Sula, and another—descended from Caymanian settlers with English, Irish, Scottish, French, German, Italian, and Greek ancestries—in the Bay Islands Department.

South America


The ancestry of Argentines is mostly European, with both Native American and African contributions. A 2009 autosomal DNA study found the Argentine population to average 78.5 percent European, 17.3 percent Native American, and 4.2 percent sub-Saharan African, in which 63.6% of the tested group had at least one ancestor who was Indigenous[181] A 2012 autosomal DNA study found the genetic composition of Argentines to be 65% European, 31% Native American, and 4% African.[182]

Argentina's National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INDEC) does not conduct ethnic/racial censuses; so, no official data exist on the percentage of white Argentines today. Nevertheless, various sources estimate the white population of European descent to be between 85% and 86.4%.[2][183][184][185] These figures increase to between 86.1% and 89.7% if non-European Caucasian groups (such as Jews, Lebanese, Armenians, and other Middle Easterners) are also counted. These percentages show an estimated population of 34-36 million white people in Argentina.

White Argentines are dispersed throughout the country, but their greatest concentration is in the east-central region of Pampas, the southern region of Patagonia, and in the west-central region of Cuyo. Their concentration is smaller in the north-eastern region of Litoral, and is much smaller in the north-western provinces of Salta, Jujuy, Tucumán, Catamarca, La Rioja, and Santiago del Estero, which was the most densely populated region of the country (mainly by Amerindian and Mestizo people) before the wave of immigration of 1857-1940 and was the area where European newcomers settled the least.[186][187] During the last few decades, due to internal migration from the northern provinces—as well as to immigration from Bolivia, Peru, and Paraguay—the percentage of white Argentines in certain areas of Greater Buenos Aires and the provinces of Salta and Jujuy has decreased significantly.[188]

The white population residing in Argentina is mostly descended from immigrants who arrived from Europe and the Middle East between the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with a smaller proportion from Spaniards of the colonial period. From 1506 to 1650—according to M. Möner, Peter Muschamp, and Boyd-Bowman—out of a total of 437,669 Spaniards who settled in the American Spanish colonies, between 10,500 and 13,125 Peninsulares settled in the Río de la Plata region.[189] The colonial censuses conducted after the creation of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata showed that the proportion of Spaniards and Criollos was significant in the cities and surrounding countryside, but not so much in the rural areas. The 1778 census of Buenos Aires, ordered by Viceroy Juan José de Vértiz, revealed that, of a total population of 37,130 inhabitants (in both the city and surrounding countryside), the Spaniards and Criollos numbered 25,451, or 68.55% of the total. Another census, carried out in the Corregimiento de Cuyo in 1777, showed that the Spaniards and Criollos numbered 4,491 (or 51.24%) out of a population of 8,765 inhabitants. In Córdoba (city and countryside) the Spanish/Criollo people comprised a 39.36% (about 14,170) of 36,000 inhabitants.[190]

Data provided by Argentina's Dirección Nacional de Migraciones (National Bureau of Migrations) states that the country received a total 6,611,000 European and Middle Eastern immigrants during the period from 1857 to 1940.[191] The main immigrant group was 2,970,000 Italians (44.9% of the total), who came initially from Piedmont, Veneto, and Lombardy, and later from Campania, Calabria, and Sicily.[192] The second group in importance was Spaniards, some 2,080,000 (31.4% of the total), who were mostly Galicians and Basques, but also Asturians, Cantabrians, Catalans, and Andalucians. In smaller but significant numbers came Frenchmen from Occitania (239,000, 3.6% of the total) and Poles (180,000 – 2.7%). From the Russian Empire came some 177,000 people (2.6%), who were not only ethnic Russians, but also Ukrainians, Belarusians, Volga Germans, Lithuanians, etc. From the Ottoman Empire the contribution was mainly Armenians, Lebanese, and Syrians, some 174,000 in all (2.6%). Then come the immigrants from the German Empire, some 152,000 (2.2%). From the Austro-Hungarian Empire came 111,000 people (1.6%), among them Austríans, Hungarians, Croatians, Bosniaks, Serbs, Ruthenians, and Montenegrins. 75,000 immigrants came from what was then the UK, of these the majority were Irish who were escaping the potato famine or British rule. Other minor groups were the Portuguese (65,000), Slavic peoples from Yugoslavia (48,000), the Swiss (44,000), Belgians (26,000), Danes (18,000), white Americans (12,000), the Dutch (10,000), and the Swedish (7,000). Even colonists from Australia, and Boers from South Africa, can be found in the Argentine immigration records.

