Many of our clients want to know the difference and which is more politically correct. The distinction between these two words is quite simple.
Is the person or group of people from a Spanish-speaking country?
You may want to use “Hispanic,” which refers to native Spanish speakers or those with Spanish-speaking ancestors. This includes the population from Mexico, Central America, South America (excluding countries where they don’t speak Spanish such as Brazil and Suriname), and Spain.
Why wouldn’t you refer to someone who speaks Spanish as “Spanish” instead of “Hispanic”? Basically, if you refer to a person or group of people as “Spanish,” you are saying they are of Spanish origin — in other words, from Spain. That may be appropriate if you are indeed referring to people from Spain, but it is not appropriate for the rest of the Spanish-speaking population.
Do you want to refer to a population based on a location in Latin America?
Then you would use “Latino.” “Latino” is an origin-based term referring to those from Mexico, Central America and South America. You would not include Spain because that country is in Europe, making Spanish people Europeans, not “Latino.” But unlike “Hispanic,” “Latino” does include Brazil.
Still unclear? Try this:
Wait, there’s more!
Most people from Spanish-speaking countries living in the United States describe themselves as Latinos, with the exception of Spaniards.
Hispanic is used by the U.S. government, including in the national census, which is why it’s more widely used in English-language media.
But we’re also seeing the term Latinx more frequently. The Huffington Post offered a good explanation:
“Latinx is the gender-neutral alternative to Latino, Latina and even [email protected] Used by scholars, activists and an increasing number of journalists, Latinx is quickly gaining popularity among the general public. It’s part of a ‘linguistic revolution’ that aims to move beyond gender binaries and is inclusive of the intersecting identities of Latin American descendants.”
Don’t feel overwhelmed. Stay informed and consult with others in your community to determine the best descriptor.
Read our Guide to Great Content and Translations for Nonprofits for more tips and ideas.