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Study: Latinos don’t call themselves ‘Latino’… or ‘Hispanic’

What does being Latino really mean? According to Latinos themselves, the label may mean less these days.

A study released earlier this month by the Pew Hispanic Center showed that Latinos are more likely to have nationalistic pride than any pan-ethnic pride.

Of the 1,220 Latinos surveyed in a bilingual poll between November and December of 2011, a slim majority (51 percent) said that they usually identify themselves by their family’s country of origin, and only 24 percent said they prefer to self-identify as either “Hispanic” or “Latino.”

Indeed, most Latinos don’t care about the “Hispanic vs. Latino” debate nor do they identify themselves using those labels. But among those who do, 33 percent said they self-identify as “Hispanic,” while only a tiny 14 percent prefer “Latino.”

When asked whether U.S. Latinos share a common culture, only 29 percent of respondents said yes.

In terms of race identity, half of Latinos (51 percent) identify themselves as either “some other race” or “Hispanic/Latino.” Of the other half, 36 percent identify as white and only call 3 percent identify themselves as black.

Despite the results, the Latinos polled did share some commonalities.

The Spanish language seems to play a pivotal role in the Latino community. Nearly all Latinos (95 percent) think it’s important for future generations of Latino Americans to speak and understand Spanish. This may cause some cultural tension with another large majority of Latinos (87 percent) who think learning English is a necessary ingredient for success in America.

The study also polled Latinos on their political and religious belief. Politically, Latinos are generally more progressive than the general public, though they do hold  views that are more conservative than those of the general public. In terms of religion, the results confirmed those of an earlier study which showed that religion plays an important part in the lives of Latino immigrants, but that religion becomes increasingly less important for successive generations of Latino Americans.

 

Read more at the Pew Hispanic Center.

About Hector Luis Alamo, Jr.

Hector Luis Alamo, Jr., is the associate editor at Being Latino and a native son of Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood. He received a B.A. in history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where his concentration was on ethnic relations in the United States. While at UIC, he worked first as a staff writer for the Chicago Flame and later became the newspaper's Opinions editor. He contributes to various Chicago-area publications, most notably, the RedEye and Gozamos. He's also a cultural critic for 'LLERO magazine. He has maintained a personal blog since 2007, YoungObservers.blogspot.com, where he discusses topics ranging from political history and philosophy to culture and music.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

Comments

  1. Ernie Alegria says:

    This study seems limited in scope. I will not argue against the information gathered, but will argue that if a bigger portion of the population were to be included, the results would be heavily affected, even more so if the study were to include multiple areas of the country.

  2. Linda says:

    This is ridiculous and I can guarantee if I interview 1200 people the results would be completely different! To say that 95% of Latinos (almost all) believe that speaking Spanish is important is a crock! And to say 51% of Latinos prefer to be called Hispanic. Are u out of you effin minds?

  3. I think the title of this article is misleading. If anything, my interpretation is that Hispanics and/or Latinos do not necessarily reject these labels, but they are secondary to the primary identity of national origin.

  4. ^^That is mentioned in the underlying article.

  5. Why aren’t we just call Spanish Speakers. That seems to be the only thing we share with all Latinos or Hispanics.

  6. we share more than a language, we share color, some similar foods, and discrimination in some cases

  7. Then why are we writing in English? :)

  8. When asked, I usually say American of Mexican decent. Others of the same back ground seem to be offended by this at times, but this is truly what I am :)

  9. I call myself American.

  10. Because it generalizes us all together. We may speak Spanish, but we each have our own distinct culture. I abosolutely despise the word hispanic, latino as well, but I will tolerate it. I prefer to call myself a Chicana.

  11. I have always preferred Mexican-American when identifying myself. I only use Hispanic or Latino(a) for “official” purposes.