In the 1910s, when immigration reached its peak, more than 30% of Argentina's population had been born in Europe, and over half of the population of the city of Buenos Aires had been born abroad. According to the 1914 national census, 80% out of a total population of 7,903,662 were people who were either European, or the children and grandchildren of same. Among the remaining 20% (the descendants of the population previous to the immigratory wave), about one third were white. That makes for 86.6%, or about 6.8 million whites residing in Argentina.[195] European immigration continued to account for over half the population growth during the 1920s,[196] and for smaller percentages after World War II, many Europeans migrating to Argentina after the great conflict to escape hunger and destitution. According to Argentine records, 392,603 people from the Old World entered the country in the 1940s. In the following decade, the flow diminished because the Marshall Plan improved Europe's economy, and emigration was not such a necessity; but even then, between 1951 and 1970 another 256,252 Europeans entered Argentina.[197] From the 1960s—when whites were 76.1% of the total—onward, increasing immigration from countries on Argentina's northern border (Bolivia, Peru, and Paraguay)[198] significantly increased the process of Mestizaje in certain areas of Argentina, especially Greater Buenos Aires, because those countries have Amerindian and Mestizo majorities.[199][200][201]

In 1992, after the fall of the Communist regimes of the Soviet Union and its allies, the governments of Western Europe were worried about a possible mass exodus from Central Europe and Russia. President Carlos Menem offered to receive part of that emigratory wave in Argentina. On December 19, 1994, Resolution 4632/94 was enacted, allowing "special treatment" for applicants who wished to emigrate from the republics of the ex-Soviet Union. From January 1994 until December 2000, a total 9,399 Central and Eastern Europeans traveled and settled in Argentina. Of the total, 6,720 were Ukrainians (71.5%), 1,598 Russians (17%), 526 Romanians, Bulgarians, Armenians, Georgians, Moldovans, and Poles, and 555 (5.9%) traveled with a Soviet passport.[202] 85% of the newcomers were under age 45 and 51% had tertiary-level education, so most of them integrated quite rapidly into Argentine society, although some had to work for lower wages than expected at the beginning.[203]

Genetic studies of Argentina population:

  • Homburguer et al., 2015, PLOS Genetics: 67% European, 28% Amerindian, 4% African and 1,4% Asian.[204]
  • Avena et al., 2012, PLOS One: 65% European, 31% Amerindian, and 4% African.[205]
    • Buenos Aires Province: 76% European and 24% others.
    • South Zone (Chubut Province): 54% European and 46% others.
    • Northeast Zone (Misiones, Corrientes, Chaco & Formosa provinces): 54% European and 46% others.
    • Northwest Zone (Salta Province): 33% European and 67% others.
  • Oliveira, 2008, on Universidade de Brasília: 60% European, 31% Amerindian and 9% African.[206]
  • National Geographic: 52% European, 27% Amerindian ancestry, 9% African and 9% others.[207]


White people in Bolivia make up 5% of the nation's population.[63] The white population consists mostly of criollos, which consist of families of unmixed Spanish ancestry descended from the Spanish colonists and Spanish refugees fleeing the 1936–1939 Spanish Civil War. These two groups have constituted much of the aristocracy since independence. Other groups within the white population are Germans, who founded the national airline Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano, as well as Italians, Americans, Basques, Lebanese, Croats, Russians, Polish, English, Irish, and other minorities, many of whose members descend from families that have lived in Bolivia for several generations.


Brazil is one of the few countries in Latin America that includes racial categories in its censuses: Branco (White), Negro (Black), Pardo (Multiracial), Amarelo (Yellow) and Indígena (Amerindian), with categorization being by self-identification. Taking into account the data provided by the last National Household Survey, conducted in 2010, Brazil would possess the most numerous white population in Latin America, given that a 47.7% – 91 million people – of Brazilians self-declared as "Brancos".[3] Comparing this survey with previous censuses, a slow but constant decrease in the percentage of self-identified white Brazilians can be seen: in the 2000 Census it was 53.7%,[213][214] in the 2006 Household Survey it was 49.9%,[215] and in the last, 2008, survey it decreased to the current 48.4%.[216] Some analysts believe that this decrease is evidence that more Brazilians have come to appreciate their mixed ancestry, re-classifying themselves as "Pardos".[217] Furthermore, some demographers estimate that a 9% of the self-declared white Brazilians have a certain degree of African and Amerindian ancestry, which, if the "one-drop rule" were applied, would classify them as "Pardos".[218]

The white Brazilian population is spread throughout the country, but it is concentrated in the four southernmost states, where 79.8% of the population self-identify as white.[215] The states with the highest percentage of white people are Santa Catarina (86.9%), Rio Grande do Sul (82.3%), Paraná (77.2%) and São Paulo (70.4%). Another five states that have significant proportions of whites are Rio de Janeiro (55.8%), Mato Grosso do Sul (51.7%), Espírito Santo (50.4%), Minas Gerais (47.2%) and Goiás (43.6%). São Paulo has the largest population in absolute numbers with 30 million whites.[219]

