An American’s Guide to Understanding the Difference Between Hispanic, Chicano, and Latino

The term Hispanic is based upon the Spanish word hispano, which literally means Spanish or Hispanic. Some Latin American descendents do not like to be referred to as Hispanic because of its English-inspired “-ic” ending. Others say that this matter is insignificant, arguing that when the majority language spoken is English, then the “-ic” suffix makes sense and should rightfully be so.

There are some people of Latin American descent who believe the term Latino (or Latina, for women) should only be used. Their reasoning is that Latino is a genuine Spanish word, unlike Hispanic. In argument of this premise, there are others who believe that the term Latino is more derogatory than the word Hispanic because Latino refers to the Latin language of the Romans who conquered Spain.

There is also the issue of the word Chicano (or Chicana, for women). This term has been gaining popularity among Americans in recent years. Chicano is used to describe only an American with Mexican heritage, or Mexican American. Originally, Chicano, which is an abbreviation of the word Mexicano, was used by non-Hispanics as a racial slur. Around the 1950s, however, Mexican Americans adopted the word Chicano. The word changed from a derogative to a source of confidence for Mexican Americans.

Descendents from Latin America are a diverse group. In fact, a person born in Brazil, which just happens to be the largest country in South America, is not even a Hispanic. Brazil was colonized by Portugal and not by Spain, thus its inhabitants are of Portuguese descent. Many Latin Americans are a mixture of races and varying degrees of color. A Latino may be of Native American, European, or African heritage. Or even all three put together. Latin America brings the United States more mix in our great melting pot society.

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