Term 2 Perspective Lessons & Assignments

1 Métis and Mestizo

New World Fusion

During the 16th Century, the empires of Europe colonized North and South America. Explorers from England, France, Spain, and Portugal sailed across the Atlantic to find new lands. They found a place that seemed totally untouched and that was filled with riches. It was also, they later discovered, inhabited by people. We call the people native to North and South America Indigenous or Aboriginal people. The Europeans eventually established trade relations with these people. The relationship was not always a good one, but in these early times they learned to work together. The European explorers eventually starting coming to settle on the land and set up permanent communities.

It was not long before the cultures, and the people, started mixing together. In Canada, the blending of European (French, Scottish, English) and Aboriginal people created a new culture. They call themselves Métis. In Mexico, Central, and South America, the blending of Spanish and Indegenous people also created a new culture. They call themselves Mestizo.

Indigenous Music

In both Canada and Mexico, indigenous cultures expressed music in similar ways.

  • Traditional instruments included drums, flutes, horns, and rattles.
  • Singing used single-line melodies that were often jagged in shape. The texture was mainly monophonic with one main melodic line present and a simple rhythmic accompaniment.
  • The melodies pulsed with the beat. Beats were generally organized in a duple or quadruple meter.

Cree drummers wearing traditional ceremonial clothing.

They are playing a large drum that would have been used for special pow wow ceremonies.

Music was used for special ceremonies or celebrations. It was also used just for social enjoyment and entertainment. Music was not written down. It was passed down through an oral tradition from generation to generation.

An illustration of the Aztec "One Flower" ceremony, from the 16th century Florentine Codex.

The two drums are the teponaztli (front) and the huehuetl (back).

Changing Times

The Métis of Canada and the Mestizo of Mexico were quick to change with the times. As more Europeans arrived on their land, they acted as interpreters and bridged the language and cultural gaps between the native people and the Europeans. They developed their own culture, traditions, and music that were not fully indigenous or European. It was a mix of both and something entirely new.

Overall, the Mestizo retained less of their indigenous heritage than the Métis. This is likely due to a variety of reasons. Europeans have been present in Mexico much longer than in Western Canada. The Spanish colonization of Mexico began happening in the mid 1500's, whereas colonies weren't set up in Western Canada until the 1800's. Also, Spanish communities were set up much more quickly and Spanish laws, traditions, language, and culture were imposed on the indigenous people right away. In Canada, the Aboriginal and Métis people lived in more isolated communities and did not take on European culture and customs until much later.