Hispanic or Latino

The terms Hispanic and Latino have been used interchangeably since the 1970s by the US Government. The US Census Bureau put both under the same category but while the eastern side of the country prefers Hispanic the western prefers Latino? So what is the difference?

For me, it has not really been an issue knowing which is the right term to use to refer to myself. I use the term “Hispanic” because I was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, which was originally named Hispaniola when it was a colony of Spain. Knowing this, I call anyone of Spanish speaking origin born in the Caribbean or Central America “Hispanic”.

In the other hand, a “Latino” is a person of Spanish speaking Origin who was born or has ancestry tracing back to Latin America. This in turn would exclude Brazil and Guyana. Unless of course, there are Spanish-speaking people living in either country or people with a Spanish Ancestry. Needless to say, I think the confusion comes when migration jumps into the picture. For example, what if two parents from Dominican Republic move to Columbia and have a child there. Will the child identify as Hispanic for their parent’s origin or will they identify as Latino for being born in Latin America? This is most likely why the terms are used together, in my opinion.

It is simpler for us to say, I am [Whatever country you are from] but only if you consider yourself part of the culture. There are people who are of Hispanic origin and identify more with white or black culture because they have no exposure to their origin or any desire to associate with it due to not being in the middle of it (or plenty many other reasons).

Regardless, the point is, this is an issue of self identity that is all around us. We must be called something for being either too tanned, too black or too light skinned because this is what the world has taught us. But it is your choice to choose how you view yourself, not the world’s.

The question remains, can you be either one just because you inhabit these places?

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