Most government records and the U.S. Census use the term Hispanic. On the newsstand, one finds Latina and Latino magazines. The use of Hispanic...

By Grace Austin and Damian Johnson

Most government records and the U.S. Census use the term Hispanic. On the newsstand, one finds Latina and Latino magazines. The use of Hispanic or Latino has become an unsettled issue among the Hispanic/Latino population. So which term is correct to use?

The Hispanic population numbered 50.5 million in 2010. Hispanics accounted for over half of the population change from 2000-2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The nation’s fastest-growing minority, the Hispanic population is growing exponentially in the United States, and its buying power and cultural presence is increasing as well.

Studies have shown the term Latino is gaining acceptance among Hispanics. However, a presidential tracking poll conducted by Hispanic Trends, Inc. reported that a significant majority of Hispanics still prefer the term Hispanic.
The term Hispanic alludes to a person’s place of origin, referring to persons from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Central and South America. These areas were all conquered and settled by the Spanish and originally called Hispania, a term initially coined by Romans to refer to the Iberian Peninsula.

“Hispanic is a culture. We have never considered Hispanic to be a race or ethnicity, but in the United States it is considered to be a race or ethnicity,” said Dr. Juan Carlos Toledano, associate professor of Hispanic Studies at Lewis and Clark College. “Hispanic was meant as an ethnic category.”

Hispanic was first used on the 1970 census, introduced by the Nixon Administration for demographic clarification reasons. This was the first time the group was officially acknowledged by the U.S. government.

“Hispanic refers to place of origin regardless of race. For example, what I have found with people [filling out] the census is they have to check the box for Hispanic, and then race. But [Hispanic] does link back to Spanish-speaking countries and where Spain was the former colonizer,” said Dr. Kimberly Simmons, director of Latin American Studies at the University of South Carolina.

In contrast, Latino refers to a group of people who lived in the conquered Roman provinces and regions where the Latin language took root, usually called the Romantic languages: French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Catalan, and others. Thus, Latino refers to France, Spain, Italy and other regions where these languages are spoken. Nowadays, though, the definition has come to refer to Latin Americans, although its origins can be traced to the former Roman Empire.

“All Hispanics are Latinos, but not all Latinos are Hispanics. [For example] Brazil, being a Portuguese-settled company, is not Hispanic, but is Latino,” clarifies Simmons.

Latino originally was seen as anti-indigenous when it was invented by Spanish-American exiles in Europe in the late nineteenth century, according to Ilan Stavans, co-author of What is La Hispanidad? Some intellectuals viewed it as a “cover-up for the false homogeneity” on the continent. The term later gained popularity in the twentieth century.
Latino has become a self-identifying and unifying word in recent years for many of the peoples in the Western Hemisphere, especially in the United States.

“For self-identification, I think there’s more of a movement and a shift to say Latino in the United States. Latino has become a way to unify the different groups in Latin America, the children of those who are here from different countries, under a larger umbrella,” said Simmons.

Nowadays, Latino has become the most politically correct term. To some, Hispanic has negative connotations, including gang participation, unemployment, and low degrees of education, according to Lily Benjamin, VP of Organization Development and Diversity at Broadridge Financial.

A similar word, Chicano, is viewed as a derogatory term for some, and a label of pride to others.

“The term, first intended to degrade, was not coined by Mexican people, but by whites and other races. It referred to people of Mexican heritage but was intended to be disrespectful, labeling Mexicans as an inferior class in society,” said Broadridge.

Others, like Toledano, have a different point of view on the term. He compares it to the cultural shift from identifying as ‘black’ to ‘African-American’ in the African-American community.

“In general, for the Chicano population, it became a word of pride. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, Chicano becomes this word that gives you the power to be part of a community you are proud of. But that didn’t mean there weren’t issues with the rest of the population [using the word].”

While Hispanic sometimes carries stereotypes of agricultural laborers and maids, Latino sometimes conjures a more romanticized image.

“Maybe [because of] media or films, when you say Hispanic we think migrant workers. If you say Latino, the images that come to mind are music, the explosion of salsa [music], or maybe food. It’s not weighted down with the other things [affiliated] with Hispanic. Latino was a way to recast that and distance themselves from the Hispanic [image],” said Simmons.

