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For other uses, see Hispanic (disambiguation).

Hispanic, as used in the United States, is one of several terms used to categorize U.S. citizens, permanent residents and illegal aliens whose ancestry hails either from Spain, the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America, or the original settlers of the traditionally Spanish-held Southwestern United States. The term is used as a broad form of classification in the U.S. census, local and federal employment, and numerous business market researches.

In Spain and Spanish-speaking Latin America, Hispano ("Hispanic") is ascribed as indicating a derivation from Spain, her people and culture. It follows the same style of use as Anglo indicates a derivation of England and the English, Hellenic of Greece and the Greeks, or Sino of China and the Chinese. Thus, the Spanish-American War in Spanish is known as "Guerra Hispano-Estadounidense", the "Spanish-German Treaty" as "Tratado Hispano-Alemán", "Spanish America" as Hispanoamérica, etc.

The term is not commonly employed as a generalized indicator of ancestry and/or ethnicity in either Spain or Spanish-speaking Latin America, however, this can be implied depending on the context. When used in this manner, in Spanish-speaking Latin America an Hispano is commonly regarded to be any person whose ancestry and practiced culture both stem, whether in whole or in part, from the people and culture of Spain, to the contrast of the non-Hispanic (non-Spanish descended) populations. In Latin America, when speaking of any given nation's Hispanic population, those who are implied include creoles, mestizos, and mulattos, but excludes indigenous Amerindians, the unmixed descendants of black African slaves, and other more recent non-Spanish immigrants which may now reside in Latin America. In this context, whether or not the excluded groups now use Spanish as their first and only language — as is the case with all blacks, most Amerindians and the great majority of immigrants — does not qualify for Hispanicity, since here the implication is based on more than just linguistic parameters. This use of the term is more so evident in addresses regarding affairs of indigenous and African-descended peoples made by government and minority agencies, where the creole, mestizo, and mulatto collective majority and their culture — which is accredited as the national identity — is distinguished as Hispanic for purposes of contrast to the plight of national minorities.


History of the term "Hispanic"

Etymologically, the term Hispanic (Hispano) is derived from Hispania, the name given by the Romans to the the entire Iberian Peninsula during the period of the Roman Republic.

Its usage as an ethnic indicator in the United States is believed to have come into mainstream prominence following its inclusion in a question in the 1980 U.S. Census, which asked people to voluntarily identify if they were of "Spanish/Hispanic origin or descent".

Criticisms on the U.S. application of "Hispanic"

Racial Diversity

Hispanic, as the term is defined and used in the United States (of Spanish-speaking Latin American or Spanish descent) encompasses a very diverse population, which often makes efforts toward creating a Pan-Hispanic sense of identity difficult. While in the United States "Hispanics" are often treated as a group apart from whites, blacks, and other racial groups, they actually include people who identify with any or all of the aforementioned racial groups, as well as identifying as various others.

In the mass media and in law enforcement, as well as popular culture, "Hispanic" is often used to physically describe a subject's race or appearance. In general, Hispanics are assumed to have traits such as dark hair and eyes, and olive or brown skin, and are viewed as physically intermediate between whites and Amerindians or blacks. Hispanics with mostly Caucasoid or Negroid features may not be recognized as such by many people, despite the ethnic and racial diversity of most Latin American populations. People of Spanish or Latin American ancestry who do not "look Hispanic" may have their ethnic status questioned or even challenged by others.

In the United States, a great proportion of "Hispanics" identify as mestizo (mixed European and Amerindian), regardless of national origin. This is partly because much of Latin America is of that mixed ancestry, and mestizos constitute majority populations in most Latin American countries. Many other Hispanics may be of unmixed Spanish ancestry, primarily those from Uruguay and Argentina, or mestizos of predominantly Spanish ancestry, not uncommon amongst Costa Ricans and Chileans. Some may also be of unmixed Native American ancestry, many of those from Bolivia, Guatemala, Peru — where they constitute majorities — and a considerable proportion of those from Mexico, while many Hispanics of Dominican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Colombian backgrounds may be mulatto (mixed European and black African) or of unmixed black African ancestry. The presence of these mentioned races and race-mixes are not country-specific, since they can be found in every Latin American country, whether as larger of smaller proportions of their respective populations.

