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Peninsular, a resident of colonial Spanish America born in Spain. More than 400,000 Spaniards immigrated to the New World between 1500 and 1650. Their most important motivation was perceived economic opportunity, and they often followed in the footsteps of established patrons or relatives. Immigrants came from all walks of life, though royal officials and clergymen were heavily overrepresented. Competition for offices in the church and state—particularly the latter, where fewer positions were available—soured relations between the peninsulares and Creoles (American-born Spaniards) by the early seventeenth century. The creoles also resented the dominance of overseas trade that peninsulares maintained throughout the colonial period.

On the one hand, the development of genuine cultural differences between creoles and peninsulares, the emergence of an incipient creole nationalism, and the creation of negative stereotypes on both sides—the indolent creole with suspect racial ancestry opposed to the low-born, avaricious peninsular—all contributed to this division. On the other hand, peninsular merchants often married creole women and became assimilated into wealthy creole families. However, they typically endowed their children with landed estates while bringing in a relative (usually a nephew) to carry on their business enterprises, thus reinforcing the contrasting economic bases of creole and peninsular elites.

In the eighteenth century, several developments provoked a more intense bitterness toward peninsulares. Spanish immigration to the colonies increased, and took on a more integrated, familial character; peninsular disdain for Americans of all races gained a spurious "scientific" basis; and, most important, royal officials launched a concerted attack on the power of the creole aristocracy. Not surprisingly, peninsulares became targets for attack in the uprisings of the late colonial and independence periods. Perhaps the most notorious examples are the depredations of Miguel Hidalgo's army in Mexico and Simon Bolívar's "war to the death" against Spaniards in Venezuela. The Peruvian novelist Teresa González de Fanning depicted the plight of the peninsular in her historical novel, Roque Moreno.

See alsoCaste and Class Structure in Colonial Spanish America; Creole.


D. A. Brading, Miners and Merchants in Bourbon Mexico, 1763–1810 (1971).

Peter Boyd-Bowman, Patterns of Spanish Emigration to the New World (1493–1590) (1973).

James Lockhart and Enrique Otte, trans. and eds., Letters and People of the Spanish Indies: The Sixteenth Century (1976).

Ida Altman, Emigrants and Society: Extremadura and America in the Sixteenth Century (1989).

Additional Bibliography

González de Fanning, Teresa. Roque Moreno. Lima: Tip. de "El Lucero", Unión, 767 [Antes Baquíano, 324], 1904.

Lavallé, Bernard. Las promesas ambiguas: Ensayos sobre el criollismo colonial en los Andes. Lima: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Instituto Riva-Agüero, 1993.

Schmidt-Nowara, Christopher, and John M. Nieto-Phillips. Interpreting Spanish Colonialism: Empires, Nations, and Legends. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005.

                                    R. Douglas Cope