On the other hand, Toledano sees these Latino stereotypes as sometimes untrue.

“One of the stereotypes is that Latin people are always dancing and having parties. To some degree, the Hispanic culture is outdoorsy and we have many parties, and it is a happy culture, but that doesn’t mean that everyone knows how to play guitar and dance the salsa,” added Toledano.

Regional differences often explain the usage of Latino or Hispanic. In a federal report by the Executive Office of the President’s Office of Management and Budget, the government found that Hispanic is often used in the East, and Latino commonly used in the West.

To most Hispanics/Latinos, either label is a personal preference. Often, though, those that may fall into the Hispanic/Latino demographic would choose to identify themselves by their country of origin.

“I think most people would rather tell you they’re Columbian, that they’re Brazilian. Most people would rather say where they’re from first, because they know ‘Latino’ is very diverse. Nationality first, and then Latino, or Hispanic,” said Simmons.

For the growing Hispanic/Latino population, a permanent name is still being debated. What is certain, though, is the demographic’s increasing prominence in society and the economic market. Hispanic or Latino, this heterogeneous group continues to play an important part of diversity in the U.S. and on a global scale.

  • VICKY

    August 25, 2012 #1 Author

    WHAT IS CORRECT? HISPANIC? LATINO? HOW ABOUT AMERICAN?OUR ANCESTOR’S HAD TO LEARN AMERICAN. LABELS,AND INSTRUCTIONS WASN’T CHANGED TO THEIR LANGUAGE,THEY WHERE IN AMERICAN!

    Reply

    • Amanda

      March 11, 2013 #2 Author

      Lol, no. If that were true, we’d all be speaking different first nations dialects. Get down off your high, racist, bigoted horse.

      Reply

      • Saiful Rimkeit

        April 28, 2015 #3 Author

        You totally misunderstand 100%. Vicky is correct. You are imagining what Vicky does not say. Nothing racist or bigoted here.
        In Russia, where there are many peoples, the language taught and spoken is, primarily, Russian.
        Social fragmentation and linguistic division is not a good idea to do anywhere in any country. However multilingual learning is good, on the other hand.
        But you posted 2 years ago. Unless you get a notification, it’s likely you will not see this reply. Or either may Vicky.

        Reply

      • Tom

        May 28, 2015 #4 Author

        Way to shut down a dialog Amanda – pull the race card. Methinks the racist bigot resides in the house of Amanda. Look in the mirror, you might not like the intolerance you find there.

        Reply

    • Eddie M

      February 17, 2015 #5 Author

      Learn American? Since when is that even a language. We speak “English” — the very legacy of the British empire — which coincidentally was the language of the thousands of immigrants (your descendants) who arrived in the original colonies. Being Latino or Hispanic is a heritage, but none of us is any less American because of it. Get informed, get educated, or shut the hell up.

      Reply

      • Saiful Rimkeit

        April 28, 2015 #6 Author

        Is a Mexican/Spanish dialect Spanish?? Is Brazilian Portuguese? Shut the hell up?? Really, Sen~or… Vicky sounds informed. You are the one, like Amanda, who is doing the mental “Twistoflex” act here. Did Vicky ask that everyone coming to these shores lose our original
        identity or heritage? Language learning, from what I read, is the gist of her message. You are reading Vicky’s intentions? I cannot read any.
        Since I came from Spain, I always thought I was speaking American, not English. English is what UK people speak.

        I feel no less Spanish-Latvian because I learned American. At the same time, I also feel very American.
        You want I write this in Basque, Russian or Latvian? We get that, occasionally, on Youtube. Without a translation tag at the end of the post, no less. What did they write? Hmm… Now I have to copy and paste it and transfer it to a Google translator online.

        Reply

        • lambr72

          May 4, 2015 #7 Author

          Here in the United States we do in fact speak English. We just speak it with an American accent. There is no such thing as the American language. If anything, you could call it American English, but it is still English nonetheless.

          Reply

        • Lookitup

          May 23, 2015 #8 Author

          Wow, you are clueless. Most of us in America speak English. I was born and raised here…I’ve only heard people say “Speaking American” only while joking and imitating an ignorant red neck that doesn’t realized they’re speaking English. In Mexico they speak Spanish….they don’t call it Mexican, or a Mexican Dialect.

