Xochitl kindly asked me to look this over and add my two centavos,
- Latino/a (latin@): Someone who comes from or descends from a Latin American country. The term “Latin American” describes a person who descends from a region in the Americas, where the primary spoken language is a Romance Language. This means Latinos speak languages such Spanish, French, and Portuguese, and come from countries like Mexico, Brazil, Cuba, Argentina, Haiti, El Salvador, etc. The problem with the term “Latino” arises from the fact that there are people who live in Latin America, who do not speak a Romance Language (such as Native Americans like the Mayans, Quechuas, and Mapuches, to name just three of the hundreds of “Latin American” tribes). The term “Latin American” has the tendency to ignore these Native Americans, and in return ignoring their pre-Colombian history, language, and struggles.
- Hispanic: A person who descends from a Spanish speaking country and speaks the Spanish language (although I should mention that not all people who consider themselves Hispanics, such as second and third generation immigrant’s children, necessarily speak the language). Hispanics descend from any Castilian speaking country, such as any Spanish speaking country in Latin American, Spain, and even two former Spanish colonies in Africa. Keep in mind that not all Latinos are Hispanics, and not all Hispanics are Latinos. Brazilians, for example, are Latinos, but not Hispanics (they speak Portuguese). An example of not all Hispanics being Latinos are the Spanish, who speak the Castilian language, but are not from Latin America.
- South American: This is simple. South Americans are people who descend from a country in South America. For example, Mexicans are not South American, but North American. And I know this might seem like silly or obvious information, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t know the difference. Also, let’s keep in mind Central America, which, along with the Caribbean, belong in North America.
- Chicano/a: Usually refers to a U.S citizen of Mexican descent. Not all Mexican-Americans call themselves “Chicano”, and to some, this term is sort of an identity you can choose for yourself. The term “Chicano” arose during the Chicano Movement in the 1960’s and is closely linked to the Mexican-American Civil Rights Movement and the African American Civil Rights Movement. The term is now considered part of one’s ethnic identity, political identity, indigenous identity, or as a political device.
This is just a short summary of these terms, as my Latin American studies, Chicano studies, and experience as a Latina and Mexican-American, have led me to understand. I do not claim these terms, as I have defined them, to be 100% accurate or true for everyone. I encourage a reblog of these terms by other Latinos, Hispanics, Chicanos, etc., to expand the list or add any edits they see are appropriate to them. Hopefully this posts helps non-Latinos, non-Hispanics, and so on, understand these terms.
An edited version can be found here with commentary from additional bloggers.
I don’t have many qualms with this and those obvious points of contention have been addressed by other bloggers. This is great for the casual reader seeking to understand the differences between these often interchanged terms and a good starting point for understanding the resistance or indifference towards some of these labels.
Many of us will disagree on which is the best but that’s understandable because it largely comes down to personal preference. I don’t have any allegiance or affinity for any of the aforementioned labels and to be honest, the experiences and the languages among Spanish speakers (let alone everyone else in Latino America) are so varied that you can have three or four Latino’s from different countries, or different regions within the same country, in the same room and they may not understand each other at all. In other words, I can call Mexican members of my family bayuncos and they won’t understand me at all. It’s actually very handy and often exploited.
Great job Xochitl.
Some Additional Reading
A recent report from Pew Hispanic Center, When Labels Don’t Fit: Hispanics and Their Views of Identity
When it comes to describing their identity, most Hispanics prefer their family’s country of origin over pan-ethnic terms. Half (51%) say that most often they use their family’s country of origin to describe their identity. That includes such terms as “Mexican” or “Cuban” or “Dominican,” for example. Just one-quarter (24%) say they use the terms “Hispanic” or “Latino” to most often to describe their identity. And 21% say they use the term “American” most often.
Otto Santa Ana, Chicana/o studies professor at UCLA, writes about this topic and some history in a blog post for PBS titled, Is There Such a Thing as Latino Identity?
Trucios-Haynes, Enid. Why “Race Matters:” LatCrit Theory and Latino/a Racial Identity in Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Human Rights in the Americas: A New Paradigm for Activism (Celina Romany ed., 2001).[pdf link here]