Hispanic or Latino? It’s a question that America’s growing Hispanic population gets asked every time we fill out a job application or a survey. But which one do we prefer?
Latinos (or Hispanics) make up the largest ethnic minority in the U.S. and it is becoming increasingly important to understand how we define ourselves.
“Officially, both terms are used by the U.S. federal government to describe this population, and many organizations, including the Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project, use the terms interchangeably in publications,” Pew’s Mark Hugo Lopez writes. “However, among Hispanics themselves, many are ambivalent about the two terms.”
According to a new Pew Research Center survey of Hispanic adults, half (50%) say they have no preference for either term.
But among those who do have a preference, “Hispanic” is preferred over “Latino” by a ratio of about 2-1.
While nearly half of all Hispanic Texans (46 percent) prefer the term “Hispanic,” just 8 percent prefer the term “Latino.”
This pattern resonated throughout other parts of the country. For example, in California, the state with the largest Hispanic population, 30% say they prefer “Hispanic” and 17% say they prefer the term “Latino.”
In Florida, results are similar—31% prefer “Hispanic” and 17% prefer “Latino.” The pattern for New York and all other states is nearly the same.
Hispanic or Latino?
The term “Hispanic” was adopted by the government in the 1970s in an attempt to count people from such countries as Mexico, Cuba and the nations in Central and South America.
But many whose lineage traces to those countries, particularly in Southwestern parts of the United States, have never felt an affinity for the term.
The term “Latino” is shortened from, “Latin American” thus narrowing the scope of meaning to Central and South America, and Spanish speaking Caribbean Islands.
The government adopted these terms because they did not have an inclusive term to identify and segregate the mixed white with black and native “mestizo or mulato people of Central and South America.