How Hispanics are Redefining the US – Hispanic Heritage Month

As we observe Hispanic heritage month this year and reflect on what it means to be Hispanic in America, it is almost getting hard to see a defining line.

What I mean is that Hispanics are becoming so ingrained in the American culture and way of life that it is getting tricky to see where one culture starts and the other begins.  In truth, they are the same but where there were once clear markers between the two there are now only vague intimations.

This is because with things like Hispanic population growth and other factors, Hispanics are redefining what it means to be American.

How are Hispanics redefining the Unites States?  I’m glad you asked that question.  First, let’s take a broad look at the situation. Hispanic people account for half of the U.S. population growth over the past 10 years.  Without going into any more detail than that one has to assume that such a population growth will have far-reaching effects into all aspects of American life but let’s get into the details, shall we?

Hispanic Heritage Month - How Hispanics Are Redefining the US

Hispanic Heritage Month – How Hispanics Are Redefining the US

How Hispanics Are Redefining the US

Internet Presence

In this day and age one cannot deny the influence and impact that the internet, namely social media, has on our daily lives. Having established that fact let me point you to another statistic: Hispanic adults account for 72% of people active on social media.  You can interpret that fact as you will but you cannot deny that social media influence leaks into other aspects of American culture which leads us to…


Major and niche markets have responded to this huge population boom and Hispanic social media presence and are scrambling to market to the Hispanic demographic. Ads are in English and Spanish and agencies are throwing more money at getting inside of the mind of the Latino because of…

Latino Spending Power

It is projected that by the year 2050 Latinos will comprise about 30% of the U.S. population. This means that our dollars will be that much more important to the U.S. economy.

As our presence increases so too will the amount of money we contribute to the various markets of our economy. Our contributions to the economy inherently leads to…

Political Influence

For better or worse, political candidates have to pander to the Hispanic population especially presidential candidates who are looking to secure California and Texas (the states with the most electoral points) which have the highest Hispanic populations in the country.  All of this amounts to the main way how Hispanics are redefining the US.

Cultural Influence

All of the aforementioned factors are only solidifying our place in this country.  It is obvious to anyone who lives in the U.S. that Hispanics are not going anywhere and we have already made our indelible mark on the American culture. You see it everywhere; in food, in music, on the Latino News Sources in the US  and on Television.

You see people sipping on Margaritas in bars and Anglos practically begging to learn Spanish from the Paisas in Echo Park and the Mission District and in Jackson Heights in Queens.  And it should be of no surprise to any American that Hispanic culture and influence has become so engrained in this nation that was billed as a melting pot of culture.

Our mark can be seen in everyday life.  People understand us more, they fear us less and we continue to branch out and make our presence felt.  That is how Hispanics are redefining the United States.

Latino or Hispanic – Which One is Politically Correct

There are fewer culturally relevant questions in modern America more polarizing than this one: Latino or Hispanic-which one is politically correct?

There are also few questions that simply lead to more questions than this one does. The truth is that as time goes on, each term becomes as equally politically correct as the other.

Some people prefer Hispanic and some prefer Latinos but there was a time in America, more specifically in the southwestern states, that this wasn’t the case.

The Civil Rights Movement

It didn’t get as much press as the African-American civil rights movement did but during the late 60’s and early 70’s there was another struggle going on within the Hispanic community. The term Hispanic was coined around this time but there was a burgeoning community of forward-thinking, young activists who were born in the states to immigrant parents that was ready to cast off this government assigned term.

Figureheads during the Brown movement of the early 70’s like Oscar Zeta Acosta shunned the term Hispanic opting instead to call himself and all like him Chicano. But the term Chicano was meant to denote an enlightened, thoughtful and sometimes radical person of Hispanic decent living in America. Thus, Chicano became the moniker for the Brown movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s and Hispanic was deemed politically incorrect by this group.

The Terms Today

Nowadays, it matters less what someone refers to you as especially with my generation.  The Brown movement is over and we have made enough strides to be able to call ourselves whatever we want. The mood is not so tense or serious as it was back then so we can essentially laugh off each term and not take offense one way or another.

