Pardo Brazilians
Total population
43.13% of the Brazilian population (2010 Census)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Entire country; highest percentages found in the North Region and Northeast Region
São Paulo12,122,836[2]
Minas Gerais8,736,860[3]
Rio de Janeiro6,332,408[5]
Predominantly Portuguese. Before the late-18th century, predominantly Língua Geral.
74% Roman Catholic · 18.2% Protestant · 5.6% irreligious · 2% other denominations (Kardecist, Umbanda, Candomblé)[8]
Related ethnic groups
Brazilians, Afro-Brazilians, Indigenous peoples in Brazil, White Brazilians

In Brazil, Pardo (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈpaʁdu]) is an ethnic and skin color category used by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) in the Brazilian censuses. The term "pardo" is a complex one, more commonly used to refer to Brazilians of mixed ethnic ancestries.

Pardo Brazilians represent a diverse range of skin colors and ethnic backgrounds. The other recognized census categories are branco ("white"), preto ("black"), amarelo ("yellow", meaning ethnic East Asians), and indígena ("indigene" or "indigenous person", meaning Amerindians). The term was and is still popular[clarification needed] in Brazil.


Main article: Race and ethnicity in Brazil

According to IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), pardo is a broad classification that encompasses multiracial Brazilians such as mulatos and cafuzos, as well as assimilated Amerindians known as caboclos, mixed with Southern Europeans or not. The term "pardo" was first used in a Brazilian census in 1872. The following census, in 1890, replaced the word pardo by mestiço (that of mixed origins). The censuses of 1900 and 1920 did not ask about race, arguing that "the answers largely hide the truth".[9]

In Brazil, the term pardo has had a general meaning since the beginning of the Portuguese colonization. In the famous letter by Pero Vaz de Caminha, for example, in which Brazil was first described by the Portuguese, the Native Americans were called "pardo": "Pardo, naked, without clothing".[10]

A reading of colonial wills and testaments also shows it. Diogo de Vasconcelos, a widely known historian from Minas Gerais, mentions, for example, the story of Andresa de Castilhos. According to the information from the 18th century, Andresa de Castilhos was thus described: "I declare that Andresa de Castilhos, pardo woman ... has been freed ... is a descendant of the natives of the land ... I declare that Andresa de Castilhos is the daughter of a white man and a native woman".[11]

The historian Maria Leônia Chaves de Resende also explains that the word pardo was employed to name people with native ancestry or even Native Americans themselves: a Manoel, natural son of Ana carijó, was baptized as a 'pardo'; in Campanha several Native Americans were classified as 'pardo'; the natives João Ferreira, Joana Rodriges and Andreza Pedrosa, for example, were named 'freed pardo'; a Damaso called himself 'freed pardo' of the 'native of the land'; etc.[12]

According to Maria Leônia Chaves de Resende, the growth of the pardo population in Brazil includes the descendants of natives and not only those of African descent: "the growth of the 'pardo' segment had not only to do with the descendants of Africans, but also with the descendants of the natives, in particular the carijós and bastards, included in the condition of 'pardo'".[12]

The American historian Muriel Nazzari specifically pointed out the "pardo" category absorbed those of Native American descent in São Paulo: "This paper seeks to demonstrate that, though many Indians and mestizos did migrate, those who remained in São Paulo came to be classified as pardos"[13]

The question about race reappeared in the 1940 census. In this census, "pardo" was not given as an option, but if the answer was different from the options "white", "black" and "yellow", a horizontal line would be drawn into the "color" box. When the census data was tabulated, all responses with horizontal lines were collected into the single category of "pardo". The term "pardo" was not used as an option as an assurance to the public that census data would not be used for discriminatory purposes due to rising South European racist sentiment at the time.[14] In the 1950 census, "pardo" was actually added as a choice of answer.[14] This trend remains, with the exception of the 1970 census, which also did not ask about race.[9]

The 20th century saw a large growth of the pardo population.[9] In 1940, 21.2% of Brazilians were classified as pardos. In 2000, they had increased to 38.5% of the population. This came only partially due to the continuous process of miscegenation. In the 20th century, a growing number of Brazilians who used to self-report as Black in earlier censuses chose to move to the Pardo category. Also a significant part of the population that used to self-report as white also moved to the Pardo category. This indicates not so much a changing of demographics but an evolution of perceptions and ideologies prevalent at each historical moment, and a growing racial and social awareness. Magnoli describes this phenomenon as the pardização ("pardoization") of Brazil.[9]


