Dear companies, political parties, and citizens of the United States of America,
You may have asked yourselves, what is the correct term, Latino or Hispanic? You hear these two words used interchangeably in the media, at political conventions and in everyday conversations, but are they synonymous? Although there are a lot of commonalities between them, there are a few distinct differences that should be noted. Knowing the differences between them could potentially make a difference in your company or political party’s success when targeting Latinos and Hispanics in the United States.
So what is the difference? And why say Latinos and Hispanics?
The word Latino is an umbrella term that encompasses people who come from the region of Latin America, a geographical area where the countries’ official languages derive from Latin (Spanish, Portuguese, French). The term Hispanic, as explained by Soledad O’Brien, the host of “Latino in America,” says that it is an English word created in the United States to refer to people who historically belonged to the Spanish crown, and thus spoke Spanish. This term, of course, ends up excluding countries like Brazil and French Guyana, where Spanish is not the official language. So by definition, for example, a Brazilian can consider himself Latino, but not Hispanic.
My parents are from Mexico, so I can either identify as Latino or Hispanic, but which one do I use and when? I tend to lean more toward the word Latino, because it is used more often than Hispanic among people who come from this geographical area. At the same time, it can just simply be that the word has more bravado, or as the comedian Bill Santiago wittily says in his standup, it just sounds and feels better pronouncing it in either language. I rarely associate with the term Hispanic, but when I do, it is usually in a professional environment. It is just more “acceptable.”
Although this is my personal take on the subject matter, an article in the Huffington Post argues that Hispanics/Latinos generally do not mind being called either one, because they usually identify with their country of origin instead (i.e. Colombian, Salvadoran, Mexican). But interestingly enough, Internet search data collected by Google seems to indicate that the word Latino is more popular. Can it mean, then, that the word Latino is used more in a social atmosphere, while Hispanic is applied in a more professional environment?
Businesses, political parties, and citizens of the United States, knowing these subtle differences and applying them may provide you with greater revenues, more votes, and more friends, and it may just give you an edge in the Latino and Hispanic markets.
This post is also available in: Spanish
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