CNN Latino in America Commentary "But What’s a Latino?"

RaquelCepedaNEW YORK (CNN) — Let’s all pretend to be the astrologer Walter Mercado for a moment. Say we predict that the Obama administration’s master plan to engage people of Latino/Hispanic/Spanish origin proves to be effective.

Let’s say that along with strategic partners Telemundo and the Census Bureau, they somehow manage to corral the millions of “Latinos” into filling out the 2010 census forms in April. Say the idea of plot-kneading the message into an already half-baked yet inexplicably popular telenovela, “Mas Sabe el Diablo,” wins over the hearts and minds of “Latinos” everywhere.

But what’s a Latino?


Comments 81

  1. Hello,

    I really enjoyed your article – thought provoking and extremely well written. Thank you!

    I work with several Mexican and Hispanic and Latino/Latina individuals, many who have become good friends – bringing their families to my home and enjoying life and good times together. As a white middle-aged man I try to make the world smaller when possible. My friends enjoyed it when I told them that when I face the decision of which box to check on the census, it is an easy one to make. I draw my own, check it, and label it “Human”. Welcome to Earth – my home that does not have labels and skin color.

    Again, thank you for your article, it will be discussed with my friends at work tomorrow.


    P. S. – the Census Bureau has never responded or told me I couldn’t do this.


    I want to commend you for your outstanding commentary on I found it to be very insightful and asked a lot of the questions that I have been asking for quite a number of years. I wish you the best in the future and you have found a new fan and follower of your writing.

    Con Respeto,

    YN1 Edgar R. O


    I am a Canadian of French-Italian descent. who has spent several months in California over the past few years. It always baffled me to see how Latinos are lumped together as a detached monoculture. Most of those I met could walk into any family gathering on either side of my family and it would be assumed they are a relative.

    Victor G.

    Stanley C L CIV USA IMCOM

    I find your article very interesting. Thank you for explaining to me and
    the rest of us idiots exactly what a Latino really is.

    Keep the info coming.

  5. Thank you!

    Via EMAIL
    Hi Raquel,

    I just wanted to drop you a quick note to let you know I really liked your article “But What is Latino.”

    I am African American (which means, like many Latinos, a little bit of everything. I was surprised by a DNA trace to find that my matrilineal line began in Uttar Pradesh India!) and I try so hard not be annoyed when many Hispanic and Latino people of dark complexions and tightly curled hair look at us Black Americans as separate – and sometimes even less-than. It annoys me because I feel we are all from the same roots and many times in the same boat – why separate yourselves from us? We could work together.

    And, I admit, some of my annoyance might be because many times Latina women – beautiful women – are featured more prominently in the American culture I think because of the hair thing and the lighter-skin thing. I know this is not their fault – and they should, by all means be celebrated. But I personally just feel like “We are here, too!” And we are just as beautiful. So when I get the “we are separate” words and vibes from our Hispanic brothers and sisters, it just touches that nerve with me.

    I know, this is a rather personal e-mail 🙂 But I just wanted to thank you for acknowledging among other heritages, the inseparable African influence and heritage in many Caribbean and South American people. And thank you, for my sake, and for those like me, for explaining why Latino and Hispanic people shy away from the African American, or rather “Black” classification. Why identify with the underdog if you don’t have to? Lol And, I know the culture (foods, clothes, music, religion) can also be very different, which is another distinguishing characteristic.

    It’s a deep conversation and could go on forever, but I do laud you for writing an interesting, fair, and insightful article on the topic. Thank you and well done!

    Jolan B.
    Current Realtor
    Future writer 😉

  6. Via EMAIL

    From Herman G.

    Congratulations. Both of my fathers(Biological and Adoptive) are pure Portuguese while my mother is a mix of Spanish(Her mother was born in Malaga Spain) and Puerto Rican(Her faher looked like a Dominican Baseball player).I have isolated the mix of genes in the Puerto Rican and found African(what a surprise), Spanish and Taino. So am I Latino? Problem is my mother was raised in a society here you wanted to be a main steam American(White). So Spanish speaking was forbidden and I was not allowed to tell anyone I was Puerto Rican. My mother wanted to and succeded in raising a White Boy. As a result that is what I see when I look in the mirror. To add to the confusion I was born and raised in Hawaii and my family consists of mose races on the planet. Therefore I have decided I have one choice in selecting what I am. American and despite the shortcomings of my country Proud Of It.Please keep up the good work.


    From Perry L.

    Perry Limes
    Being a man of both African American Puerto Rican heritage your article really hit home. I often feel this conflict in choices as my mother is a dark skinned Puerto Rican and is almost always categorized as being black. A wonderful piece. Thanks for sharing;-)

  8. Via EMAIL

    Just wanted to send you a quick message. Read your commentary on CNN – What’s a Latino anyway? Very good and very interesting. I read it because I often wondered what the word meant and where did it come from. Latin to me means Italian, but latinos are Spanish speaking? Keep up the good work.

    Doug from New Jersey

  9. From Rey, via EMAIL

    So brilliant, Raquel! Thank you for sharing it. I am going to post it on our PPCT board at the church.

    Very interesting that 80% of Puerto Ricans check the “white” category for the census. I’m really surprised to learn that. BUT, I wonder if you mean Puerto Ricans filling out the census in Puerto Rico or Puerto Ricans filling out the census in the US mainland? My experience growing up in PR is that we understand white and black and everything in between as skin “color” not “race”. In Puerto Rico, especially in comparison to one of my sets of cousins who are very dark skin, I am “blanco”, even though I have some indian and African ancestry. I can see how, if I was in Puerto Rico, I would be expected to select “White”, given the few categories.

    Have I told you the story of when I was 16 being asked by a waitress in Colorado where I was from (my brother and I were always mistaken as Middle Eastern)? When I said I was from Puerto Rico, she, with a smile, said: “Oh, Puerto Rico, Mexico?”

    Anyway, loved the article!

  10. Soy Afro-Cubano! is how I refer myself yet it always becomes a discussion of other (especially my fellow latinos) who like to argue that it’s not correct. I guess the mirror I use in the morning works differently. Love your piece, now we need to talk openly this which hinders us as whole. We need to make this a non subject matter and talk about how similar we truly are.

  11. I loved this article!!!! Extremely relevant, well written, concise & insightful. Being both African American & Latina, I feel you have touched on the complexity of Hispanics everywhere. Thank you!!!! Now its time for you to produce a televised thought provoking piece on CNN!!! Thank you on behalf of myself, my husband, our daughter and our parents!!!

    Linda E-D

  12. Via FB

    From Cristina V.

    Excellent, necessary piece, Raquel! I’ve been thinking… if we are “Latinos” because we come from lands colonized by a “Latin” country (Spain), then maybe we ought to include Haitians & Tahitians (French) and Filipinos (Spain)… maybe even Ethiopians (Italy) in this, eh, Raq! Seriously though, you don’t hear Senegalese reppin’ as “Latino”—yet, by the same logic as we are considered thus… so are they.

  13. Via Email

    From T.L.

