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The Difference between Hispanic and Mexican

Hispanic vs Mexican

The Difference between Hispanic and Mexican

Have you ever wondered about the difference between Hispanic and Mexican? With all the different races, ethnicities and nationalities, it can be quite a task to learn them all and so often people use these terms interchangeably, referring to just one group of people who happen to have a Latin American descent – but this is wrong. When such terms are used incorrectly, the use of the terms might actually cause offense or insult to the people you are referring to.

The most basic difference between the two is the genre – Mexican is a nationality while Hispanic is an ethnonym. Before we move on to discussing the terms separately, let’s have a comparison between them:

  • The Definition

Mexican refers to an inhabitant or a native of Mexico which is a Latin American country.

Hispanic refers to a person who speaks Spanish, one of Latin American descent and resides in the USA.

  • The Language

In Mexico, Spanish is the main language but that doesn’t mean that all Mexicans can and do speak the language. Hispanics, on the other hand, all speak Spanish.

  • The Origins

When you trace the origins of Mexicans, you will find that most of them are able to trace their origins to Spaniards or indigenous people. Hispanics are a lot more diverse. They can trace their origins to Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Central and South America as well as other Spanish cultures.

  • The Country

A huge majority of Mexicans live in Mexico whereas Hispanics live in the USA.

As you can see, these two terms are definitely different from each other. There are open minded people out there who wouldn’t mind or care what term you use to refer to them however there are also people who are very proud and would easily be offended if they are referred to with the wrong term. So let’s take a closer look at these terms to be able to really understand and differentiate them.

What makes Hispanics different from Mexicans

The term Hispanic implies a link or relation to the country Spain or any other Spanish-speaking countries, especially those in Central and South America. On the other hand, Mexican actually refers to a person, object or even a concept from Mexico, which is a country found in Latin America.

When used as a noun, it refers to people who speak Spanish, especially those who have origins in Latin America and are living in the USA. So this means that Hispanic is actually an enthonym rather than a nationality. An ethnonym is a name or term given to a particular group of people and not a whole nationality or race.

The word “Hispanic” is actually derived from the Roman word Hispania, which was used to refer to the Iberian Peninsula. This is why some people have arguments that Hispanic can also be used to refer to any person with a link to any of the Spanish countries. However, especially these days, you must remember that this term is now more used to refer to those who live in the USA. In contrast to it, Mexican used as a noun, it refers to a citizen or inhabitant of the country, Mexico. Though a lot of people commonly believe that Mexican is a race of people, it’s not – it should be regarded as a nationality.

Origin of Hispanics and Mexicans

Since the government of the United States of America defines Hispanic as “people who can trace their descent or origin to Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Central and South America and other Spanish countries and cultures, this means that a Spanish person who actually lives in the USA can also be called Hispanic. When used or defined generally though, Hispanic actually refers to a Spanish-speaking person from a Latin American country who resides in the USA. It’s similar but not exactly the same.

On the other hand, the majority of Mexicans speak the Spanish language, but not all of them. Spanish was first introduced to Mexico after it was invaded by the Spaniards way back in 1521. However, there are some differences which have evolved or developed between the Spanish which is spoken in Spain and the Spanish which is spoken in Mexico.

Arguments can be made that the term should be applied to all the Spanish-speaking countries or cultures since the historical roots of the term specifically relate to the Iberian region. In reality, it’s quite difficult to label a whole nation or culture with just one term, such as “Hispanic.” This is because all the ethnicities, traditions, customs and forms of art are actually varied by each region and country. What are common are the Spanish culture and the Spanish language, which are the major traditions.

In the beginning, the term Hispanic had referred to the people of ancient Roman Hispania. These were people from the Iberian Peninsula, which included the present-day states of Spain, Andorra, and Portugal as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar.

With all this information and the whole evolution of the term, we can say that Hispanic refers to people of a Spanish Ancestry, which means that their family comes from Spanish roots and they can actually live anywhere in the world, not just in the USA.

Importance of Mexican or Hispanic

When we start talking about the different ethnic groups found in Mexico, you’d find out that there are different ones. The majority of the population of people in Mexico is made up of Indigenous people (meaning those from Yucatán, Quintana Roo, Campeche, Chiapas etc.), Mexicans who have European origins or descent and Mestizos (those who have combined origins of Indigenous and European ancestry). In comparison with Mexicans, the term Hispanic or Hispano/Hispánico in Spanish is actually a broad term which refers to the people, the nations and the cultures which have a strong historical link the Spain. It generally applies to countries which have once been owned by the Spanish Empire in the Americas and in Asia, specifically the countries of Latin America and the Philippines.

