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Mulatto (also Mulato) is a term of Spanish and/or Portuguese origin describing people of mixed European and African racial descent. The feminine form is mulata.

In colonial Latin America, the term originally referred to the children of one European and one African parent, but today refers to all people with a significant amount of both European and African ancestry.

One criticism of the term is that it ignores the high rate of racial intermixing in North America, in which few people have African ancestry without some European ancestry, albeit with significantly higher quantities of African. Worthy of mention is the historic Anglo-American tradition of the One-Drop Rule, where any person with any amount of African blood is also deemed to be Black.

The remainder of this article deals with the earlier definition and context of Mulatto; people with significant amounts of BOTH European and African ancestry.

Mulattos officially make up the majority of the population in the Dominican Republic* (73%) and Cuba (51%).

For other Latin American countries where mulattos don't constitute a majority they can represent a significant portion of their populations; Brazil (aprox. 38%), Colombia (14%), Panama (14%) and Puerto Rico* (aprox. %). However, these are exceptions rather than the rule.

Although mulattos, and even full-blooded Africans, did once represent a portion of the population in countries such as Mexico and Honduras, they were absorbed there by the mestizo populations of mixed European and Native American descent.

Many Americans of Hispanic and/or Latino origin identify themselves as mulatto as well. The term, however, is rarely used by non-Hispanic African Americans in the United States for the abovementioned reasons.

Some people consider the term pejorative, as it derives from the Spanish word Mula, mule; literally the sterile hybrid offspring resulting from the crossbreeding of a male donkey and a female horse. Another possible origin is in the Arabic word Mwallad.

In Haiti, a non-Hispanic country of the Caribbean, mulattos have always represented only a small proportion of the population, and today still constitute no more than 5% percent.

Historically, Haitian mulattos have been looked down by both blacks and Whites alike, and used by both when best suited. Blacks regarded them as no better or worse than their unmixed French progenitors. Indeed, many mulattos did align themselves with, and identified as, French. They often actively oppressed the black majority. Mulatto slaveholders were also not a rarity. Consequently, many were slaughtered by black Haitians during the wars of independence.

Furthermore to the history of the mulattos in Haiti, not only were they regarded as a class of their own - in contrast to Anglo-America where they were grouped with Blacks and saw themselves as such - but they were also free, wealthy and highly educated.

Initially, Haitian mulattos possessed certain legally equality, providing them with many benefits, including inheritance. In the 18th century, however, Europeans fearful of slave revolts had restricted their rights. They then successfully reclaimed civil and political rights in 1791.

In modern Europe, there is now a slowly emerging community of contemporary mulattos not associated with the centuries of history of those born before them. These are the offspring of current European citizens and recent African immigrants across several European countries.

(*) In the Dominican Republic, locally known as "Quisqueya" (Taíno. "The Great Island"), the mulatto population has absorbed the small number of Taíno Amerindian strains once present in that country. In Puerto Rico, locally known as "Borinquen" (Taíno. "The Land of the Mighty Lord"), a historic mestizo population absorbed the small number of Taíno Amerindians once present, these mestizos were then themselves absorbed by the larger mulatto population.

Related news

In 2004, fast-food chain Dairy Queen launched a new frozen coffee dessert product, dubbed the "MooLatte". Some critics have pointed out the similarity between this name and mulatto, noting that the dessert has a cafe au lait color. An essay in Slate magazine discusses this issue. There is no concrete evidence that Dairy Queen intended the comparison or meant any harm -- nor that Dairy Queen acted innocently.

See also