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Exploring the history and experiences of mixed heritage persons and inter-racial relationships across the world

Angola

Map Of AngolaAngola apparently has the biggest non-English speaking mixed race community, locally known as Mestizo or Mestiço, in Africa making up some 2% of the estimated 18.5 million people. The term Mestizo was originally used for a people of mixed indigenous American and European ancestry. Despite this small percentage, the Mestizos are visible in Angolan life holding senior positions in politics and in some powerful financial and industrial areas. This has led to some resentment by indigenous groups with accusations of racism and nepotism still evidenced in some sections of Angolan society. This situation has some similarity with the Brazilian experience - though the power base there is regarded as 'white' - and contrasts strongly with the Zimbabwean and South African experience and maybe even with the other ex-Portuguese Southern African colony of Mozambique.

Like many other African countries, Angola does not have a single ethnic African group - it has 3 major ethnic groups of Bantu origin, the Ovimbundu , the Mbundu and the Bakongo with at least another 5 minorities groups making up some 22% of the population. The colonialists, especially in the scramble for Africa, were not too fussed about keeping the borders in line with the tribal divisions resulting in many aboriginal African groups being divided between two or even more countries.

Angola Independence PosterAngola was a Portuguese settler colony up to 1975 when it got independence after a liberation war and a coup d'état (government overthrow) in Portugal known as the Carnation Revolution which caused a lot of political upheaval at the time. That was followed almost immediately by a civil war in which thousands died and only ended in 2002.

Like many Portuguese colonies, miscegenation, i.e. racial mixing, was actively encouraged during the earlier periods of colonisation. The mixed population of Angola is said to have surpassed the European population in the 1900s when most Europeans in the country were male. The Mestizo population were mainly Roman Catholic, spoke Portuguese and resided in urban areas making it easier for them to attend schools. This ensured that many obtained the status of 'assimilados', the status of a sort of Portuguese African which meant that after 1951, when Angola was declared a province, they could be registered as Portuguese citizens. Somehow even rural Mestizos, growing up in indigenous African villages, appeared to have been able to easily obtain this status. Not many aboriginal Africans achieved the assimilado status both in Angola and Mozambique.

After the Second World War, Portugal, like many other colonising countries, encouraged European immigration to the colonies. These new immigrants were 'crude' working class and are said to have made racial relations, something that the Portuguese always claimed was cordial in their colonies, much worse. The new immigrants insisted in being protected in jobs that hitherto had been filled by educated local people especially those of mixed heritage and other 'assimilados', usually immigrant educated and 'civilised' Africans from other colonies such as Cape Verde.

The increased racialization of the population led many of the Mestizo population to seek equal status with the whites. Some sources claim that the colonisers tried to further classify social status of the mixed group by further defining mulatto (white/black), mestico (mulatto/white), mestico cabrito (mulatto/mulatto) and mestico cafuso (mulatto/black). It is interesting that it would appear that the community somehow resisted this 'divide and conquer' strategy resulting in the global use of Mestizo for all mixes.

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