Still, there are defining lines which you can read more about in the article What is Hispanic but essentially the difference between Latino and Hispanic is that Hispanic is an umbrella term for anyone of Latin descent (Mexicans Spanish, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Peruvian etc.) and Latino generally refers to a person of Latin decent but who is living specifically in America.

Latino or Hispanic - Which One is Politically Correct?

Latino or Hispanic – Which One is Politically Correct?

Especially in today’s amalgamated culture, Latino is emerging more fluidly but not because of political correctness.  More and more the term Latino not only refers to people but to a culture.

Hispanics born and raised in America take part of the Latino culture which has heavy influences from the American culture as well.

Today, Latino can mean so many different things but it is more unifying for younger Hispanics because it seems to hint at an American upbringing.

Latino or Hispanic

Unfortunately the appropriateness of using the term Latino or Hispanic will depend greatly on who you are talking to.  For Anglos reading this, try not to worry so much about which you use so long as you use each term respectfully.

If you are talking to a younger person, you are probably safe with using Latino. Some of the older generation-those who remember the Brown movement-might actually take offense if you use Hispanic but their numbers are dwindling every day.

For me, Hispanic is a more biological term which does not offend me in the slightest.  Hispanic is what I am as far as race goes. I am of Hispanic descent so why should I be offended by it?

Latino is more of a cultural term.  In truth I don’t feel more strongly tied to one term than the other.  If I hear Latino I assume that the person saying it is also Hispanic and probably around my age.

When I hear Hispanic I tend to think the person saying it is Anglo and of an older generation.  At any rate, the lines of political correctness are very blurred at this point but the good news is that it matters less and less which you use with each passing day.

The History of Tango Music

Breaking down the history of any musical genre is a daunting and near-impossible task.  Genres of music are not like physical inventions that can be traced to a singular point in time.  Rather, music is an amalgamation of moods, attitudes, social circumstances, emotional states and even geography.

It is impossible to pinpoint the birth of any genre because music is ultimately collaboration between people and it takes many shapes even in the infancy phase.

The History of Tango Music

So, what is Tango and how can its origins be traced?  For this we must turn our attention to late 19th century Argentina.

Argentina is widely considered the birth country of Tango music as we know it today but the truth of the matter is that the genre owes its style to influences that stretch far beyond the borders of Argentina.  Just upon hearing traditional Tango music, you will see what I mean.

You will be able to pick up on the exotic rhythms of Africa in the almost staccato nature of the 2/4 and 4/4 time signatures. Again, we may never know who incorporated African rhythms into Tango or how they were influenced by them but the infusion is undeniable.

Tango music also owes some debt of gratitude to Spain.  Spanish musicians were simultaneously developing what would ultimately help to shape the definitive Tango style in their Flamenco Tangos.

Spain and Italy play a further role in the formation of Tango music in the 20th century when European instruments were introduced in Argentina and subsequently integrated into the Tango ensemble.

An Argentine by the name of Angel Villoldo is credited with the very first Tango recording.  He played guitar and sang by himself and helped solidify the characteristics that we associate with Tango today.  One might say that he is the Godfather of Tango but who knows who he borrowed from and was influenced by.

That was back in 1905.  Somewhere around 1910, more instruments were being used to play Tango music which fleshed out the Tango sound and gave it a greater level of distinction as a genre of music.

The History of Tango Music

The History of Tango Music

The Music of the Lower Class

In the beginning Argentine Tango music was relegated to street hoods and young thugs.  The music was often played in brothels and other unsavory establishments where the “riff raff” of society normally convened.

The upper class outwardly disdained the music as it was seen as a bad influence.  This quarantining of Tango music to the poor and working class Argentine was not to last very long.  By 1913, the influence and aesthetic appeal of Tango music had reached as far as France and what was once taboo among the blue bloods of Argentina was now an acceptable and much enjoyed form of entertainment.

