"In the United States, some people consider "Hispanic" to be too general as a label, while others consider it offensive, often preferring to use the term "Latino", which is viewed as a self-chosen label. The preference of "Latino" over "Hispanic" is partly because it more clearly indicates that those it is referring to are the people from Latin America (including Brazil) and not Spain.

 

Different labels prevail in different regions, as well. In places like Arizona and California, the Chicanos are proud of their personal association and their participation in the agricultural movement of the 1960s with César Chávez, that brought attention to the needs of the farm workers. Usually younger Hispanics will not refer to themselves as such, however.

It is important to remember that the majority of "Hispanics" do not identify as "Hispanic" or "Latino," but with their national origin, i.e. Mexican-American. And, it is debatable that Latino is any less self-imposed than Hispanic. The label, Hispanic, was the result of efforts by a Hispanic New Mexican senator, Montoya, who wanted a label that could be used to quantify the Spanish-speaking population for the US Census. The label Hispanic was chosen in part because in New Mexico, well-to-do people of Spanish descent such as Montoya referred to themselves as Hispanos, and the transliteration of Hispano is Hispanic. Thus, while Latino is more popular in some urban areas, Hispanic is more popular in some parts of the southwest.

Previously Hispanics were commonly referred to as "Spanish-Americans", "Spanish-speaking Americans", and "Spanish-surnamed Americans". These terms, however, proved even more misleading or inaccurate since:

  • Most U.S. Hispanics were not born in Spain, nor were most born to recent Spanish nationals;
  • Although most U.S. Hispanics speak Spanish, not all do, and though most Spanish-speaking people are Hispanic, not all are (e.g., many U.S. Hispanics by the fourth generation no longer speak Spanish, while there are some non-Hispanics of the Southwestern United States that may be fluent in the language), and;
  • Although most Hispanics have a Spanish surname, not all do, and while most Spanish-surnamed people are Hispanic, not all are (e.g., there are tens of millions of Spanish-surnamed Filipinos, but very few, only about 3.5%, would qualify as Hispanic by ancestry).
  • Many Catalans and Basques refuse to identify themselves as Hispanic in the US census, especially those who have Catalan and Basque as mother tongues.
  • The term "Spanish" to denote a person from or of descent from a Latin American country is incorrect, as "Spanish" means a person who is from Spain.

The term "Spanish American", however, is still currently in use by many of those who, while not of recent descent from a Spanish national, have continued to practice and view Spanish culture and identity as dominant in their lives. In this usage it emphasized ancestral history and identity, and is not meant to indicate citizenship of the 'old country'.

Wikipedia Source: Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hispanic