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When Should the terms Latino, Chicano or Hispanic be used?

What are the Differences Between Latino, Chicano or Hispanic?

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These days, showing sensitivity to a person’s culture is a must. It’s a way to show our respect to a person and also how we are as an individual. With all the different cultures and sub-cultures around now, knowing what terms are acceptable and which are offensive is important. For instance, "Chicano," was thought of as insulting several years ago but younger generation Mexican-Americans are now regarding the term as agreeable. Some people might be confused as to who’s a Latino and who can be called Hispanic. Brazilians are thought of as Latinos, but they are not Hispanic. So it’s crucial that one understands the differences between Latino, Chicano and Hispanic before they use them to refer to someone of Mexican or Spanish heritage.

The simplest and most direct identifier among the three is the term Chicano. The name pertains directly to Mexican-Americans or anyone of Mexican descent. During the first decade or so when Mexican families moved to America to work, they were called Mexicanos. The name was then shortened to "Xicanos" before becoming "Chicanos". The term was initially thought of as offensive, like calling someone a Negro or a Chinaman. Eventually, more and more members of the Mexican-American community slowly accepted the name, at least when it’s used in an informal setting. But some of the older members still think "Chicano" as a rude way of calling someone. Basically, “Chicano” should be used only when describing someone from Mexico or having Mexican heritage.

Hispanic is more generic than Chicano. Generally speaking, countries subjugated by Spain were included in the domain known as Hispania. These days, countries that can chart parts of their history to Spain are thought of as Hispanic. These include countries in Central and Southern America, and also Mexico - countries that use Spanish as their first language. However, Brazil is not included in the Hispanic classification since the country was occupied by Portugal. That being said, citizens of countries that were once ruled by Spain, like El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala and Panama, can be called Hispanic.

"Latino,” the last cultural identifier among the three, is similar to Hispanic. The only difference is Brazil is included in the category. The region of "Latin America" can be characterized as the countries where the Romance languages Spanish and Portuguese are used. The term was first coined by Napoleon in describing the different territories speaking the Romance languages in the Americas. French is a part of the Romance languages. The term Latino isn’t thought of as offensive or insulting, as it is used to refer generally to Hispanic cultures, similar to using the word “Asian” to refer to a Filipino-American or a Korean-American. "Latino" might be thought of now to be socially and politically correct, but it’s better to use a person’s culture and refer to that person directly as “Guatemalan” or “Brazilian.” It shows your sensitivity to a person’s culture and heritage and sounds better than the generic expression "Latino."

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