I have heard many people use the terms Hispanic, Latino and Spanish culture interchangeably. There are differences, even though the term Latino is gaining acceptance as a term to refer to Hispanics in the U.S. and vice versa.
Hispanic vs Latino, which term is better to use? The truth is that the term Latin was created as an abbreviation of Latin America. In the U.S. the term “Latino is commonly used to describe Hispanics but many do not realize that Latino people speak a Romance language (not only Spanish) and are born in Latin America.
Other authors like Felipe and Betty Ann Korzenny say in their book: “Hispanic Marketing” that the term Latino “encompasses almost anyone from a culture with Latin roots. That could be Italians, Roumanians, Portuguese, French and so on.”
Hispanic people come from the countries that Spain colonized including those far away from America like the Philippines. We derive our name from the term Hispania which was the old name for Spain.
What about Spanish people? Spanish people are only from Spain. Speaking Spanish is not enough to say you are from a Spanish culture. But we hear almost everybody asking us: Are you Spanish? Yes, the majority of people equates Spanish with Hispanic or Latino.
In the 1970s the U.S. federal government under the Nixon administration, created the term Hispanic to lump together people who have a connection to Spanish language or a culture from Spanish-speaking countries. The key was the language not the country of origin.
The word “Hispanic” was incorporated gradually and appeared in some of the 1980 Census forms. By 1990 all the forms from the U.S. census had incorporated the word “Hispanic” as an ethnicity option.
What is interesting is that when you try to choose a term between Hispanic vs Latino, you realize both fail to incorporate our indigenous roots. Our race is primarily a mix of Indian, European and black, therefore the terms only encompass some of those origins.
I guess if we were to create a term to reflect our true heritage it should be something like…Afrolatinhispanindian a little bit of a tongue twister.
Since we are not exactly one or the other, many of us use the terms in different situations. One doesn’t make you better or worse, it is all in how you personally take it. Remember, we are biased only by our own perceptions in our minds.