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The Latino/Hispanic Ethnic Group

Census in the United States is an important activity that takes place every 10 yrs in accordance with the constitution. It is a leading source of quality data about the nation’s people and culture since every American is counted. However, unlike other ethnic groups, the Latino/ Hispanic group is the only ethnic group that is counted separately. This generally owes to the variability within the larger Latino/ Hispanic group. Therefore, this paper will focus on the various subgroups that exist within this group and how colorism affects membership. In addition, the paper will look at the role of language, religion and culture within the larger Latino/ Hispanic group.

The variability within the larger "Latin American" group, as defined by the U.S. Census

In the U.S. Census, the term Latino is used to refer to persons from Mexican, Cuban, South or Central American, Puerto Rican or other Spanish origin or culture despite the race. The Latin American nations consist of people from different national backgrounds and different ethnic groups.  Due to this mixture, Latin Americans identify themselves with their ancestral origins and nationality, rather than their ethnicity. The immigration of the Latin Americans and their ancestors has taken place for the past 5 centuries. The contemporary Latin American  constitute of a  composition of ethno racial that combines populations of Indigenous Americans, Iberian colonizers and different African groups that  came to America as slave laborers as well as other immigrants from all over the world (Akresh, 2010).

When this census category became official (the first time it was used in the United States Census)

Regardless of the extensive history of Latino residents in the United States, for a long time there lacked a systematic effort to count up this group discretely in the Census. Latin Americans were officially recognized and counted officially in the late 20th century. Nevertheless, there have been many reports of the challenges faced while counting attempts are done on this diverse community that is fast growing.

Distinctive subgroups that belong under this broad category

Native American:  This is a Latin America’s indigenous population that arrived in the region in the Lithic stage. The sub group experienced great population decline during the early periods of colonization. Nevertheless the group has in the last few decades increased in numbers, with some estimates stating the tribe exceeds 60 million. The Native Americans forms a majority in Bolivia and Peru, but they are minorities in Guatemala. Although they are minorities in most countries, people of mixed European and Native American ancestry form majority of the population.

Asians: The first Asians that settled in Latin America were the Filipinos, due to their trading in America and Asia. Most of the Asian Latin Americans come from either China or Japan and majorly settled in Peru and Brazil. In Panama, the Chinese are minority, Koreans settled mainly in Mexico and Argentina. Chinese communities largely settled in Peru.

Blacks: From 16th century, millions of African Slaves have been brought to the Latin America. Most of this Africans were sent to Brazil and Caribbean region. S Currently of the Blacks is found in Brazil and Haiti. Large amounts of the African Latin American are found in Dominican Republic, Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Colombia.

Mulattoes: Mulattoes are a mixer of African and European ancestry. Mulattoes mainly descend from Africa while others are from Portuguese or Spanish. The greatest population of Latin America settled in Brazil. In Dominican Republic, Mulattoes are the largest population as well as in Cuba. Mulattoes are also many in Costa |Rica, Panama, Puerto Rico, Colombia and Ecuador. In Latin American countries, Mulattoes are just minorities.

Whites: Numerous Iberian colonists settled in Latin America. Brazil was colonized by Brazil and Spaniards settled in a different region. Currently, majority of the Latin Americans originate from Portuguese or Spanish. The Iberian colonists brought the Portuguese and Spanish, Iberian traditions and Catholic faith. The whites are majorly populated in Costa Rica, Purto Rico, Argentina, Cuba and Chile.
How people from Africa, both slaves and freemen, became part of the Latino population in Mexico, Central and South America, and the U.S.

African slaves took part in many wars of liberating Latin America from their colonial rule of Spanish. The deal was that if Latin America was liberated from this colonialist that the Africans would be accorded racial equality and integration immediately after the independence. That is how the Africans ended up becoming part of the Latino population. During the post slavery era the Black people in the United States were alienated from the Whites. Unlike in the US, in Latino America the Africans were accepted in the society. This is a country where there is no racial history. In Latino America, race mixing was undertaken because it was seen as nation building and this is how Africans became part of the population (Codina, 2011).

How Africans in Mexico, Central and South America were absorbed into the Hispanic population, while generally being kept separate in the U.S.

The Africans were absorbed in Hispanic population because these countries did not believe in racism. The United States on the other hand separated the Africans through Black Separatism. They believed that the blacks should separate themselves on foundation of their expression oppression due to their culture, blackness and African heritage. It is this separation that caused the Africans to believe that they should not dominate in the land of whites and instead they settled for Latin America where they are more accepted (Torres, 2010).



How colorism affects membership within the Hispanic/Latino group today (i.e. a Mexican who is Black)

There have been legacies of racism against populations that are not white in the contemporary Latin American society. The colored especially the African populations have been rendered invisible through undervaluing traditions rooted to their beliefs and framing them as just exotic others. According to a survey that was conducted in 2010 through the Mexican National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination it was identified that discrimination was the major problem that the indigenous community face in Mexico (Hall, 2008)
The role of language

Use of language among the Hispanics in the United States reflects the trajectories that the immigrant groups had previously followed. For instance the Immigrant Hispanics are more likely to be proficient in Spanish than English. Nevertheless, with generational changes, the language use also changes.  In second generation, there was decline in use of Spanish, while many people got to speaking English. Currently, the use of English among the Hispanics is higher compared to Spanish; in fact English is now the dominant language among the Hispanic people.

The role of religion

Majority of Latin Americans belonged to the Roman Catholic Church. Nevertheless, this number is declining too with time. Hispanics are now embracing protestant faith, while others remain unaffiliated with any religious conviction. This change suggests that religious polarization is happening in the Hispanic society. This change also portrays opposition of the US religious spectrum hence portraying freedom and power of Hispanic society.

 The role of culture

Hispanic society is not composed of monolithic group.  Hispanic is made up of subgroups that are remarkably very different.  Varying subgroups reflect immense differences in culture, ethnicity, and origin.  On racial spectrum they include white, Asian, Pacific Islander, African American, and Native American. Generally, Hispanics comprises of African, European, and Native American people, and hence they have very different cultures. With this diversity, the culture of Hispanics is nationalism.


            Based on the facts presented in this paper, it is evident that it’s hard to count the Latino/ Hispanic group without encountering challenges posed by the variability that exist within the group. The other issue that stands out is the role of language, religion and culture within the larger community. Last but not least, the issue of colorism has been tackled comprehensively, hence the need to address such issues in order to promote peaceful co-existence.

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David, S. (2010). What's the Use of Race? Modern Governance and the Biology of Difference. Cambridge (MA): MIT Press

Helloed, G. (2002). "Race in Biology and Anthropology: A Study of College Texts and Professors". Journal of Research in Science Teaching

Richard, T.  (2014). Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the USA. DePaul University; SBN-13: 9780205181889

Wright, S. (2008). Evolution and the Genetics of Populations. 4, Variability Within and Among Natural Populations. Chicago, Illinois

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