The Spread of Casta Paintings Throughout Latin America

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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“Latin America as a whole has suffered from the reoccurring theme of being seen as inferior, with fifteenth century Europeans creating this tainted reputation through their gruesome treatment of natives. When Columbus and his men first voyaged across the Atlantic Ocean to Latin America, their immediate mentality was that they had to develop the uncivilized society of the natives as well as establish a structured government. The Europeans viewed themselves as far more advanced and superior to the indigenous societies of Latin America, utilizing various strategies as a means to assert their dominance over the indigenous people.

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It got to the extent to where even the indigenous people themselves believed that they were inferior to the Europeans, through “a kind of domination that implies a measure of consent by those at the bottom” (Chasteen 63) which is called hegemony. One of the many ways that the Europeans developed and supported this idea was through art, used by the Europeans as a way to express their superiority and further implement the European ideology onto the natives. Casta paintings were introduced to the indigenous society in the seventeenth century as means to show and prove to the indigenous that they were lesser of a society. Casta paintings, paintings that defined various races through racial interbreeding, were used as a way to show dominance and further install hegemony in colonial Latin America justifying the European power and their role as the superior race.

Majority of children are taught that in 1492 Columbus sailed from Europe over to Latin America, as well as Columbus and his men were the first to step foot on the new land. However, not everyone is taught in depth what actually occurred in 1492. Columbus was sent by the Queen of England to explore the oceans as a result of the new wave of European expansionism to further sustain the rate, they were expanding at. Their growing monarchy was perfect for the growing European power, but to continue to flourish at the time they required more resources to support their advancements. When Columbus came across the Americas, he of course found the resourced that England needed. The mission that they were sent out on was achieved, but Columbus saw more than the resources, he was greedy for the Queen to have perfect image

When Columbus came across to the Americas, he saw more than just resources he saw a society that could be devolved in addition to expanding the European monarchy. Immediately Columbus sent word to the Queen of England and his potential policies for the newly discovered land.

Columbus and his men invaded and bombarded the peaceful indigenous society that was currently inhabiting the Americas at the time. Columbus and his men took into account right away that not all the natives were clothed, women, children, and men were either naked or partially clothed. In addition, the indigenous people were not Catholic like the Europeans. The Europeans were very religious thus meaning their everyday life revolved around the Catholic religion. Due to the fact that they were not religious or clothed, the Europeans saw them as Noble Savages. Essentially the Europeans saw the indigenous society as a potential threat to the European monarchy because they were different than them. Over time the Europeans made it clear to the indigenous that they were far more of a superior society. The European men took advantage of the women and killed the men. It got to the point where the indigenous people believed that they were inferior to the Europeans…hegemony. Over time, there were many strategies that were utilized to get the indigenous people to believe that they were indeed inferior the Europeans. As stated before, art was a key form that they educated Europeans were able to get word to some of the uneducated indigenous people. Hence, the reason why casta paintings were put in place. Casta paintings were just another way that the Europeans showed that they were superior to the indigenous people.

The prestigious religious group of Europeans created the term limpieza de sangre because it was another way that they could use hegemony against the natives. The term limpieza de sangre translates to purity of blood, due to the fact that the Europeans believed that the indigenous were impure. The Europeans believed that they were impure because they did not follow the European ways, as in religion, roles in society, way the two societies worked, and much more. After a while it got to the point where anyone was willing to agree or believe anything that was said against the indigenous people. This term of them not having pure blood was one of the many examples that prove that everyone was blinded because they were surprised of a new society that had no intention of harming the Europeans if they had not initiated it.

The Europeans were very keen on the fact that the Indigenous did not value the Christian religion like they did. They worshiped in temples, and followed the¬¬¬¬¬ different religions. In return the Europeans killed the highly religious indigenous if they did not want to convert, some were even killed publicly so that all the other indigenous people could see what was bound to happen to them. The ones that did convert were spared, and considered to be new Christians. After a while, the Europeans figured that the only way to completely get the indigenous people to convert was to eliminate the competition. Therefore, that is what the Europeans did. They destroyed all the temples that the indigenous worshiped at. This forced them so that if they were to practice their religion they had to do so in private or anywhere that they would not be seen. This was unfortunate and undeserved for the indigenous people because they had to change their ways because of what invading men thought of their civilization. However, form a European point of view it was a great strategic way because in the end they got what they wanted from a religious standpoint from the indigenous people. Find Quotes form Conquistadors Voices

At the beginning of the encounter between the indigenous and the Europeans only the European men went over to the Americas. This was because the European woman were worth too much value to risk them going overseas. If the Europeans women were to go over to the Americas, they were a potential target for the indigenous people. This is because if the indigenous people were to stoop down to the Europeans level, they would kidnap the European woman and hold them hostage like the Europeans did to them. This would then give the indigenous people the advantage that they had fought to get. The European woman not being around also gave the European men the freedom to do what they wanted because their wives were not there to stop them from cheating. As the European men cheated on their wives with the indigenous women it led to interracial children. These mixed children led to the development of casta paintings. The casta paintings goal was to portray the mixed children, and where they would fit into society at the time.

