For almost 75 years the descendants of nations that emerged from the Spanish empire have embraced the word “Hispanic” to give a name to the family of nations, comprised of almost 400 million people, who are united by the common bonds of culture, history, and language. In the United States this preference remains: despite the popularization of the term “Latino,” U.S. Hispanics prefer the term “Hispanic” to “Latino” by a margin greater than two to one.
“The findings of this research are probably a little less comforting to those at Latina magazine, who have invested so much into their name, than say, Hispanic Perspectives,” Diana Layseca, of Q & A Research, told reporters when the findings of Hispanic Business magazine documenting the preference of “Hispanic” over “Latino” were released. “[M]arketers and researchers, alike, who target Hispanics, need to be aware of [cultural and linguistic nuances] to ensure the success of their surveys. Far too often there is a sense that, to effectively execute research among Hispanics in the U.S., all you need to do is simply draft a survey in English and translate it. It is understanding exactly these kinds of cultural sensitivities that is required to effectively conduct Hispanic research and to avoid alienating or offending our research contacts.”
Poll after poll, and survey after survey, reaffirms the greater acceptance of “Hispanic” over “Latino” among U.S. Hispanics. Indeed, the only time when “Latino” appears to be more popular is when respondents are given three choices: “Hispanic,” “Latino,” and “Latin,” and in Spanish, so that those who respond to “Latin,” as in a shorthand for “Latin American,” or “Latinoamericano,” are counted along with “Latino.”
Non-Hispanic Americans are understandably confused, simply because it is a vocal minority of U.S. Hispanics—“Latinos”— who insist on voicing complaints and demanding that the term “Latino” be used over the more generally accepted “Hispanic” term. A minority dictating to the majority is not new, and the world is full of linguistic paradoxes: in American English, we drive on the parkway, but park our cars in the driveway. Similarly, “Latinos,” who are least likely, statistically, to be fluent in Spanish, are the ones who insist on using a Spanish word to label themselves.
An easy way to remember the difference is this: While every Latino is a Hispanic, not every Hispanic is a Latino.
“Hispanic” is the more inclusive term, the one that embraces all Hispanics around the world, not just those in the Western Hemisphere. And, in n the end, it bears remembering that come October 12, almost 400 million Hispanics around the world will celebrate “Día de la Hispanidad,” or “Hispanicity Day,” which should be the final word on the matter. It won’t be.
Louis E. V. Nevaer