Latino, Hispanic and the different flavors of Mexican-American terms

Carlos Guerrero and Carlos Guerrero

What do César Chavez, John Leguizamo and Bumblebee Man from The Simpsons have in common? You guessed it: they are all Latino, Hispanic or… one of those.

Other options include Latino American, Mexican-American or the less popular and kind of offensive “brown people.” All the names are about as interchangeable as different taco meats. Essentially they all serve their initial purpose, but people have religious fervor when it comes to what they like.

So what do you call us?

Originally, Hispanic was a term used to describe people of countries under the Old Spanish Empire and according to the U.S. census it first appeared on there in 1980.

Latino arrived on the scene in 1997 when it was adopted by the government (and a burgeoning stand-up by the name of George Lopez), then added to the 2000 census. The term specifically refers to people living here in the U.S. but of Latin American nationality.

The two terms are pretty much the same; you just have to read the fine print to notice a difference. It doesn’t matter if you’re Venezuela, El Salvadorian or Springfieldian, the government can’t wait to put us all in the same category – the same government that probably would have arrested you in the 70s for having too ethnic of a mustache.

While they are both generally acceptable, some Mexican-Americans tend to gravitate towards one or the other. While I am not the biggest fan of how the government defines people, I also favor one.

Latino just seems like a term that came from the community as opposed to Hispanic, a term endorsed by the government.

At Casa de Carlos, everyone right on down to the non-English speaking grandma likes the term Latino. We like the sound of the word and everything that comes with it. There is possibly a bias with the word Hispanic because it’s so close to the Spaniards, our close rivals; the taller, whiter, lispy-er Latino people.

When I hear Latino, I see salsa, loud relatives and the movies of Edward James Olmos. When I hear Hispanic, I see Archie Bunker portraying an old white government official. The choice is clear to me.