Latino culture is so amazingly diverse. Being Latino doesn’t mean one must look a certain way or speak an exact dialect. It’s the history of our culture, and its future, which unites us and makes us who we are. Below are a few fun facts to enjoy.
1) Hispanic-vs-Latino: Does it matter?
These terms are often used interchangeably to describe people of Latin American origin or ancestry (along with the term “Spanish,” but that is a different issue for a different day). However, the words hold different significance in their meanings, which is why some people strongly prefer one over the other.
The term Hispanic was created in 204 B.C by the Romans and used to identify people who were from the Iberian Peninsula. It is used in reference to people who come from countries colonized by Spain. Because of this connection to colonization, some refuse to use the term altogether. Acclaimed author Sandra Cisneros refuses to even allow her work to be published in anthologies which use the word, stating that it is “a repulsive slave name” that carries the trauma of colonization with it.
The term Latino refers to people from Latin American countries and, more broadly, from countries where a Romance language is spoken. The U.S. Census Bureau officially incorporated the term Hispanic in 1980, and now uses both terms in its Census, but current popular opinion tends to sway towards using the term Latino instead of Hispanic.
2) Where did the term “gringo” originate?
As we all know, the term “gringo” refers to someone who is not of Latin American ancestry. First appearing in the Spanish dictionary in 1786, it is believed that the term originated from the word “peregringo,” which means traveler in Cálo, the language spoken by the gypsies of Spain (or peregrine in Spanish). There is disagreement over whether the term is derogatory in nature, or merely descriptive of a person’s lack of membership in the Latino culture.
3) Although most Americans wouldn’t think of the U.S. as a Latino country, it is actually the fifth largest Latino country in the world, based on the American Latino population. Latinos are the largest minority in the United States, with 70% of the Latino population living in five states: California, Texas, New York, Florida and Illinois.
4) Spanish is the fourth most frequently spoken language in the world. Twenty countries speak Spanish as their first language.
5) You may have never suspected these celebrities were Latino, but . . .
Supermodel Christy Turlington is Salvadorean on her mother’s side.
Tatyana Ali, best known as her character, “Ashley,” from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, is part Panamanian.
Lynda Carter, the original Wonder Woman, is Mexican on her mother’s side.
Sammy Davis, Jr. was widely thought to be of Puerto Rican descent on his mother’s side, but it was revealed after his death that his mother was actually Cuban. This is my favorite fun fact, mostly because I am secretly hoping Sammy and I are related.
By Being Latino Contributor, Lissette Díaz. Lissette Díaz is a Cuban-American writer and attorney living and practicing law in New Jersey. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.