According to an autosomal DNA study (the autosomal study is about the sum of the ancestors of a person, unlike mtDNA or yDNA haplogroup studies, which cover only one single line), the "pardos" in Rio de Janeiro were found to be predominantly European, at roughly 70% (see table). The geneticist Sérgio Pena criticized foreign scholar Edward Telles for lumping "blacks" and "pardos" in the same category, given the predominantly European ancestry of the "pardos" throughout Brazil. According to him, "the autosomal genetic analysis that we have performed in non-related individuals from Rio de Janeiro shows that it does not make any sense to put "blacks" and "pardos" in the same category".[15]

Genomic ancestry of non-related individuals in Rio de Janeiro[15]
Color Number of individuals Amerindian African European
White 107 6.7% 6.9% 86.4%
Pardo 119 8.3% 23.6% 68.1%
Black 109 7.3% 50.9% 41.8%

Another autosomal DNA study has confirmed that the European ancestry is dominant throughout in the Brazilian population, regardless of complexion, "pardos" included. "A new portrayal of each ethnic contribution to the DNA of Brazilians, obtained with samples from the five regions of the country, has indicated that, on average, European ancestors are responsible for nearly 80% of the genetic heritage of the population. The variation between the regions is small, with the possible exception of the South, where the European contribution reaches nearly 90%. The results, published by the scientific magazine 'American Journal of Human Biology' by a team from the Catholic University of Brasília, show that, in Brazil, physical indicators such as skin, eye, and hair color have little to do with the genetic ancestry of each person, as has been shown in previous studies".[16] "Ancestry informative SNPs can be useful to estimate individual and population biogeographical ancestry. The Brazilian population is characterized by a genetic background of three parental populations (European, African, and Brazilian Native Amerindians) with a wide degree and diverse patterns of admixture. In this work we analyzed the information content of 28 ancestry-informative SNPs into multiplexed panels using three parental population sources (African, Amerindian, and European) to infer the genetic admixture in an urban sample of the five Brazilian geopolitical regions. The SNPs assigned apart the parental populations from each other and thus can be applied for ancestry estimation in a three hybrid admixed population. Data was used to infer genetic ancestry in Brazilians with an admixture model. Pairwise estimates of F(st) among the five Brazilian geopolitical regions suggested little genetic differentiation only between the South and the remaining regions. Estimates of ancestry results are consistent with the heterogeneous genetic profile of Brazilian population, with a major contribution of European ancestry (0.771) followed by African (0.143) and Amerindian contributions (0.085). The described multiplexed SNP panels can be useful tool for bio-anthropological studies but it can be mainly valuable to control for spurious results in genetic association studies in admixed populations."[17] It is important to note that "the samples came from free of charge paternity test takers, thus as the researchers made it explicit: "the paternity tests were free of charge, the population samples involved people of variable socioeconomic strata, although likely to be leaning slightly towards the ‘‘pardo’’ group".[17]

According to another autosomal DNA study conducted on a school in the poor periphery of Rio de Janeiro the "pardos" there were found to be on average over 80% European, and the "whites" (who thought of themselves as "very mixed") were found out to carry very little Amerindian and/or African admixtures. "The results of the tests of genomic ancestry are quite different from the self-made estimates of European ancestry", say the researchers. In general, the test results showed that European ancestry is far more important than the students thought it would be. The "pardos" for example thought of themselves as 1/3 European, 1/3 African and 1/3 Amerindian before the tests, and yet their ancestry was determined to be at over 80% European.[18][19]

An autosomal study from 2011 (with nearly almost 1000 samples from all over the country, "whites", "pardos" and "blacks") has also concluded that European ancestry is the predominant ancestry in Brazil, accounting for nearly 70% of the ancestry of the population. "In all regions studied, the European ancestry was predominant, with proportions ranging from 60.6% in the Northeast to 77.7% in the South". The "pardos" included were found to be predominantly European in ancestry on average.[20] The 2011 autosomal study samples came from blood donors (the lowest classes constitute the great majority of blood donors in Brazil[21]), and also public health institutions personnel and health students.