    Hi. A great article, thanks. Maybe we should start to get over it by checking “other” on the race question and write in “Human”. The last time I read my biology book that was the only category that would fit our particular group of primates. If most white European descended people really dug into their family history’s they would find how non-white they may be. This pigeon holing of people only keeps the differences in the forefront rather than our commonalities. For that matter what is Caucasian? That 19th Century label is as racist as any other and probably should be stricken from our vocabulary.

  14. VIA EMAIL, from the Dominican Republic

    From Julie B.

    Hi from the Dominican Republic. I just read your article and had to share it with a few people, as it a PERFECT example of our culture. I’m always disconcerted when “Latino” is use to describe a race, there are too many races and cultures mixed up together in the Americas!!!!!

    On a funny note, although the majority of Dominicans described themselves as indio or blanco, I always, since I was about 10, thought of myself as mulata. The logic behind it was that since 90% of the population was mulata/mulatto, I must be mulata… or be the odd man/woman out. My partner (European) saw me filling a form, shortly after we got together, and laugh when I put mulata as my race. She sat me down, as you would a child, and said “Your mother was a first generation Dominican with two Catalonian fathers, your father was French with an Italian mother and a Basque father… it’s ridiculous for you to write mulata as your race!”. My reply to her was… “But I’ve lived on mangú and bachata all my life!.”

    For us Dominicans race is only a estate of mind.

  15. Via email

    From Rafael S

    I am Puerto Rican born in Puerto Rico but live in the states. In regard to your comment on CNN as far as Puerto Rican’s checking off that they are of the white race is not all true. Remember in this country Hispanics are not even considered a race and both Dominican Americans & Puerto Rican Americans have to choose in the census whether they are of the white race or the black race. I know a lot of Dominican & Puerto Ricans who choose the white race and I know a lot who don’t choose a race like myself I always have to put other because I don’t consider my self either. You know being Dominican & Puertorican we are of mixed races. One thing I have always had a disagreement with when it comes to the U.S. census is that we Latinos are not even considered a race in this country and that is sad because Asians are considered a race and they come from different countries like we do I don’t think that is right. I must say I’m proud of you as a Latina for sharing your comments with CNN. Que Dios te Bendiga Amiga Del Caribe.

  16. Via Email

    From Kathy M.

    Hi – just read your Latino article – my 2-cents’ worth: as a full-blooded Greek, I’ve never wanted to categorize myself as “white”, so I always check “other”…married to a full-Mexican, I’ve told my kids (our “Greek-xicans”!!) to also check “other” – my objection is that I disagree with labeling of anybody – really, who cares? We all should be proud of our own heritage, but I think categorizing ethnicity on official documents only serves to prolong and perpetuate stereotyping and prejudice. We’re “human-kind”, created equal and equally loved by the God who made us and saved us, so I personally reject labeling ourselves for government purposes.
    Thanks for your time!

  17. I really enjoyed your article. I too feel the way you do coming from Panama at a young age to America. Everytime someone makes a comment about that Spanish or Latino they always forget that I am from a Hispanic background. I too have many different races in my background. My great great grandfather I hear is from Jamaica, my grandfather is from Costa Rica and I have no clue where so many others are from.

    I do remember trips to Panama where there was clearly a division between those of so called white skinned and those who were of color.

    The way you wrote that story it felt like I wrote it myself. Glad to know I’m not the only one out there.

  18. Via Email

    From Jose S.


    Great article I can relate as well. When I lived in London people labeled me as Indian or Middle Eastern. LOL when I said I was Dominican they was like were is that at. This was before the Punta Cana craze.

    Maybe this might be inspiration in writing your next piece why in DR (and other Latin Countries) when your marry a white person it is viewed as prize trophy and making the race better. I laugh at stuff like that..

    Any keep up the good work 🙂

  19. Your article/commentary is very necessary. Ignorance about race and ethnicity meets confusion when filling out forms like these (census). The questions are limiting and tend to force the respondents into boxes that they may not have ever thought about fitting in. It is conditioning. How else could 90% of PR respondents in the last census check “White.” Centuries of conditioning for purposes of assimilation to “Whiteness.” I wonder if this is intentional because the majority is now becoming the minority. Confuse us, and the numbers won’t reflect what is actually happening.

  20. Loved the article. I would only note that Brazilians are definitely Latinos, but would not fit in the definition of Hispanic because they do not speak Spanish. On the other hand, people are very hard to fit in little boxes.
    I am a Brazilian-American by other people’s definitions. By my own definition I am 100% American – this half and half thing does not express where my love for my nation is. But let us admit that we can use a page from Brazilians on the race thing. I have a black Brazilian friend that drove an American bureaucrat crazy writting on a form that her kids are white. Makes perfect Brazilian sense – they are kind of light (the father is Portuguese and native) and they had not been to the beach lately!
    Not saying there is no discrimination in Brazil. But race relations there are much more relaxed. I hope it points to the future of America, as races blend and we hopefully figure out that counting pigments and digging dead ancestors is a poor way to relate to other human beings.
    I always get confused about what to write on my tanned, curly-haired, green eyed son. Celtic Portuguese-sepharadic Jewish-Arab-German-Black that loves Brazilian food but does not speak more than a handful of words in Portuguese? No little boxes for that. I end up marking Latino.
    On my own forms I write mutt.

  21. Via FB

    Lisa M.

    Great article…..I’m from L.A…….ALWAYS mistaken for Mexican. Born from Costa Rican and Colombian parents. I’m living in Orlando now, and my daughter speaks spanish like she’s from Dominican Replublic :o)

  22. “But what’s a Latino?” – great question!

    I come at the question from yet a different perspective. Adopted at birth, the only tangible connection I have to the Latino community is the name of my biological mother on an ‘original’ birth certificate. A woman with an Hispanic surname I never met.

    Other than my appearance, I do not seem to have much in common with many Latinos. I don’t speak Spanish. I didn’t experience a Latino culture growing up.

    My Polish surname doesn’t help – smile!

  23. Thank you for asking the overarching question, “What Is Latino.” Race is a sociological construction and has little to do with “identity” or “culture.” In fact I think it further complicates the real conversation of what identity is. As a U.S. Latina/Puerto Rican, I don’t racially identify because phenotypically I reflect the mixture of “races” that my ancestors were. Therefore, I don’t fit into a singular box or category. But I choose those terms above because for me, it does reflect that mixture and my personal experiences. I wish more people viewed these issues for the shades of grey that they are rather than believing it a simple black/white conversation. Thanks for kicking off the dialogue in such an articulate way.

  24. I read your article on CNN, and I just have to ask…how does the fact of your mixed heritage make you any different from the vast majority of Americans, regardless of skin tone? On the census, I’ll be recorded as “Caucasian”. For me, this is a total misnomer, as I’m fairly certain that none of my ancestors hailed from Mount Caucasus. The ancestries of which I’m aware are Scottish, Irish, French, English, Spanish and Native American. People who see me see a generic “white guy”, but my heritage is much more intricate than that. People don’t know by looking at me that the first of my European ancestors to arrive in this country, a proud Scottsman, was brought here on a British POW ship in the late 1640’s – brought here against his will as an indentured servant to work in the building of the British colonies.

