The word Latino has become so popular now that people from over a dozen countries are recognized by this term. Have you ever wondered where this term came from? And how it got into the common language?
In this article, we will try to explore the origins of the word and explain its typical usage.
The term Latino usually refers to a person from Latin America. The etymology of the word suggests the full form to be Latinoamericano (male) or Latinoamericana (female). The history of the word dates back to the 19th century when French intellectuals suggested the people from the lower Americas are from the Latin race, and thus natural allies with Latin Europe. They deliberately used to term to make it easier to exert their political power over the region and established a cultural connection.
Most of the modern European languages, including English are all based on Latin. When the Europeans went to the new world, they took the idea with them. The English, the Spanish, the Portuguese and the French conquered most of South America. Napoleon wanted to colonize Mexico. He and his generals used the term Latin America for the first time to describe the parts of the Americas under the European occupation.
So, in this way, entire South America came to be called Latin America. They call people from over half a dozen countries as Latino.
The usage of the term Latino is different from Hispanic. Hispanic refers to the speakers of the Spanish language from many countries. They consider Brazilian Americans as Latino, but not Hispanic, since they speak Portuguese.
The word Latino is mostly used in the North American culture, especially in the United States. It is a term used to describe a person residing in the United States but originating from any of the Latin American countries.
Outside America, the same people would be called the Columbians, the Mexicans, the Brazilians, etc. based on their nationality.
In 1970, the Nixon Administration used the term Latin-American to describe the Mexican population. But later the term got more generalized.
From a US census point of view, the term Latino refers to the heritage, nationality, country of birth of a person or his ancestors. The US government officially accepted the term in 1997. While doing that, they disconnected the race from the equation. A Latino could be a Caucasian or a black or a Native American or of mixed origin. The term is strictly used to refer to the cultural heritage and not the race.
Though the term is used widely in the United States, they hardly use it in any of the Latin American countries. In fact, the grouping of some many communities into one basket has angered many organizations in South America.
The term Latin has stuck and has come to signify many contributions and events especially from the Latin American countries like Latin Jazz, Latin music awards, Latin Grammy awards, etc. Culturally, the Latinos are exotic people with an interesting heritage