          Reply

          • Alex

            January 9, 2021 #9 Author

            In Méjico the oficial language is CASTELLANO not Spanish

    • Haley

      November 15, 2020 #10 Author

      Vicky, wow! I am a white person and feel the exact opposite. I personally want to learn more Spanish and love learning about Latino culture. Please everyone disregard this Karen.

      Reply

      • Alex

        January 16, 2021 #11 Author

        Latino culture? First of all saying Latino is grammatically incorrect in English-in correct English is Latin singular and Latins plural . Secondly, Latin is a culture but has nothing to do with the culture of the people of Latin America who are twisting the meaning of Latin by using the terms Latino/Latina to identify themselves. They think that Latin is their skin color or ethnicity which is a lie. Latin is a culture and is the language and culture of the Romans and is the heritage of the Italians and of the Latin Europeans: French, Romanians, Portuguese and Spaniards who have been Latins (Latinos/Latina) for more than 2000 years since the Romans. The people of Latin America, named by the French "Amerique Latine" are Latin Americans however they must use their Race to identify themselves like we all do as Mexicans, Hondurans, Cubans…or mention the name of the continent "Latin Americans", not Latin, not Latino, not Latina, not Latinx and not Hispanic. We identify people by their Race or the countries of their origins and not by their cultures. Repeat, Latin is a language and a culture spread by the Romans and nobody can change it. The term Latin (Latino/Latina in Italian, Portuguese and Spanish) can only be used when in a discussion one has to identify his or her cultural background and not use it like the Spanish-speaking people of the Americas do. Latin is not their "native" heritage and it doesn't mean what they think that it means. Latin was imposed by the Latin European colonizers, French, Portuguese and Spaniards, with their Latin-derived languages which they imposed upon the local indigenous population. No, Latin American cannot be translated into Latino or Latina. The two have different meaning. It was a Mexican/Chicano man named Frank del Olmo who created this identity problem. Years ago Frank del Olmo wanted to unite all the Spanish-speaking people of the Americas under one label but he chose the wrong "Latino" (Wrong i English) label instead of choosing a Racial classification or just "Latin American/s. Most of the people from Latin America are Mestizos and they should follow the advice of Ms. Citlalli of mexica-movement.org and identify themselves as Nican Tlaca indigenous people and leave the Latin alone.

        Reply

  • Aesha Reyes

    September 1, 2012 #12 Author

    is this considered a cultural evolution?

    Reply

    • Lucy Mercado

      February 23, 2021 #13 Author

      You are 100% right!!! I really have an issue with the label Latino/a/x. We are mostly Mestizos, or Native Americans, but there are many that do fall under Latin / Hispanic and not really Native American.

      Reply

  • Fred

    February 13, 2015 #14 Author

    I am originally from Brazil and there people don’t actually relate to any of those terms (Latino or Hispanic); some people say Luso (as in Lusophone; from Portugal).
    Despite the similarities in the established government systems across countries of the so-called ‘Latin America’, the cultural and ethnic background of the crushing majority of Brazilians is different from that of people from other Spanish-speaking countries in the Americas.
    There is actually more exposure to North American culture in Brazil than there is exposure to Hispanic culture.

    I wish (U.S.) Americans and the U.S. government wouldn’t lump all those nations, with over 588 Million people, into an umbrella term such as Latino.

    Reply

    • Saiful Rimkeit

      April 28, 2015 #15 Author

      Many original U.S. Americans, not First Natives, including those working in Government, tend to like to categorize energetically. Then, we live with the consequences until that is changed.

      Reply

    • Dulce

      December 16, 2020 #16 Author

      No we don’t speak English. Somewhere along the way colour became color. Epically American. We also think in American math! We have Problems that arise because language is fluid and always changing so although it may “ sound” weird, the truth is that yeah! We are speaking and counting in American ( miles vs kilos)

      Reply

  • Gabriel Giraldo

    April 15, 2015 #18 Author

    Colombian*

    Reply

    • Sherry

      January 7, 2016 #19 Author

      Thank you! It seems American’s, including myself until last year, do not know how to properly spell this nation’s name properly! It might be how we sound it out but no excuse for simply not learning it’s all “O”‘s in Colombia!