    We’re all more than meets the eye, and we’re all dumped into generic “buckets” at census time that don’t tell the whole story. Perhaps one day this method of categorizing people will be obsolete; for now, though, we should all be proud of our ancestry, while at the same time accepting that the racial categories on the census form are over-simplifications that don’t go any more than skin deep.

  25. Via FB

    Carolina J.

    My name is carolina johanys born and raise in the dominican republic living in Ny. i truly like your website and want to go as often as possible to read what you have to say. You are a role model and inspiration to me. I do want to write althought i am not good at it. But that does not mean i will not do my best. keep up the good work. break a leg. thank you for your time.

  26. Via Email

    Elvis N.


    That’s a great article on CNN. I’m a proud Dominican immigrant, but I’m a lot prouder when I see that there’s a lot of values and hope coming from our community.

    Thanks and keep up the good work.

  27. Via Email

    Jose Garcia (cepeda’s note. this is way too popular a name to mask!!!)

    Dear Raquel,

    I have a saying, “Six words…!” Very seldom what I say is ever six
    words but it often creates conversation on whatever I happen to say
    whether it be six words or more often than not 2. So, Six words, My
    Dad!! BTW, I’m from New Mexico, I say New Mexico because we moved all
    over the State. My Dad grew up speaking only Spanish, lived on a
    large ranch that he helped his Father, Mother and 12 brothers and
    sisters work. His older brother decided that my Dad should be the one
    to finish school and he would take on the responsibility of the ranch.
    My Dad went on to finish High School, Bachelors, Masters, and
    eventually a Doctorate in Multicultural education. Wouldn’t you know
    that he married a blue-eyed, pale skinned woman from Milwaukee,
    Wisconsin? He ended up having six kids and not a single one of them
    speak Spanish fluently. No my Dad has confused the hell out of what
    race we are; because his family has been in New Mexico since before
    the Mexican Revolution. As a matter of fact they have in CONUS long
    before either side of Mother’s family came to the Land of Milk and
    Honey. My Dad calls himself a Chicano, I call myself a Hispanic. My
    Dad scolds me because if I’m Hispanic the assumption is that I’m from
    Spain. What the hell? Sort of right!?! So then I talk to “others”
    in New Mexico and if they are from southern NM they call themselves
    “Mexican” or “Mexicano,” if they are from northern NM they call
    themselves “Chicano,” and if they are from central NM they call
    themselves “Hispanic.” Don’t mix it up or you have just disrespected
    their gente. Why did my Dad, speaking only Spanish for the better
    part of his childhood not teach his kids Spanish? There are a lot of
    Hispanics in my generation from NM, with bilingual parents, who only
    speak English. Crazy right!?! Here is what I’ve learned and my
    theory (not proven by any means): when our Hispanic parent(s) were
    going through school they were punished for speaking Spanish and/or
    having an accent; which in a sense scarred them. To protect their
    children from the same scrutiny they didn’t speak Spanish to their
    kids or teach them so they wouldn’t have an accent and/or speak
    Spanish. In NM, to me, it seems like the only people my age that
    speak Spanish are what I call the “real Mexican;” The first generation
    Mexicans whose parents migrated here from present day Mexico.
    I have the worst name in the whole country, José García. Different
    entities try to garnish my wages because of a degenerate in Ca named
    Jose Garcia isn’t paying his child support, I can’t check in early for
    a flight because I have a common name, and I get bills from any number
    of different entities because someone named Jose Garcia walked out on
    their hospital bill. I don’t where I was going with that… but I’ll
    step down from the I-hate-my-name-soap-box. After finishing the next
    paragraph which I’m not very happy about, I’m not the type of Hispanic
    that looks for and applauds fellow Hispanics for excelling or “being
    the first Hispanic to….” My Dad is Chicanocentric which bugs me.
    Every American should applaud whatever achievement is made no matter
    your race or ethnicity. Question? Who calls themselves Latino? I
    don’t think I’ve been referred to the tall Latino guy or said, “your
    looking for the short Latino woman with a red blouse.” When I lived on
    the east coast, they referred to the country they associated
    themselves with (Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic etc etc).
    In the end, your piece really put into words how I felt. I am sure
    you are aware that the same thing and experiences are happening to
    Hispanics all over the country. I’m a halfie, raised in the NM
    Hispanic culture, some how a minority (except in NM), don’t speak
    Spanish, never discriminated against and hope that whatever box
    Hispanics check; inside they know their heritage and their culture.
    Because it is different for each and every one of us.
    Again, thank you!

    José García
    Albuquerque, NM

    ps. I know it sounds like I harshed on my Dad. I love my Dad and we
    get along very well.

  28. Via FB

    Charlie M.

    Hi Raquel,

    I just had to say I loved your article on CNN.

    I was born is California, but raised in Colombia, both of my parents are from Basque country, which is in the North of Spain, and my great grandparents on my mom’s side are from Bremen, Germany.

    When I moved back to the US a few years ago I was amazed of how misinformed people are when it comes to Spanish speaking people. It’s quite ridiculous and sometimes annoying how people here miscategorizes cultures based on the language they speak.

    I lived in the South for a while and people acted confused because they couldn’t believe a person of European origin’s first language could be Spanish. They were also shocked to find out that I was not Mexican since that seems to be the first assumption they made when I spoke in Spanish.

    Here in Massachusetts some people are still misinformed, but not nearly as bad as in the South.

    Anyhow, I’m glad your article was published because it is very informative for people not familiar with the topic.



  29. Your commentary on “what is a Latino” is most interesting and thought inviting. As a spanish speaking, born in central America (Panama), it baffles me how the terms “America” and “american” are used by all born in this North American country. It is like the term “american” is owned by US born.

    We live in a continent named “America”, named in honor of Americo Vespucio, cartographer and all born in this continent are americans. Whether you were born in Panama, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Canada, the United States, Mexico, etc….you are an American because you were born in this continent named America.

    Another term that baffles me is “Latino”. Languages such as Spanish, French, Italian, Catalan, Portuguese….have the same “latin” roots and are considered latin languages. Are the French, Italian and Portuguese latinos? Why not?

    If the purpose of the census is to count race, then the question should be about skin color and not language spoken. I wonder if the census has a category for other language speaking individuals with no regards to race?

    Just a thought!

  30. I just read your article on CNN and I was amazed. I guess I never really thought about this topic before. While I am not Latino/Hispanic/Spanish, I do have some Spanish descendants from Spain. I share in your desire to want to know what I truly am. My family is from Southern Louisiana, our background is French (great-grandma), Spanish(great-grandpa), & Native American Indian. I moved to Illinois 12 years ago and ever since moving here I am constantly asked if I am Mexican, Puerto Rican, in Dominican I was asked if I was from there, in my job I work with many people from Indian and in the last 5 years have been asked nurmerous times if I am from India. I too never know what to fill in on the census.
    As a kid growing up in the South I never really worried about what I was or where my families generations came from cause everyone who lived there was just like me. It wasn’t till I joined the Army and moved away that I started to wonder because everywhere I went I was asked.
    Again I just want to say wonderful article and it’s nice to see someone finally put something thought provoking out there about their turmoil and the categories the government tries to silo us in. I’d say all that live in the US have a variety of backgrounds and heritage in us, however most are in denial cause by appearance they can fit one of the cookie cutter categories.
    Thank you so much for your article.