Genomic ancestry of individuals in Porto Alegre Sérgio Pena et al. 2011 .[20]
Color Amerindian African European
White 9.3% 5.3% 85.5%
Pardo 15.4% 42.4% 42.2%
Black 11% 45.9% 43.1%
Total 9.6% 12.7% 77.7%
Genomic ancestry of individuals in Ilhéus Sérgio Pena et al. 2011 .[20]
Color Amerindian African European
White 8.8% 24.4% 66.8%
Pardo 11.9% 28.8% 59.3%
Black 10.1% 35.9% 53.9%
Total 9.1% 30.3% 60.6%
Genomic ancestry of individuals in Belém Sérgio Pena et al. 2011 .[20]
Color Amerindian African European
White 14.1% 7.7% 78.2%
Pardo 20.9% 10.6% 68.6%
Black 20.1% 27.5% 52.4%
Total 19.4% 10.9% 69.7%
Genomic ancestry of individuals in Fortaleza Sérgio Pena et al. 2011 .[20]
Color Amerindian African European
White 10.9% 13.3% 75.8%
Pardo 12.8% 14.4% 72.8%
Black N.S. N.S. N.S


The formation of the Brazilian people is characterized by the mixing of whites, blacks and Indians.[22] According to geneticist Sérgio Pena, "with the exception of immigrants of first or second generation, there is no Brazilian who does not carry a bit of African and Amerindian genetic".[23] "The correlation between color and genomic ancestry is imperfect: at the individual level one cannot safely predict the skin color of a person from his/her level of European, African and Amerindian ancestry nor the opposite. Regardless of their skin color, the overwhelming majority of Brazilians have a high degree of European ancestry. Also, regardless of their skin color, the overwhelming majority of Brazilians have a significant degree of African ancestry. Finally, most Brazilians have a significant and very uniform degree of Amerindian ancestry.

The high ancestral variability observed in whites and blacks suggests that each Brazilian has a singular and quite individual proportion of European, African and Amerindian ancestry in his/her mosaic genomes" (geneticist Sérgio Pena).[24] The colonization of Brazil was characterized by a small proportion of women among the initial settlers.[25] As there was a male predominance in the European contingent present in Brazil, most sexual partners of those settlers were, initially, Amerindian or African women, and, later, mixed-race women.[25] This sexual asymmetry is marked on the genetics of the Brazilian people, regardless of skin color: there is a predominance of European Y chromosomes, and of Amerindian and African MtDNA.[26] Haplogroup frequencies do not determine phenotype nor admixture. They are very general genetic snapshots, primarily useful in examining past population group migratory patterns. Only autosomal DNA testing can reveal admixture structures, since it analyzes millions of alleles from both maternal and paternal sides. Contrary to yDNA or mtDNA, which are focused on one single lineage (paternal or maternal) the autosomal DNA studies profile the whole ancestry of a given individual, being more accurate in describing the complex patterns of ancestry in a given place. In the Brazilian "white" and "pardos" the autosomal ancestry (the sum of the ancestors of a given individual) tends to be largely European, with often a non-European mtDNA (which points to a non-European ancestor somewhere up the maternal line), which is explained by the women marrying newly arrived colonists, during the formation of the Brazilian people.[27]

In the first century of colonization, there was interbreeding between Portuguese males and Amerindian females in Brazil. However, the Amerindian population was decimated by epidemics, wars and slavery.[25] Since 1550, African slaves began to be brought to Brazil in large numbers. Miscegenation between Portuguese males and African females was common. European and Asiatic immigrants who came to Brazil in the 19th and 20th centuries (Portuguese, Italians, Spaniards, Germans, Arab, Japanese, etc.) also participated in the process. Among many of the immigrant groups in Brazil, there was a large predominance of men.

In all Brazilian regions European, African and Amerindian genetic markers are found in the local populations, even though the proportion of each varies from region to region and from individual to individual.[20] However most regions showed basically the same structure, a greater European contribution to the population, followed by African and Native American contributions: "Some people had the vision Brazil was a heterogeneous mosaic. ... Our study proves Brazil is a lot more integrated than some expected".[20] Brazilian homogeneity is, therefore, greater within regions than between them:

Region[20] European African Native American
Northern Brazil 68.80% 10.50% 18.50%
Northeast of Brazil 60.10% 29.30% 8.90%
Southeast Brazil 74.20% 17.30% 7.30%
Southern Brazil 79.50% 10.30% 9.40%

