Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin?

For anyone who has ever filled out an application for a job, education, loan, or papers that require personal information, you realize that it’s normal to be asked questions about race and ethnicity. These questions are usually broken into categories where a specific box is checked. Have you ever wondered why these questions are asked, why they are important, and what they mean? The 2010 census asked two questions about race and ethnicity: (1) are you of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin? (2) if yes, are you Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano, Cuban, Puerto Rican or other? Unless you fall into one of these categories you may not know the differences between these ethnicity’s or what defines each category. There are basic differences that apply to each category.

Hispanic - A person who is from a country where Spanish is spoken. Hispanic is an ethnic term, and does not refer to a race. The word “Hispanic” simply refers to any person who speaks Spanish. The person could be from any of the Spanish speaking countries.

Latino - A person who is from a country where Latin was spoken and current languages developed from Latin (romance languages). There are two groups of Latinos: the Latin Europeans, and the Latin Americans. Latin Europeans come from Spain, France, Italy and Portugal. Latin Americans come from North or South America.

Spanish - A term that refers to the people, culture, language, or things that come from Spain. Spanish is a language that is spoken in Spain and Latin American countries. A person that comes from Spain is of Spanish origin. A person who simply speaks Spanish could be from any of the Spanish speaking countries. If not from Spain, this person would be referred to as Hispanic or Latino.

In the United States, the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” often overlap to refer to people who come from Spanish speaking countries. However, Latinos are really only those people who come from the Latin European or Latin American countries. Most Latinos that reside in the US are from Latin American countries: Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic.

The first time that the US census used the term “Hispanic” as an identifier was in 1970. Thereafter, each yearly census modified the term slightly, and in 2000 the census asked if a person was “Hispanic/Latino/Spanish”. That question has remained, and it was included on the 2010 census with further breakdown. The US Office of Management and Budget defines “Hispanic or Latino” as any person of Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, South or Central American or other Spanish origin, regardless of race. Both the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the US Department of Labor advise all people defined as “Hispanic or Latino” should self-identify as Hispanic.

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The 2010 census is used to identify people living in the US according to geographic area, culture, race and ethnicity. It is important for immigrants to self-identify to ensure accurate information gets to proper authorities who oversee this. First, second, and third generation immigrants should be specific and accurate to self-identify their race and ethnicity on all forms. This information helps to provide community services, funds, and cultural appropriate resources to targeted areas for immigrants.

How long should an immigrant live in the US before he/she is called an American?

Immigration and citizenship is a legal process in this country that can take up to one year to complete, and immigrants from all countries must go through this process to obtain citizenship. It is important to achieve citizenship status in the US to ensure equal rights for employment, insurance, benefits, and a normal way of life. Without citizenship status, immigrants are still considered illegal immigrants, and this can adversely affect their life in many ways. As soon as an immigrant becomes a US citizen, they should be called an American like everyone else living here.

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