Okay, so this may end up turning into a drunken rant, but I really want to reiterate the fact that the terminology surrounding the "Hispanic/Latino" population really is bothering me right now. I guess its because we were just watching "America's Best Dance Crew 3" and one of the Puerto Rican guys on the show said, "We want to represent for all Latin people out there" or something along those lines, to which my sister replied, "I don't speak Latin."

I guess it makes sense on some level to want to give us all categories - after all, black is black in DC, where a recent immigrant from Ethiopia can be classified as "black" as much as the descendant of slave. Same goes for the recent immigrant from Ireland who is as white as the sixth generation German Jew in Milwaukee.

However, I feel like the reason why the Latino/Hispanic question bothers me so much is because black and white apply to skin color rather than geographical or diasporic origin. It is almost as though the aim was to be more sensitive yet it failed at it miserably.

Take "Hispanic" for example, which was a term with origins in the 1970s, created by the US Census Bureau to group together a people who were previously considered unclassifiable. Problems with this term include, but are not limited to:

- it does not indicate race, as a person who is Hispanic can be of ANY race.
- a root of the word, "Spanish," does not include Brazilians, who speak Portuguese
- a root of the word, "Spanish," does not include native Mayan people who still reside in countries like Guatemala and Mexico, who speak native languages
- a root of the word, "Spanish," does not include second or third generation descendants of "Spanish-speaking people" who may only speak English.

"Latino," on the other hand, which is more widely used on the west coast of the United States versus the east coast's "Hispanic" tries to be more inclusive, yet the problems it creates are similar to the ones that are created by "Hispanic." Latino takes its roots from "Latin America," which is still based on the Spanish colonization, thus emphasizing the colonizer and not the conquered. And, as my sister says, none of us out here speak Latin natively.

Be sensitive, people! I am not "Latin," nor "Hispanic," and although I will take "Latino," I certainly would prefer, if you MUST discuss my ethnicity, "Mexican-American."


MellyG said...

nicely put j. I have felt this uncertainty as well, even though I am only 1/2. Especially since I identify more with being Mexican rather than Latino, however, as you stated- Latino is more widely used. Mos def when I was younger, I believe my mother would check the "Hispanic" box, but as I grew older I noticed I was drawn more to the Latino/a box. I'd rather not be in any box, but it is these restrictions that forced me to critique why I identify myself as Mexican in the first place.

what about Chicano?

Julian, the Desaparecido said...

Chicano is good, but its origins lie in "Mexican-American of the second generation," solely. I think a more PC term, which is widely used today, is to include all people of Spanish and native descent in the Americas," however, I still gravitate towards the original term when it is said.