      Reply

  • Saiful Rimkeit

    April 28, 2015 #20 Author

    This is a very well thought out article. Thanks. Almost. Fred is also correct.

    Reply

  • Latino Women

    February 26, 2019 #21 Author

    As someone who runs besthispanicdatingsites.com we find most of the searches done on our site are actually done by women looking to date a non white American be this considered hispanic, or lationo

    Reply

  • BRIANA CIBELLI

    May 8, 2019 #22 Author

    LATINOS ARE ITALIAN THE AMERICAS HAVE AND WILL ALWAYS HAVE NOTHING TO DUE WITH LATIN CULTURE OR PEOPLE THE BIRTHPLACE OF LATINO CULTURE IS LAZIO ITALIA, (OLD LATIUM )THE PROVINCE OF LAZIO ITALY IS NAMED LATINA!!!!! NO THERE ARE NOT MANY TYPES OF LATINOS WE’RE AND ETHNICITY!!! NOT A RACE OF PEOPLE DESPITE ETHNICITY. THIS IS THE CORRUPTION OF LATINO IN AMERICA IN AMERICA LATINO MEANS EVEYTHNIG BUT ACTUAL LATINO PEOPLE AND CULTURE LATINO MEANS LATIN THOSE WHO DESCEND FROM ROME. SPANISH PEOPLE ARE HISPANICS NOT LATIN. HENCE WHY HISPANIC AND LATINO ARE 2 SEPEREATE WORDS SPAIN WAS CONQUERED AND LATINIZED THREW ROMAN CONQUEST JUST LIKE THE REST OF LATIN EUROPE

    Reply

    • Joe Garofalo

      September 5, 2019 #23 Author

      Brianna, you are absolutely correct, seems like some people want to be what their not, people from central and South America want to be Latin or Hispanic, but a lot of them are of Indian descent, like Mayans or Aztec. Italians are the original Latin people. People use certain terms to gain access to minority status which gives them access to an advantage…

      Reply

      • John

        March 25, 2021 #24 Author

        *I know very late to the party…
        Brianna (correct), but the root of this breakdown isn't exactly the people themselves (Latinos/Hispanics) its what (Saiful Rimkeit) pointed out "Many original U.S. Americans, not First Natives, including those working in Government, tend to like to categorize energetically. Then, we live with the consequences until that is changed." Its American government whether federal, state and or local counties that have implemented their own ways of categorizing and labeling as they see fit. Also, majority of people really don't know the difference or the meaning and it doesn't help with the likes of Hollywood which is constantly and or negatively misusing these terms so loosely. To most who aren't neither, unfortunately see it as the same.. a person who is Spanish.

        Reply

        • Giovanni

          April 7, 2021 #25 Author

          Well latino does refer to all latin speaking peoples, like Italian, Spanish, french, etc.

          Reply

    • Roberto Llanos

      March 27, 2021 #26 Author

      Before the Romans in Spain you do know it was the Celtics there right

      Reply

  • Jenny

    September 5, 2019 #27 Author

    Suggest not using caps. It comes across as shouting.

    Reply

    • Briana Cibelli

      January 31, 2021 #28 Author

      Don’t use caps? Lol I’m Italian I’m meant to be heard. We don’t say Latin blood for just no reason at all in Italian/Latin culture m. We are passionate people in many ways love anger sex lol Again Sangue Latino.

      Reply

  • Gwendolyn Hart

    October 12, 2019 #29 Author

    dont have no commit article ok with me

    Reply

  • Orlando Cuales

    November 7, 2019 #30 Author

    What about CURAZAO? Yes, we are a country, part of the Dutch Kingdom. And with a rich culture that has influences from more areas than any other Caribbean country. Official languages? Papiamento (derived mainly from Spanish!), Dutch Spanish and English. And everybody here speaks Spanish. I am definitely Curazao/Latino!!

    Reply

  • Maria Gomez

    November 17, 2019 #31 Author

    Ok can someones state their opinion no insults please, if my dad is Mexican born in Mexico and my mother German does not speak German born in the USA i myself was born in the USA.I was around my dad’s side of the family when i was growing up i do know spanish and dance but what do i really call myself?

    Reply

    • Gwen

      January 18, 2020 #32 Author

      HUMAN

      Reply

  • Luci

    February 3, 2020 #33 Author

    Irish American, Asian Americans, African Amaricans, Hispanic/Latin Amricans…are all here to stay. Now get over it people! It's 2020.