  12. Thank you Hector for this article. I don’t like the word Latino because it seems to be an artificial one created to be a “catch-all” that tries very awkwardly, and fails, like a square peg into a round hole, to take one of the most varied groups of people in history (white, black, Native American, Asian, mulatto, mestizo, people of Spanish descent, Portuguese, Brazilians, and a mix of others that have settled in the Americas) and put them into some invented universal category. The same goes for Hispanic. It’s even worse when the powers that be try to use Latino and Hispanic in racial terms, like in a “new” race that just sprung out of nowhere. To do this is really unfair, and a sign of ignorance. But the majority of people, Latinos, Hispanics, whatever, have been so asleep and conditioned that it’s become a fact – kind of like the “lie that is repeated a million times” and eventually, and sadly becomes the truth.

  13. I think the real reason this isn’t an issue nowadays is that people don’t worry about race as much as they used to. I don’t HAVE to label myself so I don’t bother to. Most generations also stop teaching their kids Spanish at a certain point. (Both me and two other friends of mine who are hispanic were never taught at home)

  14. I, personally, identify according to having ancestry from this continent and I identify culturally with many people who call themselves hispanic or latino, so I am both, but I reject those terms for their colonialistic history and because the spanish, portugese and the french used those terms to justify their colonialism by claiming that the people in what we now call latin america had a latin common culture.

    It was a way of justifying colonialism. And it erases our indigenous ancestry. But there isn’t really other terms that I know of, so I use the terms begrudgingly.

    I know for damn sure I don’t give a shit about what the borders that were drawn up by the same colonial powers have nothing to do with my identity, so forget about that whole nationalism question. I guess I’d be mexican because my family is from the part of the US that was once mexico, but I don’t believe that the mere border between mexico and say guatemala denotes a strong cultural delineation more so than one part of mexico from another.

  15. Interesting essay. When I began my job as admissions counselor to Oswego State, I was asked by my former boss, “just what is a hispanic/latino?” The question was indeed quite difficult to answer. The fact is that, as David mentions, we have language in common; but we also have the cultural ties to both Spain as well as the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, South America. We have a wide diversity of religions, cultural habits, foods, political and social affiliations. No politician can count on us to be a member of a bloc. We are quite diverse insofar as this is concerned. The politician who stereotypes us does so at individual risk.

  16. I identify myself as Chicano because I was born in California to Mexican parents. Chicano to me is a powerful label that means struggle, identity, and pride in not only the Spanish euro Caucasian identity, but being indigenous. I am the descendant of the Maya, Azteca, purepecha, etc…

  17. I only use the term, as it relates to identity, when the conversation revolves around latin american solidarity. Not as a rule of course, that’s just how it turns out.

  18. I wrote this article, but it’s not an essay; it’s just a report.

    Being Latino is publishing something by me on what it means be Latino. It should surprise some of you (and anger the rest).

  19. American.

  20. Havent you noticed that most surveys now a days dont even have Hispanic/Latino as an option to identify yourself? We are left to choose either white or other.

  21. So I can see why 36% chose to identify themself as “White”

  22. I’m so confused about this! I am Latino and here to give an observation. Way back when the country had Latinos or Hispanics on TV they only used one or two of the most famous ones and don’t see any at all now days. The one thing I noticed more now are chinos. No matter what commercial, movie and show they have to have one. Why have we been excluded when we have worked hard and continue to struggle. We come here and work hard, fight all the migra laws, when those chinos come here marry an American citizen and bring toda la familia over. What’s up with that? Why aren’t they on the streets with “si sepuede signs”? Yet Americans and TV is showing more and more of them. Their bigger wars were against chinos but we excluded. Feel free to hate back … we’re Latinos so I’m used to it!

  23. Tejana born & raised

  24. Now now people, here are some terms with my definitions:

    Hispanic- a person of hispanic (spanish-speaking), or Spanish descent.

    Latino- usually an exotic way of describing hispanics. To me, an obsolete verb. I consider the term descriptive of a family of languages from Latin/Romance descent.

    Chicano- could mean any hispanic that thinks he its mexican simply because he is hispanic, regardless of his actual descent. Could also mean a hispanic with a national-identity crisis. More than likely a “MAYATERO”, or a hispanic that thinks he is black. Such person disrespects himself and Afro-Americans by saying the N word.

