The terms Hispanic and Latino refer to an ethnicity sharing a common history, culture, and language. Hispanics are often defined as people from Spain or any country that is Spanish speaking in Latin America. The term Latino has more varied definitions that generally include people from Latin American. Hispanic Americans and Latino Americans make up more than 17% of the U.S. population with over 53 million Hispanics and Latinos living in the U.S.
Hispanic and Latin Americans come from diverse social, economic, and geographic backgrounds making them all very different depending on their family heritage and national origin. However, there some cultural similarities that tend to bring these diverse backgrounds together.
One of the most common cultural characteristics of Hispanic American culture is the Spanish language. In 1980, there were roughly 11 million Spanish speakers in the U.S. representing 5% of the population. By 2012 the number of Spanish speakers increased to over 38 million, representing 13% of the U.S. population. Hispanic families often teach their children Spanish as a way of passing down their heritage and culture. This emphasis on bilingualism has helped revive the Spanish language in the U.S.
Religion plays an important role in Hispanic and Latin American culture. Hispanic and Latin Americans represent a highly Christian constituency. The majority of Hispanic and Latin Americans identify as Catholic and Protestant.
Hispanic and Latin American cuisines are very popular in the U.S. and have had a significant influence on American cuisine and eating habits. Some of the typical items in Latin American cuisine include corn-based dishes such as tortillas, tamales, and tacos and various salsas and condiments such as guacamole, pico de gallo, and mole. Tortilla chips and salsa are so popular that they are now one of the highest selling snack foods in the U.S.
Hispanic and Latin American culture places a strong value on family. Hispanics and Latin Americans tend to have large, close-knit families. It is not uncommon for three generations to live in the same household or nearby each other. Grandparents typically play an important role in their grandchildren’s upbringing. The emphasis on the well-being of the family makes Hispanic and Latin Americans very group-oriented with family gatherings being commonplace.
Media and Entertainment
The U.S. has many Spanish-language media outlets ranging from giant commercial broadcasting networks to local radio stations. The two largest broadcasting networks are Univision and Telemundo, which provide Spanish-language television to the majority of the U.S. The availability of Spanish-language television has made it possible for Hispanic and Latin Americans to follow the sport of soccer in the U.S. This has influenced the growth in popularity of soccer in the U.S.
Hispanic and Latin Americans have had a big influence on music in the United States. In 1986, Billboard magazine introduced the “Hot Latin Songs” chart, which ranks the best performing songs on Spanish-Language radio stations in the U.S. In 1993, they introduced the “Top Latin Albums” chart, which ranks the top-selling Latin albums in the U.S. The Record Industry Association of America began “Los Premios de Oro y Platino”, meaning “The Gold and Platinum Awards” to certify Latin recordings that contained at least 50% of its content recorded in Spanish. Numerous Hispanic and Latin American musicians have achieved international fame such as Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera, and Selena.
More than half of the U.S. Hispanic and Latino population reside in three states: California, Texas, and Florida. California has the largest population of Hispanic and Latino Americans with over 14 million Hispanic and Latino Americans. Texas and Florida have a Hispanic and Latino American population of about 10 million and 4 million respectively. New York also has a large population of Hispanic and Latino Americans with a population of over 3 million Hispanic and Latino Americans. These states as well as many other cities in the U.S. have a very vibrant Hispanic and Latino American community.
National Hispanic Heritage Month begins September 15th. Do some research into Hispanic and Latino cultural events in your area!