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You say hispanic, I say latino

Most use the words interchangeably these days, but the “hispanic” identity originated from an initiative in the 1970s to give Latin American’s in the United States a more unified voice in politics. UC Berkeley sociologist Cristina Mora talks about the positives and negatives of this distinction in her new book:

You have the person whose great-grandmother came from Argentina, but has never visited Latin America, and does not speak Spanish, lumped into the exact same category as a Guatemalan who just crossed the U.S. border.  One argument the book makes is that in order for all these government, market and political interests to come together, the category had to become broader in order to fit in all these ideas about Hispanics being consumers, or Hispanics being disadvantaged people.

Over time, the Hispanic identity has become based on cultural generalities such as ‘We all love our families. We are all religious and we all have some connection to the Spanish language however far back that may be.’  That’s a weakness and a strength. It was because of that ambiguity that we have the large numbers who identify as Hispanic and who have made advances.  But when you have such a broad and opaque category it’s hard to elicit and sustain passion and commitment.

Read more in her interview here 

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