  31. VIA Email

    From Ed N.

    Hi Rachel,

    Enjoyed your article and found it interesting that 80% of Puerto Ricans classify themselves as “White”. Having spent 6 years in Puerto Rico, I can say, there are a lot of pasty white Puerto Ricans. But, we have seen some well educated Puerto Ricans recently use their “white” heritage for political gain.

    Similarly, I have always checked the “White” Box because I am part Portuguese (an American Mutt), and have never considered that to be in any way, Hispanic, nor Latino, or anything else other than being Portuguese, from Madeira.

    Despite names like “Jorge Eduardo Duarte Texiera”, Portuguese is distinct from Latino, and Hispanic, and in fact, is officially classified as “European” by the US government. America’s 1,442,077 Portuguese citizens are too tiny a minority to gain minority status, despite having Hispanic sounding names like “Manuel Gonzalves” whom I called “Manny”.

    I was a bit confused by your next to final paragraph on Portuguese Brazil “…Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics in 1976 and ask Latinos to classify themselves. Through self-definition, the population presented 134 terms to describe race”

    You did not say that Brazilians (Portuguese) were Hispanics, or Latinos, but it was not clear who they are, either. Like Americans, Brazillians are mostly mixed races, much like you. And, being a “white European” with a maternal name of Canha, and many, many cousins named “Manny” and “Lopes” etc I conjured up a unique name for my ancestry – “Porto-Magyar” representing two very down trodden and overrun nationalities.

    But note, most Portuguese did not come from aristocratic families that immigrated to the new world in search of gold, and plunder, or were descended from Conquistadors, or leading families with extensive aristocratic Land Grants.

    Instead, most Portuguese Americans immigrated from greatly impoverished islands of Madeira and the Azores, and were simple fishermen. And, some mixed race Portuguese also came from Angola, Cape Verde, and Mozambique…. you know, highly developed countries with very advanced societies and educational systems.

    Portuguese immigrants mostly ended up in the economic ghettos of Fall River, New Bedford (my birthplace), Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket (neither had any economic development until the 1980’s when it became fashionable for liberals to slum it with us for our wild summer parties) areas as well as Santa Cruz, and even San Diego, CA.

    In fact, Southeast Massachusetts has as many Portuguese as does all of California, and many intermarried with Wampanoag Indians, because of their similar complexions and features… much like yours, actually.

    Another differentiation we have from our Hispanic cousins is that in order to fit into American society, most Americanized their names: for example Rodrigues became Rogers, Oliveira became Oliver, Martins became Martin, Silva became Silver, and Pereira became Perry.

    Of course, those who did not Americanize their names, and kept names like Cabral, Ferreria, or Macedo somehow escaped the challenges similarly named Hispanics claim to have encountered. Of course, this is because the Federal Government tells us who we are: A Portuguese man named “Manuel Jose’ Santos Lopes” is “European” and not Latino, despite being of deeply mixed unknown races and often distinctly darker than many of our Hispanic cousins.

    But, alas, we Portuguese are not worthy of independent minority recognition. Perhaps, one day, we can achieve minority status. Something to strive for.

    Until then, we Portuguese will remain classified only as “American’s” and enjoy our great success and acheivements due to our hard work and enthusiasm in America’s completely open society.

    Please accept this note with the good nature, humor and gentle teasing that it is intended. I hope you enjoyed it.

    I really did enjoy your article and thought it was important, despite my own eccentric way of looking at America!


  32. VIA Email

    From Perla G.

    What is a Latino?

    Sometime I think that the simple fact of trying to define ourselves, singles us out, thus the racism and the need to make all this differences.. What is an american? What is a german? Aren’t all of us, human beings, product of a millenia mix of race and ethnics? Isn’t it true that even in pre historical (histerical) times Neardenthal and Cro Magnos mixed together? Isn’t it true that 80% of european demographics share the same DNA almost completely?

    What’s the difference? Europe’s and Asia melting pot happened thousand years ago, here in America is has been only some few hundred years?

    For me, a puertorrican who has lived all her life in Puerto Rico, to be a latino means to be someone of latin heritage. It could be the language, ancestry, place of origin and yes included but not limited to ethnicity. Because you can see a 3rd generation puertorrican in NY. His/her grandma lived in PR but his/her parents have only come here to visit randomly. That 3rd generation puertorrican is surely to speak not one word in Spanish, not even gracias. He/she was born in NY, lived all his/her live in the US. What is he/she? An american period. Well at least for me. The same happens when Anglos come here and start a family and get some children and some grandchildren.. What are those children? Puertorrican of course..In our case (puertorricans) it is unique and exquisitive complicated because we are US territory and we all get Social Security Numbers and American passport since birth. It is a constitutional right but I think it is still a matter of how each one perceives themselves. There are ancestral families in the US that migrated at the beginning of the 19th century. Their children have been living here for almost 200 years and still they think of themselves as Irish or German or whatever their original immigrant ancestor came from, but the truth is, thats your heritage, they are all Americans. How do they mark themselves in the census? White American of course. Does it makes sense?

    Do you think of yourself as haitian or vietnameese? You think of yourself as a Dominican even thought you were born in NY right? Why? Because your parents taught you to be proud of your heritage? That beautiful concept makes you believe you are latino? In Spanish we call ourselves latinoamericanos (latin americans) but not referring to the US but to the other part of the New World which is also call America. America is not only US, just in case, many of us like to forget that. You consider yourself a latino because of your heritage not because of your place of birth. So why the census try to confuse the place of bith with the ethnicity or the race? Why does Denzel Washington will like to call himself Afro American? How long since his family came from Africa? It is very very confusing.

    I am latina because I was born in a latinamerican country and I speak spanish ans maybe even because where I live the Africans, Europeans and so-called-natives (they were not truly natives) mixed together aggressively. But did it happen also in US. The French and the English and the Natives and the Africans….

    What are they then? This is purely racist thing then to differentiate white Americans from not so white Americans and not born in America people.

  33. Via Email

    From Charlene A

    Hi Raquel,

    I read your commentary on and I must say it’s about time Latino had a voice. I am 1st generation Haitian-American and feel that a lot of ethinic groups whether Latino or Carribean are lost in this country because in America you’re either white, black or other. Growing up I’ve witnessed first-hand as black kids or adults call Hispanics “black” and whites calling Hispanics “Mexican” or “Black” because that’s what excepted in this country, you either are or your not. As a result, I applaud CNN and yourself for taking this on and talking about it. BTW, the Brazilian agent was a complete asshole.

