October 25, 2008

Admixture, ethnicity, and pigmentation of Hispanics and Native Americans

A very interesting new study co-authored by fellow blogger Yann Klimentidis, which tries to untangle many correlated but not equivalent concepts: genetic admixture from continental groups (in this case primarily Caucasoids and American Mongoloids), skin color, self-reported ethnicity, and self-assessed levels of admixture.

It was found that Native Americans tend to overestimate their genetic Native American-ness, while Hispanics tend to underestimate it. I don't find this surprising since Hispanics are descended from Spanish-influenced groups with Spanish as their language, and Catholicism as their religion, who viewed themselves in counterdistinction to the non-Spanish-influenced populations on the one hand, and English-speaking Americans to their north on the other. Thus, they may emphasize their "Spanish-ness" since it distinguishes them from both groups. Native Americans, on their other hand, view themselves in counterdistinction to Anglo-Americans, and identify with their native traditions, and hence tend to emphasize their "nativenesss".

Another interesting finding is that ethnicity among Hispanics (i.e. labels such as "half-white, half-Hispanic", "Spanish", "Mexican American" or "Mexican") is correlated with Native American genetic admixture in the expected order. 

Skin color was also associated with genetic admixture, although the correlation wasn't as strong, and skin color was a relatively weak predictor of ancestral proportions. That does not argue so much against physical anthropological determination of race, but rather against the use of a single trait. Mark Shriver's group had looked at the correlation between skin pigmentation and ancestry in a previous study.

American Journal of Physical Anthropology doi: 10.1002/ajpa.20945

Genetic admixture, self-reported ethnicity, self-estimated admixture, and skin pigmentation among Hispanics and Native Americans

Yann C. Klimentidis et al.


The relationship between ethnicity and biology is of interest to anthropologists, biomedical scientists, and historians in understanding how human groups are constructed. Ethnic self-identification in recently admixed groups such as Hispanics, African Americans, and Native Americans (NA) is likely to be complex due to the heterogeneity in individual admixture proportions and social environments within these groups. This study examines the relationships between self-identified ethnicity, self-estimated admixture proportions, skin pigmentation, and genetic marker estimated admixture proportions. These measures were assessed using questionnaires, skin color measurements, and genotyping of a panel of 76 ancestry informative markers, among 170 Hispanics and NAs from New Mexico, a state known for its complex history of interactions between people of NA and European (EU) ancestry. Results reveal that NAs underestimate their degree of EU admixture, and that Hispanics underestimate their degree of NA admixture. Within Hispanics, genetic-marker estimated admixture is better predicted by forehead skin pigmentation than by self-estimated admixture. We also find that Hispanic individuals self-identified as half-White, half Hispanic and Spanish have lower levels of NA admixture than those self-identified as Mexican and Mexican American. Such results highlight the interplay between culture and biology in how individuals identify and view themselves, and have implications for how ethnicity and disease risk are assessed in a medical setting.



Crimson Guard said...

Aside from pop culture and mainstream media versions and showcasing of Mexcans, there are a great many Mexicans which are wholly Europoid...which these results within Mexico shows.

Hispanic is a broad term too of course, and not everyone living in "Hispanic America" are Spanish alone, even if they speak a variant of its language. Probably best sampling each individual country like they did here with Mexico.

Mexico though has had European immigration aside from Spanish, you have the French, German, Italian and British immigration as well. Most of their immigrants to the USA are the more brown-skinned, short and clearly Indio faces of the Amerindinan types or Hybrids. Because they tend to be their undesirables and poor class which are more frequent. Also Mexico encourages them to flock out've their nation.

McG said...

There are three major classes of mexicans that I have observed: Mixed European ancestry, very little indio; Mestizo, part european, part Indio; native Indio. The first group is the "upper class" and the more European you are, the better. The second group constitutes the majority of mexicans and they range from almost upperclass to poor. The Indio generally lives in the mountains, sells handiwork to others and live by themselves - they are a different world. As far as I know, Chiapas is the hotbed of the country, the other indios are much less aggressive than the Maya. In skin color I believe the whiter the better; the term for mestizos with African ancestry is "sarassin" (buckwheat) and is slightly derogatory (but not anywhere like "nigger").

I don't know if the mestizos are undesirable, it is just that the minimum wage is so low, they are drawn to the US to start a better and more "equal" life. I believe the going rate is $7.50 per day. None is permitted to exceed that rate unless you have a special skill like speak English. Jobs that interface with Europeans/ Americans are very desirable (bell boys, waiters etc.), the minimum wage is paid, but they get tips. Mazatlan where I winter is predominantly German/French ancestry. Lizarraga is one of the more popular names.

Anonymous said...

The common used terminology to define the immigrants from the center and from the south America is incorrect, especially in the USA they are called "Hispanics" or "Latinos" . In reality they speaks Spanish and they professes a form of Catholic religion, but they aren't really hispanics or latino genetically and culturally.

Maju said...

In reality they speaks Spanish and they professes a form of Catholic religion, but they aren't really hispanics or latino genetically and culturally.

They are culturally: creole Spanish. That is as clear that I doubt it needs any discussion. As for genetics, this article suggests that US Hispanics (that may not be representative of all Spanish Americans, as they are mostly of Mexican, Puerto Rican and Cuban origin) are largely European by ancestry (almost 2/3) in average. In fact, more than I expected.

The problem, as always, may be in the US closed-box racialist view of things: in Latin culures biological ancestry is not as important as language and cultural adscription. Racism does exist but does not reject admixture, certainly not as strictly as in white Anglo cultures, and mixed people tend to be assimilated into the mainstream group which is glorified precisely as mixed, at least in theory. The Spanish/Hispanic "rosy legend" deals specially about assimilation of conquered Native Americans into a supposedly monolithic Spanish mestizo race. Things are not as rosy as the legend claims, of course, but racial cathegories are rather fluid anyhow.

Awais said...

I never read such informative and research based info about such difficult topics like the ithencity and biology in which a good clarification pigmentation of skin stat of Hispanic and Native Americans. I also tried to write more about such topics like Pigmentation loss and pigmentation disorder but with respect to the geographic locations but could not found suitable resources for them so I had to leave this idea.