Latino (// or //) is a term used chiefly in the United States to refer to people of Latin American extraction or descent, though the term has also been incorrectly used as a synonym for Hispanic. 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/ancestry. The term latino is used to refer to males only or a combination of males and females in a group, whereas the term Latina is used to refer to females only.
The U.S. Government has defined Hispanic or Latino persons as being "persons who trace their origin or descent to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Central and South America, and other Spanish cultures." The United States Census uses the ethnonym Hispanic or Latino to refer to "a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race." The Census Bureau also explains that "[o]rigin can be viewed as the heritage, nationality group, lineage, or country of birth of the person or the person’s ancestors before their arrival in the United States. People who identify their origin as Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish may be of any race." This, of course, means that, in accordance with the first paragraph of this article, the US Census and the OMB are incorrect. The AP Stylebook's recommended usage of Latino in Latin America includes not only persons of Spanish-speaking ancestry, but also more generally includes persons "from -- or whose ancestors were from -- . . . Latin America, including Brazilians."
The terms latino and latina originate from American Spanish, and ultimately from the Latin terms latinus and latina, which literally mean Latin. The terms may be an abbreviated form of the Spanish word latinoamericano (Latin American). This use of the expression Latin derives from the cultural distinctions between the Romance language countries of modern-day, like Italy, Spain, France, Portugal and Romania, and other European nations, including the Germanic countries of Northwestern and Central Europe. These distinctions grew as the Germanic countries tended to embrace Protestantism while the Romance language countries remained Roman Catholic.
In its modern usage, the idea that a part of the Americas has affinity with the Romance cultures as a whole can be traced back to the 1830s, in the writing of the French Saint-Simonian Michel Chevalier, who postulated that this part of the Americas was inhabited by people of a "Latin race" and that it could, therefore, ally itself with "Latin Europe" in a struggle with "Teutonic Europe", "Anglo-Saxon America" and "Slavic Europe". The term Latin America was supported by the French Empire of Napoleon III during the French invasion of Mexico, as a way to include France among countries with influence in America and to exclude Anglophone countries, and played a role in his campaign to imply cultural kinship of the region with France. The idea was taken up by Latin American intellectuals and political leaders of the mid- and late-nineteenth century, who no longer looked to Spain or Portugal as cultural models, but rather to France.
Use in the United States
The term Latino was officially adopted in 1997 by the United States Government in the ethnonym Hispanic or Latino, which replaced the single term Hispanic: "Because regional usage of the terms differs – Hispanic is commonly used in the eastern portion of the United States, whereas Latino is commonly used in the western portion."
Neither "Hispanic" nor "Latino" refers to a race, as a person of Latino/Hispanic ethnicity can be of any race. Like non-Latinos, a Latino can be of any race or combination of races: White/Caucasian, Black/African American, Asian, Native American, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander American, or two or more races. While Brazilian Americans are not included with Hispanics and Latinos in the government's census population reports, any Brazilian American can report as being Hispanic or Latino since Hispanic or Latino origin is, like race, a matter of self-identification.
Other federal and local government agencies and non-profit organizations include Brazilians and Portuguese in their definition of Hispanic. The U.S. Department of Transportation defines Hispanic Americans as, "persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Central or South American, or other 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. Each year since 1997 the International Latino Book Award is conferred to the best achievements in Spanish or Portuguese literature at BookExpo America, the largest publishing trade show in the United States. The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, which proclaims itself the champion of Hispanic success in higher education, has member institutions in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Latin America, Spain, and Portugal.
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," has the broader reference, potentially encompassing all Spanish-speaking peoples in both hemispheres and emphasizing 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 more exclusively 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.
Listed below are the 28 categories tabulated in the 2000 United States Census: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican Republic; Central American: Costa Rican, Guatemalan, Honduran, Nicaraguan, Panamanian, Salvadoran, Other Central American; South American: Argentinian, Bolivian, Chilean, Colombian, Ecuadorian, Paraguayan, Peruvian, Uruguayan, Venezuelan, Other South American; Other Hispanic or Latino: Spaniard, Spanish, Spanish American, All other Hispanic or Latino.
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Latin Europe and Latin America
Sometimes "Latino" is used interchangeably with "Latin", as Latino is also defined as a "Latin inhabitant of the United States"; and sometimes it is used interchangeably with "Latin American". As a demonym, though, "Latin" can have other meanings:
- "a native or inhabitant of Latium; an ancient Roman."
- "a member of any of the Latin peoples, or those speaking chiefly Romance languages, esp. a native of or émigré from Latin America."
- "a member of the Latin Church; a Roman Catholic, as distinguished from a member of the Greek Church."
- "A Latino or Latina."
The term "Latino", was implemented in the US to refer to what is a group of people composed of immigrants and residents, Also, a Spaniard, for example, though a "Latino" by some definitions, is not a Latin American. The term "Latin American", in turn, though normally applied to inhabitants of Latin America, is nevertheless preferred by some individuals and organizations in the United States. "Latin American" is defined as:
The use of the term Latino, despite its increasing popularity, is still highly debated among those who are called by the name. Since the adoption of the term by the US Census Bureau and its subsequent widespread use, there have been several controversies and disagreements, especially in the United States and, to a lesser extent, in Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries. Since it is an arbitrary generic term, many Latin American scholars, journalists, and indigenous rights organisations 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. Journalist Rodolfo Acuña writes:
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.
Popular-culture personalities like Andy García have also expressed concern. He has stated that, in spite of his love of his native Cuba, he dislikes being labeled as a "Latino actor", preferring instead to be addressed as an actor without a tag attached to him.
Definitions in other languages
The term latino (feminine latina) in the Romance languages, such as Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish, literally translates as "Latin". The cognate French term is Latin, not Latino. Portuguese dictionaries define the demonym latino to refer to natives of Romance-speaking nations influenced by Roman civilization, and to the natives or inhabitants of ancient Latium (modern Lazio). Italian dictionaries define the demonym latino as: the ancient Latins and Romans, and their language, Latin, as well as the neo-Latin nations. The dictionary of the Real Academia Española defines ten meanings for latino, including the ancient peoples of Latium and the modern Romance-speaking European and American nations. In these languages, latino, just like any other demonym, is by convention not capitalized.
- Latin American Australian
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- Latino Studies
- Hispanic/Latino naming dispute
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- Race and ethnicity in the United States Census
- Racial and ethnic demographics of the United States
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- "'Latino' . . . 'is more inclusive and descriptive'" than Hispanic. "'Latino' is short for 'latinoamericano,' which of course means Latin American in Spanish. Like its English counterpart, the term 'latinoamericano' strictly refers to the people who come from the territory in the Americas colonized by Latin nations, such as Portugal, Spain, and France, whose languages are derived from Latin. People from , Mexico, and even Haiti are thus all 'latinoamericanos.' Individuals who are descendants of the former British or Dutch colonies are excluded. . . . Finally, 'hispanoamericanos' are persons from the former colonies of Spain in the 'New World.' The expression 'Hispanic' probably derives from 'hispanoamericanos.'" Angel R. Oquendo, Re-Imagining the Latino/a Race, 12 Harvard BlackLetter L.J. 93, 96 -97 (1995)
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