I have a California friend, of Mexican descent, who scoffed when she heard a reporter use the word Hispanic. “That’s what they use,” she said. “We like to be called Latino.” When a Nevada friend of mine used the word Hispanic, I warned her that I’d been told, “that Hispanic was offensive. It’s Latino.” My friend asked around and came back and said, “In Western Nevada, Hispanic is proper.”
So I pulled out my old dictionary from 1941 to see what it says about Hispanic and found that back then, Webster’s said that it’s an adjective and means, “Spanish.” Above the entry is Hispania. It’s a noun, it’s Latin and it refers to: “An ancient country comprising modern Spain and Portugal; now, Poetic, Spain.
What does Webster say today, 2019, that Hispanic means? They say it’s still an adjective and it means, “of, relating to, or being a person of Latin American descent and especially of Cuban, Mexican, or Puerto Rican origin living in the U.S.” It also means, “of or relating to the people, speech, or culture of Spain.” Webster’s 2019 definition of Hispania is quite simply: “Iberian Peninsula.”
Let’s look at Webster’s 2019 version of Latino. “A native or inhabitant of Latin America.” And “a person of Latin American origin living in the U.S.”
How did Webster define Latino in 1941? The word isn’t even listed. The closest that I can come is Latin. It’s a rather long entry so, I’ll paraphrase. “Of or pertaining to… the Latins… Romans… Latin Church.” Also, “Designating the peoples (French, Italian, Spanish, etc.) or countries whose languages and culture are descended from the Latin.” Also, “One of the people of ancient Latium or Rome.”
See how fluid ancestry and history is? We can go all the way back to ancient Latium and Rome. And don’t forget Iberia. Lots of us Iberians around, now that we’ve had our DNA tested. As genealogists, we don’t try to define ourselves. We try to define our ancestry. Latino… Hispanic… I like them both. Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret Genealogy VI – Freemasons, Jewish Conquistadors and the Holy Family. Available here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MY35VCP