Caciques zombo Esmeraldas.jpg
16th-century painting of Zambo Caciques from Esmeraldas, Ecuador
Total population
801,000[1][dubious ]
Regions with significant populations
Latin America and the Caribbean
Spanish, Portuguese and English
Christianity (predominantly Roman Catholic, minority practices Protestantism), tribal religions
Related ethnic groups
Garifuna, Africans, Afro-Caribbeans, and Amerindians

Zambo (Spanish: [ˈθambo] or [ˈsambo]) and cafuzo (Portuguese: [kɐˈfuzu]) are racial terms used in the Casta caste class system of the Spanish and Portuguese empires and occasionally today to identify individuals in the Americas who are of mixed African and Amerindian ancestry (the analogous English term, sambo, is considered a slur). Historically, the racial cross between enslaved African and Amerindians was referred to as a zambayga, then zambo, then sambo. In the United States, the word sambo is thought to refer to the racial cross between an enslaved African and a white person.

The meaning of the term sambo however is contested in North America, where other etymologies have been proposed. The word most likely originated from one of the Romance languages, or Latin and its direct descendants. The feminine word is zamba (not to be confused with the Argentine Zamba folk dance, although there is some relationship in the concept).

Under the casta system of Spanish colonial America, the term originally applied to the children of one African and one Amerindian parent, or the children of two zambo parents. During this period, many other terms denoted individuals of African-Amerindian ancestry in ratios smaller or greater than the 50:50 of zambos: cambujo (zambo-Amerindian mixture) for example. Today, zambo refers to all people with significant amounts of both African and Amerindian ancestry, though it is frequently considered pejorative.[citation needed]


A representation of an infant zambo, in an 18th-century "Pintura de Castas" from New Spain. The painting illustrates "from a Black and an Amerindian produces a lobo", here a synonym for zambo.

The term zambo was not formally used in Spanish writing until the seventeenth century, and often competed with other terms, including mulato. African slaves began mixing with indigenous people from the beginning of their importation into Hispaniola in the early sixteenth century. Some of this mixture took place in the mines and plantations of Hispaniola, the other Spanish Caribbean islands following the introduction of sugar production in the 1520s, and also when Africans fled from these estates to unconquered indigenous regions.

Unions described as producing zambos took place all throughout the Spanish colonial empire, following the pattern established in Hispaniola; and the group was generally classified among those people who were not of European ancestry. In the eighteenth century, the Spanish began producing systematic racial classifications, and zambo was defined in its final meaning.

Some famous zambo groups were created by runaway or rebel Africans who mixed with or took over indigenous communities. In the unconquered regions of Esmeraldes, in what would become Ecuador, for example, a small group of shipwrecked former slaves managed to win control of the indigenous communities, eventually representing them before Spanish authorities in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

Another famous group of zambos were the Misquito Zambos, who originated around 1640 when a group of African slaves revolted on a slave ship, took it over and wrecked it at Cape Gracias a Dios on the border between Honduras and Nicaragua. They united with the indigenous Miskito people, and by the early eighteenth century came to dominate the kingdom, leading it on many extensive slave raids. Their alliance and protection of English speaking merchants and settlers in the area helped Great Britain find the colony of British Honduras (present day Belize).

Other Languages
العربية: زامبو
български: Самбо (раса)
català: Zambo
čeština: Zambo
dansk: Zambo
Deutsch: Zambo
español: Zambo (casta)
Esperanto: Zambo
فارسی: زامبو
français: Zambo
한국어: 삼보 (인종)
հայերեն: Սամբոներ
Bahasa Indonesia: Zambo
italiano: Zambo
עברית: קפוזו
magyar: Zambo
Nederlands: Zambo
polski: Zambo
português: Cafuzo
slovenčina: Zambo
српски / srpski: Замбоси
suomi: Zambo
Türkçe: Zambolar
українська: Самбо (етнографія)
中文: 桑博人