By Miriam De Dios
Over the years, there has been constant debate over whether to use the term “Latino” or “Hispanic” when referring to people from Latin America. This is particularly important to credit unions seeking to reach and/or better serve their growing Hispanic or Latino communities. Some preferences over which term to use are based on how the term was coined or whether the term is inclusive of people from Spain or Portuguese-speaking countries like Brazil. A quick online search reveals a variety of written material about or by Hispanics or Latinos referencing both terms, leading one to believe that the terms can be used interchangeably. However, recent studies point to a preference for using Hispanic over Latino among self-described Hispanics or Latinos.
In 2013, Pew Research found that 33 percent of self-described Hispanics or Latinos preferred the term Hispanic, and 14 percent preferred the term Latino. In addition, more than half or 51 percent of people had no preference for either term. Gallup also conducted a study last year that found 19 percent of Hispanics or Latinos preferred Hispanic and 10 percent preferred Latino. In the recent article, “Speaking of Identity: Choosing Between Latino and Hispanic,” Nate Cohn of The New York Times pointed out that these polls do not ask people whether they find either term unacceptable or offensive, which is an important—if overlooked—consideration. For example, some people find Hispanic offensive because the U.S. government coined the term to classify people from Latin America for the U.S. Census. At the time, Latino was the term self-ascribed by people of Latin American descent.