I have never cared for the word Hispanic. I have always felt that this word did not feel right. When I thought of Hispanics, I thought about people that look more like my dad than me. A better example would be people like Lou Diamond Phillips or Julio Iglesias. Whatever the case, I felt that because of my darker shade I was looked at as more black than Hispanic.
The word Latinos means something entirely different to me. A few weeks ago, a fellow blogger asked me what the definition of Latino was to me. I replied to her that I feel the Latino means someone of Spanish decent who lives within the Americas. I feel that this meaning compasses more of what we truly are, people who linked by a common ancestry that can be traced to the time of colonialism.
Hispanic to me falls more into the European side of this argument. I feel that it more exemplifies the traits of someone from Spain. While I am not trying to change definitions of words, I think that it is very important that whatever you call us it needs to hold true to everything that we are.
I prefer Latino because I think that describes my ethnicity beyond just Puerto Rican and Ecuadorian. I think it the word represents the deep and rich culture that we all share without making a particular distinction between the different people in Latin American, the Caribbean, and the United States. I also prefer Latino because unlike Hispanic, it can be genderized (i.e. Latina). The term Hispanic is problematic for many reasons and although it is widely used throughout the Southwest, Latino is a word that can have an assigned gender like most words in the Spanish vocabulary. Being that Spanish is the language we should all be speaking, this is very important nuance. Also, words like Afro-Hispanic or Hispanegro just do not sound right.
So while the word Latino has the ability to encompass all countries and people within this dynamic, it has the ability to separate based on gender and color. Latino is also a racialized identity that presents a series of social issues. Many Latinos are fighting for the right to not be categorized as “non white” for fear that being considered less than that would forfeit their perceived privileged. Theses would be the groups of people that would be identified as “White Hispanics”. This is a struggle that many White Hispanics fight for to maintain their social status. These are also the Latinos that popular culture identifies with.
Latino is a powerful word that describes a powerful set of people. Next time someone says wants to know the difference between Hispanic and Latino, before to refer them to my definition.