Influential Tango History

As with any genre of music, Tango was helped along thanks to landmark songs, recordings and artists.  Mi Noche Triste was a Tango song written by Pascual Contursi but sang by indelible Tango icon, Carlos Gardel.  The song became the blueprint for subject matter in Tango songs: heartbreaking tales of love and loss.

La Cumparista is widely held as the most famous Tango song of all time and was written by Roberto Firpo back in 1916.  To this day the song is recorded by Tango bands and orchestras and has been arranged in almost every conceivable style.

Tango Today

The history of Tango music shows us the mighty wave that Tango rode to popularity in the early 20th century eventually hit the shore and rolled back but it regained popularity once again in the 1980’s thanks in part to the TV show, Tango Argentino.

Today, Tango is experiencing a resurgence around the world as evidenced by radio stations, cable TV networks and new recordings dedicated to Tango.

Tango history intertwines itself with the history of Argentine culture.  While the history of Tango music requires a greater study than what I can get into here, and while a definitive point in time can never be named “the birth of Tango” for any music lover, it is a labor of love to seek out the roots of this enticing genre of Latin music.



Are Puerto Ricans Immigrants in the US

As I have done with other sensitive topics and points of contention on this blog in the past, allow me to answer the question ‘are Puerto Ricans immigrants in the US?  Definitively and right off the bat: no.

Puerto Ricans are not immigrants the United States.  There are a few very technical reasons for this but to put it simply, Puerto Rico is an unincorporated United States territory which entitles its natives to automatic US citizenship upon birth.

It can be a bit confusing when you don’t have the background on the subject because on every other front, it would seem like Puerto Rico is its own country entirely.  They have their own flag, Spanish is the main language spoken there, and they are not even part of the mainland United States.

In many rights, Puerto Rico is its own country; they maintain much independence from the U.S. and have their own very distinct Puerto Rican culture.

When it comes right down to it, if someone from Puerto Rico decides they want to move to the U.S. not only it is a much easier process for them when compared to natives of other Latin American and Caribbean countries, they most certainly are not to be considered immigrants.

Are Puerto Ricans Immigrants in the US?

Are Puerto Ricans Immigrants in the US?

What Makes the Difference

At this point you may be asking yourself what is the difference between Puerto Rico and other Caribbean or Latin American countries.

Firstly, Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the US all the way back in 1898 but that still didn’t make Puerto Ricans automatic citizens. That came with the outbreak of World War I when the Jones-Shafroth act was passed.  Although this act was passed most likely just so that Puerto Ricans to add to our fighting forces, it did and still does to this day, make all Puerto Rican born persons a United States citizen.

There are extenuating circumstances however (after all, we are talking about governmental matters) for Puerto Rican citizens. For example, Puerto Ricans cannot vote in US presidential elections right off the bat.  This right only comes after they have an established residence within the United States.  Other than that Puerto Ricans are as American as any other person born in the states.

Puerto Ricans in America

There are about 5 million Puerto Ricans living in the United States.  They make up 9% of the Hispanic population living within the United States and have contributed greatly to the Latin flavor that is so prevalent in our nation.

Most Puerto Ricans in the US are fluent in English and you can always count on Puerto Ricans to maintain strong ties to their home land even if they were actually born in America.

Are Puerto Rican Immigrants?  Get it Straight

While you are not likely to be corrected in a rude way should you accidentally refer to Puerto Ricans living in the states as immigrants you are probably not likely to endear yourself to anyone else who considers themselves culturally sensitive by doing so.

The better we understand each other and the unique circumstances that follow us as a result of our different heritages, the more we will enjoy what there is to enjoy about such differences.  The next time you get asked the question: are Puerto Ricans immigrants?  hopefully, you will know exactly how to respond.

If you are interested in knowing more about Puerto Rican culture like their Christmas celebrations, foods and traditions check out Puerto Rican Pasteles, Puerto Rican Parrandas or What Is the National Puerto Rican Day Parade.

