Hispanic–Latino naming dispute
The Hispanic/Latino naming dispute refers to the ongoing disagreements over the use of the ethnonyms Hispanic and Latino to refer collectively to the inhabitants of the United States who are of Latin American or Spanish origin, i.e. Hispanic and Latino Americans, a vast group. The usage of both terms has changed and adapted itself to a wide range of geographical and historical influences.
While the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, "Hispanic" is a narrower term which only refers to persons of Spanish-speaking origin or ancestry, while "Latino" is more frequently used to refer more generally to anyone of Latin American origin or ancestry, including Brazilians. Hispanic thus includes persons from Spain and Spanish-speaking Latin Americans but excludes Brazilians while Latino excludes persons from Spain but includes Spanish-speaking Latin Americans and Brazilians. Because Brazil's population of 191,000,000 is several times larger than Spain's population of 47,000,000 and also because there are more Brazilian-born Americans (325,547 as of 2012) than Spanish-born Americans (88,665 as of 2012) in the United States, Latino is a broader term encompassing more people. The choice between the terms Latino and Hispanic among those of Spanish-speaking origin is also associated with location: persons of Spanish-speaking origins residing in the eastern United States tend to prefer the term Hispanic, whereas those in the west tend to prefer Latino.
Latino as a category used in the United States may be understood as a shorthand for the Spanish word latinomericano or the Portuguese phrase latino americano and thus excluding speakers of Romance Languages from Europe. Both Hispanic and Latino are generally used to denote people living in the United States, so that "[o]utside the United States, we don't speak of Latinos; we speak of Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and so forth."
Usage of Hispanic
The term Hispanic has been the source of several debates in the US. It was first used officially by the US government in the 1970 Census to refer to "a person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race." Some started to favor the term Latino because of its alleged openness towards any people from Latin America. Since the 2000 Census the identifier has changed from "Hispanic" to "Spanish/Hispanic/Latino".
Other federal and local government agencies and non-profit organizations include Brazilians and Portuguese in their definition of Hispanic. The US Department of Transportation defines Hispanic as, "persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Central or South American, or others [of] Spanish or Portuguese culture or origin, regardless of race." This definition has been adopted by the Small Business Administration as well as by many federal, state, and municipal agencies for the purposes of awarding government contracts to minority owned businesses.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Conference include representatives of Spanish and Portuguese descent. The Hispanic Society of America is dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of Spain, Portugal, and Latin America. The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, which proclaims itself the champion of Hispanic success in higher education, has member institutions in the US, Puerto Rico, Latin America, Spain, and Portugal.
In a recent study, most Spanish-speakers of Spanish or Latin American descent do not prefer the term "Hispanic" or "Latino" when it comes to describing their identity. Instead, they prefer to be identified by their country of origin.
Origin of the term Latino
The adoption of the term Latino by the US Census Bureau in 2000 and its subsequent media attention brought about several controversies and disagreements, specifically in the United States and, to a lesser extent, in Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries. Regarding it as an arbitrary generic term, many Latin American scholars, journalists and organizations have objected to the mass media use of the word "Latino", pointing out that such ethnonyms are optional and should be used only to describe people involved in the practices, ideologies and identity politics of their supporters. They argue that if Hispanic is an imposed official term, so is Latino, since it was the French who coined the expression Latin America (Amérique latine) to refer to the Spanish, French, and Portuguese-speaking countries of the Western Hemisphere, during their support of the Second Mexican Empire.
Distinctions Between the Terms Latino and Hispanic
Some authorities of American English maintain a distinction between the terms Hispanic and Latino:
"Though often used interchangeably in American English, Hispanic and Latino are not identical terms, and in certain contexts the choice between them can be significant. Hispanic, from the Latin word for "Spain," ... potentially encompass[es] all Spanish-speaking peoples in both hemispheres and emphasiz[es] the common denominator of language among communities that sometimes have little else in common. Latino—which in Spanish means "Latin" but which as an English word is probably a shortening of the Spanish word latinoamericano—refers ... to persons or communities of Latin American origin. Of the two, only Hispanic can be used in referring to Spain and its history and culture; a native of Spain residing in the United States is a Hispanic, not a Latino, and one cannot substitute Latino in the phrase the Hispanic influence on native Mexican cultures without garbling the meaning. In practice, however, this distinction is of little significance when referring to residents of the United States, most of whom are of Latin American origin and can theoretically be called by either word."
The AP Stylebook also distinguishes between the terms Hispanic and Latino. The Stylebook limits the term Hispanic to persons "from - or whose ancestors were from - a Spanish-speaking land or culture." It provides a more expansive definition, however, of the term Latino. The Stylebook definition of Latino includes not only persons of Spanish-speaking ancestry, but also more generally includes persons "from - or whose ancestors were from - ... Latin America." The Stylebook specifically lists Brazilian as an example of a group which can be considered Latino.