    After reading your article, it brought up a few questions and comments. First going to the Puerto Rico census, I’m not surprised by what most Puerto Ricans identified themselves as because from my past experience and that of other Caribbeans the Caribbean Hispanic population do not even consider themselves Caribbean. This was shocking and still sad for me since Caribbean, espeically Haitian, and Caribbean-Hispanic cultures are 95% the same. We belive in the same things, we eat the same foods, but there is such a big gap between Caribbeans and its Caribbean-Hispanic neighbors. Why is that? I remeber being insulted when my Puerto Rican friend’s grandmother asked me what do Haitians eat, comparing us to the steak and potato eating Americans.

    Another question is with the wide variances of color among the Hispanic community, why is skin color such a big deal? I guess that ties into the idea that you never date anyone darker than you, etc. My boyfriend is 1st generation Bolovian and I see the stares we get not by the younger Hispanic crowd, but from the older women. Also, by Asians since my bf is from the ethnic Incan Bolivian group and looks Asian, but that’s a total different issue upon itself =).


  34. VIA Email

    From Giulietta Prato Glade

    Dear Raquel,

    Read your article on Commentary: But what’s a Latino?

    This discussion has been part of my life living in the states for many years and now that I have children…what are they…American I would say!!!!

    Married to an Irish-American…going back three generations which then I would just say he’s American!

    I was born in Lima, Peru came to this country when I was 10 legally (my dad was transfered, so I was always legal and did my paperwork all legal and became a citizen).

    As I got older never even thought about checking any other box but the “White” in job applications, etc. Hispanic? no way, I did not consider myself Hispanic. Latina yes, but no such box was available. We don’t have these issues in Lima, Peru either. We consider ourselves Peruvian.

    From my fathers fathers’ side they were all born in Italy, migrated to Lima when my grandfather was 9 years old. My grandmothers’ family came from Denmark to work as engineer for the Panama Canal! After went down to Lima, Peru and stayed.

    From my mothers side, she was born in Ecuacor, her parents were of German, Lebanese and Spanish (Spain) nationalities.

    So what am I then? Could you have an answer? What should I check off when census or application require it? …. check “other” and leave it at that?

    Thank you for your story, it’s interesting topic. I still don’t know what to tell my kids! Heinz 57 lol

    Hope I hear from you and thanks again.

    Proud to be me!

  35. Via Email

    From Eli Garcia

    Dear Ms, Raquel;

    As many other non-American born immigrants, my parents are from the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. As we all know Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States. And history can tell you how they came to control our island nation. My biggest concern is in the Census they continue to ask if you’re Hispanic of whatever descendants. Like you, I am very proud of my customs and traditions that I came to learn as a young boy on the island and coming to this wonderful nation in search of a better life. On all of the applications that I have filled out over the last 25 years I have always filled in the “other” box when it came to race. I am very proud to be Puerto Rican like many of my friends form the other Caribbean nations. I don’t want to be labeled anything but what I am. I will say this once my children have excelled in their careers I will be returning “Home” to Puerto Rico and live out the rest of my life on one of the most beautiful big island in the West Indies.

    Why do we have to label ourselves for the sake of paperwork? I am not from Latin America so I cannot consider myself Latino, I wasn’t born on the island of Hispaniola (DR/Haiti) so I can’t call myself a Hispanic; I am Puerto Rican!. This was a great article and the very first time I take the issue of race and our colonial take-over in the language. Like many others I am what I am and no piece of paper will change that.

    Thank you for a great article and I do wish the Census would do something smarter that categorizing the millions of non-American born humans as other or like you stated “Hispanic/Spanish/Latino”

    Thank you again.

  36. Via Email

    From Christopher P.


    That was a great piece that was written on being a Latino in America. Much like yourself, I’ve also wondered where my Dominican/Puerto Rican an sectors have really came from. Being born and raised in NY, I feel I look like your regular clean cut, “Nuyo-Domini-Rican” (You should ask the census to add this category), however when I recently lived in Tokyo and London on assignments for work, I was asked if I were Moroccan or middle eastern. It made me wonder if my real roots are from the middle east.

    Then I have the issue of identifying myself as “Latino” or “Hispanic”. I’ve been corrected on using both and am still confused!!

    Lastly, the skin color issue. My friends and I somehow get speaking about the topic at least once a year. I think prejudice based on skin color is very prevalent in our culture and we collectively feel a lot of it has to do with the “Old” way of thinking. And by old, I mean 1490’s old, when Columbus colonized the Caribbean and light skinned people were considered royalty while dark colored were considered the “help”.

    Thanks again for delivering the message about our culture!

  37. Via Email

    From Rene V


    I read your commentary on what is Latino in America. I loved it so much I had to send you a response. You are on point with asking the question, “What is a Latino?” I have started to look at Soledad O’briens work as of late and I have mixed feelings from what I have seen so far. I think it’s great that Latino’s are getting more and more exposure through out the United States. It is after all demographically a very large percentage of the United States population and everyone is and should take notice for a host of different reasons. Social, Economic, Political, Demographic you name it!

    I came to live in Miami from Washington Heights in Manhattan, N.Y. (we have that in common) back in 1976. This part of the country is unlike many other parts of the country that have Hispanic concentrations. Cubans, who here in the Miami area have for some time predominated the “Latino” landscape are for the most part Republicans, whereas other Latinos in the US are Democrats. They also do not tend to hide their nationality and cultural heritage, as many other Latinos I grew up with did. Not because of shame necessarily, but for fear of discrimination. I can honestly say I found my Latin heritage here in Miami and not from my upbringing. I was and have always been raised to think I was an American. I thought for some time that was a Puerto Rican (my heritage) Latino thing because of our close ties to the United States. But now I realize that many second generation Latinos feel the same. But even Miami is changing these days. We are a melting pot of Hispanic cultures and as of late I keep hearing Cubans say that they are a minority compared to the overall number of diversified Latinos in the Tri-County area.

    To make matters more diverse we have Cuban Jews, Chinese Cubans, African-Hispanics from everywhere in the Caribbean and many parts of Central and South America. Even then there is a wealth of heritage within every Latino community that has roots to Germany, England, Spain, Italy, China, Vietnam, France, Arabia and the list can go on forever.

    You might say Many Latino’s are in fact more American today, due to their multicultural diversity, than many Americans in the past, because of their mono-ethnicity. That statement is true if you consider that America, historically was the land of immigrants. My long term prediction is that the Latino ethnic and cultural diversity will, in the not so distant future, redefine the landscape of this great country socially, and politically by being a new face to a Global America.

    If you come to Miami which is known as the Gateway to the Americas, and take in the culture, the diversity of political views and experiences, the struggle of the rich and the poor and the definitive ties to the Caribbean and the Americas…… might well come to the same conclusion.

    Kindest Regards

  38. Via Email

    From Margarita B.

    Dear Raquel,

    I love your report on Latinos and I thank you for bringing this up. For so long I have tried to tell people that even Mexicans are mixed to but no one wants to see that, that even though we are Mexicans we era mixed with Spaniards, French, Filipinos and many other races. We are a melting pot not only in Mexico but in the United States and I would say more in the United States then any where else because unless your are a Native American Indian and that means Native Indians from this lands and if you are not, then you came from everywhere else around the world. This is a very hard thing to believe for other people that if you are white, black, Mexican etc. then this is not your native land. Everyone at one point in generation were immigrants and this includes white, black, Mexican etc. just check your background.

