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Junípero Serra
Total population
(Peninsulares-Spanish Born
115,000,000 Descendants
28% of Hispanic American population Hispanics in the Spanish Empire)
Regions with significant populations
Throughout Hispanic America
Roman Catholic; also Protestant

In the colonial caste system of Spanish America and Spanish Philippines, a peninsular (Spanish pronunciation: [peninsuˈlar], pl. peninsulares) was a Spanish-born Spaniard residing in the New World or the Spanish East Indies, as opposed to those of full Spanish descent born in overseas Spanish possessions, who were known as criollos. The word peninsular makes reference to Peninsular Spain situated on much of the Iberian Peninsula.

White people in colonial Brazil, born in the Iberian Peninsula, were known as mazombos.

Higher offices in the Americas and Philippines were held by peninsulares. Apart from the distinction of peninsulares from criollos, the castas system distinguished also mestizos (of mixed Spanish and Amerindian ancestry in the Americas, and mixed Spanish and Chinese or native Filipino in the Philippines), mulatos (of mixed Spanish and black ancestry), indios, zambos (mixed Amerindian and black ancestry) and finally negros. In some places and times, such as during the wars of independence, peninsulares were called deprecatively godos (meaning Goths, referring to the "Visigoths", who had ruled Spain), or in Mexico, gachupines or gauchos.[citation needed]

Colonial officials at the highest levels arrived from Spain to fulfill their duty to govern Spanish colonies in Latin America and the Philippines. Often, the peninsulares possessed large quantities of land. They defended Cádiz's monopoly on trade, upsetting the criollos, who turned to contraband with British and French colonies, especially in areas away from the main ports of call for the Flota de Indias. They worked to preserve Spanish power and acted as agents of patrol, in certain cases.

In colonial social hierarchy, the peninsulares were nominally at the top, followed by criollos, who developed a fully entrenched powerful local aristocracy during the seventeenth and eighteenth century. In the French Revolution, the peninsulares were generally conservative.


Burkholder, Mark A. and Johnson, Lyman L. Colonial Latin America, sixth edition (Oxford University Press. 2008)

See also