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Pardo-colored Brazilians
Total population
82 277 333
43.13% of Brazil's population[1]
Regions with significant populations
Entire country; highest percents found in the North and Northeast regions of Brazil.
Predominantly Portuguese. Before the late-18th century, predominantly língua geral.
74% Roman Catholic, 18.2% Protestant, 5.6% non-religious, 2% other denominations (Kardecist, Umbanda, Candomblé)[2]
Related ethnic groups
White Brazilian, Indigenous Brazilian, Afro-Brazilian, mestizo
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For other uses, see Pardo (disambiguation).
Pardo-colored Brazilians
Total population
82 277 333
43.13% of Brazil's population[1]
Regions with significant populations
Entire country; highest percents found in the North and Northeast regions of Brazil.
Predominantly Portuguese. Before the late-18th century, predominantly língua geral.
74% Roman Catholic, 18.2% Protestant, 5.6% non-religious, 2% other denominations (Kardecist, Umbanda, Candomblé)[2]
Related ethnic groups
White Brazilian, Indigenous Brazilian, Afro-Brazilian, mestizo

In Brazil, Pardo (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈpaʁdu]) is a race/skin color category used by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) in Brazilian censuses. It is a Portuguese word that encompasses various shades of brown.[3] The other categories are branco ("White"), negro ("Black"), amarelo ("yellow", meaning East Asians), and indígena ("indigene" or "indigenous person", meaning Amerindians). The term was and is still popular in Brazil.

Pardo was also a casta classification used in Colonial Spanish America from the 16th to 18th centuries. The term pardo was used primarily in small areas of Spanish America whose economy was based on slavery during the Spanish colonization period.


Main article: Race in Brazil

According to IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), pardo is a broad classification that encompasses Multiracial Brazilians such as mulatos, caboclos and cafuzos, and assimilated Amerindians, also called caboclos. 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 hid the truth".[4]

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 was drawn into the "colour" box. When the census data came to be 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, as a result of rising European racism at the time.[5] In the 1950 census, "pardo" was actually added as a choice of answer.[5] This trend remains, with the exception of the 1970 census, which also did not ask about race.[4]

The 20th century saw a large growth of the pardo population.[4] In 1940, 21.2% of Brazilians were classified as pardos. In 2000, they had increased to 38.5% of the population. This is only partially due to the continuous process of miscegenation in the Brazilian population. Races are molded in accordance with perceptions and ideologies prevalent in each historical moment. In the 20th century, a significant part of Brazilians who used to self-report to be Black in earlier censuses chose to move to the Pardo category. Also a significant part of the population that used to self-report to be White also moved to the Pardo category with the growing racial and social awareness, and Magnoli describes this phenomenon as the pardização ("pardoization") of Brazil.[4]


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, who 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 criticised foreign scholar Edward Telles for lumping "blacks" and "pardos" in the same category, given the predominant 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".[6]

Genomic ancestry of non-related individuals in Rio de Janeiro"[6]
ColourNumber of individualsAmerindianAfricanEuropean

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 ethnicity 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 of the Catholic University of Brasília, show that, in Brazil, physical indicators such as skin colour, colour of the eyes and colour of the hair have little to do with the genetic ancestry of each person, which has been shown in previous studies".[7] "Ancestry informative SNPs can be useful to estimate individual and population biogeographical ancestry. 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 bioanthropological studies but it can be mainly valuable to control for spurious results in genetic association studies in admixed populations."[8] 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".[8]

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.[9][10]

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.[11] The 2011 autosomal study samples came from blood donors (the lowest classes constitute the great majority of blood donors in Brazil[12]), and also public health institutions personnel and health students.

Genomic ancestry of individuals in Porto Alegre Sérgio Pena et al. 2011 .[11]
Genomic ancestry of individuals in Ilhéus Sérgio Pena et al. 2011 .[11]
Genomic ancestry of individuals in Belém Sérgio Pena et al. 2011 .[11]
Genomic ancestry of individuals in Fortaleza Sérgio Pena et al. 2011 .[11]


The formation of the Brazilian people is marked by a mixture of whites, blacks and Indians.[13] 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".[14] "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).[15] The colonization of Brazil was characterised by a small proportion of women among the settlers.[16] 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.[16] 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.[17] 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 analyses 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 down the maternal line), which is explained by the women marrying newly arrived colonists, during the formation of the Brazilian people.[18]

In the 1st century of colonization, there was generalised interbreeding between Portuguese males and Amerindian females in Brazil. However, the Amerindian population was decimated by epidemics, wars and slavery.[16] 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.[11] 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".[11][19] Brazilian homogeneity is, therefore, greater within regions than between them:

Region[11]EuropeanAfricanNative American
Northern Brazil68.80%10.50%18.50%
Northeast of Brazil60.10%29.30%8.90%
Southeast Brazil74.20%17.30%7.30%
Southern Brazil79.50%10.30%9.40%

An autosomal study from 2013, with nearly 1300 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'.[20]

RegionEuropeanAfricanNative American
North Region51%17%32%
Northeast Region56%28%16%
Central-West Region58%26%16%
Southeast Region61%27%12%
South Region74%15%11%

Not all descendants of this mixture of peoples are included in the "parda" 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.[21] 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.[16]


In daily usage, Brazilians use the ambiguous[22] term "moreno", a word that means "dark-skinned", "dark-haired", "tawny", "swarthy", "Brown" (when referring to people), "suntanned".[23] "Moreno" is often used as an intermediate colour category, similar to "pardo", but its meaning is significantly broader, including people who self identify as Black, White, Asian and Amerindian in the IBGE classification system.[24] 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.[21]


By region[edit]

The Brazilian regions by percent of pardo people.

