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.