Latino vs Hispanic: What’s the Difference?

You hear the words “Latino” and “Hispanic” used in everyday life, whether it’s on the news, in a social media post, or you have a friend who identifies with these words. But what do these words even mean? What’s the difference between the two? La Comunidad Carnero will help you understand what those words mean, along with some new words that are also commonly used.

‘Hispanic’ refers to a person born in a Spanish-speaking country or has ancestry from a Spanish-speaking country. On the other hand, ‘Latino’ refers to a person born in Latin America or has ancestry from Latin America. While the differences might seem minuscule, using these terms interchangeably would be incorrect.

Anyone from a Spanish-speaking country can identify as Hispanic, but this doesn’t apply to some groups. For instance, Brazilians cannot identify as Hispanic since Brazil’s primary language is Portuguese, but they can identify as Latino since they are from Latin America. People from Spain are Hispanic but are not Latino.

Saying someone “is Spanish” refers to people from Spain, not people who speak Spanish. Not all Hispanics or Latinos in the United States speak Spanish, especially the children of immigrants who, sometimes, tend to pick up English quickly and, oftentimes, forget Spanish.

Here in the U.S. it’s become normalized to categorize people as Latino or Hispanic, but those terms include a wide range of people. They are made up of different races and not all are mestizo (Spanish-Indigenous descent), as many view Latinos to be. Certain indigenous peoples don’t even identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino. Many Afro-Latinos are from the Caribbean or other places in Latin America, and frequently their identities aren’t identified as a whole. Usually, Hispanic and Latino refer to ethnicity, but many like to use those terms to refer to their race.

The Spanish language is very gendered, including the terms Hispanic and Latino. If you are a woman, you are Latina or Hispana, and if you are a man, you are Latino or Hispano. A group of 1000 women with only one man is a group of Latinos. Occasionally, the term is written as Latino/a (the people reading in Spanish may notice this term being used in this article) or Latin@. No gender-neutral term technically exists, and many who don’t identify as male or female have difficulty with these binary terms.

Recently, the word ‘Latinx’ has been used as a gender-neutral term in the U.S. The “x” replaces the “o” and “a” that are usually the vowels indicating gender. This way of expressing a gender-neutral term has gained popularity for being more inclusive, but many dislike the imposing American-made term. The word itself, “Latinx,” is complicated to pronounce in Spanish so another alternative that has appeared is “Latine.”

Instead of the “x,” there is an “e,” which serves the same purpose of providing a gender-neutral term to Latino and Latina. Although the “e” might not be as popular as “x,” it sounds more natural and can easily be used in words. For instance, amigue is a gender-neutral term for a friend and sounds more pleasing than amigx. There has been no attempt to say Hispanx or Hispane, perhaps because it’s not as popular or the movement has only emerged in the Latino community of the U.S.

When considering what terms are acceptable for your friends, it’s important to ask them what they prefer and to be open to what they want. Everyone has their identity, and respecting others is a bigger priority than any label. Not everyone likes to identify themselves as Latino or Hispanic. Others go by the country their family is from like Mexican, Puerto Rican, Argentinian, Salvadoran, etc. If you have trouble identifying yourself, that’s perfectly fine. Use terms you feel comfortable with, whether it’s Latino, Hispanic, Latinx, Latine, or American.