Are Spanish and Latin the Same Thing

Are Spanish and Latin the same thing?  No.

Let’s just get that out of the way right now. You may be reading this because you want a simple answer to the question “are Spanish and Latin the same thing?” and if you are, you have your answer in plain English (and Spanish for that matter ), no.

If you want a more thorough explanation and an insight into my reasoning, please keep reading.

An Easy History Lesson

Did you know that the term Hispanic was introduced to America in the 70’s during the Nixon administration?  It’s true but if you were living in any Spanish speaking country after the 1930’s you are probably more familiar with the term Hispanidad.

Hispanidad was adopted by Spanish speaking countries in unison as a sort of umbrella term for those who were born in Spanish speaking countries.  In the 70’s America was kind enough to oblige its Hispanidad guests and citizens by coining a word that was meant to be the same but one that was easier for the Anglo to pronounce.  That is why today, we have the term Hispanic.

A Hispanic can be fluent in English or Spanish because it refers to both people who emigrated here and those born here of Latin descent.  In this way, Hispanic is the broadest term and Latin is more distinctive.

Basically, if anyone in your ancestry was born in a country where a Latin based language was the native language, you are Hispanic. Hispanics can live anywhere, speak any language as the term is more biologic in nature and refers strictly to ethnic background.

Are Spanish and Latin the Same Thing

Are Spanish and Latin the Same Thing

Are Spanish and Latin the Same?  First Let’s See Who Are Latins

To understand what the difference is between the terms Hispanic and Latin, you must realize that Hispanic is the more universal term.

There are no “Latins” in any other country besides America because Latinos are specifically people who were born in a Latin American country and came to the U.S.  While a Hispanic could have been born in the states and is very familiar with its culture and society, a Latin is one that comes from another country and who for the American culture is not their native culture.

Keep in mind that none of these terms are to be confused with “Latino.” A Latino is something of a combination of the two but a person who is altogether distinct from Hispanics and Latins. For example, I am a Hispanic and a Latino.

I am of Hispanic descent but I was born here in the states.  A Latino cannot have been born in Chile or Germany for that matter, come to the states and be a true Latino. English is probably the primary language of a Latino and is characterized by identifying as Americans while having ties to Hispanic culture.

Latino is also a cultural term and was used heavily in the 70’s to replace Chicano.  It is a term that the socially conscious and politically active first generation Hispanics coined to identify themselves as separate from Latins and Anglos.  They are something all their own.

This can be a bit confusing I know but an easy rule of thumb is that Hispanic is the baser and broader ranging term between the two.  So if someone asks you for example ‘are Spaniards Latins?’ you will know the answer is no because Latin refers to someone who has at some point immigrated to America.

Who Are Hispanic Millennials

There is quite a change in the cultural landscape on the horizon here in America. In just a few short years, Latino Millennials will dominate a huge portion of the U.S. population and with this upcoming surge in Hispanic influence comes an influx of culture, changes in marketing, art and values.

Who Are Hispanic Millennials and What is Their Impact

Who Are Hispanic Millennials

Who Are Hispanic Millennials

One of the most important steps in answering the question “who are Hispanic Millennials?” is understanding how this generation identifies itself. Hispanic millennials are typically generation Yers who were born to immigrant parents. They are second or possibly 3rd generation Hispanics born here in the states.

It is very interesting to look at the numbers regarding trends among this group. For example 73% of young adult Hispanics have watched English-speaking only television shows within the last week. This is a generation that is embracing American culture and wishes to not only assimilate but to stake their claim on the cultural scene and make an impact in various ways.

Unlike their parents and grandparents, Hispanic millennials are not content to keep a low profile and to keep off the radar of anglos. They feel confident not only in their English-speaking abilities but as contributors to the society they find themselves involved in. This is a major characteristic because now, more than ever it means that marketing and Hispanic Millennials go hand in hand.

Personally, when I think about Hispanic Millennials, I envision a hip class of Latinos that is as much American as they are tied to their Latin roots and it seems that the advertising and marketing world share the same view.