    Mexican-American- self expiatory, an American of Mexican descent. Contrary to popular believe, not all hispanics are Mexican-Americans.

    Mexican- a person born in Mexico.

    Fronterizo- (just like me!) A person born and raised in a Mexican-American border. Could be of either side. Such person has the pleasure of being more familiar with both sides of the border.

    The reason I came up with these terms is because as a fronterizo, I have lived most of ny life on the border. As I moved up, the “raza” seems somewhat distorted. The way I see it, it doesn’t mater if you are South-American, Central-American, Hispanic-American, or even Spanish, we’re all RAZA, nationality aside. “Hispanic” us a broad term that encompasses a “race” which isn’t really a race by definition, more like a brotherhood. Mexicans may be the largest of the group, but we (I say this as Mexican-American) are not superior than other raza. If we we’re, then why do we take advantage of them, instead of uniting all the raza?

    Like the words of a song say:
    “hoy me paseo con mi gente; yo soy sudamericano. Yo no distingo a la raza, al fin todos somos hermanos”

    Think about that.

  25. @Eileen: Yes, I know the article says that, but the title alludes to something else and is a bit misleading.

    To nobody in particular:

    Personally, I support the labesl of “hispanic” and “Latino,” as they indicate a concept of cultural “relatedness” that we share from Mexico all the way down to Argentina (besides the Spanish, and sometimes Portuguese and French, language). All of our cultures share common linguistic ties and have varying degrees of European (usually Spanish or Portuguese, but also French and Italian), Amerindian, and African influences and reflected similarly blended heritages (not identical, but similar), and our histories are all intertwined with one another. Also, more often than not, we have at least some of the same ancestry, but this is probably the least important thing. Alberto Fujimori of Peru is just as Peruvian as any other Peruvian, even though his parents were Japanese immigrants.

  26. Does it really matter that much where we are from? I mean really? When mentioning latin america does it offend people to be called from a certain country other than their own? I think people that do get offended have a chip on their shoulder, we are all latinos, we are all one race, and we are in one country. Segregation starts when we as individuals start segregating ourselves from the rest. We are brothers and sisters united. Just my humble opinion. And yes I do like being called latino, hispano, it all starts on how you feel within you.

  27. Latino con Orgullo!! Dominicano Con Orgullo! Americano Con Orgullo! Si yo soy Latino!!!

  28. When I use the word “Latino,” I’m more often referring to an identity category that signifies social and political solidarity between different people of Latin American and Caribbean descent. For me, it doesn’t simply mean geography or some kind of shared ethnic culture (although many people of Latin American descent share similar histories in regard to having our racial make up and respective cultures be the products of colonialism along with sharing similar histories of being exploited at the level of labor in the US).

    I think Norma Alarcon has it right. Alarcon offers an important theoretical framework through which to interpret and make sense of “being Latino.” For her, Latino is a politicized “identity-in-difference,” an identity category that doesn’t erase the different cultures, histories, ethnicities, etc. that make up the Latino population. Instead, Latino as an “identity-in-difference” highlights and values our differences while also foregrounding ethnic/racial coalition building to address the various forms of oppression and discrimination that Latinos face in the US.

    Conceiving of Latino as an “identity-in-difference” isn’t that difficult when we think of the historical construction of the idea of “being Latino.” Although the Latino identity category partly developed as a critical response to the census category of “Hispanic,” it also in part developed because of political coalitions between Chicanos/Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans in the ‘70s and ‘80s. To this historical extent, “being Latino” is in a certain sense inherently about fighting against discrimination of various forms and coalition building. This is, for me, what Latino is best understood as, not some identity category that supposedly unites people of Latin American descent based on the overly simplistic idea of a shared culture.

