Latino vs. Hispanic: Experts explain the difference between these umbrella terms

Daniela Hurtado Image
Thursday, October 13, 2022
Latino vs. Hispanic: What's the difference between the terms?
Mexican American professor Dr. Christina Sisk explains the difference between umbrella terms "Latino" and "Hispanic" often used interchangeably.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- This Hispanic and Latin American Heritage Month we brought you stories of culture, history and of remarkable people in our community making strides.

"Look around. Latinos are everywhere in Houston, we're not going anywhere, and I think we're hard working. We're passionate people, and as you can see with this next generation, here, the possibilities are endless," Mexican American Houstonian Juan Alanis said.

The terms "Latino" and "Hispanic" are widely used across the United States to identify millions of people from a multitude of countries.

Mexican American professor Dr. Christina Sisk teaches U.S Hispanic Culture, helping next generations best understand terminologies and history.

"One of the things is assuming everybody is Mexican, that everybody who has a Spanish-sounding last name is of Mexican heritage. And that has its problems," Dr. Sisk said.

SEE RELATED: Hispanic, Latino and Latinx: 'Complicated, but it's evolving'

Hispanic, Latino or Latinx? Learn more about the meaning behind the terms and why they matter.

In the United States, the terms Latino and Hispanic are used interchangeably to describe a group that makes up 18.9% of the country's population.

The U.S. Census shows there are more than 62,000,000 Hispanics in the country, making them the largest racial or ethnic minority.

In Harris County, the Kinder Institute at Rice University reports Hispanics make up 43% of the population.

"They're what I would call umbrella terms to designate people from a variety of backgrounds," Dr. Sisk said.

SEE ALSO: Hispanic artists explain how Houston Arts Alliance gave them power to continue creating pieces

The Houston Arts Alliance is working to reach more Hispanic artists since discovering a gap between the organization and the city's demographics.

The thing is, although the umbrella terms are used interchangeably by some, Latino and Hispanic don't actually mean the same thing.

Sisk says the term Latino describes people from Latin American heritage.

Hispanic, however, refers to people who speak Spanish as their first language or are descended from Spain. For example, Brazilians are Latinos but not Hispanic.

Aside from those two terms, there are also now two newer terms used to describe that percent of the population in a gender-neutral form: Latinx and Latine.

"One of the arguments against Latinx is that it doesn't sound like Spanish at all. You can't say Latin... X... You know?" Dr. Sisk said.

"I think we embrace the category of Latino or the name of Latino because it's unifying," Alanis said.

While it can build community, there are some concerns out there about using these umbrella terms.

"My fear always with using such big terms for people who are from different cultures is that we'll fall into stereotypes of people," Dr. Sisk said.

"We're more than our stereotypes. Colombia is really known for drug cartels and other misleading stuff but there's more to our culture and every other country besides what you see from our stereotypes," Colombian Houstonian Alexandra Bayona said.

Alanis says one thing is for certain, no matter what people consider themselves under the umbrella terms, they still connect to their music, their food, and to all those things that represent their different countries of origin.

For updates on this story, follow Daniela Hurtado on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

SEE MORE: Action 13 town hall highlights barriers Hispanics face in mental health care

Join ABC13's Rita Garcia as she explores the barriers to mental health facing our Hispanic and Latin American communities in our Action 13 town hall.