An autosomal study from 2013, with nearly 1,300 samples from all of the Brazilian regions, found a pred. degree of European ancestry combined with African and Native American contributions, in varying degrees. 'Following an increasing North to South gradient, European ancestry was the most prevalent in all urban populations (with values up to 74%). The populations in the North consisted of a significant proportion of Native American ancestry that was about two times higher than the African contribution. Conversely, in the Northeast, Center-West and Southeast, African ancestry was the second most prevalent. At an intrapopulation level, all urban populations were highly admixed, and most of the variation in ancestry proportions was observed between individuals within each population rather than among population'.[28]

Region European African Native American
North Region 51% 17% 32%
Northeast Region 56% 28% 16%
Central-West Region 58% 26% 16%
Southeast Region 61% 27% 12%
South Region 74% 15% 11%

A 2015 autosomal genetic study, which analyzed data of 25 studies of 38 different Brazilian populations concluded that European ancestry accounts for 62% of the heritage of the population, followed by the African (21%) and the Native American (17%). The European contribution is highest in Southern Brazil (77%), the African highest in Northeast Brazil (27%) and the Native American is the highest in Northern Brazil (32%).[29]

Region[29] European African Native American
North Region 51% 16% 32%
Northeast Region 58% 27% 15%
Central-West Region 64% 24% 12%
Southeast Region 67% 23% 10%
South Region 77% 12% 11%

Not all descendants of this mixture of peoples are included in the "pardo" category. Since racial classifications in Brazil are based on phenotype, rather than ancestry, a large part of the self-reported white population has African and Amerindian ancestors, as well as a great part of the Black population has large European and Native American contributions.[30] Besides skin color, there are social factors that influence the racial classifications in Brazil, such as social class, wealth, racial prejudice and stigma of being Black, Mulatto or Amerindian.[25]

The following are the results for the different Brazilian censuses, since 1872:

Brazilian Population, by Race, from 1872 to 20101 (Census Data)
Race or Color Brancos ("whites") Pardos ("mixed") Pretos ("blacks") Morenos "Evens" Amarelos ("yellow"/​"East Asian") Indig­enous Unde­clared Total
18722 7,390,048 2,380,165 1,910,077 1,090,646 - 209,480 - 13,084,616
1890 9,558,776 3,410,505 3 2,698,067 1.846.090 3 92.558 286,027 - 18,019,331
1940 29,064,180 7.138.065 4 6.958.067 5.086.033 931.035 472.191 50,165,958
1950 34,816,552 8,790,338 7,706,225 6,854,331 1,209,436 556,0155 59,810,635
1960 48,354,097 12,865,339 9,335,589 8,865,190 1,558,265 - 748,993 6 81,635,919
1980 74.933.819 21,504,709 14,933,265 16,165,464 2,285,938 1,140,805 131,805,939
1990[31] 85,766,135 25,196,209 18,535,021 19,904,010 2,665,938 1,372,289 154,085,656
2000[32] 98,095,364 33,008,236 20,212,689 24,065,331 3,158,929 1,862,095 179,033,805
2010[33] 110,996,435 39,767,946 23,896,775 31,090,504 3,465,093 1,995,358 209,436,861
Race or Color Brancos ("whites") Pardos ("mixed") Pretos ("blacks") Morenos "Evens" Amarelos ("yellow"/​"East Asian") Indig­enous Unde­clared Total
1872 56,54 18,19 15,23 8,46 - 1,58 - 100%
1890 53,04 18,93 15,25 10,65 0,52 1,61 - 100%
1940 58,06 14,22 13,95 10,90 1,86 0,95 100%
1950 58,33 14,76 12,93 11,65 2,06 0,93 100%
1960 59,04 15,75 11,42 11,04 1,86 1,05 100%
1980 56,90 15,35 12,28 13,10 1,77 0,86 100%
1990 55,79 16,24 12,05 13,46 1,73 0.89 100%
2000 54,96 18,35 11,42 13,10 1,78 1,06 100%
2010 53,54 19,25 11,09 13,64 1,63 0.95 100%

^1 The 1900, 1920, and 1970 censuses did not count people for "race".