In the 18th century, an estimated 600,000 Portuguese arrived, including wealthy immigrants, as well as poor peasants, attracted by the Brazil Gold Rush in Minas Gerais.[220] By the time of Brazilian independence, declared by emperor Pedro I in 1822, an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 Europeans had come to Brazil, most of them male settlers from Portugal.[221][222] Rich immigrants who established the first sugarcane plantations in Pernambuco and Bahia, and New Christians and Gypsies fleeing from religious persecution, were among the early settlers.

After independence, Brazil saw several campaigns to attract European immigrants, which were prompted by a policy of Branqueamento (Whitening).[40] During the 19th century, the slave labor force was gradually replaced by European immigrants, especially Italians.[223] This mostly took place after 1850, as a result of the end of the slave trade in the Atlantic Ocean and the growth of coffee plantations in the São Paulo region.[224][225] European immigration was at its peak between the mid-19th and the mid-20th centuries, when nearly five million Europeans immigrated to Brazil, most of them Italians (58.5%), Portuguese (20%), Germans, Spaniards, Poles, Lithuanians, and Ukrainians. Between 1877 and 1903, 1,927,992 immigrants entered Brazil, an average of 71,000 people per year, with the peak year being 1891, when 215,239 Europeans arrived.[226]

After the First World War, the Portuguese once more became the main immigrant group, and Italians fell to third place. Spanish immigrants rose to second place because of the poverty that was affecting millions of rural workers.[227] Germans were fourth place on the list; they arrived especially during the Weimar Republic, due to poverty and unemployment caused by the First World War.[228] The numbers of Europeans of other ethnicities increased; among them were people from Poland, Russia, and Romania, who emigrated in the 1920s, probably because of politic persecution. Other peoples emigrated from the Middle East, especially from what now are Syria and Lebanon.[226] During the period 1821–1932, Brazil received an estimated 4,431,000 European immigrants.[42]

After the end of the Second World War, European immigration diminished significantly, although between 1931 and 1963 1.1 million immigrants entered Brazil, mostly Portuguese.[223] By the mid-1970s, many Portuguese had immigrated to Brazil after the independence of Portugal's African colonies—from Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau. Some came from Macao, because of the dictatorship there.[229][230]

Genetic studies

A 2015 autosomal genetic study, which also analysed data of 25 studies of 38 different Brazilian populations, concluded the following: "European (EUR) ancestry is the major contributor to the genetic background of Brazilians, followed by African (AFR), and Amerindian (AMR) ancestries. The pooled ancestry contributions were 0.62 EUR, 0.21 AFR, and 0.17AMR. The Southern region had a greater EUR contribution (0.77) than other regions. Individuals from the Northeast (NE) region had the highest AFR contribution (0.27) whereas individuals from the North regions had more AMR contribution (0.32)".[231]

Region[231] European African Native American
North Region 51% 16% 32%
Northeast Region 58% 27% 15%
Central-West Region 64% 24% 12%
Southeast Region 67% 23% 10%
South Region 77% 12% 11%

An autosomal study from 2013, of nearly 1,300 samples from all regions of Brazil, found predominantly European ancestry, combined with African and Native American contributions in varying degrees:

Following an increasing North to South gradient, European ancestry was the most prevalent in all urban populations (with values up to 74%). The populations in the North consisted of a significant proportion of Native American ancestry that was about two times higher than the African contribution. Conversely, in the Northeast, Center-West and Southeast, African ancestry was the second most prevalent. At an intrapopulation level, all urban populations were highly admixed, and most of the variation in ancestry proportions was observed between individuals within each population rather than among population.[232]

Region European African Native American
North Region 51% 17% 32%
Northeast Region 56% 28% 16%
Central-West Region 58% 26% 16%
Southeast Region 61% 27% 12%
South Region 74% 15% 11%

According to an autosomal DNA study conducted in 2011—of nearly 1000 white, pardo, and black samples proportional to population—European ancestry is predominant in all regions of Brazil, with African and Native American contributions. According to this study, European ancestry accounts for 70% of the population.[233] This study verified that Brazilians from different regions are genetically more homogenous than some expected.[234] The 2011 autosomal study samples came from blood donors (the lowest classes constituting the great majority of blood donors in Brazil),[235] as well as public health personnel and students.

