Saturday, May 18, 2024

Hispanic: Not a Race

From community groups and national organizations to churches and the federal government, a highly orchestrated and concerted effort is underway to ensure that Latinos in the US respond to the 2010 Census.  This year’s form is, as boasted by the Census Bureau, the shortest one to date.  However, despite its simplicity, one large question looms for many in the Hispanic/Latino community: what race is Hispanic?

A quick Internet of the subject shows the great debate that is being waged in official news channels and personal blogs alike.  And while the Census Bureau has gone out of its way to stress the distinction between race and ethnicity, many in the nation’s largest minority group have no idea which box under the race category to check.

“There’s always the question about the difference between ethnicity and race,” said census spokeswoman Sofia Moreno. Moreno explained that the two are “just different things that are categorized by the Census Bureau.”  All official designations on the census form are determined by the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

According to one government official, “…Hispanics may be of any race. Because of this OMB does not provide any guidance to racially classify Hispanic origin groups. The categories used in the race question are social-political constructs and do not reflect any genetic or biological differences.”

Illuminating this feeling of confusion, or ambiguity, of how Latinos approach the issue of race, a Pew Center study found that “54% of Hispanics identify as white, while only 1.5% identify as Black.  A full 40% do not identify with any race.”

Further expanding the level of Latino identity is a new effort in the 2010 Census to tabulate the handwritten entries of respondents from Central American indigenous group such Maya, Nahua, Mixtec, or Purepecha.  This could be very significant for states such as Florida and California that boast large Mayan populations.

Beginning in the 1970s, many indigenous Guatemalans fled their countries civil war. Accurate numbers of this population have only been speculative because of the Mayans reluctance to come forward out of fears of deportation and a cultural distrust of government.  This year, with the ability to accurately identify themselves, community activists expect a greater participation in the Census.

The issue of race versus ethnicity has long and complicated historical roots for the Hispanic/Latino community and is a discussion and debate that will extend well past the 2010 Census.   In the end, community leaders stress, the important thing is to complete your census form; identify as Hispanic or Latino, and beyond that it becomes a personal issue for the individual to self describe. (Fresno),0,4163472.story


  1. I never understood why Hispanics have to be broken up into groups? I don’t see that option for Asians and they get offended when you lump them all together. My Lebanese wife was offended there was no spot for her.

  2. Marketing to a diverse group of individuals is what I do for a living and there are some very distinct differences between people from every country in the world. Even from a marketing standpoint, it does not make sense to lump everyone into one group. Hispanic itself is a label created in the U.S. It was not created to describe a race. Latino… See More was not either. A common language connects the cultures in a strong way, but the customs of each group can be quite different. I strongly believe that census should allow for individuals to select their specific country or countries of origin if they are 1st generation. For those born in the U.S., they can simply pick countries representing their background. The truth is that race does not really matter. What matters is how many people are in the country and how government funds get distributed based on Economics. It’s time to do away with the race issue.

  3. It doesn’t make any sense to say that the diverse White population from Europe can be clumped together, but the diverse Brown population from Central and South American cannot. Sounds more like a way to deny minority attention to Hispanics – they’re not a minority, soon to equal 1/3 of the US population, they’re just off-white!

  4. I, too, had trouble with my Census form. My roommate and I stared at the form for about 10 minutes trying to figure out if I should specify which race I was. Obviously, as a Cuban-American, I marked Hispanic. However, Cubans come from European and African descent, so what race am I? My roommate and I finally agreed it’d be best if I left the race area blank. Without shame I can say that we looked up multiple definitions for race online to aid in our decision making–at the end, we were still quite unsure.

    • Gutierrez says

      Latino is not a race, Hispanic is not a race. The race that most people identify as “Hispanic or Latino” in the U.S. is called Mestizo in Latin America. Mestizo is half Native American/half White European. Mestizo is the largest racial group in Latin America closely followed by White, then Native American, then Black and Mulatto. Asian is a race, but Hispanic is not. White is a race, but Hispanic is not. Any race can be Hispanic. Most Cubans in the U.S. are White people, not White and Black mixed which is called Mulatto. Most Mexicans are Mestizo, and most Puerto Ricans in the U.S. are triracial or Pardo which is White, Native American, and Black, but most Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico are White. You don’t have to have blond hair, blue eyes, and fair skin to be White. Southern Europeans like Spaniards, Italians, Portuguese, and Greeks are White with dark brown hair and slight tans with brown eyes. Some have light eyes or light skin or light hair. Thinking Hispanic or Latino is a race is ignorance.




  7. Mel Jimenez says

    to start, I am hispanic but my race is 100% white from Costa Rica, blond hair, blue eyes. when I used to live In Costa Rica, most of my friends at school were 100 % white, others black and a few indian looking, the are all from Costa Rica and hispanic. hispanic is not a race at all, it’s just a classification. we don’t even call ourselves hispanic, you never hear that word in Costa Rica, we just Costarican and if someone ask our race most of us are going to say White, others black and others mulatos or indios. here is the following as well. The census does it right! Hispanic is NOT a race. There are many races within the Latino community, including White, Black, Native Indian, and even Asian. Some segments, like the Cuban community, show very few mixed-race individuals. In fact, Cubans exhibit a race discrimination behavior within their community that is similar to that of the general market. Other groups, like Puerto Ricans, are very mixed. Argentineans are mostly White and some Latin American countries, including Mexico, have a strong Native Indian background.

    For years, however, the U.S. Census considered Hispanic a race. They changed that definition since before the 1970 census; and in 1977 the Office of Management and Budget issued the “Race and Ethnic Standards for Federal Statistics and Administrative Reporting”. They established the U.S. racial classifications to be American Indian, Alaskan Native, Asian or Pacific Islander, Black, and White. They added ethnic classifications of “Hispanic Origin” and “Not of Hispanic Origin”.

    Unfortunately, we continue to see the race question in most market research studies and marketers in this country continue to label Hispanic as a race. The misconception that Hispanic is a race is so ingrained in this country that many Hispanics are confused themselves. This creates a big problem in marketing research, because many Latinos would check “Other” if “Hispanic” were not included in the race category. Yet, many Hispanics would check “White” or “Black” and not “Hispanic”, if “Hispanic” was included as a category. A way of avoiding this problem is to divide the question like the census does and to pay close attention to how the questions are worded. A better approach is to not bother asking about race at all