According to Wikipedia:
The term "Hispanic" was adopted by the United States government in the early 1970s during the administration of Richard Nixon after the Hispanic members of an interdepartmental Ad Hoc Committee to develop racial and ethnic definitions[for census and statistical use] recommended that a universal term encompassing all Hispanic subgroups—including Central and South Americans—be adopted.
It is enlightening to know the term was developed by a committee during the Nixon Administration. That certainly explains a lot. Consider this in 2011 from people who ought to know:
Not only does it leave out groups who should be included, it also includes groups who perhaps don’t share the same culture as the group being identified. French Guiana, located in South America, would be considered Latino, even though their language and culture are French. What about Suriname, also in South America? They’re Dutch! Belize in Central America has English as their primary language. As does Guyana in South America, which was previously a British colony. And if we want to raise even more eyebrows, what about Brazil? The largest country in Latin America shares a lot of cultural traits, but not the language. Or what about Latinos in the United States, which is, after all, not part of Latin America?
It seems like the term Latino ill-represents who we are as a community.
Does the term Hispanic fare any better? Not really. Hispanic was originally used to denote a relationship with Hispania, or more specifically, Spain. So it referred to countries that had been formally ruled by the Spanish Empire. Hispanic is now more commonly used to refer to people who are from Spanish-speaking countries.
While that may seem a broad enough label, it is limiting in many ways. Do third generation immigrants from Honduras living in the United States no longer count as Hispanic if they don’t speak Spanish? Are we really excluding Brazilians, with whom we share so much culture and history? Does one have to speak Spanish to be Hispanic?
One really has to understand the historical geography of the Americas to understand the new permission for ignorant bigotry contained in the word "Hispanic" developed by a committee in 1972.
As we are taught in elementary school, "geography" is about the nature and relative arrangement of places and physical features of the Earth. "Historical geography" is more complex, as explained by Wikipedia:
Migration (human not birds) is a significant element of historical geography. Human migration is physical movement by humans from one area to another. Evidence of human migratory movement indicates that humans, individually and in groups, have for thousands of years migrated seasonally and have for thousands of years migrated with the intention of settling permanently in a new location. Heck, the normal American today is doomed to move at least ten times in their lifetime. Assuming most of those moves are not into the house next door or to an apartment upstairs or to s parent's basement, in the context of human history most Americans are migrants temporarily domiciled.
The year 1491, the year before Columbus first sailed from Spain setting off the European settlement of the Americas, creates a starting point for a new story of historical geography in the Americas. It is a complex story of migration with the intention of settling permanently in a new location.
Using that cutoff date, everybody living today in North, Central, and South America and the islands offshore therefrom is descended from Afro-Eurasia migrants - except "full-blooded" indigenous peoples of the Americas called "Amerindian" in Quebec, the Guianas, and the English-speaking Caribbean Islands. "Amerindian" will be used in the rest of this post to refer to those "full-blooded" indigenous peoples.1
Migrants. We don't call them that. We call them "immigrants." An "immigrant" is a person who takes up a permanent residence in a country after migrating there from another country. An "emigrant" a person who migrates from a country to take up a permanent residence in another country.
Country. A "country" is a particular geographic area with its own government. Here's where folks get confused because a "country" is not a "nation." Per Wikipedia:
Joseph Stalin's Marxism and the National Question (1913) declares that "a nation is not a racial or tribal, but a historically constituted community of people;" "a nation is not a casual or ephemeral conglomeration, but a stable community of people"; "a nation is formed only as a result of lengthy and systematic intercourse, as a result of people living together generation after generation"; and, in its entirety: "a nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture."
Others have conceived of a nation as being united primarily by racial characteristics, whose common history, language, and culture was the product of shared ancestry. Adolf Hitler said of nations: "What makes a people or, to be more correct, a race is not language, but blood". Hitler often criticized civic nationalism, in contrast to his ethnic nationalism, saying "It is almost inconceivable how such a mistake could be made as to think that [an African] or [an Asian] will become a German because he has learned the German language and is willing to speak German for the future and even to cast his vote for a German political party."
The nation has been described by Benedict Anderson as an "imagined community" and by Paul James as an "abstract community". It is an imagined community in the sense that the material conditions exist for imagining extended and shared connections. It is an abstract community in the sense that it is objectively impersonal, even if each individual in the nation experiences him or herself as subjectively part of an embodied unity with others. For the most part, members of a nation remain strangers to each other and will never likely meet. Hence the phrase, "a nation of strangers" used by such writers as Vance Packard.
In other words, the United States of America is a country in the sense that it is a particular geographic area with its own government. That's a firm fact, one of those things that can be verified. And John Adams made it clear that "it is a government of laws, not of men."
Then there is the imaginary, abstract, impersonal community known as a "nation" that, as defined by Stalin, "is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture, as a result of people living together generation after generation." Hitler goes one step further by saying "what makes a people...is blood."
Traditional Deplorables in the United States think the U.S. is a nation - their sense of identity aligns with the nationalism views of Stalin and Hitler. There is some delusional thread that embraces the "one nation under God" phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance, a phrase that is basically at odds with the Constitution and our history.
The United States is a new country lacking "people living together generation after generation." It is not "a people" made by common blood heritage but a particular geographic area into which migrate a multitude of people from around the world seeking a government of laws, a country not the bigotry of a nation.
The United States is a country, not a nation, it's a fact, not an imagined or abstract fiction.
Let's pretend for a moment that someone of Irish-American descent who can think was sitting in that committee that came up with "Hispanic" back in 1972 who said: "OK, we've got "Hispanic" but we don't have a term for people whose ancestors spoke English and came from a country in which the legal language was Engllish - so how about 'Britanic' as a choice on the census form!"
