Hispanic Heritage Month facts and figures

Matthew Merchant

During the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, there might be questions that come to mind about Hispanic and Latino culture: Who are Latinos? Where do Hispanics come from? Is there a difference between the two? Here are some answers:

What is the difference between the terms Hispanic and Latino?

According to the 2010 U.S. Census website, the term “‘Hispanic or Latino’ refers to a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.” One definition of the term ‘Hispanic’ has appeared on the census since the 1970 census and continues to be a source of much ethnic debate.

These terms are based on self-identification and are subject to personal preference and biases. Hispanic is not meant to classify an ethnicity or race, but a culture.

According to the National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy group in the United States, Latino signifies individuals from Central and South America, as well as the Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands; Hispanic signifies individuals from countries in South and Central America that were conquered by Spain throughout history.

Which name or label is preferred? Is one politically correct?

Hispanic Trends Project, launched in 2001, aims to improve the general public’s understanding of the diversity within the Latino population in America. The project found that 24 percent of Hispanics prefer to be labeled as Hispanic or Latino, and more than 51 percent choose to identify by their family’s country of origin.

Before labeling people based on their ethnicity, ask what their preference is and respect their choice of identification.

What countries do most Latinos come from?

Most individuals who claim to be Latino associate with the following countries: Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, South America (Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, etc.), Dominican Republic and Central America (Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, etc.), according to “Hispanics and the Future of America” by the National Research Council Panel on Hispanics in the United States.

Are all Latinos immigrants to the U.S.?

In 2006, over 60 percent of the Hispanic population had been born in other countries. However, there is an overwhelming large amount of second-generation Latinos currently living in America. Estimates from the Population Studies Center of the Urban Institute show that between 2000 and 2020 the number of second-generation Hispanics will double.

Spanish comes from Spain, but is there a Hispanic language?

There is no Hispanic language. As a language, Spanish acts as the common theme within the Hispanic population, connecting each ethnic identity. In 2010, 82 percent of adult Latinos in America say they spoke Spanish, according to “When Labels Don’t Fit: Hispanics and Their Identity” from Pew Hispanic Center.

Where does the term Hispanic come from?

According to Dictionary.com, Hispanic is derived from the name Hispania, which is the Latin root for the modern name of Spain. During the Roman rule of Spain and the Middle Ages, the entire geographic region that we know now as the country of Spain was called Hispania.

Contact Matthew Merchant at [email protected].