On occasion the demographics of certain nations may not mirror the demographics of their nationals in the United States. This is the case with Cuban Americans. Most Cuban Americans are of unmixed, or relatively unmixed, Spanish ancestry, despite Cuba being a mulatto/black majority country. The racial disparity between Cubans on the U.S. mainland and those on the island is caused largely by the fact that most emigrants with the means to flee communist Cuba belong to the upper and upper-middle classes; classes which have traditionally been predominantly white.

Additionally, a percentage of U.S. "Hispanics" may have no Spanish ancestry at all, and instead trace their ancestries from other European countries, the Middle East, or even East Asia. Examples of these would include Argentinian and Uruguayan-born Italians (around one third of their countries' populations); Colombian, Ecuadorian, and Mexican-born Lebanese; Cuban, Puerto Rican and Panamanian-born Chinese; Chilean and Paraguayan-born Germans; or Peruvian-born Japanese. However, when they migrate to the United States, the definition as most frequently advocated would consider them Hispanic.

See also: Asian Latino.

As an ethnic identifier

In the U.S. some people consider "Hispanic" to be too general as a label, while others consider it offensive, often preferring to use the term "Latino", which is viewed as a self-chosen label. The preference of "Latino" over "Hispanic" is partly because it more clearly indicates that those it is referring to are the people from Latin America, and not Spain. Different labels prevail in different regions, as well. In places like Arizona and California, the Chicanos are proud of their personal association and their participation in the agricultural movement of the 1960s with César Chávez, that brought attention to the needs of the farm workers.

Previously Hispanics were commonly referred to as "Spanish-Americans", "Spanish-speaking Americans", and "Spanish-surnamed Americans". These terms, however, proved even more misleading or inaccurate since:

  • most U.S. Hispanics were not born in Spain, nor were most born to recent Spanish nationals;
  • although most U.S. Hispanics speak Spanish, not all do, and though most Spanish-speaking people are Hispanic, not all are (e.g., many U.S. Hispanics by the fourth generation no longer speak Spanish, while there are some non-Hispanics of the Southwestern United States that may be fluent in the language), and;
  • although most Hispanics have a Spanish surname, not all do, and while most Spanish-surnamed people are Hispanic, not all are (e.g., there are many Spanish-surnamed Filipinos, however, Filipinos are not Hispanic).

Synonyms and antonyms

Often the term "Hispanic" is used synonymously with the word "Latino", and frequently with "Latin" as well. Even though the terms may sometimes overlap in meaning, they are not completely synonymous.

"Latin", when not refering directly and exclusively to the inhabitants of Ancient Rome, refers to any of the people related to, or descended from, the original Latin-speaking Romans, and includes all the Romance language-speaking European nationalities, or European Latin peoples (Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium Wallonia, Italy, Italian and French Switzerland, Romania, and Moldova), including their cultures, and their descendants worldwide. As it is patent, the main criterion here is a linguistic one, since all the nationalities and cultures do not constitute an homogenous entity.

"Hispanic", on the other hand, specifically refers to Spain, and to the Spanish-speaking nations of the Americas as cultural and demographic extensions of Spain.

Meanwhile, Latinos are only those from the countries of Latin America, whether Spanish or Portuguese-speaking, though in the latter case, not so frequently and with some ambiguities.

The confusion that arises is from the similarity between the words Latino and Latin, and between the concept of Hispanic and Latino. Latino is a shortened version of the Spanish noun latinoamericano and is used for the inhabitants of Latinoamérica (Latin America). In the Spanish language "Latín" (Latin) is the name of the language of the Romans, and as such is not confined solely to Hispanics and Latinos.