If that happened, we can imagine someone in 2011 pondering about "Britannic" Americans who themselves or their ancestors immigrated to the United States. We can include the English, Welsh, Scots, Irish, Guyanese, Belizeans, Kenyans, South Africans, Australians, Chinese from Hong Kong, etc., all of whom have the same cultural and economic backgrounds ...oh wait, not really... but just as much as the all the Hispanics have the same cultural and economic backgrounds.
And then, of course, there were immigrants from France, Germany, Sweden, etc. They aren't Britannic Americans so we really ought to have categories, for instance one that include folks from, say, France and Cote d'Ivoire, Haiti, Madagascar, etc., where people speak French as a legal language.
Really, using language is not a way to determine ethnic or cultural commonality among peoples except as a means for the Britannic American culture to classify people they want to discriminate against.
That's the problem with "Hispanic" - no such thing exists as a common race, ethnicity or culture. Consider, for a moment, Cubans as Hispanics compared to Mexicans.
The basics regarding the population of the small island nation of Cuba (42,426 sq mi) is it has a population of 11,232,305, which is 64.12% White, 9.26% Black, 26.62% Mulatto/Mestizo. Oh, and they speak Spanish.
And then there is Mexico, the 13th largest country in the world at 761,610 sq mi, 18 times larger than Cuba.
The large majority of Mexicans can be classified as Mestizos, meaning in modern Mexican usage that they identify fully neither with any indigenous culture nor with a particular non-Mexican heritage, but rather identify as having cultural traits and heritage incorporating elements from indigenous and European traditions.
By the deliberate efforts of post-revolutionary governments the "Mestizo identity" was constructed as the base of the modern Mexican national identity, through a process of cultural synthesis referred to as mestizaje. Mexican politicians and reformers such as José Vasconcelos and Manuel Gamio were instrumental in building a Mexican national identity on the concept of mestizaje.
Oh, and they speak Spanish.
What many outside the United States, and a few inside the United States, are aware of is that the phrase Trail of Tears originated from a description of the removal of the Cherokee Nation in 1838 from the State of Georgia begun under President Andrew Jackson in violation of a Supreme Court order.
In the Worcester v. Georgia ruling written in 1832 by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall were these words which recognized the concept of "nation" as separate from the land mass legally subject to the Constitution:
The Trail of Tears was part of an ongoing genocide conducted by White Americans against the Amerindian population. A few years after The Trail of Tears incident, that genocide continued as a war of conquest against a country that today is 90% Amerindian or Mestizo (mixed Amerindian-Spanish) - Mexico. The so-called American Indian Wars occurred across the North American continent from the time of earliest colonial settlements until 1924.
White Americans were, and still are today, bigoted against the Amerindian and "half-breed" ethnic group.
Just this week President Donald Trump said in his weekly address that he went to Nashville, Tenn., to lay a wreath at the grave of President Andrew Jackson, who "fought to defend forgotten men and women from the arrogant elite of his day." Jackson knowingly and deliberately violated a Supreme Court order leading to the "Trail of Tears", though I'm sure that is not what Trump admires, except one has to wonder about all the things he has said about Mexicans.
One of the difficulties living in the United States is confronting the denial by Neoliberals that they aren't prejudiced against people based on the language they speak and their ethnic appearance. One of the fun things is to offer this photo array of young citizens of other countries and ask them to identify where these people live:
Yes, two of the pictures are of Mexicans - pictures B and C. (Those in A and D are Sicilians, a region of Italy.)
As I posted elsewhere, for relevant history on Irish-Mexicans, read about the Saint Patrick's Battalion, highly revered in Mexico. In the mid-1840's Irish and other Catholic immigrants had the impression that the those so revered descendants of English immigrants shouldn't be forcing members of the Army to worship in Protestant services and those Irish had the impression that there was little difference between
- British colonial bigotry as they had experienced it in the Ireland they were escaping and
- the American Manifest Destiny populist political movement bigotry as it affected Mexicans and Native Americans.
Of course, there are American's who still think like this:
Isn't it about time we Americans embrace the idea that the United States is a country of laws that embraces all of humanity, not a nation of similar peoples who despise all others? Isn't it time to stop The Trail of Tears resulting from marching people across imaginary lines we created?
1 The politically correct police may find this use of "Amerindian" objectionable. The problem is that even if one uses "indigenous people" it is inaccurate as "indigenous" (except as it has been distorted and stretched by the PC police) means "originating or occurring naturally in a particular place". In the context of discussing human migration, the only continent on which any group of humans could be considered as "indigenous" rather than "migrants" is Africa.
"Amerindian" delightfully reflects the finest abilities of Europeans to screw up facts, a heritage currently embraced by the leading white folks in the United States.
The Amer portion of the term comes from "America" which is named for an Italian merchant who worked for the Florentine commercial house of Medici, Amerigo Vespucci. He was the first guy who, after sailing on some Portuguese ships, made it clear in writing that European explorers had stumbled onto a second super continent.
The indian portion reflects the fact that Columbus thought he landed in India and termed the locals "Indians" which in itself is ironic because "India" is a European screwup not reflective of what the locals in India called their land which is Bhārat (भारत).
So the completely erroneous etymological sources of the term "Amerindian" reflects both the fact that the folks here before 1492, ranging from the Inuit in the Arctic to the Kawésqar of Tierra del Fuego, did not really have a name for the supercontinent and the fact Europeans were basically incompetent.
It is worth noting here that local groups living on the supercontinent at that time did not all have common genetic or language characteristics, though there are indicators of common ancestry among some, if not most, groups.