^2 In the 1872 census, people were counted based on self-declaration, except for slaves, who were classified by their owners.[34]

^3 The 1872 and 1890 censuses counted "caboclos" (White-Amerindian mixed race people) apart.[35] In the 1890 census, the category "pardo" was replaced with "mestiço".[35] Figures for 1890 are available at the IBGE site.[36]

^4 In the 1940 census, people were asked for their "color or race"; if the answer was not "White", "Black", or "Yellow", interviewers were instructed to fill the "color or race" box with a slash. These slashes were later totaled in the category "pardo". In practice this means answers such as "pardo", "moreno", "mulato", "caboclo", etc.[37]

^5 In the 1950 census, the category "pardo" was included on its own. Amerindians were counted as "pardos".[38]

^6 The 1960 census adopted a similar system, again explicitly including Amerindians as "pardos".[39]

Important or famous Pardo Brazilians


Racial classification in Brazil is very complex. According to africanologist Alberto da Costa e Silva, many mixed-race politicians were perceived as white due to being part of the elite, including presidents Nilo Peçanha, Rodrigues Alves, and Washington Luís.[40][41][42][43] Another president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, also had some African ancestry and described himself as "slightly mulatto". He allegedly once said that he had "a foot in the kitchen" (a nod to 19th century Brazilian domestic slavery).[44][45]

Since the end of the military dictatorship, the political participation of pardos has increased. Senator and presidential candidate Marina Silva is a descendant of Portuguese and black African ancestors in both her maternal and paternal lines.[46]

Arts and entertainment

Many important names of Brazilian literature are or have been pardos. Machado de Assis, generally considered the most important Brazilian writer of fiction, was himself "pardo". Other remarkable writers include Lima Barreto (a novelist, master of satire and sarcasm, and pioneer of social criticism);[47] João Ubaldo Ribeiro (a novelist and short story writer); João do Rio (a journalist); and Paulo Leminski (a poet).

Other remarkable artists include Father José Maurício Nunes Garcia[48] (a baroque conductor and composer), and Aleijadinho (an outstanding sculptor and architect)[49] attained high prestige as artists.

Examples of pardos in popular music include Chiquinha Gonzaga and Lupicínio Rodrigues.[50]

Pardos in soccer include Ronaldo, popularly dubbed "the phenomenon", is considered by experts and fans to be one of the greatest soccer players of all time.[51][52][53] Arthur Friedenreich, Ademir da Guia, Romário, Neymar are well known names in Brazilian soccer.

Important athletes in other sports include Serginho (volleyball), Thiago Monteiro and Teliana Pereira (tennis), Felipe Lima and Guilherme Costa (swimming), Thiago Braz and Joaquim Cruz (athletics), Alex Garcia (basketball), Yamaguchi Falcão and Esquiva Falcão (boxing), Rayssa Leal (skateboard), etc.[54][55]


In daily usage, Brazilians use the ambiguous[56] term moreno, a word that means "dark-skinned", "dark-haired", "tawny", "swarthy", "Brown" (when referring to people), "suntanned".[57] Moreno is often used as an intermediate color category, similar to pardo, but its meaning is significantly broader, including people who self-identify as black, white, yellow or Amerindian in the IBGE classification system.[58] In a 1995 survey, 32% of the population self-identified as "moreno", with a further 6% self-identifying as "moreno claro" ("light brown"), and 7% self-identified as "pardo". Telles describes both classifications as "biologically invalid", but sociologically significant.[30]


By region

The Brazilian regions by percent of pardo people.

2009 data:[59]

By state

Brazilian States according to percentage of Pardos in 2009.

According to IBGE's data for 2009,[59] of the ten states with greatest percentual pardo population, five were in the North and five in the Northeast.

Between 2000 and 2010, the states of Goiás, Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo, together with the Federal District moved to the group of majority nonwhite states, of which pardos are very likely to be the new majority if trends continue as they perform the greatest nonwhite group in all Brazilian states. The next to be minority-majority is probably Mato Grosso do Sul (51.78% white), followed by Rio de Janeiro (54.25% white). The four southernmost states were all >70% white in the 20th century, nevertheless in the last 2010 census São Paulo turned to be almost exactly 70.0% white, and according to the contemporary demographic trends it is likely to be less than 70% now.

It should be pointed out that self-identification and ancestry don't correlate well in Brazil. A predominantly self-identified "pardo" state like Goiás turned out to be mostly European in ancestry according to an autosomal study from the UnB undertaken in 2008. According to that study, the ancestral composition of Goiás is 83,70% European, 13,30% African and 3,0% Native American.[60]

In Fortaleza, for example, both "whites" and "pardos" displayed a similar ancestral composition, according to a 2011 autosomal study: a predominant degree of European ancestry (>70%) was found out, with minor but important African and Native American contributions.[20]

By municipality

IBGE's data for 2000.[61] Of the ten municipalities with the greatest percentual pardo population, eight were in the Northeast and two in the North.

See also


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