Is there a difference between “Hispanic” and “Latino”?

by Amy Diaz-Hablich, staff reporter

*This story was originally printed in Spanish on page 8 of Spokesman‘s 5th issue, released on Friday, Feb. 7, 2014.*


In a survey of twenty students, eleven of them answered that they didn’t know the difference between the words Hispanic and Latino. Of those who answered no, five answered that they didn’t have a preference of which word was used. So is there a difference between the two words?


It is important to explain the difference between the words Hispanic and Latino. Many times the two words generate confusion since both words describe similar traits. Although many people don’t have a preference; there are some who prefer to be called one word over the other.


The term “Hispano” can refer to the inheritance or nationality of Spain. It can also refer to the country of birth. It also involves any ancestry that arrived to the United States long ago from a Spanish-speaking country.


According to Webster, “Hispanic” means a person of Latin American descent living in the United States. It refers to a U.S. citizen living in a Spanish-speaking home or have family ties in Spain or another Spanish-speaking country. It also refers to a person coming from an area where Spanish is spoken.


On the other hand, Latino is an abbreviation that comes from Latin America. Latino refers more exclusively to people or communities of Latin American origin; people who came from the Caribbean, South America or Central America. Latino is commonly used in the United States to describe people with Hispanic background, while the United States used the term Hispanic to refer to those who were associated with Spanish culture or language. Here, Latino refers to the large number of immigrants who came from Latin America and now living in the U.S.


Although it is very difficult to understand what appropriate word to use, it all comes back to the preference of each person; it is most important than the person feels comfortable. In reality both words don’t have much difference when it comes to the context. In my opinion, the two words have similar characteristics. Using the words Hispanic or Latino brings more respect for the community, rather than referring to the origin of the country.