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Hispanic or Latino?

Written by admin on . Posted in Americas, Caribbean, Central America, Marketing, Mexico, South America, U.S. Hispanic

Hispanic or Latino?

Hispanic or Latino?

What is the correct term, Latino or Hispanic? We hear these two words used interchangeably in the media, at political conventions, and in everyday conversations. But what is the difference?
Although there are a lot of similarities between them, there are a few distinct differences that should be noted.

Latino generally refers to countries (or cultures) that were once under Roman rule. This includes Italy, France, Spain, etc. Brazilians are considered to be Latino, but are not considered to be Hispanic.

Hispanic describes cultures or countries that were once under Spanish rule (Mexico, Central America, and most South America where Spanish is the primary language).

In American-English, Latino has come to be equated with Hispanic and are often used interchangeably without offense despite identifying two different origins, but neither term should be used to describe a race. Additionally:

  • Latino: When referring to gender neutral, identifying both men and women, use Latino.
  • Latina: When specifically referring to women, use Latina.

My parents are from Mexico, so I can either identify as Latino or Hispanic. However, I tend to use the word Latino more because it is used more frequently among people who come from this geographical area. I rarely associate with the term Hispanic, but I find that I tend to use it in a professional environment. I feel it’s just more acceptable.

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).

And a brief report from the Pew Hispanic Center offers some interesting background.

Whatever the term, today’s marketers and advertisers use both “Hispanics” and “Latinos” interchangeably; whether they speak Spanish or not, whether they come from Latin America or were born in the U.S., whether they feel more attached to that particular culture or feel more “American”, etc. No matter the terminology, one thing is certain, “Latinos/Hispanics” cannot be categorized into one thing. They are a diverse group with some shared commonalities.

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Comments (1)

  • Jim Estrada


    In my book, The ABCs and Ñ of America’s Culutural Evolution” I explain the use of these two labels from experiences gained in community, media and governmental experiences. The term “Latino” was traditionally used when referring to community, personal, political,
    social and other “qualitative” matters; on the other hand, “Hispanic” (a relatively new term) is used in association with statistics, demographics and other “quantitative” topics. Both labels were used initially to identify
    people originating from post-Colombian, Spanish-speaking areas of the Western Hemisphere, which to varying degrees have Spanish or other white European bloodlines somewhere in their genetic make up. trees. Today both are used by advocacy and community-based
    groups (CBOs) and their members to coalesce diverse individuals
    and communities of the major Spanish-speaking nationalities
    and cultural groups scattered throughout the USA into a unified
    voice on issues of common interest.

    The generic word “Hispanic” has been used in recent years to identify those in the USA who identify with Spanish bloodlines, language, and cultural heritage. The US Census Bureau adopted the term in 1970 to reflect the growth and diversity of Spanish-speaking groups and replaced self-identifying ethnic and national-origin labels (Mexican-American, Puerto Rican, Cuban-American, et.al) in their official census materials and questionnaires. It was the federal government’s attempt to identify individuals who traced their national origins to Spain or any of the Spanish-speaking nations of the Western Hemisphere. For the record, Hispanic and/or Latino origin is based on self-described family ancestry or place of birth in response to a question on the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Ancestry is not necessarily the same as the place of birth of the respondent, nor is it indicative of immigrant or citizenship status. Mostly, labels of choice remain tied to the cultural heritage/customs of the respondents’ ancestral birthplaces.

    Regardless of the label used, “a rose by any other name is still a rose.


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