Nonindigenous, non-Spanish castas were a significant presence in late colonial Central America, yet their lives have remained opaque to historians, particularly in heavily indigenous rural areas such as western Guatemala. Drawing on detailed census correspondence, this article describes casta populations in the Huehuetenango region in the final decades of colonial rule by examining census categorization, patterns of migration, occupations, land tenure, and casta relations with indigenous communities and royal authorities. These data question current assumptions regarding the timing and nature of ethnic transformation among these populations, arguing that the key shift to a generic ladino identity occurred later than previously proposed. They also suggest the need for greater attention to the role of state formation in ethnic change, as the casta population described here repeatedly struggled with and adapted themselves to the identities promoted in state projects during the early nineteenth century, with enduring effects on later ethnic relations.

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