The story behind the paintings

Description of the paintings

Relevance of the paintings today

The story behind the paintings

In the late 18th Century, a genre of paintings was developed to document the racial mixing that was happening across the New World and in Mexico. These paintings were originally developed to show the Bourbon Monarch of Spain, Phillip V (1700-46), how easily the Black African and Native Indian races could be converted to the White European race. These paintings were swiftly sent back to Mexico by the King as he felt they highlighted the impurity of the Spanish race.

These paintings later grew in popularity throughout the eighteenth century, as they were used as the first form of racial classification. Allowing the Spanish government to select boundaries on where people could work, whom they could marry and what allowances on taxes they were issued due to their racial identity.

The paintings were called Casta Paintings and they held the stories of the hybridity of cultural mixing, in its full beauty, yet critical sense.

Description of the paintings

These paintings were developed in sets of sixteen and each hold images of families: a Mother, a Father, and a Child. Each painting also has a written description of the individual’s racial mix. Many of these descriptions often held zoology terms when relating to the mixed individual within the paintings.

Through the written descriptions of these paintings, they highlight the racial prejudices that have been developing from physical identification, showing that caste prejudices are preoccupied with cultural distinctions.

De Espanol y Negra produce Mulato

Translation:A Spaniard and a Black produce a Mule


Definition of Mulato: A Mule, someone with a big bum, big lips, and curly hair.

This image included a white male in Military Uniform, we have found that with uniform would have been worn between the ages of 1760 and 1790 by a member of the Spanish Army.

The group of people is situated in what looks like a kitchen, the woman looks like she is grinding presumably chocolate in a pestle and mortar, with the child handing the male in the picture a cup of something on a plate with a cake or biscuit of some sort.

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The women dress and headdress or thought is that of a maid, they have still been finely embroidered with patterns connected to the natives of the area. In the background, we see fine pottery also delicately to a high decorative standard.

On this image, there are some tell-tale signs about the painter or painters, as it would appear that different people may have painted different sections, just to the high quality of the males’ detail, compared to the way the female, Who some of her has been painted out of perspective and has a very poorly drawn hand.

De Negro y Indios se Produce un Lobo

Translation:A Black and a Indian make a Wolf


This image is the hardest to describe due to the amount of damage on this painting. The image includes a black male dress in what we believe to be a coachman’s outfit.  The woman is holding a child in this image.

Her clothing although appearing to look westernised in style hold many cultural links to her beginnings. Her top is actually a huipil, the most common traditional garment worn by indigenous women from central Mexico. These Huipils would be woven with embroidery and ribbons, exactly as shown in the painting. This is an outfit that would have been kept for special occasions or for someone of high standing in society.

De Indios y Lobo se produce u grifio que es tente en el aire

Translation:An Indian and a Wolf make something you throw up into the air


In this painting, both the male and female seem to be in traditional dress, with both of them wearing the traditional Rebozo Shawls dyed red/orange using the Cochineal or cactus bug.

In this image, the child in the painting appears in western clothing, unlike the adults. The woman is wearing decorative jewellery which would mean she is of some wealth to standing.

Indios otomies queue ban a la feria

Translation:Native Indians going to the market


Indians that had conformed to wearing western clothing and practised Catholicism were allowed to work in the main towns.

This image includes a family dressed as farmers, they appear to be either going or coming from the market. They have chickens in a cage and eggs in a basket. All included within the painting seem to be poorly dressed. The child in the painting also appears to be in work mode and dressed similarly to the male in the paintings. The fabric used to clothe the male can be seen in the clothing of the female and the child in the painting.

Indios Barbaros

Translation:Indian Barbarians


Definition of Barbarian: Indians who refused to conform in clothing or religion.

This image shows a family in traditional native dress. In the image, they appear to be in a forest, and the father and son are both holding a bow and arrow.

This image would have been the last in the set, which would mean they were the lowest cast that could be documented.

Relevance of the paintings in today's society

The Casta Paintings are a clear notification showing that the ideals of racial prejudice were developed through Western society.

To understand the hypocrisy of the caste system or racial classifications is to understand the types of social systems that benefited from it, being capitalism and socialism. Moving forwards we have to observe the universal misconceptions of racism that have been formulated throughout the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries and created through our media and educational bodies that have been developed and is now defined as the Theory of Critical Race.

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