What's more respectful-- Latino or Hispanic?

The question in the Pit about whether the word “Oriental” is okay to apply to Asian people reminded me of one of my own confusions…

If a group of people within the borders of the U.S. is originally from Latin America, what is the most respectful way to refer to said group of persons?

I’m torn between Latino and Hispanic. Lately I’ve been ducking the issue altogether by referring to them as “Spanish-speaking” – but that can only go on for so long. I spend a lot of my volunteer time working with Spanish-speaking immigrants (south-west Michigan – Detroit and Ypsilanti.) Both words as I understand them can be politically charged. If I’m working exclusively with a group of people from one country, that’s an easy one to solve, but even if I’m with 9 Mexicans and one person from San Salvador there’s no way I’m referring to them all as Mexican. When I’m trying to describe my work, it’s not sufficient to just use direct nationality to reference the populations I interact with.

I’ve had other white people squawk at me that Hispanic is OMG SO offensive in California, but others say it’s just a matter of personal preference in Detroit. Perhaps it’s a regional thing? I’m specifically asking people who speak Spanish natively or at least know enough immigrants personally to have a general idea.

And another question – is the appropriateness of either term dependent on the language being used? For example, is inmigrantes hispánicas in a Spanish conversation somehow more or less offensive than Hispanic immigrants in an English conversation? What about for Latino–is that dependent on language? What do Spanish-speaking immigrants call themselves in their native language? Does it depend on the country of origin?

Extra points for anyone who can explain the historical origin of each term. That in itself would help tremendously.

Well, that’d definitely be offensive. I meant inmigrantes hispánicos. :stuck_out_tongue:

Eeeeh, is there supposed to be anybody taking offense?

Both are fine; I’ve met people who took exception to one or the other but those people just need some more coffee, it was along the non-reasoning lines of “but I’m from Spain, I’m not Hispanic!” :smack:

Oh, and Spanish- speaking is incorrect, since Brazilians and Portuguese don’t necessarily speak Spanish, yet they’re definitely Hispanic (the word comes from the Latin term, which mean the whole Iberian Peninsula). Latino is shorthand for “latinoamericano” so in theory it doesn’t include Spaniards and Portuguese, but that’s very theoretical.

Thank you, that was very informative in itself. Given its origin, Hispanic then does seem a little dated. While it’s technically historically true, it seems to ignore the indigenous element to L.A. culture – would “I work with Latino immigrants” then be an appropriate thing to say?

Sorry for being so fussy. Six years at a liberal arts college will make you paranoid.

In New Mexico, many of the “Hispanic” locals are descended from folks who settled this area before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. They didn’t immigrate to the US; the US came in and took over. They would not be considered Latinos, anyway. “Hispanic” is often used here, but racially most Hispanics present more Native/Indigenous physical features than Spanish features. This race/ethnicity battle goes on constantly here, especially whenever somebody wants to add demographic questions to a form.

Reminds me of a story…a woman I went to high school with in Illinois went to the University of New Mexico…she was talking to a friend at college and said, “I hate Chicago” and the people at the table next to her understood, “I hate Chicanos.”

Hilarity did not ensue.

When this has come up here before, the consensus has been that it’s “Latino/Latina” in California and “Hispanic” in Texas. I am in Texas and teach in a very diverse school and no one ever says “Latino/Latina”.

The terms appear somewhat in flux as to acceptability and inclusiveness - generationally, Hispanic is the narrower, more conservative, older term – but there’s little doubt in my mind Latino/Latina is becoming the preferred term, applied to a greater cross-section of Spanish-speaking ethnic peoples. Sorta like Negro/Black in the sixties.

There may be some regional bias with the term, as Manda JO notes.

This was a very long time ago, but growing up in Texas, and later living in Albuquerque (which I hated to move away from just because it was always so fun to spell), both were heard, neither was considered disrespectful. I’d say “Hispanic” predominated by a wide margin, but only because of habit of usage and not any pejorative meaning associated with “Latino.”

I’ve heard Hispanic used way, way more than Latino/a by Hispanics. I’ve never seen a Latino Chamber of Commerce or Business Association. I have seen Hispanic and Mexican-American ones. Most use Spanish (especially Northern New Mexico) or Mexican (even people who’ve been here since before Whites came into the area) as descriptors, at least informally.

This is my personal observation from working and living in Southern and Northern New Mexico and West and South Texas where most of my coworkers and friends have been Hispanic. It’s possible that others might have a different experience in these areas depending on their life experiences there.

As one of the above, I don’t object to either. Latino might be more inclusive for the reasons explained (that it includes Brazil) and sounds less linked to Spain, a link most don’t care much for), but I don’t think there is real reason to take insult at either.

This may be true in Spanish, but it’s not true with regard to English usage. Even in modern Spanish, I would expect that ibero would be used more commonly if you wanted to include Portuguese in the equation.

Although in origin Hispanic refers to Spain, according to some dictionary definitions it includes only Latin Americans living in the US.

From Merriam-Webster:

This article gives a reasonable summary of aspects of the use of the term Hispanic. The relationship between this term and latino is complex, and there is no simple answer. Preferred definitions vary from place to place.

Personally, I would tend to use latino as the default as a general term for a Spanish-speaking person of Latin American origin in the US, and Spanish, Portuguese, or Brazilian for people from those countries specifically. I would tend to use “Hispanic” mainly for Spanish-speaking people not of Latin American origin (from Spain or the New Mexicans in Jill’s example). YMMV.

To ride on your coattails, what exactly is Chicano/Chicana? It’s a term I’ve never heard at all used where I live - in fact, I guess I’ve only really heard it in the sense of “Chicano art” or “Chicano literature”. What does it really mean, where is it used, and what is its connotation?

Bostonian transplant to LA.

IME, on the East Coast, Hispanic is fine. On the West Coast, no dice. It’s considered disrepectful. I was in a Latino Studies class out here about four years ago, and brought up the fact that Hispanic is OK back east, and the rest of the class was shocked.

“Don’t call me Hispanic! I’ve never even BEEN to Hispain!” - attributed to El Vez, the Mexican Elvis impersonater.

Chicano is OK for people over 50 who have a history of political activism.

Calling a young latino “chicano” would be like calling a young black man “soul brother”. Horribly dated to the point of verging on insulting.

Chicano refers specifically to people of Mexican heritage living in the US. It is a much narrower term than either latino or Hispanic, and can have strong political connotations. You probably wouldn’t hear it in your community unless there were Mexican-Americans with a strong sense of cultural identity living there.

Here in DC, you can use both, but I mostly hear Hispanic both in English and in Spanish.

It’s not just theoretical because the two terms aren’t fully interchangeable. If you were to refer to my Portuguese relatives as Hispanic, you would be applying an inaccurate label. Latino/a is a safer bet unless you know for sure that the person you’re talking about is actually Hispanic.

I know a lot of “Hispanic” families and they’d probably look at you funny if you called them anything other than “Mexican.”

Latino/Latina in my community. And many of my college-age students regard themselves as Chicano/a.