    Some academic texts I find useful for making sense of what “being Latino” means and for elaborating on its historical development:

    – “Conjugating Subjects in the Age of Multiculturalism” by Norma Alarcon
    – “Feeling Brown: Ethnicity and Affect in Ricardo Bracho’s The Sweetest Hangover (And Other STDs)” by Jose Esteban Munoz
    – Changing Race: Latinos, the Census, and the History of Ethnicity in the United States by Clara E. Rodriguez
    – Latino Crossings: Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and the Politics of Race and Citizenship by Nicholas De Genoya and Ana Y. Ramos-Zayas
    – Ethnic Labels, Latino Lives: Identity and the Politics of (Re)Presentation in the United States by Suzanne Ober
    – Latino Ethnic Consciousness: The Case of Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans in Chicago by Felix Padilla

  29. After reading through all of the posts, I have to say that I am relieved to learn that even among Latinos, Chinos, Mexicans, Chicanos, Guatemalans, Puerto Ricans, Spanish Speakers, etc., etc., etc…there is absolutely NO consensus as to what they would like to called. I am your typical white, anglo-saxon, born in the United States American who descended from Scottish roots. Prior to that…who knows. And, really, who cares? I am a typical guy who doesn’t want to offend anyone if I can help it. As someone once said, “Unless you’re Indian, we are all immigrants here.” The very act of communicating, whether it be verbal or written, usually necessitates some degree of description and exactitude if one wants to be understood. For instance, as a child growing up, l learned that any one who had brown skin and looked or sounded Hispanic was by default, “Mexican” whether they were or not. Those who were NOT Mexican got really offended at being labeled such, apparently because they felt Mexicans to be below them. So it appears to me that there is ample discrimination and separation among all my brothers of brown skin. I use the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” interchangeably out of respect for the individual and, frankly, for lack of another politically correct term to use. In my mind “Hispanic” and “Latino” seem to be the least offensive, non-nationality-centered, politically correct way to refer to someone who is of Latin descent. Oops! Perhaps I shouldn’t have used the descriptive adjective “Latin.” Come on people…get over yourselves. What else would you have people say?

  30. Jesse Olvera says:

    The term Hispanic/Latino seems to unite those with nothing in common other than backgrounds vaguely related to countries where the Spanish language is important. I define myself not by reference to race or color but by reference to my birth place (U.S.A.)…I’m American. In the 1970’s, the term “Hispanic” became the government’s word of choice for people of Spanish heritage. It was Richard Nixon’s administration that came up with the notion of the “Hispanic”. The term Hispanic has it’s origin from decisions taken during the first Nixon Administration and was first placed on the 1970 Census form. As someone who was born prior to Nixon’s creation of the “Hispanic” I went from being Caucasion to Hispanic with the stroke of a pen. In fact, there is no such thing as a Hispanic/Latin RACE. Every race of the world exists in Latin America. There are Asian Hispanics. There are African Hispanics. There are Caucasion blonde blue-eyed Hispanics. I reject all labels placed on me by President Nixon, Grace Flores-Hughes and anyone else with their own agenda to separate me from my fellow citizens. In a country where the majority of it’s citizenry is American, I am forced to be part of a minority group – determined not by where I was born, but by where my ancestors came from. The history of how “Hispanic/Latino” came to be is fading and will soon be forgotten. Those of us who were born prior to the creation of these artificial identities have an obligation to tell the real story to those who blindly use and place labels on themselves. Whether it’s the term Hispanic, Latino or Chicano, it is important to understand that although there are many who embrace these labels, there are many of us who don’t.

  31. Manolo says:

    How could anyone say that we share the same skin color? Have you met people from Latin America or been to Latin America? If you think someone like Joanna Garcia is the same race and skin color as someone like Roberto Clemente, than I don’t know what to say. In general, I don’t think we share anything other than language like someone said before. I do think some Latin Americans do share more with others, for example as a Dominican/Cuba I share more with other Caribbean people like Puerto Ricans and even Venezuelans and Panamanians, but outside of that I share as much with a Chilean or a Guatemalan as an American or Canadian shares with a Trinidadian or Guyanese.

    Also we don’t all share the same discrimination. By my looks I’m treated as a black man, but by my heritage as an immigrant, I have people in my mom’s family who were born in the United States and are white like my Cuban mother and the rest of her family and share in white privilege. I’m not saying that I’m discriminated constantly, but I’m saying that these relatives of mine are less likely to face the same discrimination as I am, since based on their looks they look just like other White Americans, and in many cases the Americanized ones act more culturally similar to White Americans than Cubans.

