Before moving to this country as a teenager, I'd never been told I was Hispanic or Latina, for that matter. I was simply Peruvian and, if anything, Latin American. But a few years after getting here, I had to start filling out all sorts of forms for college and for scholarships and I remember having to identify myself as Hispanic for the first time, even though I hate that term. After 25 years in the U.S., I still much rather identify myself as Peruvian. 

Apparently, I'm not alone. According to the results of a Pew Hispanic Center nationwide survey released today, 51% of Hispanic adults most often identify themselves by their family's country of origin.

Incredibly, less than one-quarter of the respondents said they use the terms Hispanic or Latino to describe their identity. Among this group of people, the preferred term is Hispanic by more than a two-to-one margin. But 51% don't have a preference one way or the other. 

This was kind of surprising to me because I thought the term Latino was preferred. Or, at least, that's the case for me. I like it better than Hispanic for several reasons. First of all, it's a Spanish term, which means it's gender specific, allowing me to call myself Latina. Second, I like to look at it as the abbreviated version of latinoamericana (Latin American), which definitely describes me much better than Hispanic, which is supposed to me "of or relating to Spain," according to the dictionary. Nothing against Spain, but I'm not from there. 

Finally, 21% of the Latinos in the survey said they use the term American most often. I never have, but then again I wasn't born here, so that makes a huge difference. As a mother of two children born in Colorado to a Peruvian mother and a Puerto Rican father, I often wonder how my children will identify themselves when they get older. One thing is for sure, though, like 95% of respondents, I believe it's hugely important for future generations to hang on to the one major aspect that does binds all Latinos: Spanish. And that's why I'm raising my children bilingual. 

How do you identify yourself? Do you prefer Latina or Hispanic?

Image via cliff1066™/flickr

About the author

Roxana A. Soto is Features Editor of MamásLatinas. She's a bilingual and bicultural journalist born in Peru and raised in Mexico, Argentina, South Africa and Miami. She's also mom to a girl in 3rd grade and a boy in Kinder. She loves books, languages, traveling and good food – especially when cooked by someone else.

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sunsh...

I honestly use what ever term is available I don't really get offended easily even if they try to offend me I'm just like whatever floats your boat, pple tend to get more mad if I just laugh! Anyways I was born here but for some reason I always say Mexican, I guess cuz my parents both are it's just a habbit but on some forms it says white or African so on but not hisp/latino so I don't get it, and sometimes you have to put something to go on, so I just put white cuz I'm not African. I wonder if it's like that in other countries though?

nonmember avatar
I complety agree with this article.in my case, people from Puerto Rico are not allowed to called themselves Hispanos or Latinos due to our political situation. It is a challenge. i just say to people that I am boricua and leave it at that.

I like latina :) great article :)

Damar...

Sorry Yadira - but people from Puerto Rico have every right to call themselves hispanic!  The thing that unites us all is the LANGUAGE.  Peru. Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia- todo es el mismo rollo!  Our political situation is limbo - 

meta

when filling out forms i say other. i am mexican. I grew up in a time when our parent's where instructed not to speak to us in spanish.Shameful. I gave my kids very Mexican names, guadalupe, francisco y ricardo. Yes some of those forms try to separate us, we may come from diff staes diff countries, our language, our heritage brings us  together. I feel some o the foms are for profiling us. one form gave 2 options are u hispanic or latino, yes or no. 

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