San Antonio Sabbatical

Hispanic or Latino?

Posted on: September 1, 2010

What’s in a name?  As it turns out, a whole lot.  I remember first encountering this Hispanic vs. Latino debate while doing my clinical internship in California almost two decades ago.  Like Texas, California also has a large Spanish-speaking immigrant population.

The question of naming is complex.  Even my two textbooks, Counseling Latinos and la familia and Hispanics and the Future of America, have differing opinions on the issue.  Self-identity consists of many variables thereby making it difficult to appropriately and respectfully categorize individuals.  This controversy over naming also brings up the issue of ethnicity versus race.  For example, Hispanic refers to ethnicity; each of these individuals could be of any race.

My textbooks indicate that Hispanic/Latino is a label of convenience constructed by the United States government for classification purposes (e.g., U.S. Census numbers).  The individuals in this broad category are very different in terms of ancestry, immigration history, acculturation, and several other factors.  Most individuals of Hispanic/Latino ancestry prefer to identify themselves by country of origin — for example, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Guatemalan, Colombian, etc.  They are only “Hispanic” or “Latino” once they are in the United States.  There is much significance in a name, and these terms (which have been imposed on them) have arisen from sociopolitical and other forces.

I find this naming issue to be very confusing and I don’t have any concrete answers.  So, I will recommend that you read the two textbooks mentioned above for a fuller explanation.  In particular, there’s a section, “The Making of a Category” (pages 20-24 of chapter 2) by Ruben G. Rumbaut, in Hispanics and the Future of America that provides a lengthy discussion.  Additionally, I have included some useful links below to an educational video and informative articles on the issue.  Let the discussion continue.

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