    Reply

  • 805SOUL

    October 10, 2020 #34 Author

    I'm Chicano or Mexican….not Latin or Hispanic .

    Reply

  • Italian therefore Latin

    December 1, 2020 #35 Author

    Latinas are Italian. Period!!

    Reply

    • John Gaudez

      January 14, 2021 #36 Author

      Agreed….Hispanics is the proper name for those from Latin America…they aren't latin people.

      Reply

      • Roberto Llanos

        March 27, 2021 #37 Author

        I guess that’s what I prefer overall but at the end of the day I can care less for Spanish or English. I’m decent of native Americans from South America and Spain came over and well here I’m am. With a dead culture and language and a forced one my people had to learn or die

        Reply

  • bob meyerson

    February 11, 2021 #38 Author

    My Puntoycoma magazine uses the term "hispanohablantes." On the other hand when writers try not to assume a person's gender identity they will use the term "latinx." I have not heard anyone write "hispanix" though it might work. On the third hand, being of Romanian background, I cannot imagine Romanians calling themselves Latinos, Romantics perhaps (though not likely; the language is considered to be Romantic, Romance or Romanesti). So it seems to be a mixed bag, probably dependent on the preference of the person so designated.

    Reply

  • Lucy Mercado

    February 23, 2021 #39 Author

    You are 100% right!!! I really have an issue with the label Latino/a/x. We are mostly Mestizos, or Native Americans, but there are many that do fall under Latin / Hispanic and not really Native American.

    Reply

  • Lucy Mercado

    February 23, 2021 #40 Author

    Some are Latin, some are Hispanics, some are Mestizo, some are 100% Native American

    Reply

  • RAY MARIN

    February 23, 2021 #41 Author

    Latino(male) Latina (female) study your history, if at one time or another SPAIN was in your country for a good number of years more likely you are HISPANIC including many countries like the ARAB nation (Spanish as a second "language " as well MANY other countries) Latino is something that the USA invented to try to control the whole FREE world. We are Hispanic. i don't speak Latin.

    Reply

  • Rudolfo v.

    April 14, 2021 #42 Author

    Fascinating discussion. I ran into it by accident. I'm an 'old' guy – grew up in northern New Mexico where our "gabacho" brothers and sisters all spoke Spanish just like we did. ("Gabacho", by the way was never a pejorative term). Most of the community was bi-lingual. Biculturalism was part of our growing up – vestiges of Mexican influences – language, music, food and religion. I've been working on my foundation (related to American Latino/Hispano issues) and now all of your discussions have me thinking about what we "call ourselves" and more importantly, why? I have always been comfortable identifying myself as Mexican-American, or Chicano, or Latino, or Hispano. Some of your pieces have me thinking about the impact on socio-economic, education and other intellectual discussions made by the terms with which we identify ourselves. Thank you.

    Reply

  • Eva Green

    April 16, 2021 #43 Author

    Latin America and Latin Americans were terms coined well before the use of Asian Americans, or African Americans, or Italian Americans. Latin American has been used as a demographic and economic term to refer to countries in the continent of America (as opposed to United States) who speak Spanish or Portuguese because these two languages derivate from Latin ( as do Italian, French and others). Using the term Latin Americans to be understood as those inhabitants of USA who speaks Spanish clearly reflects the ignorance of those who use it. Latino is a 'pastiche' (or lazy transformation) referring to Spanish speakers in USA. To the majority of Spanish speakers is considered derogatory, especially when it is used referring to a boy (latino) or girl (latina). Being Latino or Latina tells you nothing about a person since there is no such country as Latinland:) and the only true meaning of Latin is the archaic language that morphed into the different Latin-based languages of today. Do not call a Spanish speaker Latin nothing. I am Latin American by virtue of being born in ColOOOOmbia (with an O), and I am a Spanish speaker by virtue of Spanish being my mother tongue. I have no need for a designation other than the geographical and economic region known to the educated as Latin America, a term often used throughout the world by the educated and never by the residents of USA to refer to a place of birth in a Spanish -speaking country. Latino and Latina mostly sounds like a cheap way to refer to Spanish speakers.

    Reply

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