What is the Difference between "Hispanic," "Mexican," "Latino," and "Chicano"?

Quick Answer
  • Hispanic = a citizen of Latin America/Spain or a U.S. citizen of Latin American/Spanish descent
  • Mexican = a Mexican citizen
  • Latino = a citizen of Latin America or a U.S. citizen of Latin American descent
  • Chicano = a U.S. citizen of Mexican descent

These terms sometimes overlap, so read on for more on the differences and similarities between them!

The terms Hispanic and Latino are considered interchangeable by some people, so don't be surprised if you see them used as synonyms.

Hispanic

The term Hispanic (hispano  or hispánico ) can be used to refer to someone from Spain, Portugal, Brazil, or the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America, as well as to people of Hispanic descent (people with parents, grandparents, etc. who are Hispanic).

  • In the U.S., the term Hispanic is most commonly used to refer to someone from Latin America (Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Central and South America).
There are many Hispanic stores in my neighborhood.
Hay muchas tiendas hispanas en mi barrio.
 
I'm taking a class on Hispanic literature.
Estoy tomando una clase sobre la literatura hispana.
 

Mexican

The term Mexican (mexicano ) can be used to refer to someone born in Mexico, someone with Mexican citizenship, or someone of Mexican descent.

My husband is Mexican. He was born in Mexico City.
Mi esposo es mexicano. Nació en la Cuidad de México.
 
Valeria was born in Argentina, but now she has Mexican citizenship. That's why she's Mexican, not Argentinean.
Valeria nació en Argentina, pero ahora tiene nacionalidad mexicana. Por eso es mexicana, no argentina.
 
Rosa considers herself Mexican. She was born in the U.S., but her parents are from Guadalajara.
Rosa se considera mexicana. Ella nació en los Estados Unidos, pero sus papás son de Guadalajara.
 

Latino

The term Latino (latino ) is used to refer to someone from Latin America (Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Central and South America), as well as to people of Latino descent (people with parents, grandparents, etc. who are Latino).

My mom is Latina. She was born in Guayaquil, a city in Ecuador.
Mi mamá es latina. Nació en Guayaquil, una cuidad en Ecuador.
 
My dad is Latino, but he's not Mexican. He's Cuban.
Mi papá es latino, pero no es mexicano. Es cubano.
 

Chicano

The term Chicano is normally used to refer to someone born in the United States to Mexican parents or grandparents and is considered a synonym of Mexican-American.

  • A person who was born in Mexico and came to the United States as an adult would refer to him/herself as Mexican, not Chicano.
Rogelio is Chicano. His parents were born in Mexico, but he was born in Los Angeles.
Rogelio es chicano. Sus papás nacieron en México, pero él nació en Los Angeles.
 
Daniela is Mexican, not Chicana. She was born in Puebla and has only been here in the States for two years.
Daniela es mexicana, no chicana. Nació en Puebla y solo lleva dos años aquí en los United.
 
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