Today I received this interesting email:
From: [A reader in Los Angeles]
Sent: Friday, June 25, 2004 9:19 AM
To: Juan Guillermo Tornoe
I live in a very large Latin populated area. And through my interaction with my Latino(a) friends and neighbors, the consensus is they don't like the word "Hispanic." This being a made up Reagan era designation to lump all the cultures of Mexico, Central and South America into one pot. (It's like calling all white people "Anglo" from what I understand.)
My question to you is why you use this particular moniker and what's your take on it?
Here is my answer (edited and complemented for posting purposes):
Thank you very much for taking the time to write; I truly appreciate it.
I am a Guatemalan, born and raised there, "transplanted" into the States a couple years ago; and personally I have no problem with people calling me a Central American, Latin American, Hispanic or Latino.
I am fully aware of the "battle" between the name we should give to those living in the U.S. that somewhere in their past have roots south of the Rio Grande or the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. Hey, it has almost Pro-Choice vs. Pro-Life intensity. For me it is just a name and I use Latino and Hispanic interchangeably throughout the site. Now there are also "Chicanos"; those who specifically can trace their roots back to Mexico... that is a whole different story; but since the majority of Hispanics/Latinos in the United States come from Mexican descent, it is most certainly a third variable to consider, at least for that definite segment of the population.
We could go ahead and call each group by its name: Mexicans (Chilangos, if they are from Mexico City), Guatemalans (Chapines), Salvadoran (Guanacos), Hondurans (Catrachos), Nicaraguans (Nicas), Costa Ricans (Ticos), Puerto Ricans (Boricuas), Chilean, Argentinean, Colombian, Venezuelan, Ecuadorian, etc... Or even be a bit more formal: Mexican-Americans, Guatemalan-Americans, Salvadoran-Americans, Honduran-Americans... you get the picture.
Then you will run into another "controversy", that you encounter both North and South of the border: We are ALL Americans; it is the name of the entire Continent (yes, there is North, South, and Central, though the latter is not fully recognized by some), so what give the citizens of the United States the right to be the only ones called "Americans"? Shouldn’t we call them instead American-Americans?
It's easy to go on and on and never land on something concrete... there are very logical and objective arguments that fully justify each way to name Hispanics/Latinos.
One of my strongest beliefs and pet peeves is that "whites" (or should I say Non-Hipanic/Latinos…) think of Hispanics/Latinos/etc. as an all encompassing group, while there is SO much diversity among them, not only from country to country, but between the different regions in each country… Then after they have moved to the U.S., the region in which they settle as well as their level of acculturation, bring out a whole new set of variables to consider.
For practical reasons I am comfortable going with the Hispanic/Latino name. Some must feel strongly against my decision, and I fully respect that, but it would be otherwise too complicated to refer to these persons by each of their own countries of origin… Then the name of this blog/weblog/website (I am guessing am also stepping into dangerous ground here) would be “Mexican-American, Guatemala-American, Salvadoran-American, Dominican-American, Puerto Rican-American… Trending.”
This is a Catch 22 situation: such a diverse group of people, all gathered under one word, for whatever reason it may be (practicality in my case), and still we insist on why "Anglos" don’t recognize the diversity among us.
Then there are Spaniards living in the U.S. ... are they Hispanic, Latin, Latino, European, Ibero-Americans? The name Hispanic could be traced to "descendants" of the Iberian or Hispanic Peninsula (comprised by Spain and Portugal) or to the use of the most common language (Spanish) spoken in this Penninsula (let's not go there right now). Then the word Latino, is a variation of “Latin” which refers to individuals coming from a country where Latin (the language) was once spoken... So the Italians, French, Hungarians, Albanians, Portuguese, and all other persons that descent from Latin countries, who do not have Spanish as their primary language, and are living in the United States could argue that they should be called Latinos or Latin-Americans... Wait, aren’t Latin Americans the ones that come from Central & South American as well as the Caribbean?
As far as the term "Anglo" is concerned, it is funny but I have noticed that Hispanics/Latinos do not have a problem calling any white Anglo-Saxon American citizen an "Anglo". Shouldn't they call them English-Americans, German-Americans, Danish-Americans, Austrian-Americans, Irish-Americans, Scottish-Americans, Polish-Americans, etc...?
What about African-Americans? We should call them by their country of origin as well: Algerian-Americans, Egyptian-Americans, Tanzanian-Americans… Same situation applies for Asian-Americans, wouldn’t you agree? And how about those originally from the land down under… Australian-Americans?
I think this is certainly a hot topic right now, but it will eventually get resolved and we’ll have a term to use when referring to Latinos/Hispanics.
All my best,
Juan Guillermo Tornoe
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