Organized by the Instituto Ibero-Américana of Stockholm (in cooperation with the Commission on History), the Colloquium of which these are the Proceedings was held August 19, 1960, in connection with the Eleventh International Congress of Historical Sciences in Stockholm. These various sponsors reflect the international flavor of the gathering, which brought together to discuss mestizaje about 45 specialists from Europe (including Russia), the United States, and Latin America itself. They listened to five prepared papers, several prepared comments, and what in Spanish appears as “interventions,” but here innocuously meaning general remarks in free discussion.
As the topic of the meeting was mixtures—racial and cultural—there was no lack of controversial views, often strongly stated. Not all participants fully agreed with our colleague Professor Bailey Diffie who, after tracing his own Indian ancestry and relating his known views on lack of Indian contribution to Spanish colonial civilization, stated flatly, “we are talking about questions of little value” (p. 92).
As background to the discussions and meeting, its chief organizer, Magnus Mörner, prepared and circulated in advance a long paper on the state of research concerning mestizaje, with extended bibliography. It is here printed (pp. 9-51), the longest and possibly most substantial essay in the Proceedings. Richard Konetzke read a prepared paper, “La legislación española y el mestizaje en América,” which summarized rights and some of the legal restrictions placed on cross-breeds by the colonial laws of Spanish America. Woodrow Borah presented (in Spanish) an essay (printed here in English) outlining the theoretical base for study of race mixture along demographic lines which he and Sherburne F. Cooke (who appears as co-author in the Proceedings) are pursuing. John Gillin, in speaking on “The Social Transformation of the Mestizos,” sustained the thesis that (in contrast to colonial days) the social status of modern mestizos is now “respectable” in many parts of Latin America, that the concept of aristocratic “pure whiteness” is fading for a number of reasons. Wigberto Jiménez Moreno spoke at some length, his revised remarks appearing here as “El mestizaje y la transculturación en Mexiamérica.” For the puzzled, the latter area is the Southwest of the United States, Mexico, and Central America; his theme was the varied impact of European culture in various parts of Mexico, and that, as such, the mestizo as a group did not act as one until the period of the Wars of Independence. The final prepared talk, by J. M. Siso Martínez, dealt with the Venezuelan social process and its interpretation. After inevitably invoking the Liberator’s views, he reviewed the various sociological interpretations of social classes and their role in Venezuelan history by national historians.
It would be unwise, if not impossible, to try to summarize the widely divergent statements which various commentators and discussants are reported to have made. These ranged from Marxian views to the best nineteenth-century romantic, it being obvious or at least assumed that any and all persons can be expert in a field so ill-defined and plagued by semantic traps and emotional pitfalls.
The least that can be said by way of conclusions is that there was some consensus that the problems of mestizaje are complex. Like all good academic meetings, there was a strong feeling that there should be more study, and more conferences about it. In view of the importance of the subject, this may well be true. This was a useful attempt to set some perimeters of the various problems, indicating in general that intuition more than research underlies most generalizations about the genesis, role, historical function, and importance of classes in colonial Latin America.