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Those who were directly from West Africa mostly arrived in Latin America as part of the Atlantic slave trade, as agricultural, domestic, and menial laborers and as mineworkers.

They were also employed in mapping and exploration (for example, Estevanico) and were even involved in conquest (for example, Juan Valiente.) The Caribbean and Latin America received 95 percent of the Africans arriving in the Americas with only 5 percent going to Northern America.

The term mestizaje refers to the intermixing or fusing of ethnicities, whether by mere custom or deliberate policy.

In Latin America this happened extensively between all ethnic groups and cultures, but usually involved European men and indigenous and African women.

According to a DNA study from 2010, which used samples from the five regions of the country "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 study by a team of the Catholic University of Brasília and published by the scientific magazine American Journal of Human Biology, 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 (regardless of census classification)." The study used ancestry informative SNPs to estimate individual and population biogeographical ancestry.

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".

A recent autosomal DNA study (2011), with nearly 1000 samples from all over the country ("whites", "pardos" and "blacks") found a major European contribution, followed by a high African contribution and an important Native American component.), and also public health institutions personnel and health students.

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Pedro Alonso Niño, traditionally considered the first of many New World explorers of African descent was a navigator in the 1492 Columbus expedition.

As of 2015, Mexico and Chile are the only two Latin American countries yet to formally recognize their Afro-Latin American population in their constitutions.

Terms used within Latin America used in reference to African heritage include mulato (African – white mixture), zambo/chino (indigenous – African mixture) and pardo (African – native – white mixture) and mestizo, which refers to an indigenous – European mixture in all cases except for in Venezuela, where it is used in place of "pardo".

The study showed that Brazilians from different regions are more homogenous than previously thought by some based on the census alone.

"Brazilian homogeneity is, therefore, a lot greater between Brazilian regions than within Brazilian regions".

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