Monday, September 16, 2013

Latino or Hispanic

Am I Latino or am I Hispanic? All my life I have grown up with the term Latino. And as I grew older I understood the term Hispanic was only used when referring to Mexican people. Because of that, I never really thought about the difference between the two terms until last week when I received an email about National Latino Heritage Month.

September 15- October 15 is a month long celebration of history, culture, and the contributions of Americans who have ancestors from Mexico, Spain, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30 day period.

I did some research on the two terms to see what the difference was and here is what I found:
  • Latino generally refers to countries (or cultures) that were once under Roman rule. This includes Italy, France, Spain, etc. Brazilians are considered to be Latino, but are not considered to be Hispanic.
  • Hispanic describes cultures or countries that were once under Spanish rule (Mexico, Central America, and most South America where Spanish is the primary language).
With these general definitions of the two terms it seems like people do not adhere to them anymore. My family is from Panama (Central America). Per the definition above we fall into the Hispanic category. But like I said we have always referred to ourselves as Latino, Afro-Latino to be exact.

Though there is a difference between the two terms, in this day and age I think the terms are kind of interchangeable. Regardless of family origin, I think people associate with what they have been taught about themselves or what they later learned about their culture.

As with anything else, we define ourselves however we want. Referring to ourselves as Hispanic or Latino seems to be a personal choice. Having only to do with what makes us most comfortable and what we feel represents us best.

In the end it doesn't really matter much what we call ourselves - Latinos or Hispanics - said Dr. LaFarelle, "somos todos primos" - we're all cousins anyway. We should respect our differences, enjoy our close relationship and be proud of our cultural legacy.

1 comment :

  1. Coming from Panama we have so many influences which we are made of. We come from a Hispanic, Latin and African culture. Most noticeable in our food, music and attire. To add to the confusion I've always told folk I am a black Hispanic as of late Afro-Latino. Due to the location of Panama they all apply. It seems confusing but non the less true. Next year my information may get updated my label may change but one thing is undeniable I'm a black man.