Why Choose Latino Over Hispanic?

I’m as Hispanic as the Latino next door – so whether I’m one or the other is a matter of definition. That said, it’s hard to  pinpoint one meaning that everyone can agree on. Whenever I’m asked if I’m Latino, Chicano, Hispanic, Mexican-American or whatever I say yes. And then I’ll hold the silence that follows.

When I’m in a more practical mood I’ll ask for definitions of each, and depending on the definition I’ll choose the one that fits me the best. Mostly though, I choose to not get involved in a discussion that never ends. It ranks, for me, equal to the discussion of the differences between men and women – like watching my Beagle chase his tail (some women might argue that if he were a she he’d know better than to chase his own tail).

The point is that you are what you define yourself to be, and when it comes to Latino versus Hispanic cada cabeza es un mundo. At News Taco the easy consensus was Latino.

First, for practical reasons: We have to chose one or the other, it makes no sense to make random use of both.

We will, when the situation applies, use the term Hispanic when it’s part of a quote. If someone we’re quoting says Hispanic, we’re not going to change it to Latino.

Second, because we’re kinda’ nonconformists.  I was a young reporter in the early 1980’s when the government and the marketers started calling us Hispanic – one to group us into a pile of their definition and the other to fabricate a market that could be sold and sold to. No one ever asked, and I can see how impractical that would have been. A decision was made somewhere and I woke up one day to find I was Hispanic.

Since then there’s been a slew of push-back arguments against the term: Hispanic implies being from Spain, and we’re not; I don’t like being defined by a term that has the word “panic” in it; it’s an imposed definition; what does it mean anyway?

Latino seems to fit better, and it has nothing to do with a dead language – I’ll repeat that, it has nothing to do with a dead language. It does have to do with a region of the world that geography convention calls Latin America. And here’s the nuance: Latin America begins at the border between the United States and Mexico, but the Latin American culture starts in the southwestern US.

I once heard someone say that Mexico was not Latin America, and I almost choked on my Cheetos. It was the watershed moment when I decided that I would no longer get involved in that question. And here I am, writing about it.

So I prefer the term Latino, because it fits my idea of who I am, a member of the vast, varied, huge, rich, growing and wondrous Latin American culture.  But I’m also American; part of the wonderful American fabric as well, equally at home in both. The government and the marketers would have me say I’m Hispanic because it’s easier for them if I do that. So if asked , are you Hispanic,  I say “sure.” It’s not a matter of contention for me as I know it is for many people. I just can’t get excited over it. Hispanic doesn’t fit well with me, Latino does, and that’s that.

When we came together to form News Taco I found kindred spirits who felt the same, so it was a non-issue. We use the term Latino because we feel that it defines us better than other terms. We could say Mexican, or variations thereof: of Mexican descent, Mexican-American, etc…, but that would exclude people from many other nationalities and ancestries. We could say American, but that  would only increase the confusion – we’re not talking about all Americans, only a swath of the American family that can trace it’s roots to Latin America. So we choose Latino, although I like to think it chose me.

A non-Latino once asked why I felt so special because I was Hispanic. I said it wasn’t my idea. Whoever created this world thought me up as an American male, of Mexican ancestry, living in South Texas. If you have a problem with that, you need to take it up with the one who conjured me. And by the way, I’m Latino.

Follow Victor Landa on Twitter: @vlanda

Subscribe today!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Must Read

Coronavirus: Mexican wrestlers sew Lucha Libre face masks

Victor Landa April 23, 2020

Unable to compete due to coronavirus, Mexico’s Lucha Libre wrestlers have taken up sewing face masks. Social distancing means the iconic sport is on hold for now, so fighters need […]

Latinos: COVID-19 Disrupts Finances, Daily Life, Mental Health

Victor Landa April 6, 2020

COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate. But U.S. Latinos are more likely than all Americans to say the coronavirus pandemic changed their daily lives, and disrupts their mental health, finances, and jobs, according to new Pew Research […]

A Profile of Coronavirus and the Latino Workforce

Victor Landa April 13, 2020

*This article was originally published in the NALCAB Blog. Over the last month, the Coronavirus pandemic has ravaged the lives and well-being of all Americans. It has disproportionately impacted the most […]

Hispanics more likely than Americans overall to see COVID-19 as a major threat to health and finances

Victor Landa April 14, 2020

Hispanics are more concerned than Americans overall about the threat the COVID-19 outbreak poses to the health of the U.S. population, their own financial situation and the day-to-day life of their local […]

Coronavirus could ‘decimate’ Latino wealth, which was hammered by the Great Recession

Victor Landa April 16, 2020

Octavia Nieto worked for over 10 years as a pastry chef at a bakery in Princeton, New Jersey. Now with the business closed indefinitely, she relies on a part-time job […]

Latino Teens: Distance Learning Is a Giant Stressor amid Coronavirus

Victor Landa April 22, 2020

Latino teens are more worried than their peers that they won’t be able to keep up with school work or extracurricular activities amid coronavirus, says a new survey by Common Sense and […]

LATINX PLAYERS POISED TO BLOW UP THE 2020 NFL DRAFT

Victor Landa

Despite these uncertain times, the 2020 NFL Draft will proceed as planned. But because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the 2020 NFL draft will be held virtually for the first time […]

Government Relief Less Likely To Reach Latino Businesses

Victor Landa April 23, 2020

Latino communities may face a generational setback in growing wealth, as the pandemic-driven downturn exacerbates an already present gap in funding for their small businesses. Juan Rios sits among the […]