Latin America covers a diverse range of countries and people, starting from Northern Mexico and reaching to the Southern borders of Argentina. Majority of these countries were once colonies of Spain, which is why they are Catholic and Spanish-speaking. Although they may have many similarities, they have as many differences.
In USA, the words Latino and Hispanic are often used interchangeably because they were adapted to largely group together immigrants and their descendants belonging to Latin America. Many people don’t realize that these words have different implications and cannot be used for a specific race or color.
The term Hispanic refers to anyone who speaks the Spanish language. This includes individuals from and with ancestors from Mexico, North America, Spain and Latin America. It does however, excludes Brazil, as they speak Portuguese and were once the colony of Portugal.
The term Latino is more related to geography rather than language. This includes Mexico and the whole of Latin America. Brazilians are also called Latinos, even though they do not speak Spanish. People belonging to Spain or with Spanish ancestry cannot be called Latinos.
The Usage of the Two Words
The usage of the two words interchangeably is quite common in the US. It has also been used officially by several government organizations, including US Department of Transportation and US Census Bureau. There is also a regional divide within the US for the usage of these two words. The word Hispanic is preferred in the East Coast, while the word Latino is more preferred by the people living in the West Coast.
There are various surveys conducted in the US to find out which term the people actually prefer over the other.
The word Hispanics is largely preferred over Latinos. The adult population is more sensitive to the label they are being given, and 48% of them being called from the country of their origin rather than being called American.
While majority of the Hispanics don’t really care what they are being called, people in Texas may be more sensitive. Around 46% of people in Texas prefer being called Hispanic and around 8% like being called Latinos. Therefore the area that is being targeted also makes a difference on which label the business is using.
Implications for Businesses
The Hispanics are among the largest and the fastest growing ethnic groups in the US. They also represent a group with the highest purchasing power, which makes them a lucrative market to target for businesses. This is the reason why the correct usage of these two labels is very important for businesses to tap into the market.
The lifestyle and demographics of Hispanics have been extensively researched by marketers, who are constantly trying to find new insights into the consumer market and formulate effective strategies to penetrate into them.
Therefore, it is imperative that businesses research their target audience effectively and know which labels are to be used.
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