The present population of South America is the result of four centuries of mixture among these four components—American Indians, Iberians, Africans, and more recent overseas immigrants—and their descendants. The mixing process began when the first Iberians reached South America. The previous traditions and basic values and attitudes of the Iberians—coupled with other characteristics of their conquest and colonization—facilitated intermixing not only with the Indians but in general among all the various ethnic groups, although the intensity, extent, and frequency of this mixing varied both among different groups and at different times.
Legal marriage between Iberians and Indians was tolerated, often permitted, and even, in some special circumstances, promoted. It was possible—and in certain epochs easy—to recognize mestizo (generally, mixed European and Indian) children, though frequently a mestizo was considered automatically illegitimate.
Social custom did not permit intermarriage between Europeans and Africans and between Africans and Indians and their offspring, though it failed to prevent generalized ethnic mixing. This prolonged process created a great variety of physical types, resulting in the emergence of a complex terminology to describe them.
The more specific designations are mestizo (called caboclo in Brazil), mulatto (mixed European and African ancestry), zambo (African and Indian ancestry), and cholo (mestizo and Indian ancestry). During the postindependence period of European immigration, other national groups contributed to diverse ethnic mixtures. As a result, the ethnic compositions of Argentina and Uruguay were completely modified. "South America" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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