Mexicans, or Mexicano in Spanish, are the people who belong in the United Mexican States which is a multiethnic country which is found in North America. Mexicans can also be the people who identify with the Mexican national or Mexican cultural identity.

Nowadays, the modern nation of Mexico had gained its independence from the Spanish Empire. Their independence had begun the process of creating a national identity which combined the cultural traits of people with indigenous pre-Columbian origins with those of people with European (specifically Iberian) ancestry. This has then led to what is referred to as an unusual form of nationalism which is multi-ethnic.

As previously stated, the most spoken language in Mexico happens to be Spanish however other Mexicans may also speak different languages. There are about 68 different existing indigenous linguistic groups and a few other languages were brought and introduced to Mexico either by the most recent immigration or those learned by Mexican immigrant who lives in other nations.

So basically, the term Mexican or Mexicano can be used when referring to someone who was born in Mexico, someone who has a Mexican citizenship or someone of Mexican origins or descent. This means that not all Mexicans are Hispanic, but some of them can be referred to using that term. There are people from different countries living in Mexico and so their children who are born in the country are also called Mexicans.

Some Facts and Comparisons

You probably now have a better idea of how to use the two terms which are commonly misused in communication. As you’ve seen, there are differences between them that set them apart from each other and that is why you need to be careful in using these terms, especially when you are referring to people who carry their lineage proudly.

To help you out further and possibly reiterate and clarify things, here are some facts about both groups of people:

  • A Mexican person can also be referred to as a Hispanic however not all Hispanics are Mexicans, so be very careful!
  • The term Hispanic is actually a general term which is commonly applied to a huge group of people who have cultural or heritage ties with Spain or other territories which were conquered by Spain.
  • Therefore this means that a Hispanic can be any individual living in the USA who is Mexican, Guatemalan, Puerto Rican, Cuban or such.
  • A Mexican is a person from Mexico or a citizen of the USA who has both Mexican parents.
  • Mexican doesn’t only refer to people, it also refers to anyone or anything related to Mexico such as food, culture, flag, etc.
  • Hispanic then refers to anyone who has ties with Spain, the Spanish language or the Spanish culture.
  • Sometimes, people who have roots with many of the Caribbean nations located to the south of the USA can be referred to as Hispanics.

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4 Comments

  1. I disagree Mexican is a nationality and a race,Mexican is someone of native america and European descent that is what a mexican it is also a natinonailty.

  2. So if I was born in California, as well as both my parents, and my grandparents’ were born as follows: maternal grandfather-California and paternal grandfather-New Mexico; maternal grandmother-Texas and paternal grandmother-Arizona, where do I even begin to identify myself as? I don’t know if this would help, but here are some facts:

    •Paternal grandfather’s parents’ were from Mexico

    •Maternal grandfather’s parents’ were from Spain

    •Paternal grandmother’s mother lived in California (not sure where she was born) and spoke fluent English but carried Mexican traditions i was told.

    •Nothing is known about my maternal grandmother’s parents’ except for the fact that her mother died during childbirth, her father was murdered at the age of 3, was adopted by family friends, then at an early age, some how managed to come to California by herself where ultimately she met my grandpa.

    •Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Pets, Friends, etc in my life all live in the United States, very few of us know how to speak a little bit of Spanish, nor do we have anybody that we know of who even live in Mexico or Spain.

    So am I Mexican, American, Spanish, Hispanic or Latin? My parents’ birth certificates say they are Caucasian so I don’t even know who or what I am anymore. Maybe I should just put on an eye patch, grab my moms mixing bowl hook, get on the ship I find, and become a pirate?

    • Lol! I had similar questions about my ancestry and have called myself an Americanized mutt. While I knew much of my ancestry through asking my elders, there were still a ton of unanswered questions.

      That said, my paternal grandmother’s ancestry was a big question mark. All they knew was they were Georgians and had been for generations, but my great grandparents and their kids migrated to California. They believed to have English and Irish, but couldn’t say for sure.

      All I knew about my paternal grandfather was that he had a lot of German. Much of his family immigrated to Minnesota and remained there for generations. He and one sibling moved to California. Some immigrated when the US forced immigrants to make their names “more American,” so their last name was changed to Cook. Others immigrated when that law wasn’t enforced, so their last name is Cooke.

      There were also big question marks about my maternal grandfather’s ancestry, other than he had a lot of Native American (Cherokee & Choctaw) ancestry. His father was named Cub Hunt and grew up on a reservation near oil fields in Oklahoma. Unfortunately, when they were providing roll numbers, his uncle was a sheriff and didn’t want to admit he was Native American out of fear of losing his job. He effectively screwed his family for generations.

