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Difference Between Hispanic and Latino

hispanicHispanic vs Latino

Right now, people are actually confused on which term is applicable when referring to the person or culture relating to Spanish. And with the Latino stars that are getting popular, they confused the terms Hispanic and Latino even more. So what could be the dissimilarities for Hispanic and Latino terms?

The first difference lies in the kind of figures of speech of these words. Hispanic is an adjective while Latino could be an adjective or a noun. Hispanic was coined from the dwellers of the Iberian Peninsula which includes Portugal and Spain. Latino on the other hand originated from the dwellers of Latin America which includes Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico and other places in South and Central America.

Latino is an abbreviation of the term Latin America. It was commonly being used in the United States to describe people with Hispanics background. But then in the 70’s the US government used the term Hispanic to refer to those who have an association with the Spanish culture or language. It needs to be stressed though that the main focus is the Spanish language and not the country it originated.

In the United States, Latino is known because it actually refers to the big number of immigrants who came from Latin America and are now residing in the USA. And right now, there are so many Latino superstars that are popular in Hollywood, thus the term getting more popular than the term Hispanic.

One important thing that you need to remember when trying to differentiate the Latino and Hispanic is that Latino pertains to the countries or cultures that belonged to the Latin America while Hispanic describes the language or culture that were previously under the Spanish colony. You can be a Latino even if you are not really Spanish-speaking as long as you originated from the nations from Latin America. Hispanic on the other hand simply refers to the Spanish language.

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  1. Am I reading this correctly? According to this article, Portuguese people are considered Hispanic because it shares the Iberian Peninsula with Spain? And Brazilian people are considered Latino because they’re from South America? This is false. Portugal isn’t considered Hispanic any more than Mexico & Canada are considered “American”. Brazilians aren’t Latino, they’re Portuguese. Portuguese is a base language with many dialects all over the globe. Macau, Goa, Angola, Cape Verde, Mozambique, etc. Portugal had a huge impact on exploring the globe which is why you find us everywhere. Christopher Columbus asked Portugal to fund his expedition with the Nina, Pinta & Santa Maria twice before asking Spain. Unfortunately, he asked not long after Bartolomeu Dias returned to Portugal following a successful rounding of the southern tip of Africa. With an eastern sea route now under its control, Portugal was no longer interested in trailblazing a western trade route to Asia. Which led him to Spain & the rest is history.

    My point is that Portuguese is closer in association with umbrella terms like Hispanic & Latino than falling under those umbrellas.

    I’m not negating the fact that Latino refers to South America & Hispanic refers to the Iberian peninsula. I am, however negating everything written here lumping Portuguese people together with Hispanic or Latino cultures.

    Sorry but you’re so off base on that point.

    • Completely agree. Portuguese is not “hispanic”. That’s a made-up term anyway.

    • Don’t know what Universe you’re from but the three ships belonged to Queen Isabel, and she was from Spain. Portuguese are so quick to rewrite history, Sort of like the Russians were first with everything mentality. Such ignorance abound.

    • um, part of brazil speaks Portuguese and the other part speaks Spanish. The part the speak Spanish are in fact Hispanic. My friends are from Brazil and identify as Hispanic.

    • Confusing article. The name given to Latin America originates from the shared traits of the languages spoken in the various countries which have Latin roots. In this sense, Castilian or Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, etc., are all romance, or Latin-based languages. Haiti, for example is a French speaking country and considered part of Latin America. Thus, the term Latino can refer collectively to anyone south of the United States. With the exception perhaps of Belize, where English is the official language.

      So who then is Hispanic? Those would be peoples originating from the Iberian peninsula, modern day Portugal, Spain, and ethnic groups that are part of Spain such as Galician, Basque, Andorra, and of course Portugal.

      If you’re Latino, you may also be Hispanic, but not necessarily so. For example, as mentioned earlier, Haiti, Jamaica or Belize. This may be interpreted much like being Anglo and from North America, like the U.S. and Canada where Quebecois have a strong French background; still North Americans but not Anglos.

  2. You can’t say that Mexico and Canada aren’t considered America because they are both part of the north American continent. The United States is a country not a continent, so it is false to say that any country in the Americas isn’t “American”. The term American pertains to any person born in the American continent.

