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Pardo is a Brazilian Portuguese term that translates as the color brown. It is an official census category used by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) to refer to all individuals who either self-identify or have been classified by interviewers as not white ( branco ) and not black ( preto ). It is a term that is not typically heard in speech or social interactions. Pardo is an umbrella term that can include all individuals of mixed or multiracial ancestry. It is also a synonym for the term moreno, a racially ambiguous term that can refer to all individuals who have black or dark brown hair. Self-identification as pardo can reflect ancestry, culture, wealth, education, and socialization.

Pardo is a term used by individuals to whiten or darken themselves when self-reporting on government census forms. France Winddance Twine (1998) has referred to this practice as white inflation. Pardo is a racially ambiguous term that can be employed by dark-skinned individuals of visible or predominant African ancestry who possess forms of educational, social, or economic capital to avoid being classified as black ( preto ). The term pardo can also be used by all individuals of predominant or exclusive European ancestry to darken themselves. Consequently, individuals who would otherwise be classified as white based on ancestry or appearance but who possess little or no education, wealth, or social capital may self-identify as pardo rather than as blanco (white).

Terms that indicate color or race have been employed on the Brazilian census since 1940. In 1970 the Brazilian military decided that race was not statistically meaningful, so data related to color or race was not reported for this year. In contrast to the United States and South Africa, the criteria for inclusion in specific racial or color categories has not been legally defined in Brazil. This absence of legal classifications to precisely define race in Brazil facilitates discrepancies between how individuals are classified by appearance and how they may self-identify by race or color on the census and how others would racially classify them in local communities. In statistical analyses of the Brazilian national surveys that involve the self-reporting of race, U.S. sociologist Edward Telles (2002) found that consistency in racial classification varies from 20 to 100 percent depending on age, level of education, sex, and local racial composition. Inclusion in the category pardo is based on a combination of physical characteristics such as hair texture, nose shape, lip size and shape, and skin color, as well as achieved social characteristics such as education, occupation, and wealth.

SEE ALSO Blackness; Colorism; Morenola; Negro; Race; Racism; Trigueño; Whiteness; Whitening


Telles, Edward. 1995. Who Are the Morenas? Social Forces 73 (4): 16091611.

Telles, Edward. 2002. Racial Ambiguity among the Brazilian Population. Ethnic and Racial Studies 25 (3): 415441.

Telles, Edward, and Nelson Lim. 1998. Does It Matter Who Answers the Race Question?: Racial Classification and Income Inequality in Brazil. Demography 35 (4): 465474.

Twine, France Winddance. 1998. Racism in a Racial Democracy: The Maintenance of White Supremacy in Brazil. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

France Winddance Twine