Why in most surveys do they ask you if you are Hispanic/Latino? Why do they separate it from the races?


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Deborah Mann answered
  • Introduction
Simply put, because they define two separate cultural and linguistic groups.

Spain arose from an area originally called Hispania, speaking their own language, which gradually became recognized as Castilian Spanish. Hispanic areas therefore become parts of Mexico, Central America, and those parts of Southern America where Spanish is spoken. Brazil is not an Hispanic country; the dominant language there is Portuguese not Spanish.

  • The Definition of Hispanic
Roughly speaking, Hispanic peoples can be considered any of those that were originally included in the Spanish Empire in the Americas. This would include Mexico, El Salvador, Panama, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Paraguay, for example.

  • The Definition of Latino
'Latino' has almost the same meaning as Hispanic, but it is also wider in its definition, including any and all nations where the Romance languages are spoken. It is thought to have first been used by Napoleon Bonaparte to describe other Romance speaking areas, including those French-speaking areas. Under this definition, a French-Canadian Quebecois could be considered a Latino!

Latino in common everyday use designates someone from a Hispanic or Brazilian culture. It is more inclusive than the term Hispanic. There is no insult in being called a Latino, but it is a very generic term, in much the same way an Indian, a Chinese and a Korean could all be called Asian.

Cultural sensitivities make it better to name someone as a Nicaraguan or Argentinean rather than the much broader Latino, which fails to take in the massive cultural diversity of the world it describes.

There is far more ethnicity in the Latino 'region' than meets the eye. It is easy to cause an insult with the term if you consider that you can call a Spaniard or a Frenchman a Latino, even though their respective cultures are considerably different.

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