Region [233] European African Native American
Northern Brazil 68.80% 10.50% 18.50%
Northeast of Brazil 60.10% 29.30% 8.90%
Southeast Brazil 74.20% 17.30% 7.30%
Southern Brazil 79.50% 10.30% 9.40%

According to a DNA study from 2010,

a new portrayal of each ethnicity contribution to the DNA of Brazilians, obtained with samples from the five regions of the country, has indicated that, on average, European ancestors are responsible for nearly 80% of the genetic heritage of the population. The variation between the regions is small, with the possible exception of the South, where the European contribution reaches nearly 90%.

The results, published by the scientific magazine American Journal of Human Biology by a team of the Catholic University of Brasília, show that, in Brazil, physical indicators such as skin, eye, and hair colour have little to do with the genetic makeup (regardless of census classification) of each person, as has been shown in previous studies.[236]

Ancestry informative SNPs can be useful to estimate individual and population biogeographical ancestry. Brazilian population is characterized by a genetic background of three parental populations (European, African, and Brazilian Native Amerindians) with a wide degree and diverse patterns of admixture. In this work we analyzed the information content of 28 ancestry-informative SNPs into multiplexed panels using three parental population sources (African, Amerindian, and European) to infer the genetic admixture in an urban sample of the five Brazilian geopolitical regions. The SNPs assigned apart the parental populations from each other and thus can be applied for ancestry estimation in a three hybrid admixed population. Data was used to infer genetic ancestry in Brazilians with an admixture model. Pairwise estimates of F(st) among the five Brazilian geopolitical regions suggested little genetic differentiation only between the South and the remaining regions. Estimates of ancestry results are consistent with the heterogeneous genetic profile of Brazilian population, with a major contribution of European ancestry (0.771) followed by African (0.143) and Amerindian contributions (0.085). The described multiplexed SNP panels can be useful tool for bio-anthropological studies but it can be mainly valuable to control for spurious results in genetic association studies in admixed populations.[237]

It is important to note that "the samples came from free of charge paternity test takers". Thus, as the researchers make explicit, "the paternity tests were free of charge, the population samples involved people of various socioeconomic strata, although "likely to be leaning slightly towards the pardo group".[238]

Region[238] European African Native American
North Region 71.10% 18.20% 10.70%
Northeast Region 77.40% 13.60% 8.90%
Central-West Region 65.90% 18.70% 11.80%
Southeast Region 79.90% 14.10% 6.10%
South Region 87.70% 7.70% 5.20%

An autosomal DNA study from 2009 found a similar profile: "all the Brazilian samples (regions) lie more closely to the European group than to the African populations or to the Mestizos from Mexico".[239]

Region[240] European African Native American
North Region 60.6% 21.3% 18.1%
Northeast Region 66.7% 23.3% 10.0%
Central-West Region 66.3% 21.7% 12.0%
Southeast Region 79.1% 14.9% 7.0%
South Region 81.5% 9.3% 9.2%

According to an autosomal genetic study by the University of Brasilia, in 2008, the composition of Brazil is about 65% European, 25% African, and 9% Native American.[163]

São Paulo state, the most populous state in Brazil, with about 40 million people, showed the following composition, according to an autosomal study from 2006: European genes account for 79% of the heritage of the people of São Paulo, 14% are of African origin, and 7% Native American.[241] A more recent study, from 2013, found the following composition in São Paulo state: 61.9% European, 25.5% African and 11.6% Native American.[242]

A genetic study presented by the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research found that, on average, "white" Brazilians have >70% European genomic ancestry, whereas "black" Brazilians have 37.1% European ancestry. It concluded that "The high ancestral variability observed in whites and blacks suggests that each Brazilian has a singular and quite individual proportion of European, African and Amerindian ancestry in his/her mosaic genomes. Thus, the only possible basis to deal with genetic variation in Brazilians is not by considering them as members of colour groups, but on a person-by-person basis, as 190 million human beings, with singular genome and life histories".[243]


  • 67,9 % European; 32,1 % amerindian; (Valenzuela, 1984): Marco de referencia sociogenético para los estudios de salud pública en Chile, fuente: Revista Chilena de Pediatría.[244][245]
  • 64,0 % European; 35,0 % amerindian; (Cruz-Coke, 1994): Genetic epidemiology of single gene defects in Chile, fuente: Universidad de Chile.[246]
  • 57,2 % European; 38,7 % amerindian; 2,5 % African; 1,7 % Asiatic; (Homburger et al., 2015): Genomic Insights into the Ancestry and Demographic History of South America, fuente: PLOS Genetics.[247]

A 2015 autosomal DNA study found Chile to be 55.16% European, 42.38% Native American and 2.44% African, using LAMP-LD modeling; and 54.38% European, 43.22% Native American, and 2.40% African, using RFMix.[248] An autosomal DNA study from 2014 found the results to be 51.85% (± 5.44%) European, 44.34% (± 3.9%) Native American, and 3.81% (± 0.45%) African.[101][249]