Thus, of a group consisting of a Brazilian, a Colombian, a Mexican, a Spaniard, and a Romanian; the Brazilian, Colombian, and Mexican would all be Latinos, but not the Spaniard or the Romanian, since neither Spain nor Romania are geographically situated in Latin America. Conversely, the Colombian, Mexican and Spaniard would all be Hispanics, but not the Brazilian or the Romanian, since Brazil was conquered and founded by the Portuguese, and neither Portugal or Romania are extensions of Spain. The one exception for a Brazilian to be considered Hispanic is if his ancestry was Spanish. Finally, all of the above nationalities would all be Latin, including the Romanian.

Along the same lines, one should note that the term Latino is never, or very rarely, applied to French-speaking Québécois of Canada or Haitians. The categories of "Latino" and "Hispanic" are used primarily in the United States to socially differentiate people. As social categories they are not mutually exclusive and without ambiguities and cannot be seen as independent of social discrimination (socio-economic, ethnic or racial).

Aside from "Hispanic", "Latino", and "Latin", other terms are used for more specific subsets of the Hispanic population. These terms often relate to specific countries of origin, such as "Mexican", "Mexican-American", "Cuban", "Puerto Rican" or "Dominican", etc. Other terms signify distinct cultural patterns among Hispanics which have emerged in what is now the United States, including "Chicano", "Tejano", "Nuyorican", etc.

U.S. Hispanic population

Roughly one in seven Americans is Hispanic. Hispanics constitute the largest minority group in the United States. As of July 1, 2004, Hispanics accounted for 14.1 percent of the population, around 41.3 million people. Hispanic growth rate over the July 1, 2003 to July 1, 2004 period was of 3.6 percent - higher than any other ethnic group in the United States, and in fact more than three times the rate of the nation's total population (at 1.0 percent). The projected Hispanic population of the United States for July 1, 2050, is of 102.6 million people. According to this projection, Hispanics will constitute 24% of the nation’s total population on that date. [1]

Of the nations total Hispanic population, 49% lives in California or Texas. New Mexico is the state with the highest proportion of Hispanics, with 43% being of Hispanic-origin, followed by California and Texas, at 35 percent each. The Hispanic population of Los Angeles County, California - numbering over 4.6 million - is the largest of any county in the nation. [2]

Sixty-four percent of the nation's Hispanic population are of Mexican background. Another approximately 10 percent are of Puerto Rican background, with about 3 percent each of Cuban, Salvadoran and Dominican origins. The remainder are of some other Central American, South American or other Hispanic or Latino origins. [3]

Religious diversity

With regard to religious affiliation among Hispanics, Roman Catholicism is usually the first religious tradition that springs to mind. Indeed, the Spaniards brought the Roman Catholic faith to Latin America along with them, and Roman Catholicism continues to be the largest, but not the only, religious denomination amongst most Hispanics.

A significant number of Hispanics are also Protestant, and several Protestant denominations (particularly Evangelical ones) have vigorously proselytized in Hispanic communities.

There are also Jewish Hispanics, of which most are the descendants of Ashkenazi Jews who migrated from Europe (German Jews, French Jews, Russian Jews, Austrian Jews, Polish Jews, etc.) to Latin America, particularly Argentina, in the 19th century and during and following WWII, and from there to the United States. Some Jewish Hispanics may also originate from the small communities of reconverted descendants of anusim — those whose Spanish and Portuguese Sephardi Jewish ancestors long ago hid their Jewish ancestry and beliefs in fear of persecution by the Spanish Inquisition and Portuguese Inquisition (in the Iberian peninsula and Latin America) — or the now Catholic-professing descendants of marranos and the Hispano crypto-Jews believed to exist in the once Spanish-held Southwestern United States and scattered through Latin America. (See also History of the Jews in Latin America and List of Latin American Jews.)

