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Differences Between Latino, Chicano and Hispanic American


Often the term "Hispanic" is used synonymously with the word "Latino", and frequently with "Latin" as well. Even though the terms may sometimes overlap in meaning, they are not completely synonymous.

"Hispanic" specifically refers to Spain, and to the Spanish-speaking nations of the Americas, as cultural and demographic extensions of Spain. It should be further noted that in a U.S. context, a Hispanic population consists of the people of Spain and everyone with origins in any of Spanish-speaking nations of the Americas, regardless of ancestry of the latter. In the context of Spain and Latin America, a Hispanic population consists of the people of Spain, and when regarding the inhabitants of the Spanish-speaking nations of the Americas, includes only criollos, mestizos, mulattos, and others with Spanish ancestry, to the exclusion of indigenous Amerindians, unmixed descendants of black Africans and whites or other peoples from later migrations without any Spanish lineage.


The Spanish term Latino (for males) or (Latina for females) actually translates into "a Latin person",

1) Latins - a member of one of the Latin peoples; specifically : a native or inhabitant of Latin America

2) Latin - of or relating to the peoples or countries using Romance languages; specifically : of or relating to the peoples or countries of Latin America.

Latinos are speakers of romance languages (Spanish) and by definition are Latins. The Spanish word 'Latino' became more common and was used for 'political correctness', not to give the impression that Latinos were not Latin, but because most people of Latin America referred to themselves as 'latinos, using their native Spanish language. The terms Latin and Latino are used interchangeably to describe Latinos and their culture, i.e. Latin Jazz, Latin music, The Latin Grammies is an event being held in New York City this year, (2006) in which other "Latins" including Brazilians and Spaniards will participate in.

Complications arise when some try to assign different meanings than what the term latino ("a Latin person of the male form)means. Therefore it is better to refer to Latinos (which means 'a latin person', in Spanish) as Latins (the English word for latino) to avoid excluding other latin people who may be offended by using a term that is in another latin peoples language. This also avoids confusion and the offense of giving the impression that there is a difference between being latino and being latin.


The origin of the word has been explained in various ways. According to the Mexican researcher on patterns of emigration to the United States Manuel Gamio, "chicamo" (with an "m") was first used as a derogatory term for recently-arrived Mexican immigrants by Mexican-American Texans at the beginning of the 20th century. In California, a similar explanation dating to the 1930s and 1940s is proposed: "the inability of native Nahuatl speakers from Morelos state to refer to themselves as 'Mexicanos,' and instead spoke of themselves as 'Mesheecanos,' in accordance with the pronunciation rules of their language". This pronunciation was similarly met with derision by settled Mexican Americans, who exaggerated the sound to mock the recently-arrived. In both cases, the term and its pronunciation are analogous to the Nahuatl word "Mexica".

An alternate etymology holds that the conversion of the pronunciation of the "x" in "Mexicano" was converted the /sh/ or /ch/ as either a term of endearment or of derisiveness.

"Chicamo" eventually became "chicano", which, unlike "chicamo", reflects the grammatical conventions of Spanish-language ethno- and demonyms.

The term was taken up in the mid 1960s by Mexican American activists, who, in attempt to rid the word of its negative connotation and create a unique ethnic identity, reconfigured its meaning by proudly identifying themselves as "Chicanos".

At certain points in the 1970s, "chicano" was the preferred, politically correct term to use in reference to Mexican-Americans, particularly in the scholarly literature from the field of sociology. However, as the term became politicized, its use fell out of favor as a means of referring to the entire population. Since then, "chicano" has tended to refer to politicized Mexican-Americans.

Some Mexican Americans prefer to identify themselves as American, Hispanic, Hispanic American, Hispano or Hispana, Latino or Latina, Mexican American, Mexican, Spanish American, Spanish, or Tejano/Tejana. The reasons for rejecting the term "Chicano" are numerous and varied, from an aversion to its association with the left-wing politics of the 1960 and 1970s, to the ability of many families, particularly in the state of New Mexico, to trace their ancestry back to the original Spanish settlers of the colonial era.

Many Chicanos interchangeably use the term la raza (literally, the indiginous race) to define themselves. Some use the phrase la raza de bronce ("the bronze race") seeing themselves as "brown" or "bronze" because of their Indigenous ancestry (as opposed to white and black people). Using another term common in early twentieth-century americanista/indigenist thought, some also refer to themselves as "la raza cósmica", which means "the cosmic race."

Due to the gendered nature of Spanish language, some activists and writers who do not find the masculine term Chicano acceptable to use as a plural, use the terms "Chicano/a" or "Chican@."

Many individuals of Mexican descent view the use of the words Chicano or Chicana as reclamation and regeneration of an indigenous culture destroyed through colonialism, although these are only opinions and may not reflect the view of all Chicanos. Some younger Mexican Americans refer to themselves as Xicanos with an "X" to appear even more radical in terms of political ideology.

Source: Wikipedia.org

Read the SUMMARY RESULTS FROM THE LATINO ETHNIC ATTITUDE SURVEY for a wider understanding of how Hispanic Americans define themselves as. Copyright © 1997 by Daniel L. Roy

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