What we are is often confusing for many. I get why; several countries seemed to be randomly identified as part of the Latino community even though often times they belong to completely different races and cultures. It’s confusing, I get it, but no worries here’s what is happening:
Latino is not a race, it’s an ethnicity. The race most of you think of when you say “Latino”, is actually a mixed race composed out of white, black and/or indigenous races. You may think it is a race because it’s such a common conception but there is a reason behind it: When you think about it, all the way to colonization, America has had relatively the same history as Latin America.
They both include narratives that have to do with Natives (Indigenous, for Latin America) living in an undiscovered land which suddenly got discovered, and got colonized by a European Country (White people) who happen to bring slaves with them (Black people). Having the same historical “ingredients” it would only be logical to think that our populations would look alike. The difference between the two populations relied in the majority of English colonizers being established families, while the majority of Spanish colonizers were single men, so while for English colonizers having a mixed baby may be “taboo”, for us it was so common that a whole system was created to identify status according to what the mix was composed of.
This, however, does not mean we are all mixed. There are White and Afro Latinos. Is not only a thing but a completely normal one. Around 32% to 39% of the population of Latin America is White. If you were born in a Latino country, you are a Latino, no matter your color. This is something that so many people don’t understand because of the misconception explained before, but most Latino countries have a big portion of white population, there are even countries where the majority of the population is white like Argentina, Chile or Uruguay and although there are no Latincountries with a Black majority (unless you count Caribbean countries as Latino countries) most contain at least 10% of black population.
Now that you know what we are, you should know how to reference us: Latino and Spanish/Hispanic is not the same thing. “You must be English because you speak it”. Now wouldn’t it sound stupid if someone said that to you? Spain colonized us, so we speak Spanish, but we are not Spanish because we aren’t from Spain. England colonized you, so you speak English, but you are not necessarily from England. Same case, different points of view.
When it comes to “Hispanic” there are two core definitions: either you are a descendant of Spain or you speak Spanish. This would fit pretty perfectly, if we all spoke Spanish or if we all were colonized by Spain, but aren’t you forgetting Brazil? (Brazil was colonized by Portugal, they speak Portuguese) Plus, if Hispanic and Latino meant the same thing, Spain would also be Latino, which is also not the case because again, Latino is an ethnicity, ethnicity is the belonging of a social group with a common national or cultural tradition and we may have inevitably inherited part of Spain’s culture due to the colonization (like the language), but we’ve developed our very own identity apart from it. This also applies to countries like France or Italy that some times get called “Latino” because their languages derive from Latin.
So Europe is not invited to the “Latino” party and Caribbean Countries aren’t either. There are 20 Latino Countries but Caribbean countries aren’t some of them. Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico are Latino because they both speak Spanish and have similar cultures to the rest of Latin America, but countries like Haiti, Jamaica or Trinidad and Tobago, although geographically could be included, we don’t have anything in common. If it was a matter of geography Surinam, Belize, French Guiana, British Guiana, even the US and Canada (cause why not?) for sure should be included too, but they aren’t, for the same reasons. Lastly, Spain is in EUROPE so I think you can infer why it is obviously not part of Latin AMERICA. Latin America is not really a geographical location, but a group of similar countries.
Latin America, South America, North America and Central America are not one continent. This may be quite obvious to some but many of us, including me, are taught that Latin America, Canada, USA and the Caribbean countries conform one continent, America. Although barely, we are still connected and we share culture. If you consider Central America, part of the North American continent that means that out of 15 countries, 13 share Latino culture with South America. If you consider only Mexico to be part of North America that would mean that we are directly connected to seven countries out of which six share a Latino culture with Mexico. The Americas are often seen as one continent in parts of Europe, Latin America and this merged model is still present in Asia
Finally, all of us aren’t Mexican or alike in any way. Even when we’re low key connected to each other, every single country has its own food, traditions, history, etc.