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.
This post is also available in: Spanish
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