Did you know, for instance, that young Hispanic adults are almost twice as likely to own an iPad or other late generation tablet than non-Hispanic people of the same age group?

Hispanic millennials have taken to cyberspace to express themselves, further their careers and to connect with people who share similar interests and values. Again, unlike their parents, they are very technology literate and more than 60% of Hispanic millennials are online.

Still, the identity of this curious demographic cannot be summed up solely by the tendencies of their American culture. One of the defining characteristics of Latino millennials is their ties to their ethnic backgrounds.

While a great portion of Hispanic millennials are likely to define themselves first as American, most of them are bilingual and still celebrate the holidays and rites of their origin countries i.e. quinceañeras and The Day of The Dead. It is very important to remember that these young American adults maintain a strong bond with their heritage because it is this heritage that shapes who they are and how they live here in America.

In reality, Hispanic millennials are not too different than Tommy Smith down the Street or Mr. Johnson at your office. They are growing up in very similar ways as the typical Anglo but with an undeniable Latin flavor. They are an amalgamation of foreign Hispanic cultures and the American way of life. In fact, one of the reasons the world is taking so much note of them as of recently is because they are making the world see Hispanic people and Latin culture in a whole new light.

So, who are Hispanic millennials? I suppose the shortest and most direct answer to that question is this: they are the newest generation of people to contribute to the zeitgeist of this country.

Mexican Chocolate – Moctezuma’s Greatest Legacy

You probably know that chile peppers and corn are native to Mexico, but did you know that chocolate is from Mexico, as well? When you hear the word “chocolate,” you may think of the famed Swiss candy, but without the Aztecs and Moctezuma, that would never have existed.

Moctezuma, sometimes spelled Montezuma, was the Emperor of the Aztec empire when the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés entered the Aztec capital Tenochtitlán in 1519. When Cortés and his men arrived, Moctezuma greeted them with great fanfare.

Mexican Chocolate and the Fall of the Aztecs

Although there are now historical records to contest this, tradition holds that the Aztec people considered Cortés to be the reincarnation of their god Quetzalcoatl.

Believing Cortés to be a god, Moctezuma treated him to the finest foods that he had to offer. Among these: chocolate, fruit of the cacao tree which, according to the legend of Quetzalcoatl, the god himself is said to have bestowed on humanity. Banished for revealing this secret of the gods, he was to return one day, as a white-faced god.

Although Cortés had never heard of chocolate, its consumption dates back to 1900 BC in Mesoamerica. The Aztecs even gave chocolate its name: it likely comes from xocolātl, a word in Nahuatl that means “bitter water.” Although we generally consume chocolate that has been sweetened, in its natural state it is indeed quite bitter.

Plus, the Mexican chocolate that Cortés and his men encountered was very different from the chocolate that we know today.

For starters, the chocolate of that time was only served as a drink. It was a frothy, spicy beverage, with chile peppers, spices such as vanilla, and corn meal, sweetened with honey. It was much like the still-traditional drink atole.

Importance of Cacao

Cacao was highly valued and even used as currency.

Cacao was highly valued and even used as currency.

Given its particular flavor and texture, Spanish conquistadors appear not to have enjoyed early Mexican chocolate very much.  However, it was clearly an important part of the culture very valued by the Aztecs.

The upper class enjoyed chocolate and used it in religious ceremonies and even traded as currency.

Surprisingly, the Aztecs themselves did not produce the cacao needed for chocolate, as their climate wasn’t suitable. As an imported product, it was even more of a luxury.

Cacao seeds were also required by the Aztecs as taxes or tributes from those they had conquered. Moctezuma himself was a great fan of chocolate and was said to drink up to fifty cups of it each night after dinner, from a golden cup.

Recognizing its possible applications, the Spanish took the precious ingredient back to Europe despite not understanding its appeal – just in case. There, they added sugar and voilà: the chocolate we know and love.

