Landscape Pueblo Sandia Mountains Ristra of chiles Sandias with snow White sands

Identity, culture and biology in New Mexicans of Spanish-speaking descent

Nearly half of all New Mexicans have Spanish-speaking ancestors. Some of these ancestors came to the region long before it became a US State. Others came more recently from Latin America and other places around the globe.

As a result of this rich history, many New Mexicans of Spanish-speaking descent (NMS) use terms like Spanish, Hispanic, Chicano/a, Latino/a and Mexican to describe themselves and others. This website presents results from a research project that looks at how continental ancestry, health, education and other social factors map onto these self-descriptions.

Our specific research objectives were to identify ethnic substructure in New Mexicans of Spanish-speaking descent (NMS) and to examine its sociocultural and biological consequences. The questions we asked in this research are:

  1. Do 'New Mexicans of Spanish-speaking descent' (NMS) recognize subgroups? If so, what are the subgroups? What sociocultural and biological features do individuals think distinguish the subgroups?
  2. Do individuals agree about what the subgroups are?
  3. What cultural, phenotypic, and genetic features distinguish the subgroups identified by NMS: 'New Mexicans of Spanish-speaking descent'?
  4. What role does ethnic substructure play in health and non-health phenotypes, and is this role genetic, sociocultural, or some combination of the two?
  5. Are sociocultural and biological differences between the ethnic subgroups identified by New Mexicans solely the result of recent migrations from Latin America?
  6. What affect does age and intermarriage have on ethnic assignment and the stability of ethnic groups?

Explore the Site

Church at Ranchos de Taos 1937

The tabs on the right take you to pages where you can interactively explore our findings.

  • On the Variation in Biological and Social Measures page, find out how continental ancestry compares between people that use different terms to identify themselves.
  • We asked our participants to tell us how their parents would identify themselves. The Changing Identity Terms page shows how these terms compare between parents and their offspring.
  • The timeline shown in Identity Over Time is an overview of historical events that affected New Mexicans, including trends in the manner that people chose to identify themselves.
church at Canyoncito

Learn More

Along the way, refer to the Glossary for more detailed information about some of the terms we use.

The Glossary also contains videos demonstrating some of the methods we used for collecting DNA samples and collecting and analyzing blood spot samples.

To find out more about us, check out the About page, where you can find the details of this research project and profiles of the researchers.

We hope you find the information thought-provoking. Please contact us with any questions or comments.

Logos: Alfonso ortiz Center, UNM Anthropology