LASO differentiates Hispanic/Latino terms

Debby Hernandez, Administration Editor

The Latin American Student Organization discussed the difference in identification among Hispanics, Latinos, and Chicanos during a forum Thursday.

Linda Scholz, a communication studies professor, said many use the words “Hispanic” and “Latino(a)” interchangeably; however, the terms have different meanings.

“Hispanic” was created by the federal government during the Nixon administration and is an umbrella term.

“(It’s) a combination of Spanish-speaking countries with kind of a connection to light brown skin,” Scholz said. “Under ‘Hispanic’ will also count Spain and Portugal.”

She said many people are critics of the term ‘Hispanic’ because of the Cesar Chavez and Civil Rights movements, and the development of the Marxist Theory, which criticizes capitalism. 

Chicano(a) is a political movement focused on nationalism and critiquing socioeconomic class.

“When people choose to identify as Chicano(a), it is a political identification,” Scholz said. “It is a critic for social structures.”

She said while Chicano(a) is used interchangeably with Mexican-American, not all Mexican-Americans identify themselves as Chicano(a).

Scholz said Latino(a) is another umbrella term.

“It seems to be more accurate for people in Latin America or of Latin American decent,” she said.

“I use Latina Latin American because as a scholar, I have to position myself within a particular type of culture,” Scholz said.

Scholz said she mainly identifies herself as Guatemalan American.

“It took me a while to figure out where do I fit,” she said.

After asking LASO members what they identified themselves as, some said they use the terms Hispanic and Latino(a) interchangeably.

She said while “American” often gets used interchangeably with only people from the U.S. or white people, people from South and Central America are also American.

“As a scholar, I am very critical of how those get used interchangeably,” Scholz said.

People tend to change their identification because of expectations and discrimination, which leads to identity problems.

Scholz said Hispanics and Latinos have a sense of responsibility being bilingual speakers.

LASO member Julian Avalos talked about the struggles of being expected to translate for her father from English to Spanish.

“You’re speaking English not just for yourself, but also for another person,” said Avalos.

Scholz said discrimination is also a factor with ethnicity and race identity.

“Some scholars are critical of the term ‘Hispanic’ because it ‘white-washes,’” she said. “Part of what makes us Latino is the combination of colonization of Spanish with indigenous groups. Throughout Latin America, there is also a lot of discrimination (and) resistance towards indigenous people.”

Scholz said the stereotype seems to be that all Latin American countries are the same; however, ethnicity relates to culture through language, tradition and state.

She said race is affiliated with phenotype such as skin complexion, hair texture and shape of eyes.

Hispanics are the most likely to change the boxes they check under race and ethnicity during each census, and are the majority in checking “some other race,” among Americans, according to the Pew Research Center.

During the 2000 census, those who identified as Hispanic under ethnicity and “some other race” under race, changed from “some other race ” to “white” during the 2010 census.

Ethnicity options under the U.S census from 2000 to 2010 included Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin, non-Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin, Mexican or Mexican-American Chicano, Puerto Rican, and Cuban.

Options under race for the U.S Census included white, black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian Indian, other Asian, Native Hawaiian, Guamanian or Chamorro, Samoan, other Pacific Islander, and other.

To help reduce confusion about how the Census Bureau asks people to identify their race and ethnicity, the bureau is considering adjusting those two questions to how Americans think in regards to identification in the 2020 census, according to the Pew Research Center.

Debby Hernandez can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].