    And how some people still think Latinos are a race, I have no clue, you must not know Latinos outside of your community. Because to make such a statement is ridiculous.

  32. Jesse Olvera says:

    In the 1970’s, the term “Hispanic” became the government’s word of choice for people of Spanish origin. It was Richard Nixon’s administration that came up with the notion of the “Hispanic”. During President Nixon’s administration, federal bureaucrats (which included Grace Flores-Hughes) divided the nation’s population into five: Native American/Eskimo; Asian/Pacific Islander; White; Black; Hispanic. Nearly 40 plus years later we see and use the words Hispanic routinely. The term was first placed on the 1970 Census form. The term Hispanic/Latino seems to unite those with nothing in common other than backgrounds vaguely related to countries where the Spanish language is important. Stand on a corner of downtown Los Angeles, a city with the largest Hispanic population in the United States, and look at the Hispanic faces. But what do you look for when you expect to see a Hispanic/Latin face? In fact, there is no such thing as a Hispanic/Latin RACE. Every race of the world exists in Latin America. There are Asian Hispanics. There are African Hispanics. There are Caucasion blonde blue-eyed Hispanics.

    I was born prior to the creation of these artificial identities and don’t subscribe to using said labels on myself. Born in the U.S.A., I tell you I am American in a country that traditionally insists on racial categories. I define myself not by reference to race or color but by reference to my birth place. With the stroke of a pen, I went from being Caucasion to Hispanic. I reject all labels placed on me by President Nixon, Grace Flores-Hughes and anyone else with their own agenda to separate me from my fellow citizens. In a country where the majority of it’s citizenry is American, I am forced to be part of a minority group – determined not by where I was born, but by where my ancestors came from. Unlike many people of Hispanic/Latin descent who embrace said labels, I choose not to. Using the old adage of what came first, the chicken or the egg…well…I came first when it comes to what came first, the artificial identities or me. I was born in 1961 – a decade before these labels were created and embraced by people who share my heritage. Let me also throw in the word “Chicano”. Prior to the 1970’s, “Chicano” was used as a pejorative. No different from “Wetback”, “Beaner”, etc… It wasn’t until the 1970’s when a political movement was born and those in the movement decided to embrace the term “Chicano”. To me, my family and friends of hispanic descent, the term Hispanic/Latino will always be artificial identities created by the government and the term Chicano is and will always be a pejorative to us.

    What after all does the White Cuban have in common with the Black Puerto Rican? What does the Guatemalan Indian, who arrived today in the United States, have in common with the new Mexican who traces his family back to colonial Spain? Cubans can hold quite different views from Mexicans. Plenty of Central Americans will express plenty of disdain for Mexicans, and vice versa (some of it good natured regional kidding). Hispanics don’t have a single leader or a set of leaders embracing a single set of objectives. Some speak Spanish; some do not. Some are Catholic; many are becoming Protestant. It’s possible as Hispanic/Latin numbers grow that the slipperiness of the label will see more apparent to Americans and our government’s practice of dividing our nation into five neat pieces will seem absurd. In the meanwhile, we go around talking about Asian-Americans and Hispanic-Americans and African-Americans imagining neat distinctions in borders where they may not exist.

    The history of how “Hispanic/Latino” came to be is fading and will soon be forgotten. Those of us who were born prior to the creation of these artificial identiies have an obligation to tell the real story to those who blindly use and place labels on themselves. Whether it’s the term Hispanic, Latino or Chicano, it is important to understand that although there are many who embrace these labels, there are many of us who don’t.

  33. Max Payne says:

    Last time I checked America is a FREAKING CONTINENT and not a country. Everyone from the Canadian Northwest Territories to the tip of Tierra del Fuego is an American.

  34. I wrote my countertop argument at your Study: Latinos don’t call themselves ‘Latino’… or ‘Hispanic’ over at my website in the event you give it a look, http://www.gambooge.org.

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