Hispanic/Latino Ministries FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Who are the Hispanic/Latinos?

It is a great error to assume homogeneity among Hispanics. Hispanic/Latinos have diverse origins. Hispanics come from more than 21 different countries. While there is much that Latino culture shares in common, the diversity of origin means there is also great cultural diversity that ministry emphases must take into consideration.

The label Hispanic was created by the US Federal Government in 1970 in an attempt to provide a common denominator to a large, but disparate, population. The term is not used in everyday parlance by Latinos, although most people understand its intent. Hispanics are not a racial category and may, in fact, be of many-usually mixed-race backgrounds. While each of the Hispanic subgroups in the US has its own distinctiveness, there are a number of commonalities which serve to unite the larger group: the common colonization experience under Spain, the stress on the importance of a large, extended family, the cultivation of personal relationships and alliances, definitions of honor and respect, the distrust of government in general, stratifications based on class and occupation and the adherence, generally, to the same religious identification. Sources: www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov

What label should I use? Hispanic or Latino?

Although the terms Latino and Hispanic have been used interchangeably for decades, experts who have studied their meanings say the words trace the original bloodlines of Spanish speakers to different populations in opposite parts of the world. Hispanics derive from the mostly white Iberian Peninsula that includes Spain and Portugal, while Latinos are descended from the brown indigenous Indians of the Americas south of the United States and in the Caribbean, conquered by Spain centuries ago. Latino-Hispanic is an ethnic category in which people can be of any race. They are white, like the Mexican American boxer Oscar de la Hoya, and black. They can also be Ameri-Indian and Asian. A great many are mixtures of several races. More than 90 % of those who said they are of "some other race" on the 2000 Census identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino. A survey of the community conducted last year by the Pew Hispanic Center of Washington found that nearly all people from Spanish-speaking backgrounds identify themselves primarily by their place of national origin. When asked to describe the wider community, more than half, 53 percent, said both Hispanic and Latino define them. A substantial but smaller group, 34 percent, favored the term Hispanic. The smallest group, 13 percent, said they preferred Latino. The term Hispanic was given prominence by the Nixon administration more than 30 years ago when it was added to the census questionnaire in 1970.

By the 1980 Census, Hispanic had become fixed as the official government term. It appeared not only on census forms, but also on all other federal, state and municipal applications for employment, general assistance and school enrollment. Excerpts from the article "Latinos or Hispanics? A Debate About Identity ," by Darryl Fears. For more news, or to subscribe to the newspaper, please visit http://www.washingtonpost.com. © Copyright 2003, The Washington Post

Are All Latinos Mexican?

No. Mexicans make about 66% of the Latino population in the United States. 14% of Latinos are from Latin America, 9% are from Puerto Rico, and 4% are from Cuba. (Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, 2001)

As a demonstration of sensibility and respect, it is advisable to ask Latinos how they identify themselves, instead of making assumptions that can be wrong and offensive.

Are Most Latinos Catholics?

In the Hispanic world, religion has traditionally played a significant role in daily activity. More than 90% of the Spanish-speaking world is Roman Catholic. In recent years, other faith denominations have experienced growth within the U.S. Hispanic community. The church influences family life and community affairs, giving spiritual meaning to the Hispanic culture. Each local community celebrates its patron saint's day with greater importance and ceremony than individuals do for personal birthdays. As in other parts of the world, traces of the religions of the Indians and African-Americans of Latin America are found in the Catholicism that Hispanics practice. "Understanding the Hispanic Culture," by Ann W. Clutter and Rubén D Nieto. Ohio State University, Family and Consumer Sciences. 

Do Latinos All Speak Spanish? 

The majority of people from countries in Central and South America speak Spanish. People from Brazil speak Portuguese. There are people from Central and South America who speak indigenous languages. The Spanish spoken in Central and South America is the same language. There are differences in regional accents, regionalisms and colloquial speech. However, most Spanish-speaking can understand each other.