Spanish, Hispanic, Mexican, Latino... Are you culturally sensitive? | SpanishDict Answers
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18 Vote

One of the common - let's call it "oversights", that always gets my attention at the Forum is the tendency to stuff everything that we associate with Hispanic cultures within one convenient label. I assume that we use whatever is most familiar to us: "Spanish", "Mexican"; "Latin", whatever.

Of course this is not something that is unique to this Forum. I know that in many Latin American countries, for example, anyone and anything that looks Asian, whatever the origin, tends to get labeled as "Chino" - Chinese.

When I was growing up, everything that had to do with Spain was "Gallego", just like anything British tends to be called "English".

One of the effects that travel, and meeting people from many countries and cultures has had over me, however, has been to develop a particular sensitivity for the correct identification of origin, nationality or ethnicity.

Mexicans do not like to be called "Spanish", and likewise Spanish people don't like to be confused with Mexicans. Puerto Ricans don't like to be confused with South Americans, and Argentinians - God help us! - don't like to be confused with anyone else!

Japanese don't like to be called Chinese, Indians don't like to be called Pakistanis - and so forth. Same goes for food and cultural customs.

"Spanish food" is from Spain. "Hispanic" food, or even "Latin American food" can mean a great many different things.

I just wanted to get that out of off my chest, because I have seen a number of posts in that vein recently. You are welcome to add your comments, experiencies, pet peeves, requests for clarifications or whatever in this thread.

  • Good post. - --Mariana-- May 3, 2010 flag
  • 'off (of) my chest' - samdie May 3, 2010 flag
  • Good call, Samdie. Thank you! - Gekkosan May 3, 2010 flag
  • Obviously a lot of thought went into this; well said. - Delores--Lin May 18, 2010 flag
  • hey you forgot to mention Kiwi's and Aussies - don't get them mixed up either je je :) - Kiwi-Girl Sep 18, 2011 flag

20 Answers

4 Vote

I agree that we need to be more thoughtful about this issue. It's problematic, sometimes, though. I read something on a website where Hispanic/Latino people in the U.S. were asked how they wanted to be referred to, and there were many answers. Some wanted to be called Latino or Mexican-American, for example. I'd rather ask someone how they would like me to refer to them, than make an assumption.

  • That is a very good policy. People like to feel that you care for their identity, and appreciate your interest. - Gekkosan May 3, 2010 flag
  • I know this is a 'resurrected' post, but why is this a 'best answer'? Just wondering. - Jack-OBrien May 18, 2010 flag
  • At the moment, it was the answer that best summarized the average of answers given. I have found no reason to change it, really. It is not "incorrect", after all. - Gekkosan May 18, 2010 flag
4 Vote

I, personally, am of half Puerto Rican descent. I admit that I never really felt like I was of hispanic descent until I was older and called by my first name and last name in the military (both my first and last names are very recognizable common hispanic names -- I go by my middle name).

Now that I am married, my wife will sometimes call me Mexican (though I think it is teasingly now, after the first time she did this). It can be a sensitive issue. For me, it is not that I think any less of Mexicans or any other hispanic culture, but my latino heritage is from a particular place. That particular place happens to be Puerto Rico.

  • Exactly. And roots and identity are very important notions to most people. - Gekkosan May 3, 2010 flag
  • "after the first time she did this" Ah, you mean the time when you broke her jaw in three places? jeje - samdie May 3, 2010 flag
  • I don't hink that's funny, Samdie. - Gekkosan May 3, 2010 flag
4 Vote

Eso no importa, todos somos humanos. El ofenderse es tener una mente retrógada. Si me confundieran sólo me causaría un poco de gracia... quizá. A veces me preguntan que si soy de Brasil... qué más da... repito, igual somos humanos.

  • Sí, pero mucha gente no piensa en una manera tan sensible, siempre piensa 'mi pueblo es el mejor' - margaretbl May 18, 2010 flag
  • La cultura y el conocimiento son las herramientas para superarse. :) - AntMexico May 18, 2010 flag
  • Bien dicho Toni. - galsally May 19, 2010 flag
3 Vote

Yes Don't call a person from Scotland "Scotch" that is whiskey - they are Scottish.

Also calling everyone from Britain English can also cause offence. grin

  • Scotch... that's a good one! :-) - Gekkosan May 3, 2010 flag
  • Do people really call Scottish people Scotch?! It works both ways though - its weird I am English and I hate being called British - it just seems so colonial or something... :) - kirstenalexa May 3, 2010 flag
  • Interesting, Kristenalexa. Meaning no offense, however, technically I understand that you ARE British, right? - Gekkosan May 3, 2010 flag
  • Americans (except, perhaps those of Scottish descent) are much more likely to say 'the Scotch' than 'the Scots'. - samdie May 3, 2010 flag
  • Yeah, i think you are right samdie, because if one was to pronounce Scotch out loud, it doesn't sound so wrong. I' m an American and I have no clue why people say "Scotch" instead of Scots .:) - sunrise May 3, 2010 flag
3 Vote

I have discovered this as well. My Peruvian friends say they are rivals with Ecuador and Chile and don't even mention Mexico. They say they have the true Spanish and everyone else is wrong. Gracioso. If I talk about the good things in Ecuador or any country around Peru they laugh and think I'm crazy. Tienen problemas mucho más

  • That's why this is important. It is common for people to feel that their own country is the very best! Please, Scott, the name of the country is "Chile", not "Chili" - Gekkosan May 3, 2010 flag
  • oops. Gracias - scottdoherty May 3, 2010 flag
  • jajaja - this is so true... when I first met mi amiga de Ecuador she told me that Ecuadorians spoke the clearest Spanish in South America :) - kirstenalexa May 6, 2010 flag
3 Vote

