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What’s the difference between Hispanic, Latino, and Spanish?

A majority of Hispanics prefer to identify themselves by their country of origin rather than a general label. But, what's the difference between the terms?

ARIZONA, USA — It's Hispanic Heritage Month and 12 News is celebrating by telling the stories and sharing the experiences of Hispanics across the Valley.

However, there is some confusion when it comes to some terms associated with Hispanics. A majority surveyed by the Pew Research Center say they generally prefer to identify themselves by their country of origin rather than by the labels Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish.

But, what's the difference between the terms?

RELATED: Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with Hispanic and Latino stories from around the Valley

A majority of Hispanics prefer to identify themselves by their country of origin rather than by the labels Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish. But, what's the difference between the terms?

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget defines Hispanic or Latino as someone from Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South or Central America. 

The Pew Research Center uses the term Hispanic for anyone who is from or has ancestors from a Spanish-speaking country. That excludes Brazil since Portuguese is the main language there, but it does include Spain.

Here are some general rules of thumb:

  • "Hispanic" means a person who speaks Spanish
  • "Latino," "Latina," or the newer "Latinx" means a person of Latin American descent
  • "Spanish" means a person from Spain or who has origin from Spain. The term also could just refer to the language.

RELATED: Latino city in Arizona grew, but census says it shrank

According to Pew, in 2020, the Hispanic population in America reached more than 62 million people. That’s up from 50.5 million in 2010. That’s one in five people in the U.S. 

Those of Mexican origin make up about 62 percent of the overall population followed by Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Salvadorans, and Dominicans.

Since Latino and Hispanic are frequently used interchangeably, the U.S. Census has chosen to keep the answer straightforward.  

Who does the U.S. Census consider to be Hispanic? Anyone who chooses to identify themselves as such.

Hispanic Heritage Month in Arizona

We're telling the stories and sharing the experiences of Hispanics and Latinos from across the Valley. See all of our coverage on our 12 News YouTube playlist.