Studies estimates the white population at 20%,[250] to 52.7% of the Chilean population.[2] According to genetic research by the University of Brasilia, Chilean genetic admixture consists of 51.6% European, 42.1% Amerindian, and 6.3% African ancestry.[163] According to an autosomal genetic study of 2014 carried out among soldiers in the city of Arica, Northern Chile, the European admixture goes from 56.8% in soldiers born in Magallanes to 41.2% for the ones who were born in Tarapacá.[251] According to a study from 2013, conducted by the Candela Project in Northern Chile as well, the genetic admixture of Chile is 52% European, 44% Native American, and 4% African.[252]

According to a study performed in 2014,[253] 37.9% of Chileans self-identified as white, a subsequent DNA tests showed that the average self identifying white was genetically 54% European.

Genotype and phenotype in Chileans vary according to social class. 13% of lower-class Chileans have at least one non-Hispanic European surname, compared to 72% of those who belong to the upper-middle-class.[254] Phenotypically, only 9.6% of lower-class girls have light-colored eyes—either green or blue—where 31.6% of upper-middle class girls have such eyes.[254] Blonde hair is present in 2.2% and 21.3%, of lower-class and upper-middle girls respectively,[254] whilst black hair is more common among lower-class girls (24.5%) than upper-middle class ones (9.0%).[254]

Chile was usually an unattractive place for migrants, simply because it was far from Europe and relatively difficult to reach. However, during the 18th century an important flux of emigrants from Spain populated Chile. They were mostly Basques, who vitalized the economy and rose rapidly in the social hierarchy, becoming part of the political elite that still dominates the country.[255][256] An estimated 1.6 million (10%) to 3.2 million (20%) Chileans have a surname (one or both) of Basque origin.[257][258][259][260][261][262][263][264] The Basques liked Chile because of its similarity to their native land: cool climate, with similar geography, fruits, seafood, and wine.[256]

The Spanish was the most significant European immigration to Chile,[265] although there was never a massive immigration, such as happened in neighboring Argentina and Uruguay,[266] and, therefore, the Chilean population wasn't "whitened" to the same extent.[266] However, it is undeniable that immigrants have played a role in Chilean society.[266] Between 1851 and 1924, Chile received only 0.5% of the total European immigration to Latin America, compared to 46% for Argentina, 33% for Brazil, 14% for Cuba, and 4% for Uruguay.[265] This was because such migrants came across the Atlantic, not the Pacific, and before the construction of the Panama Canal,[265] Europeans preferring to settle in countries close to their homelands, instead of taking the long route through the Straits of Magellan or across the Andes.[265] In 1907, the European-born reached a peak of 2.4% of the Chilean population,[267] decreasing to 1.8% in 1920,[268] and 1.5% in 1930.[269]

It is estimated that nearly 5% of the Chilean population is of Asian descent, chiefly from the Middle East—i.e., Jews/Israelis, Palestinians, Syrians, and Lebanese—totaling about 800,000.[270][271] Chile is home to a large population of immigrants, mostly Christian, from the Levant.[272] Roughly 500,000 Palestinian descendants are believed to reside in Chile.[273][274][275][276][277]

About 5% of the Chilean population has some French ancestry.[278] Over 700,000 (4.5%) Chileans may be of British (English, Scottish and Welsh) or Irish origin.[279] Another significant immigrant group is Croatian. The number of their descendants today is estimated to be 380,000, or 2.4% of the population.[280][281] Other authors claim that close to 4.6% of the Chilean population must have some Croatian ancestry.[282]

After the failed liberal revolution of 1848 in the German states,[266][283] a significant German immigration took place, laying the foundation for the German-Chilean community. Sponsored by the Chilean government, to "unbarbarize" and colonize the southern region,[266] these Germans (including German-speaking Swiss, Silesians, Alsatians and Austrians) settled mainly in Valdivia, Llanquihue, Chiloé, and Los Ángeles.[284] The Chilean Embassy in Germany estimated that 150,000 to 200,000 Chileans are of German origin.[285][286]

184,000 are descendants of Italians.[287] Chileans of Greek descent are estimated to number 90,000 to 120,000,[288] most of them living in the Santiago or the Antofagasta areas, Chile being one of the top 5 countries in terms of number of Greek descendants.[289] The descendants of the Swiss number 90,000[290] Other groups of European descendants are found in smaller numbers.


