Hispanic or Latino?

Today I was asked the question again; do you say Hispanic or Latino? My response is usually quick; I use the terms interchangeably. But the reality is that there is more behind the question; which is why it pops up so often. The term Hispanic as it is used in the United States was introduced to classify a group of people that we had difficulty classifying otherwise. It started appearing in the U.S. census and other government forms in the 1960s and was picked up by researchers as a standard demographic characteristic. Businesses also began to refer to the Latino consumers target as the “Hispanic market.” In contrast, the term Latino has different roots. In Spanish we have always used the term to describe an individual from “Latin America” and it is a commonly used Spanish word worldwide.

I like using the term Hispanic in business because I feel that it more clearly identifies the Latino consumers who live in the United States. In fact, I often say that there are no Hispanics outside of the United States. In Mexico there are Mexicans, in Puerto Rico there are Puerto Ricans, and in Cuba, well… Cubans, you get my drift. But in this country Latin Americans are very often classified as Hispanics. I learned to be Hispanic in the United States!

7 comments on “Hispanic or Latino?

  1. Otto Rodriguez on said:

    For me the term “Latino” always used to carry somewhat of a negative connotation, since growing up in Puerto Rico (of Cuban descent) we considered ourselves “hispanos” probably because we were all “hispano-parlantes” (meaning we all spoke Spanish) and rarely (if ever) would I have used the term “Latino” to describe myself and / or any of my family members or friends. I think that the term Latino (particularly among Cubans) seemed to be used most often to describe “one of our own” but in a “derogatory” type fashion.

    However, living in the US for over 20 years now (and working in the particular field of market research among “Hispanics or Latinos”) I find that the term “Latino or Latina” has become almost ultra-trendy…especially in Hollywood, were actors like Penelope Cruz, Salma Hayek, Eva Mendez and Javier Bardem (among many others) have successfully “crossed over” into mainstream America and “Latinos” are now basically considered a “prized commodity” in a myriad of art forms (and not just in the music field!). From fashion design (Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera & Narciso Rodriguez just to name a few) to even “haute cuisine” with famous “Latino chefs” (Michelle Bernstein, Douglas Rodriguez & Ingrid Hoffman among many others) opening Latino restaurants in virtually every major city in the world and even having their own TV show on the Food Network…Latinos are now considered hip all over!

    In conclusion, although the term can be used interchangeably and I still prefer to describe myself as “Hispanic” (although I know it is not a race!!!)…if people around the world insist in wanting to call us Latinos…I would say: AND PROUD OF IT!!!

  2. Isabel Aneyba on said:


    Your explanation about the differences of Latinos and Hispanics is the best explanation I ever heard.

    Thank you for sharing your ideas with us! I am glad you found blog as your media. Writting and reading blogs is fun!


  3. jenn on said:

    Hi there,

    I found your blog entries very informative.

    I stumbled upon your site because, I am currently doing a research regarding the Latinas/ female Hispanic market. There are a lot of literature available but I can’t seem to find the information I needed (I am actually looking for the hair style and fashion preference of the female Hispanic in the U.S).

    Anyway, your blog entries has helped me understand “hispanics” more. I am beginning to find the group very interesting.

    Keep on writing informative articles.

  4. Ricardo A. López on said:

    Jenn, I’m glad you enjoyed the site. I do not have any non-proprietary study that I can share regarding Latinas and fashion. I can tell you, however, that in my research I have found that Latinas generally care about appearances much more than non-Hispanic females do. Latinas do not feel adequate going in public without makeup and tend to care a lot about fashion. They do not necessarily follow different fashion trends, but are more likely to color their hair and change their hairstyle more frequently.

    Latinas work very hard to make sure that they look good; and many are happy with the way they look. In a study that just came out a few days ago it was found that Latinas like their bodies; even if they are considered overweight by non-Hispanic standards. See the article “Not all women hate their bodies” published in the LA Times on May 7th (link below). I concur with one of the comments posted by a reader; it is not only Latinas who are pleased with larger bodies; Latino men also find the females “with curves” more pleasing to the eye. :-)


  5. jenn on said:

    Hi Ricardo,

    Thanks for the info!

  6. Migs on said:

    I hope you do know this clarification:

    Latino is not equal to Hispanic.

    If you are to refer Latinos as Hispanics, then what about Brazilians? I mean Brazilians speak Portuguese, which is a totally different language from Spanish and yet, Brazil is a part of Latin America because Portuguese is a Latin-derived language like Spanish. And someone who is Hispanic is someone who speaks Spanish and practice a Spanish-influenced custom, so Brazilians don’t fit that definition.

    Hence, Latino = Hispanics + Brazilians.

  7. APGifts on said:

    Please feel free to work to inform Americans that ….
    the ETHNIC term of “African-American” (AA) is NOT
    a ‘Synonym’ for the RACIAL term of ‘Black American’
    (BA) — the two (2) terms are actually referring to two
    (2) entirely DIFFERENT GROUPS of people — AND that
    many of the true AAs find it to be very offensive that
    our society works to force them to “carry the statistics”
    (particularly the ‘negative’ ones — ex. AIDS / HIV Rates,
    STD Rates; Crime Rates; Out-Of-Wedlock Birthrates;
    Higher-Education Drop-Out Rates, STD Rate; etc.) –
    for all of the many, many, many diverse BA groups
    and communities that are currently living in the U.S.

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