Hispanic vs. Latino: What’s the Difference?

Hispanic vs. Latino: What's the Difference?

Hispanic vs. Latino: a lot of Americans use these terms interchangeably, but they actually mean different things. If you’ve ever been misidentified as something you’re not, then you know it can be kind of annoying—or worse, insulting. So, in this blog post, we’re going to go over the differences. It’s actually very straightforward:

Hispanic: person of Spanish-speaking origin
does not include Brazilians, who speak Portuguese, or Haitians, who speak Haitian Creole. includes Spaniards.

Latino: person of Latin American origin
includes Brazilians and Haitians. does not include Spaniards.

So, the difference is (mostly) simple. Hispanic refers to what language you speak. Latino refers to what geographical location you are from. For example, Péle, who is from Brazil, is Latino but not Hispanic. Meanwhile, Penélope Cruz, who is from Spain, is Hispanic but not Latino. Got it? Awesome.

Now you may be thinking, “Wow, that’s easy. I wonder why she said it was ‘mostly’ simple.” Well, like with anything related to how people identify, it can get a little complicated.

There’s a wide range of attitudes among Latinos about what they prefer to be called. Consider the term “Hispanic.” It’s actually preferred by many Hispanic Americans, but there’s also an ocean of passionate Latino voices who consider the term “Hispanic” outdated or even offensive. After all, people in Latin America didn’t always speak Spanish—that only came with colonization. Which isn’t exactly a pleasant part of their history. So, some people would rather not be identified by the difficult origins of their Spanish language.

Many prefer being called “Latino.” But, though there’s far less controversy over the word “Latino,” not everybody is a fan of that, either—it can also refer back to colonization, or can gloss over the many cultural differences between Latin Americans from different countries. 

So what’s a person to do? The most considerate way to identify a person is by their country of heritage. After all, if you travel around Latin America, nobody there will identify themselves as, “I am Latino,” or “I am Hispanic.” They’ll say, “I’m Colombian.” “I’m Peruvian.” “I’m Mexican.” Because their countries and cultures are as varied as the countries and cultures of Europe or Africa or any other continent.

I hope this blog has helped make the confusing question of labels a little clearer!

Best,

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