  3. I am with Juju… moreover, the last sentence summarizes it all: “Hispanic on the other hand simply refers to the Spanish language.” So why to mention that people from Portugal are Hispanic?? Portuguese is the language spoken there and many other places (mentioned already by Juju)…

  4. I’m sorry but the term “American” does indeed refer to the citizens of the United States (commonly called “America”). Canadians do not refer to themselves as “Americans”, and neither do the people living in Mexico. Listen to a US political debate: “Americans in America.” So no, you’re wrong. Now “North American” on the other hand is an adjective I’d agree with.

    • I will respectfully disagree with you regarding your assessment. If people living in the African Continent are called “Africans” people, from Europe are called “Europeans” and people from Asia are called “Asians”, then people living in the American Continent should be called “Americans”. The fact that United States of America decided to call themselves “Americans” it is their right, since they are part of America as a Continent. But believing that they are the ONLY Americans it is a mistake, since anyone from the tip of Alaska to the end of the Argentinian territory, we all all Americans. The fact United Stated has been using it to iderntify themselves does not make it right.

      • I agree with Pedro!! You got it right!

      • Technically, you are correct. But practically – and I have found this to be true all over the world – when someone says “American” they most certainly think of a citizen of the United States. So, both arguments are correct, it seems, but the day to day usage is the one we have to live and work with, not the text book answer. And, it is OK for one set of rules to apply to one area of the world, or even most, and another set of rules to a different area (Europe – European, Africa – African, etc.). Again, when it comes to usage, the technically correct answer just doesn’t work well sometimes.

        • Eric, I would agree with you regarding that the force of repetition has become the norm. Nevertheless, the usage of the term can’t be applied only to the citizens of the United Stated. The name of America derived from the name of Americus Vespucius, the Florentine explorer that first crossed from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. Another way by which The United States of America could be called is The United States of the American Continent. People born in other countries of the American Continent have been calling themselves with pride “Americans” since 1507, after Tolomeo gave the name of America to the newly discovered land. Even in the Webster’s Dictionary, in one of its definition of the adjective American you can find the following: “Of or relating to North or South America”. Therefore, if the adjective defines all habitants of the American Continent, should not be used to define exclusively one group.

          • Absolutely, Pedro, “American” should not be used exclusively for a citizen of the United States, and I try to make that distinction myself, when it is possible. My only argument is that in my experience, internationally, it is neither possible nor practical to always make this distinction, unfortunately. It is not a purposeful infringement on others’ historic and much more ancient right to be Americans, just the reality that I cannot change such a pervasive phenomenon as currently exists in the world, that “American” means citizen of the U.S. I think that time, itself, will more than likely change this, as it often does, for better and for worse, depending on one’s perspective! Thanks for the good interaction!

      • Blame it on the British!!

        When the original 13 colonies declared it’s independence from Britain, the name chosen for the newly formed country was (as we all know) United States of America. It could just as easily have been called Yank States, or something similar. Unfortunately Yank or Yankee was used by the Brits as a derogatory term. Also unfortunately no other country chose to use America in their name. If (for example) Argentina or Colombia had called themselves Argentine of America or American States of Colombia…

      • You sound like a bureaucrat.

  5. I just came across this recent video (4/23/13) where a Canadian official used “American” in the context of “Canadian and American” to refer to U.S. officials (or citizens of the U.S.). Don’t mind the content of the video, I only give it as an example of what I’ve tried to explain as the pervasive and generally accepted understanding in usage that “American” means citizen of the U.S. Again, I don’t disagree with Pedro’s argument, but neither does it make sense to not live in reality. However, whenever I have a natural opportunity to differentiate between a citizen of North, Central or South America, I do. And, notice the title of the video – it uses “U.S.” and not “American”, which shows an effort to make the distinction between the two different kinds of North Americans, which I’m sure our Canadian neighbors appreciate even more than I do!

  6. Hey guys, could it be that geographical and cultural lines aren’t well enough defined to allow for a clearly defined catalog of all these terms and boundaries you all are throwing out here. Maybe in our maturing globalized culture we are all becoming one. Perhaps someday we won’t have to argue ad nauseam and to the point of infinitesimal drudgery about the most subtle differences between us and the historical misfortunes that used to separate us. Just a thought.


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