Among the Hispanic Catholics, most communities celebrate their homeland's patron saint, dedicating a day for this purpose with festivals and religious services. Some Hispanics syncretize Roman Catholicism and African or Native American rituals and beliefs. Such is the case of Santería in Cuba and Puerto Rico, which combines old African beliefs in the form of Roman Catholic saints and rituals; or Guadalupism (the devotion towards the Lady of Guadalupe) among Mexican Roman Catholics. This latter hybridizes Catholic rites for the virgin Mary with those venerating the Aztec goddess Tonantzin (earth goddess, mother of the gods and protector of humanity) and has all her attributes also endowed to the Lady of Guadalupe, whose Catholic shrine stands on the same sacred Aztec site that had previsously been dedicated to Tonatzín, on the hill of Tepeyac.

NOTE: There are growing numbers of "Hispanic" Muslims within the United States.

Political diversity

Hispanics differ slightly on their political views. For example, many Cubans and Colombians tend to favor conservative political ideologies and support the Republicans, while Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Dominicans lean more towards the Democrats; however, because the latter groups are far more numerous (Mexicans alone are nearly 60% of Hispanics), the Democratic Party is considered to be in a far stronger position among Hispanics overall. In the past two national election cycles, however, the Presidency of George W. Bush has had a significant impact on the political leanings of Hispanic Americans. As a former Governor of Texas, President Bush has regarded the growing Hispanic community as a potential source of growth for the conservative and/or Republican movement--particularly because of the Catholic and more conservative social values that many Hispanic Americans share with the conservative element of the American political system. The U.S. Census indicates that the Hispanic population of the United States is the fastest growing minority in the country, and will hold considerable political clout within the next 50 years. Some political organizations associated with Hispanic Americans are LULAC, the United Farm Workers and the Cuban American National Foundation.

Cultural trends

Popular culture varies widely from one Hispanic community to another, despite this, several features tend to unite Hispanics from diverse backgrounds. Many Hispanics, including U.S.-born second and third generation Hispanics, use the Spanish language to varying degrees. The most usual pattern is monolingual Spanish usage among new immigrants or older foreign born Hispanics, complete bilingualism among long settled immigrants and their children, and the use of Spanglish and colloquial Spanish within long established Hispanic communities by the third generation and beyond. In some families the children and grandchildren of immigrants speak mostly English with some Spanish words and phrases thrown in.


The United States is home to thousands of Spanish language media outlets ranging in size from low-power AM radio stations with listeners numbering in the hundreds to major Hispanic-oriented periodicals with circulations numbering in the millions. Noteworthy Spanish language media outlets include Univisión, a national television chain with affiliates in nearly every major U.S. market, El Nuevo Herald, a Spanish-language daily newspaper serving the greater Miami, Florida market, and Vida Latina, a Spanish-language entertainment magazine distributed throughout the Southern United States.

In the aspect of public television otherwise known as non-commerical television, there are organizations that advocate a greater degree of programming from a Hispanic-American perspective in public television. One of the most prominent of these groups is Latino Public Broadcasting which funds programs of educational and cultural significance to Hispanic-Americans. These LPB-funded projects are distributed to various public television stations throughout the United States.


Folk and popular dance and music also varies greatly among Hispanics. While many people speak of "Latin" music as a single genre, Latin America is home to a wide variety of music. Hispanic Caribbean music tends to favor complex polyrhythms of African origin. Mexican music, depending on region, shows combined influences of Spanish, Native American and African origin, while the traditional norteño, banda music, and Tejano music of Mexican-Americans is more influenced by country-and-western music and the polka, brought by central European settlers to Texas. Meanwhile, native Andean sounds and melodies are the backbone of Peruvian and Bolivian music, but also play a significant role in the popular music of most South American countries and are heavily incorporated into the folk music of Ecuador and Chile and the tunes of Colombia, and again in Chile and Argentina where they play a fundamental role in the form of the greatly followed nueva canción. Latin pop, rock and ballad styles tend to appeal to the broader Hispanic population, and varieties of Cuban music are popular with many Hispanics of all backgrounds.