I think most people are overly sensitive when it comes to cultural identity, to the point of carrying a chip on their shoulder. I've seen people spit and cuss because they've been 'misidentified', and if everybody is not constantly asking where are you from and what would you like to be called? then we will constantly be getting it wrong. Koreans get mad when they're called Chinese and the Japanese get mad when they are called Korean and they all get mad when they're called oriental, yet somebody keeps running a commercial inviting me to come to the orient. To further complicate things, some people in Mexico want to be called one thing, others want to be called something else. Ditto for the whole of Latin America, whoops, Central America. Then you have the problem of certain people groups changing the name of their identities, like that's not going to confuse me. In my church there are at least 6 Spanish speaking countries represented, so are they Latino, Hispanic or something else I don't know about? Countries like Colombia, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Miami, Mexico, Venezuela, Guatemala, Panama, Dominican Republic and Honduras. Ok, there's more than six. Our church just happens to be a melting pot of Spanish Speaking people, and that's been one of the interesting things for me in my language quest, I've been able to learn so much about other cultures (South and Central American anyway). I've used the word Latino and Hispanic, I've asked, "hey, is it ok for me to refer to you as ______ or what would you prefer I say?" and they would say, "sure, that's ok". I'm as respectful as I know how to be regarding other cultures, sometimes it has been a one way street for me. There are rude and inconsiderate people in every culture, so thankfully we can all find a place to fit in tongue wink

  • While I agree that carrying "a chip on the shoulder" may be taking things a bit far, I have found that world-wide identity is indeed important to people. Possibly second only to their name, and sometimes even more. - Gekkosan May 18, 2010 flag
  • Probably the only time when I have *really* been annoyed by a display of bigotry was when someone who *should* have known better said: "Do you mind if I call you 'Pedro'? Your name is too difficult for me.." (My name is not that unusual, really). - Gekkosan May 18, 2010 flag
  • I always regretted not having a quick-enough with to snap back with: "Sure, if you don't mind me calling you Dick". Oh well. I keep waiting for someone to ask again... :-) - Gekkosan May 18, 2010 flag
  • How ignorant of them Gekkosan. :( - galsally May 19, 2010 flag
  • I agree ,it does seem like people have gotten "thinner skin "over the years. - heliotropema Sep 19, 2011 flag
2 Vote

Here in New Mexico one has to be careful to call certain people Spanish and others Mexican. My impression is the Spanish people feel superior to the Mexicans.

  • Are there a lot of Spanish immigrants living in New Mexico, as well as Mexicans? That could be a delicate confusion, definiitely. - Gekkosan May 3, 2010 flag
  • 400 years ago there were a lot of Spanish immigrants.Now the Mexican workers are the new kids on the block - nizhoni1 May 3, 2010 flag
  • Funny. :-p - Gekkosan May 3, 2010 flag
2 Vote

I agree with Marcia:

I'd rather ask someone how they would like me to refer to them, than make an assumption.

I would never think of calling someone from Mexico "Spanish," just as I wouldn't call someone from Spain "Mexican."

I usually ask where someone they are from and then later say in conversation something like "Oh, Gekkson...yeah, he's Cuban but lives in Puerto Rico."

2 Vote

Call me what you will, just don't call me too early in the morning.

2 Vote

I understand what you mean. Often times, people will call me Indian, but I am Pakistani and I really do not look like the typical Indian (sorry, just stereotyped but I am only trying to get my point across). I don't find it offensive since I know some really awesome Indians and I could have technically been born Indian. However, after a while it gets really annoying especially when people go "Where's that (Pakistan)?' I do not mean to be rude or anything but please, people stop associating Asia as only a country for Chines, Japanese, Koreans, and others along that line.

  • Doubtlessly education plays a big role in this matter. Yes, many people tend to think that Asia = Chinese, and that all African people are Black, and that all Hispanic people go around with large Mexican sombreros and eat burritos day in and day out. :-/ - Gekkosan May 3, 2010 flag
  • This could be a problem that is decreasing with a new generation. I have friends from Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, and I constantly have to tell my grandparents NOT to call them all Indian, but at school everyone is culturally sensitive. - bailarina95 May 18, 2010 flag
2 Vote

I sooo feel you. I'm tired of people calling me Japanese or Chinese. LOL I'd prefer Asian - and if they can't differentiate us, please don't. haha...

Anyway, I recently just got an eye-opening experience where I spent a lot of times with my South American friends. They educated me in a way I'd never thought possible - now I know so much more about the latino culture etc. I'm grateful for that. grin

  • That's the spirit! The nicest thing about being in touch with a different culture is being able to learn about it. See how we all can be so different, and yet in essence, be so alike! May I ask were in Asia you are from anyway? Kind of a big place :-) - Gekkosan May 18, 2010 flag
2 Vote

This is a very interesting and enlightening discussion. I have always found that Latinos in the US hold on very tightly to their own identities. This is particularly true of the Cuban population in South Florida. But again this is probably the same everywhere - including in the Caribbean where people in the Islands are totally different in many respects.

2 Vote

I'm human and I'm from planet earth.

I have answered human on DMV applications and the like when it asked my race, I checked the box other and wrote human.

I don't care much for labels, we are people and often when I am asked, "Where are you from“? I answer politely with, I am from planet earth. smile

  • I like that attitude. Of course, there are also a lot of people who have strong arguments about the idea of globalization and the loss of separate national and cultural indentities; altogether though, I tend to agree with your view. - Gekkosan Sep 19, 2011 flag
2 Vote

As long there is no serious racism behind it i don,t think of it as a big issue.

2 Vote

I don't really care how people refer to me so long as their intention is polite.

If I am asked I call myself British, I was born in England but I have an Irish name, my Dad was Irish and my Mums ancestors were too and I just don't feel English.

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