1763 Caste Painting Series by Miguel Cabrera
Casta Painting: Images of Race in Eighteenth-Century Mexico.
A genre of paintings that emerged in 18th-century Mexico, illustrating an orderly hierarchical society where socio-economic status depended on skin color. In the scenes, men and women from different races are shown with their offspring and ranked according to their place in the social structure. The paintings were very popular in Spain and other parts of Europe.
Colonial Latin America had an overt caste system whereby an individual's social identity as white, indigenous, African, or mixed was officially assigned in the baptismal register. In fact, the possibilities were many more than these four. Usage varied in different parts of colonial Latin America, and the system became more complex over time. "From Spanish and Indian, Mestizo." "From Spanish and Black, Mulatto." Such are the titles of paintings that were commissioned by colonial functionaries in the 1700s, often as souvenirs to be sent back to Spain, and frequently assembled in complete sets that were supposed to explore all the possible combinations. Caste paintings were partly reflections of colonial realities—that is, the fact that gene pools were merging—and partly an attempt to organize the imperial grip on those realities. Categorizing individuals in caste terms was important to colonial administration because different castes had different privileges and obligations. Some crosses were denigrated with animal names like Lobo (Wolf) and Coyote. One, Moorish, was a Spanish attempt to relate American realities to Spanish historical experience. While the number of sixteen theoretical caste categories is often represented, no more than four or five were commonly applied in practice.
A term used during the Spanish colonial period to describe the child of a Spaniard and a mestizo (a person who was half Spanish and half indigenous). These categories were fundamental to Spanish colonial society where the percentage of 'pure,' or Spanish, blood ostensibly determined a person's rank within society.
From Spanish and Black, Mulatto De español y negra, mulata
Miguel Cabrera, 4. De español y negra, mulata, 1763. Private Collection. Katzew, Ilona. Casta Painting: Images of Race in Eighteenth-Century Mexico. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004, p. 102.
From Mestizo and Indian, Coyote De mestizo y de india, coyote
Miguel Cabrera, 15. De mestizo y de india, coyote, 1763. Collection Elisabeth Waldo-Dentzel, Multi Cultural Music and Art Foundation of Northridge, California. p. 105. Katzew, Ilona. Casta Painting: Images of Race in Eighteenth-Century Mexico. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004.
From Spanish and Mulatto, Moorish De español y mulata, morisca
Miguel Cabrera, 5. De español y mulata, morisca, 1763. Private Collection. Katzew, Ilona. Casta Painting: Images of Race in Eighteenth-Century Mexico.
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004, p. 103