According to the 2005 Census 86% of Colombians do not identify with any ethnic group, thus being considered either White or Mestizo, which are not categorized separately. Though the census does not identify the number of white Colombians, Hudson estimates that 37% of the Colombian population can be categorized as white, forming the second largest racial group after Mestizo Colombians (at 49%).[291] According to genetic research by the University of Brasilia, Colombian genetic admixture indicates 45.9% European, 33.8% Amerindian, and 20.3% African ancestry.[163]

Within 100 years after the first Spanish settlement, nearly 95 percent of all Native Americans in Colombia had died. The majority of the deaths of Native Americans were the cause of diseases such as measles and smallpox, which were spread by European settlers. Many Native Americans were also killed by armed conflicts with European settlers.

White Colombians are mostly descendants of Spaniards, although Italian, German, Irish, Portuguese, Slavic, and Lebanese Colombians are found in significant numbers. Many Spanish colonists came searching for gold, while other Spaniards established themselves as leaders of social organizations teaching natives the Christian faith and the ways of European civilization. Catholic priests provided education for Native Americans that otherwise was unavailable.

Between 1540 and 1559, 8.9 percent of the residents of Colombia were of Basque origin. It has been suggested that the present day incidence of business entrepreneurship in the region of Antioquia is attributable to the Basque immigration and character traits. Today many Colombians of the Department of Antioquia region preserve their Basque ethnic heritage. In Bogota, there is a small district/colonies of Basque families who emigrated as a consequence of Spain's Civil War or because of better opportunities.[293] Basque priests were the ones that introduced handball into Colombia. Basque immigrants in Colombia were devoted to teaching and public administration. In the first years of the Andean Multinational Company, Basque sailors navigated as captains and pilots on the majority of the ships until the country was able to train its own crews.[294]

The first and largest wave of immigration from the Middle East began around 1880, and continued during the first two decades of the twentieth century. The immigrants were mainly Maronite Christians from Greater Syria (Syria and Lebanon) and Palestine, fleeing those then Ottoman territories.[295] Syrians, Palestinians, and Lebanese have continued to settle in Colombia. Due to a lack of information, it is impossible to know the exact number of Lebanese and Syrians that immigrated to Colombia; but for 1880 to 1930, 5,000–10,000 is estimated. Syrians and Lebanese are perhaps the biggest immigrant group next to the Spanish since independence. Those who left their homeland in the Middle East to settle in Colombia left for different religious, economic, and political reasons. In 1945, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Cali, and Bogota are the cities with the largest numbers of Arabic-speakers in Colombia.[296] The Arabs that went to Maicao were mostly Sunni Muslim, with some Druze and Shiites, as well as Orthodox and Maronite Christians. The mosque of Maicao is the second largest mosque in Latin America. Middle Easterns are generally called Turcos (Turkish).[295]

In December 1941 the United States government estimated that there were 4,000 Germans living in Colombia. There were some Nazi agitators in Colombia, such as Barranquilla businessman Emil Prufurt. Colombia invited Germans who were on the U.S. blacklist to leave.[297] SCADTA, a Colombian-German air transport corporation, which was established by German expatriates in 1919, was the first commercial airline in the western hemisphere.[298] In recent years, the celebration of Colombian-German heritage has grown increasingly popular in Bogota, Cartagena, and Bucaramanga. There are many annual festivals that focus German cuisine, specially pastry arts and beer. Since 2009, there has been a considerable increase in collaborative research through advanced business and educational exchanges, such as those promoted by COLCIENCIAS and AIESEC. There are many Colombian-German companies focused on finance, science, education, technology and innovation, and engineering.[299]


According to the 2010 National Population Census, 6.1% of the population self-identified as white, down from 10.5% in 2001.[300] In Ecuador, being white is more an indication of social class than of ethnicity. Classifying oneself as white is often done to claim membership to the middle class and to distance oneself from the lower class, which is associated being "Indian". For this reason the status of blanco is claimed by people who are not primarily of European heritage.[301] According to genetic research by the University of Brasilia, Ecuadorian genetic admixture indicates 64.6% Amerindian, 31.0% European, and 4.4% African ancestry.[163]

White Ecuadorians, mostly criollos, are descendants of Spanish colonists and also Spanish refugees fleeing the 1936–1939 Spanish Civil War. Most still hold large amounts of lands, mainly in the northern Sierra, and live in Quito or Guayaquil. There is also a large number of white people in Cuenca, a city in the southern Andes of Ecuador, due to the arrival of Frenchmen in the area, who came to measure the arc of the Earth. Cuenca, Loja, and the Galápagos attracted German immigration during the early 20th century. The Galápagos also had a small Norwegian fishing community until they were asked to leave. There are sizable populations of Italian, French, German, Basque, Portuguese, and Greek descent, as well as a small Ecuadorian Jewish population. Ecuador's Jews consists of Sephardic Jews arriving in the South of the country in the 16th and 17th centuries and Ashkenazi Jews during the 1930s in the main cities of Quito and Cuenca.[302]

French Guiana

12% of the population is white, mostly French.[303]


Ethnically, culturally, and socially, Paraguay has one of the most homogeneous populations in South America. Because of José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia's 1814 policy that no white Spaniards and Europeans could intermarry among themselves (they could only marry blacks, mulattoes, mestizos or the native Guaraní), a measure taken to avoid a white majority occurring in Paraguay (De Francia believed that all men were equal as well), it was within little more than one generation that most of the population were of mixed racial origin.

