Angola Table of Contents

In 1960 a little more than 1 percent of the total population of Angola consisted of mesticos. It has been estimated that by 1970 these people constituted perhaps 2 percent of the population. Some mesticos left at independence, but the departure of much greater numbers of Portuguese probably resulted in an increase in the proportion of mesticos in the Angolan total. In 1988 mesticos probably continued to number about 2 percent of the Angolan population.

The process of mixing started very early and continued until independence. But it was not until about 1900, when the number of Portuguese in Angola was very small and consisted almost entirely of males, that the percentage of mesticos in the population exceeded the percentage of whites.

After a number of generations, the antecedents of many mesticos became mixed to the extent that the Portuguese felt a need to establish a set of distinctions among them. Many mesticos accepted this system as a means of social ranking. One source suggests that the term mestico used alone in a social context applied specifically to the offspring of a mulatto and a white; the term mestico cabrito referred to the descendant of a union between two mulattos; and the term mestico cafuso was applied to the child of a union between a mulatto and a black African. It is possible that an even more complex set of distinctions was sometimes used.

Most mesticos were urban dwellers and had learned to speak Portuguese either as a household language or in school. Although some of the relatively few rural mesticos lived like the Africans among whom they dwelt, most apparently achieved the status of assimilados, the term applied before 1961 to those nonwhites who fulfilled certain specific requirements and were therefore registered as Portuguese citizens.

With some exceptions, mesticos tended to identify with Portuguese culture, and their strongly voiced opposition over the years to the conditions imposed by the colonial regime stressed their rights to a status equivalent to that of whites. Before World War II, only occasionally did mestico intellectuals raise their voices on behalf of the African population. Thus, despite the involvement of mesticos in the nationalist struggle beginning in 1961 and their very important role in the upper echelons of the government and party, significant segments of the African population tended to resent them. This legacy continued in the late 1980s because mesticos dominated the MPLA-PT hierarchy.

Starting in the late 1970s, an average of 50,000 Cuban troops and civilian technical personnel (the overwhelming majority of whom were male) were stationed in Angola. As a result, a portion of the nation's younger population was undoubtedly of mixed African and Cuban descent. This new category of racial mixture, however, had not been described by researchers as of late 1988, and no figures existed on how many Angolans might fall into this category.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress