Latinos represent roughly 62.1 million people in the United States or 18.7% of the population in 2020. We originate from 34 out of 35 of the countries in the Americas, including the United States. Consequently, there is no singular term that this diverse population identifies with at large. The terms Latino and Hispanic are the most common terms used by the US government and North American institution.
Race is powerful social reality and a crucial aspect of personal identity for many people in the Americas. Race does not have a biological basis, although it oftentimes is distinguished by physical characteristics, especially skin color. Race generally refers to ancestry. Latino is not a race. Latinos come from all races.
Ethnicity is a powerful social reality and crucial aspect of personal identity for many people in the Americas. Ethnicity is drawn from cultural characteristics, such as language, history, religion, and customs. Latino is an ethnicity.
- "Why Hispanic Isn't a race on the census" by NPR.
- The Nature of Racial and Ethnic Differences by National Library of Medicine
Hispanic is an adjective or noun and suggests that someone or something originates from Spain or the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America. The term Hispanic has been criticized because it erases the indigenous and African heritage of many Latin Americans. It has also been criticized because it excludes the non-Spanish speaking countries of the Americas, including the French-and-Creole speaking Haiti and Portuguese-speaking Brazil. However, this term is widely used to refer to Latinos as a whole in the United States.
Latino/a is an adjective or noun that suggests that someone or something is from Latin America. Because Spanish is a gendered language, the word can end in "o" to signify masculine or "a" to signify feminine. The "o" is also traditionally used to refer to people universally as well, although not without criticism in contemporary usage. Latino was coined around the 1850s by former Spanish colonies in the Americas. It is a shortening of the word "latinoamericano," meaning "Latin American" in Spanish. Like Hispanic, this term has been criticized for erasing the indigenous and African ancestry of Latin American populations.
Latinx is a US neologism (newly coined word) invented in the early 2000's as a gender-neutral form of Latino. In the Spanish language, nouns and adjectives are gendered male or female. The creation of the x is intended to provide language to include trans, nonbinary, and other gender-diverse individuals. It is generally pronounced Lah-teen-eks in English and Lah-teen-ek-ees in Spanish. It has not gained widespread use in Latino communities. Latinx has been criticized for erasing the indigenous and African heritage of Latin Americans. It has also been criticized for not conforming as easily into Spanish linguistic rules. The term, however, remains a passionate point, especially for LGBTQ+ Latinxs, and is widely used in academic settings.
Latine is a Latin American neologism (newly coined word) invented in the early 2000's as a gender-neutral form of Latino. In the Spanish language, nouns and adjectives are gendered male or female. The creation of the e is intended to provide language to include trans, nonbinary, and other gender-diverse individuals. It is generally pronounced Lah-teen-eh in English and in Spanish. Latine has been criticized for erasing the indigenous and African heritage of Latin Americans. Like Latinx, Latine has not gained widespread popularity.The term, however, remains a passionate point, especially for LGBTQ+ Latinxs. It should be considered as important as using the correct pronouns for nonbinary individuals.
Mestizaje is a political ideology invented by the Mexican philosopher and educator José Vasconcelos. In its original conception, this ideology advocates for racial mixing to develop a modern national identity, unity, and social progress. Inherent in this worldview is the racist notion that Native Americans need to be modernized and racially mixed to become civilized. The ideology has since been reimagined by Chicano communities and countries across the Americas to suit their own communities or political ends.
Afrolatino refers to African-descended people who reside in the Americas. This can refer to biracial Latinos as well.
Chicano is an identifier for people of Mexican descent who are born in the United States. Unlike the term Mexican-American, the term Chicano is tied to the history of the US civil rights movement.
Mestizo is an identifier for people from Latin America who have a mixed heritage of some combination of white, Native American, Black and other races.
Mesoamerica refers to a sophisticated set of civilizations stretching from the US Southwest all the way through Central America, beginning with the Olmec civilization in Mexico (1150 BCE).
- Mesoamerican civilization by Britannica
Tejano/a is a person of Mexican heritage born and living in the U.S. state of Texas. In 1821, at the end of the Mexican War of Independence, there were about 4,000 Tejanos living in Texas. In the 1820s, many Anglo settlers moved to Texas from the United States. By 1830, the 30,000 settlers in Texas outnumbered the Tejanos six to one. The Anglos and Tejanos alike rebelled against the centralized authority of Mexico City and the draconian measures implemented by the Santa Anna regime. Tensions between the central Mexican government and the settlers eventually led to the Texas Revolution.
- Tejano by Academic Kids
Caribbean refers to the islands of the Caribbean sea, including Haiti, Puerto Rico, and other prominent Latin American countries.
Quinceañera is the celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday, marking her passage from girlhood to womanhood celebrated by Latinos throughout Latin America. Celebrations are frequently akin to weddings in size and expense and traditionally hold tremendous social importance.
Undocumented refers to anyone residing in any given country without legal documentation. It includes people who entered the U.S. without inspection and proper permission from the government, and those who entered with a legal visa that is no longer valid.
The Dream Act is a piece of legislation first introduced to Congress in 2001 that would create a pathway to citizenship for immigrant youth who were brought to the United States as children without documentation. The Dream Act has never passed.
- Immigration 101: What is a Dreamer? by American's Voice
Dreamer refers to the young people who would be provided a path to citizenship by the Dream Act.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) refers to a 2012 executive order by President Obama that provided dreamers with protection from deportation and the ability to work legally for two years at a time. DACA does not provide a path to citizenship. As of 2022, Dreamers can still apply for DACA; however, its future remains tenuous since President Trump attempted to terminate the program in 2017.
- Immigration 101: What is a Dreamer? by American's Voice
Operation Wetback was the biggest mass deportation of undocumented workers in United States history. Between 300,00 and 1.3 million people may have been swept up in the Eisenhower-era campaign, named after a racist slur. The short-lived operation used military-style tactics to remove Mexican immigrants—some of them American citizens—from the United States. Many of the deportees originally came to the United States legally via the Bracero Program.
- The Largest Mass Deportation in American History by History.com
Bracero Program An executive order called the Mexican Farm Labor Program established the Bracero Program in 1942. This series of diplomatic accords between Mexico and the United States permitted millions of Mexican men to work legally in the United States on short term labor contracts. These agreements addressed a national agricultural labor shortage during WWII and implicitly, they redressed previous depression era deportations and repatriations that unjustly targeted Mexican Americans who were U.S. citizens. Upon its termination in 1964, the Bracero Program had brought more than four million Braceros (arms) to work in U.S. agriculture and on railroads.
- 1942: Bracero Program by Library of Congress
HB144 refers to the legislation in Utah that allows certain Utah Dreamers to receive in-state tuition in Utah. To be eligible:
- Student must have attended a UTAH high school for three years or more consecutive years.
- Student must have graduated from a UTAH high school with a diploma or G.E.D.
- Student must NOT be registered as an entering student at a Utah college or university before the fall semester 2002.
- Student must have filed an application to legalize his or her immigration status or will file an application as soon as he or she is eligible. In other words, when the student has an opportunity to change his or her legal status, he/she will.
SB 253 refers to the legislation that allows undocumented students to apply for private scholarships through a public institution.
Illegal Alien is a slur used to refer to undocumented immigrants. It is the term used in legal documents despite the fact that entering the United States without proper documentation is a civil, not criminal, offense.
Alien is a legal term used to refer to immigrants. The word carries negative denotations, including "unacceptable" and "incompatible." It is othering language that should not be used with students.
Non-citizen is a word sometimes used to refer to immigrants without legal citizenship in a country. While this may be legally through, immigrants are civilians and play important civic roles in many communities. This word is considered othering.