Criticism from the media
In the US, the terms Latino and Hispanic are officially voluntary, self-designated classifications. Yet the mass media has helped propagate them irrespective of this fact. The rapid widespread use of Latino in the US has been possible due to the policies of certain newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times and other California-based media during the 1990s. The use of the term as a label has been the target of journalists like Raoul Lowery who has attacked it, denouncing it as a misleading and simplistic way of tagging a group as diverse as Latin Americans:
"For years I have campaigned against the Los Angeles Times-imposed word, "Latino", in describing the country's fastest growing ethnic "Group," those with Spanish-surnames, those who speak Spanish, et al. The LA Times set its feet in concrete and the use of the word "Latino" and nothing has cracked the concrete since. Worst of all, other newspapers have followed the Times' lead and news coverage, accuracy and the community have suffered."
Lowery argues that, according to the statistics of the Census Bureau, most middle-class people with Latin-American background living in the United States reject the term. He traces the polarization of the word to the Los Angeles Times columnist Frank del Olmo who regarded the term Hispanic as "ugly and imprecise". He writes:
"The third reason Del Olmo objected to the word "Hispanic" and championed the word "Latino" was that "Chicano" had been roundly rejected by all Mexican Americans but the most radical, blue collar, less educated, under-class people of Mexican-origin. Del Olmo pushed "Latino" as a substitute for the rejected "Chicano." Unfortunately, he was in a position to push this substitution into the language of the "Newspaper of Record" in the West. Other papers and broadcast stations took up the word because it was the "style" of the LA Times. Frank Del Olmo single-handedly branded millions of people.
Latino, Hispanic or national identity
The Latino/Hispanic naming dispute is a phenomenon that has its roots mainly in California and other neighboring states. Before the adoption of the ethnonym "Hispanic or Latino" by the United States Government the term Hispanic was commonly used for statistics ends. However, many people didn't feel satisfied with the term and started campaigns promoting the use of Latino as a new ethnonym. The Office of Management and Budget has stated that the new term should be, indeed, "Hispanic or Latino" because the usage of the terms differs – "Hispanics is commonly used in the eastern portion of the United States, whereas Latino is commonly used in the western portion".
In spite of this, the debates regarding the proper name of the perceived homogeneous population of US citizens with Latin American or Spanish background still abound and are even more acute. In order to find out to what extent people agree or disagree with either term many polls have been conducted. According to a poll of December 2000 by Hispanic Trends, 65 percent of the registered voters preferred the word Hispanic while 30 percent chose to identify themselves as Latino. Daniel David Arreola, in his book Hispanic spaces, Latino places: community and cultural diversity in contemporary America, points out that many Latin Americans feel more comfortable identifying themselves with their country of origin:
What most of us know and what the results from the 1992 Latino National Political survey demonstrate is a preference for place of origin or national identity in what we call ourselves. Face-to-face interviews of 2,817 people were conducted in 1989 and 1990. Some 57 percent to 86 percent of Mexicans and Puerto Ricans—whether born in Mexico or born in the United States, whether born in the island or in the mainland—preferred to call themselves Mexican or Puerto Rican rather than panethnic names like Hispanic or Latino.
A Pew Hispanic Center survey conducted 9 November - 7 December 2011 and published 4 April 2012 reported:
Nearly four decades after the United States government mandated the use of the terms "Hispanic" or "Latino" to categorize Americans who trace their roots to Spanish-speaking countries, a new nationwide survey of Hispanic adults finds that these terms still haven't been fully embraced by Hispanics themselves. A majority (51%) say they most often identify themselves by their family's country of origin; just 24% say they prefer a pan-ethnic label.
One of the major arguments of people who object to either term is not only the perceived stereotypical overtones they carry, but the unjust and unfair labeling of people who don't even belong to the practices and ideologies of such identities. This is true of many indigenous peoples such as the wixarikas and the lacandones who still practise their own religious rituals without syncretism with Catholic elements. Journalist Juan Villegas writes:
"The word 'Latino' may be loaded with negative connotations when used by non-Latinos in American culture because of its association with the sign 'Latin' which may imply a stereotyped character partially imposed by Hollywood. Latino is a sign that needs to be contextualized. It may bring some groups together, but it also may contribute to depoliticize a movement and to stereotype a diversity of social groups and cultures.
Others such as Catherine Alexandra Carter or Rodolfo Acuña address the issue from a more global and political perspective, stressing the importance of terms like Latino or Hispanic for the marketing industry and for statistical ends:
"The terms 'Hispanic' and 'Latino', although first created for the purpose of lumping together a diverse group of people and making them more economically marketable, have grown into something far more significant. Over time the legitimacy and accuracy of these terms have come to influence not only the functioning of the marketing industry, but the organization and structure of many other aspects of life".
"When and why the Latino identity came about is a more involved story. Essentially, politicians, the media, and marketers find it convenient to deal with the different U.S. Spanish-speaking people under one umbrella. However, many people with Spanish surnames contest the term "Latino". They claim it is misleading because no Latino or Hispanic nationality exists since no Latino state exists, so generalizing the term "Latino" slights the various national identities included under the umbrella.
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