In Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, Pardo (ˈpaʁdu) is a race/colour category used by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics
The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics or IBGE , is the agency responsible for statistical, geographic, cartographic, geodetic and environmental information in Brazil...

 (IBGE) in Brazilian censuses. It is a Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

 word that encompasses various shades of brown, but is usually translated as "grayish-brown". The other categories are branco ("White
White people
White people is a term which usually refers to human beings characterized, at least in part, by the light pigmentation of their skin...

"), negro ("Black
Black people
The term black people is used in systems of racial classification for humans of a dark skinned phenotype, relative to other racial groups.Different societies apply different criteria regarding who is classified as "black", and often social variables such as class, socio-economic status also plays a...

"), amarelo ("yellow", meaning East Asians
Asian people
Asian people or Asiatic people is a term with multiple meanings that refers to people who descend from a portion of Asia's population.- Central Asia :...

), and indígena ("indigene" or "indigenous person", meaning Amerindians
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...


Pardo was also a casta
Casta is a Portuguese and Spanish term used in seventeenth and eighteenth centuries mainly in Spanish America to describe as a whole the mixed-race people which appeared in the post-Conquest period...

classification used in Colonial Spanish America
Hispanic America
Hispanic America or Spanish America is the region comprising the American countries inhabited by Spanish-speaking populations.These countries have significant commonalities with each other and with Spain, whose colonies they formerly were...

 from the 16th to 18th centuries, and was used to classify a racially mixed individual who did not fall within the racially mixed categories (castes) of Mulatto
Mulatto denotes a person with one white parent and one black parent, or more broadly, a person of mixed black and white ancestry. Contemporary usage of the term varies greatly, and the broader sense of the term makes its application rather subjective, as not all people of mixed white and black...

, Zambo
Zambo or Cafuzo are racial terms used in the Spanish and Portuguese Empires and occasionally today to identify individuals in the Americas who are of mixed African and Amerindian ancestry...

, or Mestizo
Mestizo is a term traditionally used in Latin America, Philippines and Spain for people of mixed European and Native American heritage or descent...

 because a Pardo is a mixture of all 3 colonial races - White, Black, and Amerindian - and not a mix of just 2 races. The term Pardo was used primarily in small areas of Spanish America whose economy was based on African Slavery during Spain's colonial period.

Definitions of Pardo

According to IBGE
The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics or IBGE , is the agency responsible for statistical, geographic, cartographic, geodetic and environmental information in Brazil...

 (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), Pardo is a broad classification that encompasses Brazilians of mixed race ancestry, mulatto
Mulatto denotes a person with one white parent and one black parent, or more broadly, a person of mixed black and white ancestry. Contemporary usage of the term varies greatly, and the broader sense of the term makes its application rather subjective, as not all people of mixed white and black...

es, and assimilated indigenous people ("caboclo
A caboclo or caboco is a person of a mixed Brazilian Indian and European ancestry. In Brazil, a caboclo is a specific type of mestiço as is the mulato, a person of a mixed Afro-Brazilian and European ancestry....

"). The term "pardo" was first used in a Brazilian census in 1872. The following census, in 1890, replaced the word "pardo" by mestiço (mixed). The censuses of 1900 and 1920 did not ask about race, arguing that "the answers largely hid the truth". The question about race reappeared in the 1940 census. In this census, "pardo" was not given as an option, but if the answer was different from the options "white", "black", and "yellow", a horizontal line was drawn into the "colour" box. When the census data came to be tabulated, all responses with horizontal lines were collected into the single category of "pardo". The term "pardo" was not used as an option as an assurance to the public that census data would not be used for discriminatory purposes, as a result of rising European racism at the time. In the 1950 census, "pardo" was actually added as a choice of answer. This trend remains, with the exception of the 1970 census, which also did not ask about race.

The 20th century saw a large growth of the "pardo" population. In 1940, 21.2% of Brazilians were classified as "pardos". In 2000, they had increased to 38.5% of the population. This is only partially due to the continuous process of miscegenation in the Brazilian population. Races are molded in accordance with perceptions and ideologies prevalent in each historical moment. In the 20th century, a significant part of Brazilians who used to self-report to be Black in earlier censuses chose to move to the Pardo category. Also a significant part of the population that used to self-report to be White also moved to the Pardo category. Magnoli describes this phenomenon as the "pardização" (pardoization) of Brazil.