    Thank You

  39. Via Email

    From Kenyana B

    Good afternoon, Raquel!

    I loved your piece that was featured on’s Latino in America on-line conversation. I didn’t have much to say, but did want to reply as such:

    My great-grandfather was Cuban. But because he moved to the segregated South (Georgia), there was little emphasis on his Latino heritage. If you weren’t white, society labeled you Black. He married a fair-skinned Black woman and their sons were considered Black. My family identifies with being Black Americans, but I find it sad that we don’t really know anything at all about our Cuban family.

    Over the years, various cousins have talked about going to Cuba to reach out to our family there, but I don’t really know where to start. It’s kind of hard when you feel like you can’t identify with the culture. We love the food, although no recipes were passed down. We love the music; I have two uncles who are jazz musicians. So, maybe the music can take us there. But, I am finding all of this very fascinating.

    Thanks again for your feature! I hope that this will inspire others in my family to want to find out more about our people.


  40. Via Email

    From J. Vidal

    Thank you for writing this article. It underscores the main issue I have had with
    the “latino” tag for a long time. It is basically so ambiguous as to be useless and yet serves to stigmatize so many of us.

    I personally prefer hispanic because it focuses on the one fact that most of us have in common and that is the spanish language of the original colonizers but even that is incomplete. I can’t tell you the number of caribbean islanders I have met with asian, irish, french and english ancestors.

    But I think we will have to live with labels for a long time. It appears that it is necessary
    in some way for the marketing folks to justify their existence;-)

    Thanks again

  41. Via FB

    From Daniel S.

    I wish you the best Raquel. It was very informative and helped alot of my peers put things in perspective. I encourge you to stay on the move and keep America aware of the Latin Experience.

  42. VIA Email

    From Ada M.

    Ada Malcioln Martin
    to me

    show details 11:18 AM (0 minutes ago)

    Hi Raquel, I am so happy that I found your blog! I am an afro-Latina (of Panamanian and West Indian descent). I strongly identify with my Latin culture and my African culture and I have always been extremely offended when other Afro-Latinos try to denounce their African origins. My father was born in Panama and Spanish was his first language but he also spoke English extremely well, better than most Anglos. He taught for years in NY at the elementary and college levels. He taught Spanish at Baruch College in New York and many of his students were afro-Latinos. There were many students that came from the Dominican Republic and they too wanted to have nothing to do with their African roots. My father, the proud black man that he was, immediately “schooled” them on their history and many of them began to gain a sense of pride about their African roots.

    I just wanted to commend you for your comments and for creating a forum where the truth can be told. If possible, I am interested in keeping in touch with you and hearing about any projects you might be working on. I have a full plate but one of my dreams is to create a magazine specifically for Afro-Latinas. We have Vanidades and Essence but neither of those magazines I think address the issues associated with being Afro-Latina in today’s society.

  43. Via Email

    From Rosa Clemente, 2008 Green Party VP Candidate and Hip-Hop Activist

    “as a person who considers herself a BLACK PUERTO RICAN woman, i was moved so much by this posting, for so many afro-latino/a’s our stories are never told, even this special itself lacks the diversity of us, particaulry always hiding the african in us, we live in a world where there is rampant anti-Black sentiment, people love our culture, our dance, our food, but often do not love us, our blackness or our politics, thank you CNN for giving us the opportunity to share with each other these ideas”

  44. Via Email

    From Claudio
    NOTE: Claudio, I will check out your blog the moment I can! Thanks, Raquel

    Raquel –

    My name is Claudio and I’m an award-winning Dominican journalist based out of Washington Heights.

    I just wanted to commend you on your article. It was very well written and really struck a nerve with me.

    As a dark-skin Dominican (African Descent), I related a lot to what you were speaking about.

    I currently run a personal blog based on my life called I write about my personal experiences growing up in Wahi/Inwood, my Dominican heritage, and personal/career goals.

    I also wanted to let you know that I’ve followed you as a writer for quite some time and love your work for the V.Voice and other publications.

    Thanks for this perspective, it’s a valid opinion I am sure others must share.
    By the way, by definition, pirates are marauders. Marauders are people who roam in search of things to steal or people to attack. Therefore history tells us that Columbus was certainly a pirate.

    “Christopher Columbus and his pirates…” – Sounds like you’re on

    My friend’s parents are from Jamaica and she’s 100% American. She prefers being called black over being referred to as an African American as she is not from Africa.

    I do NOT want anyone calling me a Latina. I also do not want anyone calling me a Chicana. Hispanic American is acceptable, but I’d rather just be termed an American. BTW, there are many Hispanic Americans who do not speak Spanish.

    PS – Christopher Columbus was NOT a pirate.

  46. Raquel,

    I enjoyed reading your article. It was well written and it gets to the important issue of overgeneralization of our Latino identities. However, something else struck me about your article that I feel serves more to divide us rather than unite us. Don’t get me wrong, I think that it is important to acknowledge our roots (be it afro, native, etc.) but what we end up essentially doing is causing a greater division among ourselves. While it’s important to define ‘What is Latino’, I think it’s just as important to shift the conversation to what makes us similar and what common goals we have as Latinos in this country. I’m sure that regardless of our Latino background, we are concerned about issues like the economy, healthcare, education, etc. How about focusing on those issues because they affect us all regardless of our ethnicities? Having the cencus offer us more boxes to check off will not get at the heart of the Latino experience in this country.

    I shared with my Jewish husband your article and he brought up the point that although Jews come from various countries, their collective Jewish identity (and not necessarily religion) typically supercedes their individual ethnicities or countries of origin.

    I think it’s okay to examine our different ethnicities, but it’s our commonalites that will makes us a collective political power to make changes.

  47. Via Email

    From Raquel Cepeda:
    Dear Herb,
    Congratulations on 81 healthy and fruitful years! I wish you many more. Thank you for your information. My piece focused on the Caribbean Latino American experience from my personal point of view. But I enjoyed reading your email and learning something new. I never get tired of that! I will post your comment on my blog so others may benefit also.

    From Herb R.

    Ms. Raquel Cepeda, I read your article on ‘What is a Latino’ and I write this to point out factual information that was missed. I do not blame you. I often asked that same question about myself, and years ago, actually did a thorough research on my family tree.
    Like many others in our country, I found out something that really opened my eyes. And I blame this entire lack of ignorance on our American school system. I am an old man now, born and raised in the southwest. Throughout my school years, I learned all about the Mayflower and our ‘founding fathers’. But what I was nevert taught was that Spanish settlers from New Spain (now Central America) had settled in the southwest area in 1598. And the sad part of this omission that impacts on every old Spanish family, is that this important part of USA history was never explained in the classroom.
    Specifically, my pioneer ancestors arrived in what is now southwestern USA twenty two years before the Mayflower anchored on the eastern shores. For two hundred years, they followed royal laws from New Spain – until the vice royalty government was overthrown by the creole/mestizo population who called themselves Mexicans. My ancestors then came under the Mexican government for twenty five years. However, as a fledgling government, these Mexicans had their own problems, and left non-threatening Spanish families alone – except to take an annual census and collect taxes. Then twenty five years later after the American-Mexican war in 1848, my ancestors became Americans.
    In my research I discoverd how my ancestors and the rest of Spanish settlers lived under extreme harsh conditions. I was moved by what I found out and after having collected a large volume of information, decided to write about it and share it with others. My book, ‘Always North’ was published in 2008.
    Just a few days ago, I celebrated my 81st birthday and because of health issues I cannot actively promote what I’ve written but I have gotten some good reviews from those that read it and I’m satisified with that. A school teacher even wrote to say she was going to use information from my work in her History class, which made me feel good.
    Ms. Cepeda I wish for you the very best in what you do, and may you have long life. Herb R.

