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!