As a little kid, my parents bought me a Spanish-language book highlighting the different Latin American countries. It had all the countries you’ve come to associate with Latin America: Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, etc. But included in the book was Spain, and this is where the confusion began.
You see, growing up in a mixed-Latino heritage household, I always understood that, while Latin America is made up of many distinct nations (and cultures), the commonalities that Latinos shared made it easier to appreciate the differences. In other words, as a young kid, I had my own concept (whether correct or not) of what it meant to “be Latino.”
So when I saw that Spain was included with all the other countries in the book I did what all curious kids do: I asked questions. “Are Spaniards Latinos?” “Do they consider themselves Latinos?” “Should they consider themselves Latinos?”
It’s been almost 20 years since I’ve started asking those questions, and sometimes I feel like I’m still asking them. And it’s not because I feel like there has to be a definition of who does and doesn’t fall under the “Latino umbrella,” but maybe those answers will help me better understand who I really am as a Latino.
I don’t know about you, but I cringe whenever I hear someone say things like, “oh look at those Spanish girls,” when they’re clearly Puerto Rican. Or when someone calls Mexican food, “Spanish food.” I’m not here saying that I don’t understand and appreciate the Spanish influence on my culture (or my own definition of it) and who I am today, but there’s much more to being Latino than just the Spanish aspect of it. And learning and honoring all parts of our culture is one thing that I think our community can do better. But that’s the hard part right? Depending on what part of Latin America your family hails from, you may not even have direct Spanish, Indigenous, African, or even Asian ancestry/influence.
These are some of the reasons why we are so difficult to “label” as a community. I mean, every time I fill out the Census or have to indicate my race on an application, I question what I’m really filling in or if I should have made that selection.
Going back to the relationship between Latinos and Spain, I’ve realized that I personally have about as much in common with someone from Spain, than I do with someone from, say, Uruguay. It would be hypocritical for me to say that I have some “connection” with someone from Uruguay, when, in reality, I have roughly the same connection with them as I do with someone from Spain.
So are Spaniards Latinos? I guess that’s not for me to say. I mean, who am I to decide who is Latino and who isn’t? The only thing I know for sure is that 20 years from now I’ll probably still be asking the same identity-related questions I did 20 years ago.