There is a depth of literature in this community.

Visual Art

Mexican-American, or Chicano Art, is noted for the folk influences from Mexico, characterized by vibrant colors and striking imagery.


There is also no single stereotypical Hispanic cuisine. Traditional Mexican, Cuban, Spanish, Argentinian and Peruvian cooking, for example, all vary greatly from each other, and take on new forms in the United States. While Mexican cuisine is the most familiar variety of "Hispanic food" in most of the United States, it is not representative of the cuisine of most other Hispanics.

The cuisine of Mexico can be heavily dependent on staples such as maize, beans, chile peppers and is greatly indebted to the cuisine and diet of the Aztec and Maya. Cuba, on the other hand, may be dependent on starchy root vegetables, plantain and rice and is influenced by the flavours of Africa. The cuisine of Spain often mirrors the cuisines of its Mediterranean neighbours, and in addition to the abundance of olives, olive oil, tomatoes, seafood and meats, other foreign influences, such as the use of saffron, were introduced during the spice trade. Meanwhile, Argentina relies almost exclusively on red meats, consuming almost everything derived from beef, and is heavily influenced by Italian cuisine. In Peruvian cuisine guinea pigs are popular as a source of meat (derived from the diet of the Inca) and staples indigenous to the region, such as maize and the myriad of potato varieties, are the most utilised there. Rice also plays an important role in Peruvian cuisine.

This diversity in staples and cuisine is also evident in the differing regional cuisines within the national borders of the individual countries. Most groceries in heavily Hispanic areas carry a wide array of specialty Latin American products, in addition to the widely available brands of tortillas and Mexican style salsa.



Flag of Hispanic Heritage. Motto: Justicia, Paz, Unión y Fraternidad ("Justice, Peace, Union and Fraternity").
Flag of Hispanic Heritage. Motto: Justicia, Paz, Unión y Fraternidad ("Justice, Peace, Union and Fraternity").

While relatively unknown, there is a flag representing the countries of Hispanic America, its people, history and shared cultural legacy.

It was created in October of 1933 by Ángel Camblor, captain of the Uruguayan army. It was adopted by all the states of Latin America during La Conferencia Panamericana (The Pan-American Conference) held that same year in Montevideo, Uruguay.

The white background stands for peace, the Inti (sun god in Inca mythology) symbolizes the light shining on the American continent, and the three crosses represent Christopher Columbus' caravels (the Niña, Pinta, and Santa María ships used in his first voyage from Spain to the New World in 1492). The lilac colour of the crosses evokes the Castilian banner.


Himno de las Américas
(R. Sciamarella)
Un canto de amistad, de buena vecindad,
unidos nos tendrá eternamente.
Por nuestra libertad, por nuestra lealtad
debemos de vivir gloriosamente.
Un símbolo de paz alumbrará el vivir
de todo el Continente Americano.
Fuerza de Optimismo, fuerza de la hermandad
será este canto de buena vecindad.
Argentina, Brasil y Bolivia,
Colombia, Chile y Ecuador,
Uruguay, Paraguay, Venezuela,
Guatemala y El Salvador,
Costa Rica, Haití y Nicaragua,
Honduras y Panamá,
Norteamérica, México y Perú,
Cuba y Canadá:
¡Son hermanos soberanos de la libertad!
¡Son hermanos soberanos de la libertad!

In an alternate version, the countries are re-arranged, "Canadá" is removed (as the already mentioned "Norteamérica" implies both the United States and Canada), and "Santo Domingo" (i.e. Dominican Republic) is added instead.

Argentina, Brasil y Bolivia,
Colombia, Chile y Ecuador,
Uruguay, Venezuela y Honduras
Guatemala y El Salvador,
Costa Rica, Haití y Nicaragua,
Cuba y Paraguay,
Norteamérica, México y Perú,
Santo Domingo y Panamá:

See also

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