The exact percentage of the white Paraguayan population is not known because the Paraguayan census does not include racial or ethnic identification, save for the indigenous population,[304] which was 1.7% of the country's total in the 2002 census.[305] Other sources estimate the sizes of other groups, the mestizo population being estimated at 95% by the CIA World Factbook, with all other groups totaling 5%.[306][307] Thus, whites and the remaining groups (Asians, Afro-Paraguayans, others) make up approximately 3.3% of the total population. According to Lizcano, in 2005 a fifth of population or 20% are white and 75% approximately is mestizo.[2] Such a reading is complicated, because, as elsewhere in Latin America, "white" and "mestizo" are not mutually exclusive (people may identify as both).

Due to the European migration in the 19th and 20th centuries, the majority of whites are of German descent (including Mennonites), with others being of French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese descent.[308] Many are southern and southeastern Brazilians (brasiguayos), as well as Argentines and Uruguayans, and their descendants.[308] People from such regions are generally descendants of colonial settlers and/or more recent immigrants.[308]

In 2005, 600 families of Volga Germans who migrated to Germany after the fall of the Soviet Union, re-migrated and established a new colony, Neufeld, near Yuty (Caazapá Department), in southeastern Paraguay.[309]


According to the 2017 census 5.9% or 1.3 million people self-identified as white of the population who were aged 12 and above. This was the first time the census had asked an ancestral identity question. The highest proportion was in the La Libertad Region with 10% identifying as white.[62] They are descendants primarily of Spanish colonists, and also of Spanish refugees fleeing the Spanish Civil War. After World War II, many German refugees fled to Peru and settled in large cities, while others descend from Italian, French (mainly Basques), Austrian or German, Portuguese, British, Russians, Croats, Lebanese, Jordanian, and Syrian immigrant families. The majority of whites live in the largest cities, and are concentrated in the northern coastal cities of Trujillo, Chiclayo, Piura, and the capital, Lima. Cajamarca, the Amazonas and San Martín regions, and the highlands of northwestern Peru are also places with strong Spanish, and other European, ethnic presence. The only southern city with a significant white population is Arequipa.

According to a genetic research by the University of Brasilia, Peruvian genetic admixture indicates 73.0% Amerindian, 15.1% European, and 11.9% African ancestry.[163]


A 2009 DNA study in the American Journal of Human Biology showed the genetic composition of Uruguay as primarily European, with Native American ancestry ranging from one to 20 percent and sub-Saharan African from seven to 15 percent, depending on the region.[310]

Between the mid-19th and the early 20th centuries, Uruguay received part of the same migratory influx as Argentina, although the process started a bit earlier. During 1850-1900, the country welcomed four waves of European immigrants, mainly Spaniards, Italians and Frenchmen. In smaller numbers came British, Germans, Swiss, Russians, Portuguese, Poles, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Estonians, Dutch, Belgians, Croatians, Lebanese, Armenians, Greeks, Scandinavians, and Irish. The demographic impact of these migratory waves was greater than in Argentina, Uruguay going from having 70,000 inhabitants in 1830, to 450,000 in 1875, and a million inhabitants by 1900, its population thus increasing fourteen-fold in only 70 years. Between 1840 and 1890, 50%–60% of Montevideo's population was born abroad, almost all in Europe. The Census conducted in 1860 showed that 35% of the country's population was made up by foreigners, although by the time of the 1908 Census this figure had dropped to 17%.[311]

From 1996 to 1997, the National Institute of Statistics (INE) of Uruguay conducted a Continuous Household Survey, of 40,000 homes, that included the topic of race in the country. Its results were based on "the explicit statements of the interviewee about the race they consider they belong themselves". These results were extrapolated, and the INE estimated that out of 2,790,600 inhabitants, some 2,602,200 were white (93.2%), some 164,200 (5.9%) were totally or partially black, some 12,100 were totally or partially Amerindian (0.4%), and the remaining 12,000 considered themselves Yellow.[312]