According to an autosomal DNA study (the autosomal study is about the sum of the ancestors of a person, unlike mtDNA or yDNA haplogroup studies, who cover only one single line), the "pardos" in Rio de Janeiro were found to be predominantly European, at roughly 70% (see table). The geneticist Sérgio Pena criticised foreign scholar Edward Telles for lumping "blacks" and "pardos" in the same category, given the predominant European ancestry of the "pardos" throughout Brazil. According to him, "the autosomal genetic analysis that we have performed in non related individuals from Rio de Janeiro shows that it does not make any sense to put "blacks" and "pardos" in the same category".
Genomic ancestry of non-related individuals in Rio de Janeiro"
Colour Number of individuals Amerindian African European
White 107 6.7% 6.9% 86.4%
Pardo 119 8.3% 23.6% 68.1%
Black 109 7.3% 50.9% 41.8%

Another autosomal DNA study has confirmed that the European ancestry is dominant throughout in the Brazilian population, regardless of complexion, "pardos" included. "A new portrayal of each ethnicity contribution to the DNA of Brazilians, obtained with samples from the five regions of the country, has indicated that, on average, European ancestors are responsible for nearly 80% of the genetic heritage of the population. The variation between the regions is small, with the possible exception of the South, where the European contribution reaches nearly 90%. The results, published by the scientific magazine 'American Journal of Human Biology' by a team of the Catholic University of Brasília, show that, in Brazil, physical indicators such as skin colour, colour of the eyes and colour of the hair have little to do with the genetic ancestry of each person, which has been shown in previous studies". "Ancestry informative SNPs can be useful to estimate individual and population biogeographical ancestry. Brazilian population is characterized by a genetic background of three parental populations (European, African, and Brazilian Native Amerindians) with a wide degree and diverse patterns of admixture. In this work we analyzed the information content of 28 ancestry-informative SNPs into multiplexed panels using three parental population sources (African, Amerindian, and European) to infer the genetic admixture in an urban sample of the five Brazilian geopolitical regions. The SNPs assigned apart the parental populations from each other and thus can be applied for ancestry estimation in a three hybrid admixed population. Data was used to infer genetic ancestry in Brazilians with an admixture model. Pairwise estimates of F(st) among the five Brazilian geopolitical regions suggested little genetic differentiation only between the South and the remaining regions. Estimates of ancestry results are consistent with the heterogeneous genetic profile of Brazilian population, with a major contribution of European ancestry (0.771) followed by African (0.143) and Amerindian contributions (0.085). The described multiplexed SNP panels can be useful tool for bioanthropological studies but it can be mainly valuable to control for spurious results in genetic association studies in admixed populations." It is important to note that "the samples came from free of charge paternity test takers, thus as the researchers made it explicit: "the paternity tests were free of charge, the population samples involved people of variable socioeconomic strata, although likely to be leaning slightly towards the ‘‘pardo’’ group".

According to another autosomal DNA study conducted on a school in the poor periphery of Rio de Janeiro the "pardos" there were found to be on average over 80% European, and the "whites" (who thought of themselves as "very mixed") were found out to carry very little Amerindian and/or African admixtures. "The results of the tests of genomic ancestry are quite different from the self made estimates of European ancestry", say the researchers. In general, the test results showed that European ancestry is far more important than the students thought it would be. The "pardos" for example thought of themselves as 1/3 European, 1/3 African and 1/3 Amerindian before the tests, and yet their ancestry was determined to be at over 80% European.

An autosomal study from 2011 (with nearly almost 1000 samples from all over the country, "whites", "pardos" and "blacks") has also concluded that European ancestry is the predominant ancestry in Brazil, accounting for nearly 70% of the ancestry of the population. "In all regions studied, the European ancestry was predominant, with proportions ranging from 60.6% in the Northeast to 77.7% in the South". The "pardos" included were found to be predominantly European in ancestry on average. The 2011 autosomal study samples came from blood donors (the lowest classes constitute the great majority of blood donors in Brazil ), and also public health institutions personnel and health students.
Genomic ancestry of individuals in Porto Alegre
Porto Alegre
Porto Alegre is the tenth most populous municipality in Brazil, with 1,409,939 inhabitants, and the centre of Brazil's fourth largest metropolitan area . It is also the capital city of the southernmost Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. The city is the southernmost capital city of a Brazilian...

 Sérgio Pena et al 2011 .
colour amerindian african european
white 9.3% 5.3% 85.5%
pardo 11.4% 44.4% 44.2%
black 11% 45.9% 43.1%
total 9.6% 12.7% 77.7%
Genomic ancestry of individuals in Ilhéus
Ilhéus is a major city located in the southern coastal region of Bahia, Brazil, 430 km south of Salvador, the state's capital. The city was originally founded in 1534 as Vila de São Jorge dos Ilhéus and is known as one of the most important tourism centers of the northeast of Brazil.The...

 Sérgio Pena et al 2011 .
colour amerindian african european
white 8.8% 24.4% 66.8%
pardo 8.9% 30.8% 60.3%
black 10.1% 35.9% 53.9%
total 9.1% 30.3% 60.6%
Genomic ancestry of individuals in Belém
Belém is a Brazilian city, the capital and largest city of state of Pará, in the country's north region. It is the entrance gate to the Amazon with a busy port, airport and bus/coach station...

 Sérgio Pena et al 2011 .
colour amerindian african european
white 14.1% 7.7% 78.2%
pardo 20.9% 10.6% 68.6%
black 20.1% 27.5% 52.4%
total 19.4% 10.9% 69.7%
Genomic ancestry of individuals in Fortaleza
Fortaleza is the state capital of Ceará, located in Northeastern Brazil. With a population close to 2.5 million , Fortaleza is the 5th largest city in Brazil. It has an area of and one of the highest demographic densities in the country...