Beyond its delicious taste, chocolate has lots of health benefits. For example, cocoa beans have high levels of flavonoids, which have antioxidant, protective effects.

Dark chocolate may also help with the circulatory system and reduce blood pressure. And, not surprising to those of us who love a good chocolate break, it may help cognition.

In addition to his critical role in the Spanish conquest of Mexico, Moctezuma was also responsible for increasing the size of the Aztec Empire. Still, it’s clear that one of his biggest legacies is the spread of this Latin food throughout Europe, and then the rest of the world.

What’s your favorite way to eat chocolate? Tell us in the comments!

The Arab Latinos in the US

Since at least the nineteenth century, Arabs have immigrated to the Americas. There were even Moors on Christopher Columbus’s voyages. And yet, we don’t generally think of Arab Latinos when we think of Hispanics.

History of the Arab Latinos

The history of the Arabs in Hispanic culture begins long before the colonization of the New World, with the Moors in Spain and Portugal.

Of Arab and Berber descent, the Moors entered the Iberian Peninsula from Morocco, calling the region Al-Andalus. Their rule eventually came to include most of Spain and Portugal, Gibraltar, and even parts of France.

The impact of the Moors and their religion, Islam, is still clearly seen in architecture in many parts of Spain. The Alhambra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Spain’s most famous landmarks, is one of the best examples.

Shakira is one of the most famous Arab Latinos.

Shakira is one of the most famous Arab Latinos.

Arabic and the Spanish Language

One of the most lasting legacies of Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula is the influence of Arabic on the Spanish language. Some 1,000 words in Spanish have Arabic roots, with another 3,000 being derived (related) words. Together they make up about 8% of the Spanish language. The only larger lexical influence on the language is Latin.

Interestingly, most of the words coming from Arabic are nouns, with very few verbs and only one preposition (hasta), implying that the structure of Spanish was not greatly affected.

If you have ever wondered why there are so many words in Spanish with the same meaning, one of the reasons is the influence of Arabic. For example, olive: olive/aceituna (from az-zaytun) and migraine: migraña/jaqueca (from shaqiqa).

Another lasting hallmark of Arabic is words that begin with “al” – almanaque (calendar), almuerzo (lunch), almohada (pillow) – since “al” is the definite article in Arabic.

Names in Spanish, however, were less likely to be impacted by Arabic. Throughout Spanish history, Muslims had to adopt Christian last names either by decree or due to persecution, much like Hispanic Jews.

Arab Latinos in the US

There are, in fact, millions of people of Arab descent in Latin America. Estimates include: Argentina, 1.3 million to 3.5 million; Mexico, 1.1 million; Venezuela, 1.6 million; Chile, 500,000 to 800,000.

And in Brazil, there are some 10 million people of Arab descent – some 6-7% of the population. In fact, the Brazil’s Arab community is the largest outside of the Arab world.

Many famous Latinos are, in fact, Arab Latinos. For example, Mexican businessman Carlos Slim Hedú, considered the richest man in the world, is of Lebanese origin. Entertainers Salma Hayek of Mexico and Shakira both have Lebanese backgrounds, as well.

Also, a large number of Latin American presidents have been Arab Latinos, including presidents of Ecuador, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and Argentina.

One of the reasons that Hispanic Arabs fly under the radar is that a large majority are Christians, rather than Muslims. Immigration in the 20th century is largely from Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria, often escaping religious oppression.

Estimates put some 97% of Hispanic Arabs as Christians. Since many are Orthodox or Catholic, the common Hispanic religion, they integrated fairly smoothly into their new communities. Intermarriage is common, meaning that the Arabic language is also not passed down regularly to children.

That said, given the historical relationship that Hispanics have with the Arab world, there are those, particularly in the U.S., who are converting to Islam. In fact, 6% of U.S. Muslims are Latino, and they are one of the fastest growing segments of the Muslim community. Many are not of Arab origin, but see connections to language and culture that have continued since the rule of the Moors.

Are you an Arab Latino? Tell us in the comments!