Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/1210hispanic10.html

Groups excluded by word, some Latinos contend
Cox News Service
Dec. 10, 2003
Yolanda Rodriguez

ATLANTA - Ralph Perales doesn't remember what box he checked off in the 1980 census, when "Hispanic" became an option for the first time.

Most likely when he had to choose a race, he picked White, said Perales, a native of Peru who moved to Georgia with his family in 1977.

It wasn't an issue because "Hispanic is not a race," said Perales, 42.

Jacqueline Thomas Rosier remembers that same census and the discussion it sparked within her family.

"The term was kind of crazy for us. We just checked off Black," said Rosier, 38, who was born in Panama and has lived in the United States for 30 years.

"Because I am a Black Latina, I don't fit in the Hispanic - from Spain - terminology," said Rosier, the managing partner of a marketing and public relations firm.

For some Americans whose heritage lies south of the border, that word, "Hispanic," carries with it the baggage of centuries of Spanish conquest and cruelty in the Americas.

The words "Hispanic" and "Latino" are often used interchangeably in reference to people whose roots are from Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean.

"Latino" includes Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking people of the Western Hemisphere. It encompasses peoplethose from Brazil, while "Hispanic", with its connection to Spain, does not.

The choice of which term applies matters in issues such as health care, where the word used can carry an understanding of the barriers immigrants face in the United States, said Venus Gines, founder of Dia de la Mujer Latina, a nonprofit group that promotes health awareness among Latinas. Gines pushed for the inclusion of Latino in the 2000 census.

"People from Latin America have immigrated to the U.S. because of hardships, dictatorships, drugs, poverty and the search for the American dream. Immigrants from Spain, a European, industrialized nation, usually don't come to this country hungry," she said.

She added that "Hispanic" recognizes only the Catalan roots on her father's side but not the Taino Indian heritage from her mother.

"I am very proud of my native heritage and brown skin," Gines said. "African-Americans paved the way for those of us who prefer not to be categorized by the color of their skin, facial features or language. They said, 'Look, recognize our history , our legacy, our culture and our roots.'

On the 2000 census, the U.S. government framed the identity question as "Spanish/Hispanic/Latino?"

Respondents were able to check off boxes asking their race and their national origin as Mexican, Puerto Rican or Cuban. They could also write in their country of origin.

Although "Hispanic" is derided as a bureaucratic invention of the Nixon era, the use of the term was an effort to include people of Latin America for the 1980 census.

In 1975, Grace Flores-Hughes was on the committee that looked at the terms used in government circles - Spanish-surnamed, Spanish-speaking, Latino, Latin American, Hispanic - to create a term for the 1980 census. The committee also adopted the terms Native American, Asian-American, non-Hispanic White and non-Hispanic Black, she said.

The Alexandria, Va., resident still favors "Hispanic" because of her experience growing up in Taft in south Texas. The town, about 18 miles north of Corpus Christi, was "a very segregated, very racist town. I was always called 'the dirty little Mexican,' " she said.

Flores-Hughes, 57, wanted to be sure that any population count would capture the people who often faced the most discrimination, as she had.

"I strongly felt that a term which reflected our origins from Spain would describe this group . . . ," Flores-Hughes said.