What is a Latino?

Now, if you are reading this article, you found yourself on a website that is at the forefront of all things Latino. We have gone out of our way to make sure that our website becomes some sort of information and networking clearing house for people of Latin American background.

Now, you probably have been impressed by the amount of resources here. You are probably thinking that this platform offers a lot of opportunities for fresh voices both inside and outside our community to share a wide range of perspectives, views and opinions that can help push our collective community forward, both within the United States as well as outside its borders.

This is all well and good, but you should do yourself a big favor and step back a little bit and ask a fundamental question. What is a Latino to begin with? Who or what determines a Latino?

Complicating this very basic and elementary act of self-definition is that the mass media keeps using the word “latino” so much that it is in danger of being stripped of actual meaning. Using the majority culture’s definition is, of course, problematic.

Now, unlike African Americans, European Americans or Asian Americans, Latino is a fairly vague term. One person’s definition of Latino in one context and in one historical timeframe might not necessarily line up to a commonly contemporary version or commonly understood definition of that term.

A Latino is, in broad terms, somebody who speaks the Spanish language or is descended from people who speak Spanish as a primary language at home. That is pretty much the only point of unity because there are no other parts that unite us.

First of all, we come from different national origin backgrounds. Some Latinos are from Mexico, while others are from Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Central America, South America and other Spanish speaking areas. In terms of religion, there is also a tremendous amount of diversity within the Latino community.

Traditionally, Latinos have been predominantly Roman Catholic, but this has gone through a tremendous sea change in recent decades. In fact, over the past 20 years, a significant proportion of Latin Americans are converting to Pentecostal Christianity. To say that Latinos fall under the same wide umbrella of Roman Catholicism would be outdated at best and insensitive at worse.

In terms of a specific political view, again, Latinos are not monolithic. While the vast majority of Mexican Americans tend to vote Democratic, the picture changes dramatically when we’re talking about specific class groupings within the Mexican American community.

To get a mirror opposite view, you only need to turn the spotlight on Cuban Americans. By and large, they are Republicans. So from a political perspective, there is no such thing as a monolithic Latino political point of view. It really all boils down to language or language origin.

Now you may be thinking that this seems to be too small of a detail, but believe us, this actually accounts for a tremendous amount of differences and it also accounts for a distinctively Latino perspective that applies across the board.