January 18th, 2010
Writing “Hispanic” vs “Latino”
By Pueng Vongs
By Leo E. Laurence, J.D.; Member: SPJ National Diversity Committee, Latino Journalists of California; editor, San Diego News Service
Should journalists use the word “Hispanic” or “Latino” in their stories?
The word Latino is preferred by many in the “Hispanic” community, though many Latino writers regularly use Hispanic, a word that seems to be dominant in our news media. This includes the respected columnist, Ruben Navarrette Jr. of the San Diego Union Tribune.
Official use of the word Hispanic can be traced to the Census Bureau in the 1970s, which is why many Latinos consider it a white word and to be avoided.
Many Latin Americans prefer the term Latino (or Latina, when referring to a female) because it seems to be more inclusive of the broad range of people and cultures in Latin America.
When I worked in México for many years, I rarely read or heard the word Hispanic.
Etymologically, the term Hispanic technically refers to anyone whose ancestry can be traced to Spain, which is why the government used it on Census forms beginning in the 1970s. It follows the same style of use as the word “Anglo,” indicating a person’s history that is traced to England or the English. Use of the word “Anglo” is rare in our news media, though it is common in referring to Americans in the English-language, Mexican media along the border.
There are millions of Latinos, however, who prefer to be called by their country of origin. They say a person whose ancestry is in México should be called Mexican, not Latino or Hispanic.
When journalists use the word Latino for a person whose ancestry can be traced to Spain, they are generally safe. But, using the word Hispanic may offend many Latinos.
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