Ladino people

For other uses, see Ladino (disambiguation).

The Ladino people are a mix of mestizo or hispanicized peoples[1] in Latin America, principally in Central America. The demonym Ladino is Spanish, deriving from "latino" and came into use during the colonial era to refer to the Spanish-speaking population that did not belong to the colonial elite of Peninsulares or Criollos, nor to the indigenous peoples.[2]


The Ladino population in Guatemala is officially recognized as a distinct ethnic group, and the Ministry of Education of Guatemala uses the following definition:

"The ladino population has been characterized as a heterogenous population which expresses itself in the Spanish language as a maternal language, which possesses specific cultural traits of Hispanic origin mixed with indigenous cultural elements, and dresses in a style commonly considered as western."[3]

The population censuses include the ladino population as one of the different ethnic groups in Guatemala.[4][5]

In popular use, the term ladino commonly refers to non-indigenous Guatemalans, as well as mestizos and westernized amerindians. The word was popularly thought to be derived from a mix of Latino and ladrón, the Spanish word for "thief", but is not necessarily or popularly considered a pejorative.[6] The word is actually derived from the old Spanish ladino (inherited from the same Latin root that the word latino was later borrowed from), originally referring to those who spoke Romance languages in medieval times, and later also developing the separate meaning of "crafty" or "astute". In the Central American colonial context, it was first used refer to those Amerindians who came to speak only Spanish, and later included their mestizo descendants.[7]

Ladino is sometimes used to refer to the mestizo middle class, or to the population of indigenous peoples who have attained some level of upward social mobility above the largely impoverished indigenous masses. This relates especially to achieving some material wealth and adopting a North American lifestyle. In many areas of Guatemala, it is used in a wider sense, meaning "any Guatemalan whose primary language is Spanish".

Indigenist rhetoric sometimes uses ladino in the second sense, as a derogatory term for indigenous peoples who are seen as having betrayed their community by becoming part of the middle class. Some may deny indigenous heritage to assimilate. The late 20th century Amerindian political activist, Rigoberta Menchú, used the term this way in her noted memoir, which many considered controversial. She illustrates the use of ladino both as a derogatory term, when discussing an indigenous person becoming mestizo/ladino, and in terms of the general mestizo community identifying as ladino as a kind of ethnicity.

See also


  1. Ladino en el Diccionario de la Real Academia Española (DRAE)
  2. Soto-Quiros, Ronald (2006). "Reflexiones sobre el mestizaje y la identidad nacional en Centroamérica: de la colonia a las Républicas liberales" (PDF). Boletín No. 25. AFEHC. Asociación para el Fomento de los Estudios en Centroamérica, "Mestizaje, Raza y Nación en Centroamérica: identidades tras conceptos, 1524-1950". Octubre 2006. (in Spanish).
  3. Ministerio de Educación (MINEDUC) (2008). "Reflexiones sobre el mestizaje y la identidad nacional en Centroamérica: de la colonia a las Républicas liberales" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2008. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  4. Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE) (2002). "XI Censo Nacional de Poblacion y VI de Habitación (Censo 2002) - Pertenencia de grupo étnico" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2008. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  5. Rodríguez L, Lic. Carlos Antonio. "La determinación Estadística de los grupos étnicos, el indigenismo, la situación de la pobreza y la exclusión social. Los Censos Integrados del 2002 y la inclusión social de los grupos étnicos. Perfil nacional del desarrollo sociodemográfico." (pdf) (in Spanish). Retrieved 2008. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  6. Silence on the Mountain, by Daniel Wilkinson, Silence on the Mountain, Google Book results.
  7. Diccionario Critico Etimologico castellano G-MA, by Joan Corominas, Diccionario Critico Etimologico castellano G-MA.

Further reading

  • Adams, Richard N. Guatemalan Ladinization and History. In: The Americas, Vol. 50, No. 4 (Apr., 1994), pp. 527–543. Academy of American Franciscan History.
  • Falla, Ricardo (translated by Phillip Berryman). Quiché rebelde: religious conversion, politics, and ethnic identity in Guatemala. University of Texas Press, 2001. ISBN 0-292-72532-9 in Google books
  • Martínez Peláez, Severo. La patria del criollo: Ensayo de interpretación de la realidad colonial guatemalteca. Guatemala: Editorial Universitaria, USAC, 1970.
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