What Does Hispanic Really Mean?

Why you may ask I keep writing on the Hispanic culture and everything associated with it in a translation blog instead of language?

Because for most translations that are associated with Hispanics or Latinos, one has to see how the language changes (despite being Spanish or Portuguese) into that particular culture and depending on the client, the audience that will be reading the text and from what particular country or region of same.

Also, the definition of Hispanic itself is quite misinterpreted and frankly what does being Hispanic really mean?  Cultural identity is so complex with so many factors that it is  not only language, because not being fluent in the language does make you less or more Latino than a the fully bilingual Latino; it is experiences, upbringing, education, and maybe even the integration of other nationalities within  your “Latino characteristics”  that may contribute to  incorrectly being labeled “Hispanic”.

I can identify with this idea of the Third Culture Kid (TCK) as in the video you will see below. I too can relate to this confusing definition of cultural identity and feeling that although you may be born  a particular country you don’t necessarily identify with your country of birth.  The idea of being ‘rootless’ –not knowing where you belong and how to describe yourself was a constant in my life and particularly when I moved permanently to the US because it always became a conversation starter in any social situation.

Just to give you a summary of how cultural identity can confuse and mess with you. I was born in the US to Cuban parents but raised in Brazil. I do associate with the Latino culture because of my parents but I never been to Cuba, I lived in Brazil most of my life and I love everything about it but I am not directly linked through blood or otherwise to fully say I am Brazilian. I live in the US now and although have assimilated  to American life, I identify with the Hispanic and Latino culture and generally gravitate towards everything “Latino”.


To answer the question, where you from is not necessarily easy for some, me included.  You may be born in a country, raised in another, have your formative years and educational years in another, speak their language fluently but still feel  that you don’t necessarily “belong”.

And the keyword here is belonging.

Hispanics as a whole do try to maintain these ties to their homeland not only because they  generally  live in multi generational households where their roots, customs and culture are continuously reinforced by their peers and relatives, but also  because they have a deep-rooted connection to family that regardless of your degree of acculturation and assimilation it is hard not to carry part of that identity with you particularly when it is so pronounced. Despite  being a 2nd and maybe 3rd generation Hispanic, how they define themselves and what do they really feel they are is truly their cultural identity.

 It is the family and deep-rooted connections that make up your identity and give you that sense of belonging.

This article although a bit dated from the Pew Research Center  explains this concept fully and although we may not fit the government label of Hispanic or Latino you are what you feel you are.

So in essence it is all these factors that have been brought together experiences, upbringing, education, and maybe even the integration of other nationalities  summed up that generally define belonging and as a result becomes what identifies them.

In essence, most Hispanics and Latinos refer to themselves through their country of origin rather than the  general “Hispanic” label.  I guess  the reasons are obvious no one truly represents a Hispanic culture but several facets in it.

The rest I  can say I am a citizen of the world. And proud. Although this ‘cultural identity crisis’ has been an issue for me, I have come to embrace it and has become largely the reason why I do what I do.

It is very difficult and unrealistic to pigeonhole people by certain characteristics to fit  the mold of what it is perceived to be Hispanic or any other ethnicity by using language, location and nationality into one, because we are the result of many cultures and sometimes one more than another.

I don’t know how many times I have heard this from people “Oh, but you don’t look Hispanic” or fill in the blank here. What are they supposed to look like?  As if that was not enough try adding race into the mix; a biracial/bicultural into the mix  could get even more complex.

Finally,  As if not looking the part wasn’t enough, some already assume that you may not speak the language fluently and they increase their tone of voice as if that would actually make you understand the language better (which is a way to demean you as well).

This one incident did happen to me and all I could think of is ‘If you only knew”.

I speak to many people and they still don’t know the difference between Latino and Hispanic and actually use the term interchangeably which would be incorrect.  In a brief note Hispanic refers to language; Latino refers to geography. As in ‘hispano-hablante” y latino- americano” Hispanic are all Latin American countries that are Spanish-speaking excluding Brazil (that is not) and Latino are all countries is Latin America including Brazil (because of its location).

I found two videos (there may be plenty more) but I have chosen these two because as I was listening to them, I could not only relate to them but understand (particularly in the last one) how everything does become part of your identity rather than a pigeonhole label.



Would this also apply to you?  I would love to read your comments.

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