For the languages, see Creole language

The term Creole is used with different meanings in different contexts, which can generate confusion. Generally it refers to a people or a culture that is distinctive or local to a region, but with various additional shades of meaning.


Latin American Creole

In most of Latin America Creole (Spanish, criollo, Portuguese, crioulo) generally refers to people of unmixed Spanish or Portuguese descent born in the New World. In Brazil, though, the word is a pejorative slang for a black individual.

Throughout the colonial history of Latin America, the Spanish caste system made distinction between criollos and the higher-ranking and governing peninsulares, despite both being of pure Spanish ancestry — the only distinction being that the latter were born on the Iberian Peninsula, hence the name.

This formed a discontented criollo underclass that, together with the support of the other decreasing-in-rank underclasses — mestizo, mulatto, amerindian, zambo and ultimately black slaves — impelled the Mexican War of Independence (1810–1821) and the South American Wars of Independence (1810–1825) against Spain, culminating in the establishment of republics throughout the former Spanish Empire.

In Brazil, a very different process occurred, independence largely being granted without war, and the relationship between unmixed Portuguese and mestiços kept peaceful. Unlike in Spanish America, a Brazilian monarchy directly connected to the Portuguese monarchy was established. Those unmixed Portuguese born in Portugal living in Brazil were deemed Galegos (in reference to the northern Portuguese origin of most, but also used on those born in south Portugal).

"Filipino" Creoles

During the colonial era of the Philippines, the term "Filipino" served the same purpose as the term "Criollo" in Latin America, though there it implied the birth of the unmixed Spaniard was in the Philippines. "Insular" had a synonymous meaning with "Filipino", and also implied the birth of a Spaniard on the islands. Those Spaniards that were born in Europe were still denominated "Peninsulares".

The term "Filipino" was drastically changed during the Philippine Revolution when it was taken by nationalistic natives from the governing Spanish and Spanish-mestizo minority, and was transformed into a national designation to include the native majority as well.

Today, "Filipino" stands for the exact opposite of its colonial meaning, and is now used in reference for the population majority, the unmixed native Malays of the archipelago, while ironically it now somewhat excludes the 1% mixed Spanish-descended minority (Spanish-mestizos) who are seen, and often regard themselves, as foreigners.

The population of Spanish-mestizos (native Malay and Spanish or Mexican) in the Philippines has never accounted for more than 1% of the demographics of the Philippines. Meanwhile, numbers of creoles have always accounted for even fewer than the Spanish-mestizos, and today number only 17,000 (0.02%) amid a population of native Filipinos not far from 90 million.

New Orleans and Louisiana Creole

In this context the word refers to people of any race or mixture thereof who are descended from settlers in Louisiana before it became part of the USA in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase, or to the culture and cuisine typical of these people. Some writers from other parts of the USA have mistakenly assumed the term to refer only to people of mixed racial descent, but this is not the traditional Louisiana usage. In fact some locals, especially those of pure Spanish and French Creole descent, have often argued that the traditional usage excluded African lineage. However, Colonial era documents show that a broader usage of the term was already common by the late 18th century, with references to "free Creoles of Color" and even to slaves of pure African descent born in Louisiana as "Creole slaves". It is now accepted that Creole is a broad cultural group of people of all races who share a French or Spanish background. Louisianans who identify themselves as "Creole" are most commonly from historically Francophone communities with some ancestors who came to Louisiana either directly from France or via the French colonies in the Caribbean; those decended from the Acadians of French Canada are more likely to identify themselves as Cajun than Creole. Creole however is now usually still used to indentify a person of Spanish, French, or African origin. White or blacks can both be creoles.

A definition from the earliest history in New Orleans; ie, circa 1718; is: a child born in the colony as opposed to France. The definition became more codified after the United States took control of the city and Louisiana, 1803. The Creoles, by that time included the Spanish ruling class, who ruled from the mid-1700s until 1800. By 1850, however, after many years of pejorative slights by the new "American" émigrés, the term included, in a more common way, persons of different and/or mixed ethnicities and races. For example, early German immigrants, who settled along the “German Coast” of the Mississippi River above New Orleans, were referred to as Creole. By 1850, the French and Spanish Creoles lost political power, and the term became increasingly inclusive of anyone or anything from the city; eg, people, animals, architecture, etc.

Alaska Creole

People of mixed Native American (esp. Alaskan) and European (esp. Russian) ancestry. The intermingling of promyshleniki men and Aleut women in the late 18th century gave rise to a people who assumed a prominent position in the economy of fur trading in the northern Pacific.

Portuguese Creole

People of mixed Portuguese and native ancestry that Portuguese had contact since the 15th century, and who spoke a Portuguese Creole language.

Mixed Portuguese and African ancestry.

Mixed Portuguese and Asian ancestry.

People of mixed Portuguese and Native ancestry that the Portuguese had contact with since the 15th century but who didn't speak a Portuguese creole are known as mulatos, mestiços, caboclos and pardos.

See also: Portuguese Creole

Caribbean creole

In the Caribbean region the term creole is used to describe anyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, that was born and raised in the region. It also refers to the syncretism of the various cultures (African, French, British and Spanish among others) which influenced the area. This is also referred to as the creolization of society "due to its ability to suggest some of the complex sociocultural issues also involved in the process".(Manuel,p14) Linguistically speaking,it denotes the evolution of the blending of two or more languages to form a distinct new language that becomes the primary language of future generations.

In Reunion island, in the Indian ocean, the term denotes someone whose ancestry is so mixed that they don't belong to the other categories (small white, big white, pakistani, indian, chinese, and so on). Reunionese creole language derives from French, with very few foreign terms, and a highly idiosyncratic development.


  • Manuel, Peter (1995) Caribbean Currents: Caribbean Music From Rumba to Reggae Philadelphia: Temple University Press ISBN 1-56639-339-6de:Kreolen

es:Criollo fr:Créole nl:Creool pl:Kreole pt:Crioulo


  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools