There was fairly little mixing between European settlers and the first peoples in what is today USA and Canada. There was extensive mixing in what is today Mexico (modern day: 65% Mestizo, 17.5% Amerindian, 16.5% White, 1% Black, Asian, or other, source: wiki: Mexico. Argentina had very little mixing (modern day: 97% European, 3% Mestizo, source: wiki: Argentina ).

Are there existing theories, literature?

Here are my rough ideas, (disclaimer: not backed up with research!)

Gender balance of settler community

If a settler community was considered a family destination (like the USA), then European men and women moved and had children with each other. Settler communities that were composed primarily of men would mate with women from the first peoples.

Religious conversion and development of new national identity

Shared religion and integration into a shared national community would make mating more likely. There was large-scale conversion to Catholicism among first peoples in Mexico. There was not large-scale conversion to the varieties of Christianity among first peoples in USA/Canada. Co-religionists would make more feasible mating partners. What is more, co-religionists could be more likely to develop a shared sense of national identity (e.g., as "Mexicans") than a people following very different religions. Having different senses of national identity would make people less likely to mate (e.g., in Canada and USA).

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    Jack Rakove explains it fairly well in his free lecture series. Spanish settlement was based on extraction of resources and ownership of people. English settlement was based on ownership of land and long term growth. The French had different notions.
    – MCW
    May 8, 2014 at 12:04
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    You could test your second theory by comparing mixing among the French (who mixed culturally and religiously) and the Spanish (who only mixed religiously).
    – MCW
    May 8, 2014 at 12:07
  • @MarkC.Wallace Thanks for the link. (Obviously, I still have a long way to go.) Inter-colonial comparisons aren't enough considering the difference between Mexico and Argentina. Any broad theory would need at least some other variable to explain Mexico/Argentina divergence. May 8, 2014 at 12:24
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    It might help to compare populations and demographics over time, to see the roots of the segregation or integration. But I think the main point will be settlement versus extraction, with gender balance a big symptom of that. Those who wanted to settle brought wives or daughters. The most interesting analysis would be comparing mitochondrial and Y DNA of the various populations. If a place like Mexico or Puerto Rico had lots of European fathers and non-European mothers, you'd be able to trace that with haplogroups and Y types.
    – NL7
    May 8, 2014 at 14:11
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    The dividing line is not nearly so sharp as you suggest.
    – litlnemo
    May 10, 2014 at 6:53

1 Answer 1


I personally don't like this question because it gives credence to racial theories. Scientifically speaking, there is more variation from individual to individual than there is between peoples of different ethnic backgrounds.

Anyway, addressing your question: One theory I've heard is that King Phillip's war was the cause. The idea behind this theory is simple: When the pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock in 1620, the Native Americans aided them in establishing themselves, and helped them not to starve, by teaching the pilgrims, people who had lived as refugees in the Urban Netherlands for a generation, to learn farming and survival skills. They even celebrated the first thanksgiving together. In New England, generally speaking, the contact between the Europeans and Natives Americans were more than cordial - there was intermarriage, and conversion to Christianity, and peaceful coexistence. The primary difference between the two populations was more one of lifestyle than one of race.

By about 1670, the mixing of the two populations, combined with declining Native American populations and quality of life, set the stage for "King Phillips War" Supporting Source and Wikipedia links. The common narrative goes like this: Metacom, a Native American nicknamed "King Phillip" by the settlers, started attacking and slaughtering the colonial population. The English colonialist responded in kind, slaughtering the Native American population. Both sides killed whichever "enemy" they came across, including women and children. Persons of mixed heritage were victims of both sides. 5% of the settler and 40% of the Native American population died. The general slaughter led to well defined racial identities that didn't exist before the war, and set the stage for future separate ethnic trends in North America.

There is, of course, an opposing theory presented in this book that the war was not about race at all, but was instead a civil war intended to increase British control of the region, which used "divide and conquer" strategies, split what was a unified community to increase colonial power. One results of the increase British control was marginalization of the Native population, and a stronger racial identity for the settlers.

  • I don't see how my question implies giving credence to racial theories. I agree with you that race is not a powerful explanatory variable. The way I see it, I'm asking about social, economic, political, environmental (etc.) causes for different mating patterns among settlers (not at all using race to explain variation in some outcome). I'm happy to revise if you explain what about it is problematic. Jun 9, 2017 at 16:30

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