Hispanic or Latino
Before even beginning to address the question of targeting the Hispanic market, advertisers should be aware of the fact that there is no consensus as to whether Americans of Latin American origin prefer to identify as Latino or Hispanic. Indeed, there has been some controversy regarding the matter. A good summary of the back and forth can be found on a Wikipedia page that presents the history of this debate. At no point in time did the diverse groupings of Americans of Latin American origin decide, “we want to be called this or that”. Indeed, a study shows that, when asked, most Hispanics/Latinos identify not as such, but according to their national origin. I know that I identify as a Mexican first and foremost, rather than as a Latina, which I find to be an artifcial word with little meaning to me.
The term Hispanic was coined in 1970 for the purpose of counting people for the annual U.S. Census, specifically, “a person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.” It is only in the year 2000 that the Census began using the ethnonym “Spanish/Hispanic/Latino”, as prevailing terms changed.
The controversy over whether to call oneself Hispanic or Latino is largely native to California. I have also learned that Latino is prevalent on the West Coast, whereas Hispanic is more often used in the East Coast. Anecdotally, I know that some people prefer to identify as Latino because of the perception that the word Hispanic refers to the Spanish heritage of Latin Americans, whereas Latino emphasizes the indigenous aspect of mestizo identity, not realizing that Latino is also an invented term- and invented by the French, no less (from Amérique Latine). Whether Hispanic or Latino, Dominicano or Chicana, Nuyorican or Argentinean, American, Tejano, Chiapaneco or Colombiana, people with Latin American backgrounds identify as many things. The one common denominator? The Spanish language. The debate continues…