      I knew my maternal grandmother’s mother immigrated from Portugal (Azores Islands), whom I’m named after, and settled in California. Her father was from Ireland and settled in California.

      I decided to take a 23 & Me test, and there were some surprises. For one, I learned that even though we get 23 chromosomes from each parent, they aren’t expressed evenly. Furthermore, people’s ancestral genes will more often be more like their father’s, which is exactly what happened with me.

      For instance, I only have 3.5% Portuguese, even though my maternal grandmother immigrated here in 1913, when she was 13 years old. I was extremely disappointed to find out I only have .1% Native American (I feel for Elizabeth Warren. I have a bunch of Native American family history stuff my Grandpa put together, and I have next to none of it represented in my genes). I look nothing like my mother and every bit like my father. My mother and her father have dark skin, had thick black hair, a hook nose and high cheek bones (the only thing I inherited). My maternal grandfather and his parents all looked fully Native American.

      My father’s ancestry was more pronounced. I’m 49% English and Irish (they don’t differentiate between the two, but said my genes were more British than Irish). I’m 22% German.

      I’m .8% Greek & Balkan (likely from my maternal grandmother’s mother). The rest is mostly from my father’s side and more generalized. (At this time, 23 & Me can’t nail down exact territories. It will improve as their database improves, meaning it will improve as more people with different ethnicities take the test. I’ve received improvements already) I’m 22.3% broadly Northwestern European, .6% broadly Southern European (probably my mother’s side), and 2.1% broadly European.

      Now here’s a surprising part – I’m .5% Southern East African. It confirmed black African, not white African. A second cousin found me on the 23 & me website. We discovered that her paternal grandmother is the sister of my maternal grandfather. She seemed to have gotten more of her father’s ancestral genome expression, and she has 3.5% Southern East African. Therefore, I discovered there’s African heritage in addition to Native American on Grandpa’s side.

      My BFF has a black father and an Italian/English mother. She always says I’m the whitest person with the blackest girl’s booty she’s ever seen. She often said there’s black in me somewhere, and she’s jealous because I have a “blacker booty” than she does. Well, I guess she’s right, and I know where it came from! What’s a trip is I have more black in me than Native American, but no one ever mentioned that I have black ancestry. I guess it was something my ancestors chose to hide.

      Like I said, I’m an Americanized mutt aka an American.

  3. I’m Hispanic white American hung out some Latinos and dated a few Latinas during the last few years just because hang out with more whites and being a white Latinos the point its Mexicans talk about Mexico lets talk about America home of the brave people complain yeah dated rich girls are nice outgoing life gets busy hey you Latino. White Hispanic what are you doing yeah ok sure all white Hispanics have rights because rich people got into parties invited involves let me learn what all Americans are doing dint talk about Mexico lived the Hispanic white Americans life colleges of course over all many Latinos who are rich and Latinas their rich in half rich work for irs fbis irs teachers or professors told me ok we are us citizens if your not in schools notice Mexicans parents get yelled over work those pay stubs wasted time environment dealing that half white Latinos are better colleges to have professionals jobs my uncles are like tired ok their Hispanic white Latinos from mom and dads side oh white Latinos has their own apartments pay schools ik Hispanics whites go on with any white rich girl they want a Mexican girl their asking for children no thanks ill be off with a rich woman treat them like some princess or queen or a rich white Latinas has more money on ill spend time with the rich white Latinas and white rich girls was a white Latinos man asked this woman oh her mother hates white Latinos discrimination behalf she likes to be so forcefully or abused forged her to therapist date other rich men what does he have a degree oh my masters and phds are coming a white Hispanic man gets discipline know the rights respects their human kind professors and five honors inclusions programs are bets because win medals took sports with white rich people some of them came home their parents tell them after sports finish all the inclusion homework academic are important to any school records best colleges universities hey I’m like any inclusions honors programs adults human beings ok I’m great with animals or Hispanics ranches duke ranches that’s Hispanics white Americans Latinos not Mexican a senior when I was in colleges told me he’s like some Hispanic white my friends from middle schools told me just being a white Latinos gets all the gifted pride a degree phds masters doctor you are not a dictators no sir a white smart Hispanic American can vote cook food drive to schools because I have stuff going on but all white rich people told me colleges will get you a degree become better man for example black hawks 60110 bullied me snitching blackmailing plagiarized if some would never knocked it off ill get the police 60110 arrest them

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