Professors, students explain ethnic identifiers

Katie Smith

There are three main terms used to identify people of Hispanic descent: Hispanic, Latino and Chicano.

The definition of each word varies from person to person.

Associate Spanish professor Maria Zaldivar said, “There’s a lot of issues with all of these terms because often times they are used in an ethnic context, but there’s people from different ethnicities that are Hispanic or Latino.”

Zaldivar said the term Hispanic “was coined during the Nixon era because they needed a term that could be used to identify population of Hispanic ancestry in the U.S. Census, so it was created artificially for demographic purposes.”

Roberto Uribe-Rendon, professor and coordinator for the College of Applied Engineering, Sustainability and Technology, said, “Hispanic means of Spain heritage, so for me Hispanic can mean a person raised in a Spanish-speaking Latin American country, or any other Spanish-speaking country in the world.”

Administrative assistant Yvette Mendoza said, “Hispanic is the idea that everybody has some Spanish origin, an origin from Spain or from Portugal.”

“I don’t think everybody identifies as Hispanic that comes from any Central or South American country,” Mendoza said.

It is not a term she uses to describe herself if she were with a group of knowledgeable people who understand the history of the term, Mendoza said.

“Latino would be based on region of origin, and Hispanic would be more of language of origin,” Zaldivar said.

The term Latino was adopted because of native people in Latin and South America who do not speak Spanish, Zaldivar said.

People from Paraguay, which is a bilingual country, are still considered Latino, Zaldivar said.

Using the term Latin Americans is more politically correct and compared it to saying African Americans instead of Blacks, Zaldivar said.

Uribe-Rendon said countries like Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, Argentina and even Brazil are considered Latino countries “because they belong to the Latin American geographical area.”

The term Chicano is used to describe Mexicans who originally moved to the U.S. to do labor work, Uribe-Rendon said.

Mendoza, however, disagreed and said the Chicano term came from a movement to determine who was from Mexico and who was from the U.S.

Mendoza said she believes the term Chicano means having ancestry in Mexico.

As for political correctness of the three terms, Mendoza said, “I’m okay with whatever anyone says as long as they’re trying to make a general effort.”

Contact Katie Smith at [email protected].