2009 data:[25]

By state[edit]

Brazilian States according to percentage of Pardos in 2009.

According to IBGE's data for 2009,[25] 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 majoritarily non-white states, of which pardos are very likely to be the new majority if trends continue as they perform the greatest non-white 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.[26]

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.[11]

By municipality[edit]

IBGE's data for 2000.[27] Of the ten municipalities with the greatest percentual pardo population, eight were in the Northeast and two in the North.


  1. ^ Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística
  2. ^ (Portuguese) Study Panorama of religions. Fundação Getúlio Vargas, 2003.
  3. ^ Edward Eric Telles (2004). Race in Another America: The Significance of Skin Color in Brazil. Princeton University Press. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-691-11866-6. 
  4. ^ a b c d MAGNOLI, Demétrio. Uma Gota de Sangue, Editora Contexto 2008 (2008)
  5. ^ a b Dav(id I. Kertzer and Dominique Arel (2002). Census and Identity: The Politics of Race, Ethnicity, and Language in National Censuses. Cambridge University Press. pp. 63–64. ISBN 0-521-00427-6. 
  6. ^ a b Do pensamento racial ao pensamento racional,
  7. ^ Folha Online - Ciência - DNA de brasileiro é 80% europeu, indica estudo - 05/10/2009
  8. ^ a b Lins, T. C.; Vieira, R. G.; Abreu, B. S.; Grattapaglia, D.; Pereira, R. W. (March–April 2009). "Genetic composition of Brazilian population samples based on a set of twenty-eight ancestry informative SNPs". American Journal of Human Biology 22 (2): 187–192. doi:10.1002/ajhb.20976. PMID 19639555.  edit
  9. ^
  10. ^ Negros e pardos do Rio têm mais genes europeus do que imaginam, segundo estudo
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i Pena, Sérgio D. J.; Di Pietro, Giuliano; Fuchshuber-Moraes, Mateus; Genro, Julia Pasqualini; Hutz, Mara H.; Kehdy, Fernanda de Souza Gomes; Kohlrausch, Fabiana; Magno, Luiz Alexandre Viana; Montenegro, Raquel Carvalho; Moraes, Manoel Odorico; de Moraes, Maria Elisabete Amaral; de Moraes, Milene Raiol; Ojopi, Élida B.; Perini, Jamila A.; Racciopi, Clarice; Ribeiro-dos-Santos, Ândrea Kely Campos; Rios-Santos, Fabrício; Romano-Silva, Marco A.; Sortica, Vinicius A.; Suarez-Kurtz, Guilherme (2011). "The Genomic Ancestry of Individuals from Different Geographical Regions of Brazil is More Uniform Than Expected". In Harpending, Henry. PLoS ONE 6 (2): e17063. Bibcode:2011PLoSO...6E7063P. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017063. PMC 3040205. PMID 21359226.  edit
  12. ^ Profile of the Brazilian blood donor
  13. ^ Freyre, Gilberto. Casa-Grande e Senzala, Edition. 51, 2006 (2006).
  14. ^ Metade de negros em pesquisa tem ancestral europeu
  15. ^ Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research - DNA tests probe the genomic ancestry of Brazilians
  16. ^ a b c d RIBEIRO, Darcy. O Povo Brasileiro, Companhia de Bolso, fourth reprint, 2008 (2008).
  17. ^ The Phylogeography of Brazilian Y-Chromosome Lineages
  18. ^ Laboratório GENE - Núcleo de Genética Médica
  19. ^ Nossa herança europeia —
  20. ^
  21. ^ a b Edward Eric Telles (2004). "Racial Classification". Race in Another America: the significance of skin color in Brazil. Princeton University Press. pp. 81–84. ISBN 0-691-11866-3. 
  22. ^ Edward Telles. Race in another America: the significance of skin color in Brazil. p. 82: "'Ethnographers have found the term ambiguous enough to substitute for almost any other color category."
  23. ^ Portuguese-English translation for moreno
  24. ^ Edward Telles. Race in another America: the significance of skin color in Brazil. p. 87.
  25. ^ a b "Síntese dos Indicadores Sociais 2010" (PDF). Tabela 8.1 - População total e respectiva distribuição percentual, por cor ou raça, segundo as Grandes Regiões, Unidades da Federação e Regiões Metropolitanas - 2009. Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE). 2010. 
  26. ^ Untitled Document
  27. ^