  48. From Mare139’s 12oz Prophet blog

    < < In regards to this post, it's hard to know where we came from and how we consider ourself if we are a mixed up race. Most important for me is, to be "Latino" or "Hispanic" means to be 100% "American", because the word "American" should be use to identify all the people who have born in the American continent (North, Central and South America) and not only for people born in the United States. I actually try to not use this word anymore to talk about something that comes from this country. It is necessary to change this misconception because the word has been wrong appropriated since the early or mid XX century. Pablo Neruda's most important book "General song" gives you a real meaning for America that could also be the meaning of "Latino". >>

  49. When you wrote this:

    When I traveled to Sierra Leone and Ghana, I was asked if I was Moroccan, Lebanese or Eritrean. In Paris, if I was Brazilian or Arabic. In fact, I’ve been singled out a couple of times when entering and leaving Brazil, and was once accused of having a fake American passport by an agent. Being mistaken for everything but a person of Dominican heritage has certainly piqued my desire to examine how I and other Latinos fit into our national and global communities…When I learned that nearly eighty percent of Puerto Rico’s 4 million colorful residents checked off the “white” racial box on the last census, I wasn’t floored — given the alternatives. Race in the Caribbean lies in the eye of the beholder. And the beholder, from centuries of colonization, has more often than not been socialized to reject their blackness despite our collective and direct relationship to slavery.

    I have the same issue too of identity because I have middle eastern descent even though I am mexican american. The lebanese side of me shows and many people see it. When I was in Germany people thought i was turkish and italian. When i was in greece they thought I was Albananian. When I was in turkey they thought I was kurdish. When was in Israel they thought I was palestinian. When I was in Spain they thoughty I was Portugese and Morrocan. When I was in France they thought I was algerian and when I was in the UK they they thoughty I was from India. Then when I was in Brazil they thought I was from Argentina when I was in Argentina they thought I was from Peru! Wow!! you really said something that touched my nerve. Plus they issue with blacks is another identity crises in itself!

  50. Via EMAIL

    from Tariq R

    Thank you for voicing what so many of my friends were wondering out loud : “How will CNN’s special report, ‘Latino in America’, cover the Afro-Latino segment of the community?”

    My wife is Dominican, so this issue is of importance to me, since our future children will have to decide how to confront an American culture that is obsessed with racial categories.
    Will they have an affinity with American Blacks, Arabs, or Latinos, etc. ? What about their’ mother’s proud Latin-American Catholic heritage, or their’ father’s Sunni Muslim one? Will they want to learn to speak Spanish, Arabic, or English only?

    We have a great idea : How about a Census that is able to acknowledge all of the above, and never excludes either? How about a Census that finally understands the complexity of the Latino mosaic? How about a future were America no longer obsesses over it, but just accepts our future kids on their’ terms; not what people feel comfortable with?

    It’s just a dream I have. But it sure would be nice if it could be a reality for our future kids.

  51. Via Email

    From Roger H.

    Not even the word in the English language exists
    If the racially motivated census bureau mean Hispanic, they had it
    wrong because Latin and Hispanic are not the same
    Latin is not a race but a culture coming from Latvia and Roman influence
    Latin people are the Italian the Romanians and part of the Russians
    Marginally the Spaniards are also Latin
    Hispanic is anyone from the the Spaniard culture (should not include
    the Portuguese)
    Latin American are of different races
    Latin Americans from Spaniard origins
    Latin American from Arian descend
    Latin American from Anglo descend
    Latin American from Asian descend: Nisei
    Latin American from African descend: Mulatto
    Latin American of Spaniard and indigenous descend: mestizo
    So Ms O’brien would be a mulatto and mestizo lady is that offensive? I
    don’t know, it depends on what problems the people of
    these ethnicities have

  52. Via Email

    From Robert F.

    Hi Raquel – just read your article on CNN, “But What’s a Latino.” Great article.

    I, too, have been searching for an answer for 38 years. This is such a complicated and interesting issue that we will search in vain for the rest of our natural lives.

    With regard to the classification of Latino, there are many paths this can take. Should it be someone with Latin roots? If so, would this, therefore, include Italians, French even Romanians? Or do we limit that too those from this side of the Atlantic? Or, do we just include Spaniards and their offspring from “over here”? How many generations removed? One thing is for sure, Brazilians don’t like being included as Latinos, so that will limit a geographic definition.

    Now, the term Hispanic is also a challenge to define. From my experience, Hispanic has been used to describe a “minority” in the United States. But, who is Hispanic? Is a white Argentine an Hispanic? A Spaniard? Is a Brazilian also an Hispanic? After all, the Portuguese settled Brazil and they shared the same peninsula with Spain, Hispania. Unfortunately, as you clearly stated, many people in the United States somehow equate Hispanic with Mexican and there go the stereotypes.

    The countries south of the Rio Grande (including the Caribbean) have such a rich cultural and ethnic mix that it makes it almost impossible to define these terms. The skin colors are as varied as the foods, holidays, religions, and ethnic backgrounds. Set foot in Peru and observe how many Japanese descendants there are! In Argentina, there is an important Jewish population. The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Cuba have many blacks who can trace their roots to the slave ships and Africa. The original peoples of the continent still exist as well..

    In the end, the terms Hispanic and Latino will never be satisfactorily defined. For I, born in Spain to a Spanish mother and American father, consider myself Hispanic, Latino, American and Spanish. At different moments of my life, some accepted definitions of these words have prevented me from participating in certain activities. One that I recall vividly was an Hispanic scholarship that was unavailable to me because I was not “Hispanic.” A classmate of mine, who was born in the United States, to parents who were born in the United States of Guatemalan and Mexican roots, won it. In culture, language, and birth, he was infinetly more American than I. He did not even speak a word of Spanish. No, I am not upset in the least by something that happened over 20 years ago. It is merely an example of how complex it will be to define Latin and Hispanic.

    Digging beneath the surface just a little will show how dynamic, broad and varied the cultures are that came from the Romans and then mixed with indigenous peoples of this continent. We can even make a link via Peru and Brazil that Japan and Latins/Hispanics are cousins by marriage.

    All the best,

    Robert F.

  53. You guys are so confused over what it means to be “Latinos” because you’re not Latino! Why don’t you just be honest and admit that you are black?