The development of the casta paintings was clearly due to the fact that the European men were away from home too long, and had needs that they wished to fulfill. The first casta paintings were created by a man by the name of Luis de Mena. In the 1750 he created his first piece. His piece was divided into twelve different sections portraying the different mixtures of couples over time. It would start with two Europeans and their children, and throughout the paintings it would lead to two indigenous people and their family. Not only were these pictures to show that there were interracial couple at the time. It also if observed closely it showed how each family lived based on where they lived and how they were dressed. The European families clearly lived in nice homes and were dressed in fancy clothing. The indigenous people lived on farms and barely had any clothing. This was another visual depiction of how the indigenous society was seen as inferior to the European society. When looking at each section of the casta paintings it also showed where each family was placed in civilization based on where they were in the paintings. The closer to the top you were the higher up in society you were. This led to the fact that people looking at the paintings to see how they should act based on where they were placed in their culture.

During the seventeenth and eighteenth century during the time that casta paintings were continuously spreading and becoming popular Miguel Mateo Maldonado y Cabrera was one of the many painters that created casta paintings. He was Viceroyalty of new Spain, and was known as one of the best painters of New Spain. Miguel Mateo was a very religious man and created art for the catholic church. In 1719 he moved to New Spain and studied under José de Ibarra where he learned about casta paintings. The two of them together created the best casta paintings of their time. They were influenced by the Catholic Church and European tactics. Their religious background aided them in their work because they thought they were superior to the indigenous society. When an artist has a motive it helped them create great work, and these two men were motivated.

As seen in figure one in the top left represents a family of a European man with an indigenous woman. Between the couple is a baby, like all casta paintings are drawn there is a mother a father and their child together. The child in this image is white taking more of the father’s skin color. All three of the mothers, father, and the child are dressed nicely. Smaller things that are seen in this image are how the mother and father are looking at each other. The women are looking up at the European man, where as his chin is held high. Another thing that can be noted in this image is that the mother has her arms open, showing that she is waiting for the kid to jump into her arms as a comforting mother would. In the second row fourth column is a more African American father with an indigenous woman. They created a darker baby compared to the one in row one column one. In this image the mother, father, and baby are dressed completely different than the first family. The father and mother are fully clothed; however, the baby is only wearing shorts and part of a shirt. In this image it could also be seen how the father is holding a stick of some sort aimed at the child. The child is turning away trying to get into the mothers open arms. This is just the start of how casta paintings portrayed the difference in race. Also, in this image if compared to the first image it is clear that they are living in less fortunate conditions. The trees around the second image have no leaves on them, and there are sticks in the home. The first image the tree has leaves and a nice skyline. The last section of this image that should be noticed is the fourth row third column. In this image both the mother and father are indigenous, and their baby is as well. In this image the mother and father are holding hands, while the child is being neglected playing on the spinning wheel. The father and mother are not as nicely dressed as image one or two. The baby unlike either of the babies in either image is completely naked. This is important to the paintings because it is how the Europeans portrayed the indigenous as being less than them, in this case not being able to clothe their children like they could. Also, in this image it is shows the spinning wheel which represents that this family is part of the working class. This painting as a whole is just one of the many that the Europeans manipulated in attempt to show that the indigenous were inferior to them.

Figure two is another example of the many casta paintings that were created at the time to help boost the ego of the Europeans. In this image row one column one the European man is sitting down while the mother is standing up holding the baby. This part of the image is another example how the Europeans attempted to utilize casta paintings. This section of the painting not only showed the difference between the roles in race, but also the set gender stereotypes into place due to the fact that the mother is taking care of the baby while the father is relaxing watching. This family is living in a nicer home with windows, and expensive furniture, this goes to show how the Europeans were more privileged than the indigenous. Row two column two depicts the image of the woman lower to the ground than the European man. The father is looking down on her while she is playing with the kid. All three of them are dressed particularly nice. The last part of this paintings is the key to it all. It shows a group of indigenous people that are not dressed, that are armed with weapons. This section of the painting summarizes how the Europeans depicted the indigenous society as “Noble Savages”.

Considering the indigenous people were placed lower in society and there was no true way that they were able to climb up the social ranking there was a term created called “gracias al sacar” which meant legal whiteness. This allowed the indigenous people the right to buy their whiteness legally if they could afford it. This just shows how they believed that they were inferior if they were willing to spend their hard-earned money working for the Europeans to give it back to them so they were treated like they deserved. Gracias al sacar was just a way they the indigenous people were able to escape form the Europeans believing that the indigenous were inferior to them.

After the Europeans invaded the Americas, they had one goal to take over and expand. Survival of the fittest, Darwinism. These Europeans were willing to do anything to get what they wanted. They beat down the indigenous mentally and physically. The Europeans abused the indigenous people to the point to where they believed that they were at fault for being seen as less than the Europeans in society, that they were inferior all because the Europeans had weapons and education over them. There were many strategies that the Europeans utilized to get the indigenous to believe such accusations. One of the many reasons was through the mental aspect of casta paintings.”

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The Spread of Casta Paintings throughout Latin America. (2021, Apr 08). Retrieved from