“Nonetheless, because a good amount of the world’s contemporary knowledge and information, especially since 1970, has been categorized and filed under the term ‘Hispanic,’ the practice that has emerged is to use both ‘Latinos/Latinas’ and ‘Hispanics’ interchangeably.”
- Marco A. Portales, Ph.D., English

 

How Do We Refer to Spanish-speakers?
By Marco A. Portales, Ph.D.

Since the period between the two World Wars, people who have spoken Spanish, particularly in Texas, have been referred to by a number of terms that have understandably left many people confused about the correct mode of address.  Although some people used “Méxican” and “Méxican American” loosely, the two terms designate distinctly different nationalities.  A Méxican is a citizen of México; and, Méxican Americans were first created a year after the end of the U.S. War with México, which occurred between 1846 and 1848.

In 1970, in an effort to be more inclusive of all Spanish-speakers from the rest of the world, the United States Census Bureau first used the term “Hispanic.”  This term has been in wide use since.  In the late 1960s, however, the term “Chicano” and “Chicana” also gained prominence, primarily among political activists in California and Arizona who sought to improve the status quo for Spanish-speakers throughout the United States. Due to the fact that roughly two-thirds of people who speak Spanish in the U.S. derive from México, these terms have been embraced by some people and not others; both within and without the Spanish-speaking community.

More recently, “Latino” and “Latina” have been widely used because, in some quarters, the term “Hispanic” has tended to upset people who feel that using this word pays unnecessary allegiance to Spain.  As the mother country of the Spanish language, from this perspective Spain is seen as the country that largely colonized the southern part of the American continent beginning in the 16th century.

For these reasons, successfully identifying people who use or whose predecessors have employed the Spanish language is not an easy task.  Indeed, people whose ancestors spoke Spanish or who currently speak Spanish, historically, have been varied and culturally mixed.  Today, their genealogical roots today derive from all of the world’s races, ethnicities, and cultural groups.

Even then, it is becoming increasingly clear that the preferred manner of addressing people of Spanish descent, ­largely because the words themselves appear more agreeable and less upsetting to the majority of Spanish-speakers: are as “Latinos” and “Latinas.”

Nonetheless, because a good amount of the world’s contemporary knowledge and information, especially since 1970, has been categorized and filed under the term “Hispanic,” the practice that has emerged is to use both “Latinos/Latinas” and “Hispanics” interchangeably.  The use of both terms, indeed, is the practice that this exhibit employs.

We hope that no one will take umbrage with the ways that our committee has chosen to represent men and women of Spanish-speaking parents who have studied at Texas A&M during the University’s 130-year history in College Station.

 



Cushing Memorial Library & Archives • Texas A&M University Libraries