In 2006, a new Enhanced National Household Survey touched on the topic again, but this time emphasizing ancestry, not race; the results revealed 5.8% more Uruguayans stated having total or partial black and/or Amerindian ancestry. This reduction in the percentage of self-declared "pure whites" between surveys could be caused by the phenomenon of the interviewee giving new value to their African heritage, similar to what has happened in Brazil in the last three censuses. Anyway, it is worth noting that 2,897,525 interviewées declared having only white ancestry (87.4%), 302,460 declared having total or partial black ancestry (9.1%), 106,368 total or partial Amerindian ancestry (2.9%) and 6,549 total or partial Yellow ancestry (0.2%).[313] This figure matches external estimates for white population in Uruguay of 87.4%,[314] 88%,[2][315] or 90%.[316]

Recently many European and American immigrants have entered the country seeking peace and security, or escaping from the pollution and voracious tax systems in their countries of origin. In 1997, the Uruguayan government granted residence rights to only 200 European/American citizens; in 2008 the number of residence rights granted increased to 927.[317]


According to the official Venezuelan census, although "white" literally involves external issues such as light skin, shape and color of hair and eyes, among others, the term "white" has been used in different ways in different historical periods and places, and so its precise definition is somewhat confusing.[8] For this reason, White Venezuelan is used to describe the Venezuelan citizen of European origin.

According to the 2011 National Population and Housing Census, 43.6% of the population identified themselves as white people.[8] A genomic study shows that about 60.6% of the Venezuelan gene pool has European origin. Among the Latin American countries in the study (Argentina, Bahamas, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, El Salvador, Ecuador, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela), Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, and Argentina exhibit the highest European contribution.[318]

The Venezuelan gene pool indicates a 60.6% European, 23.0% Amerindian, and 16.3% African ancestry.[163] Spaniards were introduced into Venezuela during the colonial period. Most of them were from Andalusia, Galicia, Basque Country and from the Canary Islands. Until the last years of World War II, a large part of European immigrants to Venezuela came from the Canary Islands, and their cultural impact was significant, influencing the development of Castilian in the country, its gastronomy and customs. With the beginning of oil production during the first decades of the 20th century, employees of oil companies from the United States, United Kingdom, and the Netherlands established themselves in Venezuela. Later, in the middle of the century, there was a new wave of immigrants originating from Spain (mainly from Galicia, Andalucia, and Basque country, some being refugees from the Spanish Civil War), Italy (mainly from southern Italy and the Veneto region), and Portugal (from Madeira), as well as from Germany, France, England, Croatia, the Netherlands, other European countries, and the Middle East (Lebanon and Syria), encouraged by a welcoming immigration policy to a prosperous, rapidly developing country where educated and skilled immigrants were needed.

Representation in the media

Some American media outlets have criticized Latin American media for allegedly featuring a disproportionate number of blond and blue-eyed white actors and actresses in telenovelas, relative to non-whites.[319][320][321][322][323][324][325][326]

See also


  1. CIA data from The World Factbook's Field Listing :: Ethnic groups and Field Listing :: Population, retrieved on May 09 2011. They show 191,543,213 whites from a total population of 579,092,570. For a few countries the percentage of white population is not provided as a standalone figure, and thus that datum is considered to be not available; for example, in Chile's case the CIA states "white and white-Amerindian 95.4%". Unequivocal data are given for the following: Argentina 41,769,726 * 97% white = 40,516,634; Bolivia 10,118,683 * 5% white = 505,934; Brazil 203,429,773 * 53.7% white = 109,241,788; Colombia 44,725,543 * 20% white = 8,945,109; Cuba 11,087,330 * 65.1% white = 7,217,852; Dominican Republic 9,956,648 * 16% white = 1,593,064; El Salvador 6,071,774 * 9% white = 546,460; Honduras 8,143,564 * 1% white = 81,436; Mexico 113,724,226 * 9% white = 10,235,180; Nicaragua 5,666,301 * 17% white = 963,272; Panama 3,460,462 * 10% white = 346,046; Peru 29,248,943 * 15% white = 4,387,342; Puerto Rico 3,989,133 * 76.2% white = 3,039,719; Uruguay 3,308,535 * 88% white = 2,911,511. Total white population in these countries: 191,543,213, i.e 33.07% of the region's population.
  2. Lizcano Fernández, Francisco (May–August 2005). "Composición Étnica de las Tres Áreas Culturales del Continente Americano al Comienzo del Siglo XXI" (PDF). Convergencia (in Spanish). Mexico: Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, Centro de Investigación en Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades. 38: 185–232, table on p. 218. ISSN 1405-1435. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 September 2008.
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Further reading

  • Twinam, Ann. 2015. Purchasing whiteness: Pardos, mulattos, and the quest for social mobility in the Spanish Indies. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
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