 Sérgio Pena et al 2011 .
colour amerindian african european
white 10.9% 13.3% 75.8%
pardo 12.8% 14.4% 72.8%
black N.S. N.S. N.S


The formation of the Brazilian people is marked by a mixture of whites, blacks and Indians. According to geneticist Sérgio Pena "with the exception of immigrants of first or second generation, there is no Brazilian who does not carry a bit of African and Amerindian genetic". "The correlation between color and genomic ancestry is imperfect: at the individual level one cannot safely predict the skin color of a person from his/her level of European, African and Amerindian ancestry nor the opposite. Regardless of their skin color, the overwhelming majority of Brazilians have a high degree of European ancestry. Also, regardless of their skin color, the overwhelming majority of Brazilians have a significant degree of African ancestry. Finally, most Brazilians have a significant and very uniform degree of Amerindian ancestry! The high ancestral variability observed in Whites and Blacks suggests that each Brazilian has a singular and quite individual proportion of European, African and Amerindian ancestry in his/her mosaic genomes" (geneticist Sérgio Pena). The colonization of Brazil was characterised by a small proportion of women among the settlers. As there was a male predominance in the European contingent present in Brazil, most sexual partner
Sexual partner
Sexual partners are people who engage in sexual activity together. The sexual partners can be of any gender or sexual orientation. The sexual partners may be in a committed relationship, either on an exclusive basis or not, or engage in the sexual activity on a casual basis...

s of those settlers were, initially, Amerindian or African women, and, later, mixed-race women. This sexual asymmetry is marked on the genetics of the Brazilian people, regardless of skin color: there is a predominance of European Y chromosomes, and of Amerindian and African MtDNA. Haplogroup frequencies do not determine phenotype nor admixture. They are very general genetic snapshots, primarily useful in examining past population group migratory patterns. Only autosomal DNA testing can reveal admixture structures, since it analyses millions of alleles from both maternal and paternal sides. Contrary to yDNA or mtDNA, which are focused on one single lineage (paternal or maternal) the autosomal DNA studies profile the whole ancestry of a given individual, being more accurate in describing the complex patterns of ancestry in a given place. In the Brazilian "white" and "pardos" the autosomal ancestry (the sum of the ancestors of a given individual) tends to be largely European, with often a non European mtDNA (which points to a non European ancestor somewhere down the maternal line), which is explained by the women marrying newly arrived colonists, during the formation of the Brazilian people.

In the 1st century of colonization, there was generalised interbreeding between Portuguese males and Amerindian females in Brazil. However, the Amerindian population was decimated by epidemics, wars and slavery. Since 1550, African slaves began to be brought to Brazil in large numbers. Miscegenation between Portuguese males and African females was common. European and Asiatic immigrants who came to Brazil in the 19th and 20th centuries (Portuguese, Italians, Spaniards, Germans, Arab, Japanese, etc.) also participated in the process. Among many of the immigrant groups in Brazil, there was a large predominance of men.

In all Brazilian regions European, African and Amerindian genetic markers are found in the local populations, even though the proportion of each varies from region to region and from individual to individual. However most regions showed basically the same structure, a greater European contribution to the population, followed by African and Native American contributions: “Some people had the vision Brazil was a heterogeneous mosaic [...] Our study proves Brazil is a lot more integrated than some expected". Brazilian homogeneity is, therefore, greater within regions than between them:
Region European African Native American
Northern Brazil 68.80% 10.50% 18.50%
Northeast of Brazil 60.10% 29.30% 8.90%
Southeast Brazil 74.20% 17.30% 7.30%
Southern Brazil 79.50% 10.30% 9.40%

Not all descendants of this mixture of peoples are included in the "parda" category. Since racial classifications in Brazil are based on phenotype, rather than ancestry, a large part of the self-reported White population has African and Amerindian ancestors, as well as a great part of the Black population has large European and Native American contributions. Besides skin color, there are social factors that influence the racial classifications in Brazil, such as social class
Social class
Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

, wealth
Wealth is the abundance of valuable resources or material possessions. The word wealth is derived from the old English wela, which is from an Indo-European word stem...

, racial prejudice and stigma of being Black, Mulatto or Amerindian.


In daily usage, Brazilians use the ambiguous term "moreno
-Places:*Moreno, Pernambuco, city in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco*Perito Moreno Glacier, glacier in Patagonia, Argentina*Perito Moreno National Park, on the northwest of the Santa Cruz Province, Argentina...

", a word that means "dark-skinned", "dark-haired", "tawny", "swarthy", "Brown" (when referring to people), "suntanned". "Moreno" is often used as an intermediate colour category, similar to "pardo", but its meaning is significantly broader, including people who self identify as Black, White, Asian and Amerindian in the IBGE classification system. In a 1995 survey, 32% of the population self-identified as "moreno", with a further 6% self-identifying as "moreno claro" ("light brown"), and 7% self-identified as "pardo". Telles describes both classifications as "biologically invalid", but sociologically significant.
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