De espanol e india nace mestiza by Jose Guiol. This picture depicts a Spanish husband, his Native wife, and their mestizo child.
The colonization of Mexico by Spain led to many changes in the social structure of Mexico, specifically their social hierarchy. Originally, pre-colonial Mexico was rather homogenous in race, due to hundreds of years in isolation, and a strict social hierarchy had been established. However, when Mexico was discovered by the Europeans, and more specifically colonized by Spain, the racial composition rapidly changed. For one, European diseases like small pox and the measles spread very quickly through the indigenous population, killing natives regardless of their status. This left the current social hierarchy weak. Moreover, unlike other colonies, intermarriage was common in colonial Mexico, leading to a very diverse, multiracial population. The mixture of Native, European, African, and Asian heritage lead to a more complex definition race, and different populations arose. Mestizos were people of mixed European and Native American descent. Mulattoes were people with both European and African blood. Zambos were those of both African and Native American descent. These new races and populations lead to a new social hierarchy in colonial Mexico, one that favored European blood and also determined social class.
Due to the colonization by Spain, a European-style class system was imposed onto Mexico, replacing the traditional, homogenous social structure of the natives. Those who were more “European” were in higher social classes and possessed more wealth and influence. There were even distinctions between Spanish-born Europeans (Peninsulares) and those who were American-born (Creoles). Often, those in lower classes, such as the Mestizos, possessed less rights and were discriminated against. This demographic social change opened the door for even more changes, such as ideological and economic. Europeans introduced Christianity, which spread rapidly, and exploited Mexico’s resources of silver and labor. Increasingly, it became easier for Europeans to control Mexico, as they dominated politically, economically, and socially.