    I am watching “Latino in America” right now and this black Dominican kid thinks that people will mistake him for Mexican. LOLOL Get real. Nobody thinks he’s Mexican.

    In fact, it is a stretch even to call him Latino. The Dominican Republic is in the West Indies just like Haiti. It’s ridiculous to call Haitians black and to call Dominicans Latino when all of you are African.

  54. Via Email

    From: exalt05

    As a White guy I am getting pretty sick of the Racist CNN.

    First it was Black in America and African Americans complaining about racisim and being kept down and how it is so hard for them in the US.

    For god’s sake they have a Black President and still have afirmative action. That is wrong….

    Now we have Latino in America.

    Can you tell me what a Latino is. Is there a Latino Race from the Country of Latino.
    NO, that is what I thought.

    Well I wanted to know the answer to this question so I called my friend in Dallas, she is Mexican and a head accountant for a big company.

    When I asked the question she started laughing.
    When I asked why she is laughing, I learned the answer to my question just as I thought.

    She said there is no such thing as Latino and there is no such race as Latino.
    She said it is a made up word is all.

    She stated she is considered Latino but she is Mexican.
    So I said so why do people call themself something that their not or something that is not real.

    She said it is because they did not want to be called Mexican because they are frowned upon in the US or used to be.

    So there you have it the big Latino is completly false and just a made up word.
    Pretty sad that people call themselves something they are not and give them selves a BRAND or Identity that is not even real then force it on others.

    I am still waiting for CNN to do a Special White in America. They will probably make it as if every white kid is rich and goes to Harvard or yale. Bot that could not be further from the truth.

    All I know is my small hometown in Kansas has been over run with Ilegal Mexican ALIENS.
    They have ruined the town with murder, drug dealing,theft,gangs,rape,stabbings and on and on.Crime went through the roof.
    The high school kids that had an all white high school for ever, now call their school ganland hi.
    Talk about invading a country and destroying the citizens way of life.

    67% of Americans support deporting all Ilegal’s reguardless of race.

    The average Mexican Family has 7 children, the average American White family has 2.

    Latino, ya right…………………………………

  55. Great read. As a proud Latino born to Peruvian parents, my idea of what is a Latino has evolved throughout the years. I think as we become a larger part of the US make-up I think things things will become even more difficult in defining what a Latino is. We aren’t a race, we are a culture with no one racial make-up defining us. The only thing that really unites us is the Spanish language, but once you start getting more and more second and third generation Latinos that don’t speak Spanish, what defines us then?

    Also the whole thing about being black and Latino, that’s a whole other topic in itself. To make a quick point though, racial history in Latin America was much different from that of the US. In the US the one drop rule was applied to anyone that had one drop of black blood as being black. In Latin America the one drop rule was also applied but in reverse. One drop of white blood made you white. It was an easy way for the Spanish to de-Africanize the blacks and have them assimilate quickly.

    While to an extent there is a sense of “shame” that black Latinos have, for the most part a lot of it has been systematically ingrained in the black Latino psyche for at least a hundred years. So you do get black Latinos that genuinely do not see themselves as black or identify as black.

  56. Via Email

    From Laura T.

    Very well said Raquel. I believe it’s time for the census to change all together it’s classification’s. All my family was born in Cuba all with Spanish blood. And yes I wish everyone out there would know where they came from, living life would make more sense. Looking forward to your next column.
    Laura T
    Charlotte NC

  57. Via Email

    From Peter M

    One of the more thoughtful observations on the subject. I enjoyed that.

    We moved to Miami, FL eleven years ago.

    In this wonderful city, the breadth and depth of latino combinations/permutations of ethnicities, races, cultures thoughout the socio-economic spectrum is amazing.

    We love it here. I grew up as a WASP in Pasadena, California where vitually the only latinos were Mexican immigrants working minimum wage.

    Media focuses excessively on the latino underclass stereotypes.
    Soledad Obrien of CNN hanging out with cholos and their lowriders in Pico Rivera? What was that?
    She should see all the straight A latino students(of every type and variaton!) attending the top area schools(Belen, Ransom Everglades, Palmer Trinity, Carrolton, Gulliver) getting into to the top colleges.

    Miami es numero uno!

    Very interesting topic.
    Peter M
    Miami, FL

  58. Wow! I can’t believe the vast amount of misinformation and assumptions over a term which is totally applied incorrectly (based upon its origins). I would have thought someone would have at least been able to see the original intent of the term just by looking at the word itself. Just remove the “o” at the end and you get “Latin”. The term “Latino” was coined by the French whose culture, religion (Roman Catholic) and language are LATIN based. The term “Latino” (or Latin American) was originated by the French when they occupied Mexico (1862-1867) and ironically it’s intent was to describe a person who was of the above listed cultural, religious and linguistic origins. By the time the French were defeated and no longer occupied Mexico, the term “Latino” had become common and recognized. In the class system which existed at that time (and still does in large measure today) those of indigenous cultures were born into a class from which there was no chance of moving up. With the French no longer in Mexico, those of indigenous origins began describing themselves as “Latino”, maybe out of believing that it might lead to their lives and conditions improving. Who can say at this point. However, the term stuck and evolved to be a term that most in the U.S. link to someone who is of indigenous-Mexican origin.

  59. Via Email

    From Steve S.


    I enjoyed your article very much. The honesty you showed was refreshing. Years ago (30-40), when I was learning Spanish, and subsequently when I made the acquaintance of “Hispanics,” (in quotes because they were transitioning from “Spanish”) to even suggest that one might have Indian (Peru/Incan, for instance) blood was received as an insult. Just as my white heritage includes an indentured servant from the Indies, most folks from Central or South America do not simply fit into a “check the box” category. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think it would be a good thing if there no such boxes on any Government forms, period. The Government preaches equality and diversity and inclusion, yet continues to want to separate us into labeled boxes.


    Steve S

  60. Via Email

    From: Carro


    However as a decendant of Italian-Americans, I feel compelled to push the issue: what is Latino, being that the operative root word Latin comes to us directly from a tribal group of ancient Italians?

    That said, indigenous people of the central and southern Americas, most of whom consider themselves Latino, were forced to converted to Christianity (Catholicism, based in Rome) and learned to speak Latin and/or Spanish/Portugese during the conquests.

    Therefore under that logic, wouldn’t all people who speak Roman-based languages (Italian, Spanish, French, Romanian, Portugese, etc.) be considered Latino? Or, wouldn’t that make the distinction of being Latino more of a religious identity than anything else?

    – Carro

  61. Via Email

    From: Ben

    Good job. Loved to see the awareness of the Census being marketed. The issue though is not as simple as you presented it, from the Census Bureau’s point of view at least.

    On the 2010 forms there will be a way for people to identify themselves as Latino/Hispanic origin, and then specify in writing what group they belong to.

    The problem, I think is in the misconception that “Latino” is a race, and I have never heard of such race in my European upbringing.

    Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to the Census, is that it is a politically mandated and motivated thing. The more people identify themselves as Latinos, the more money will be directed in the future (one way or another) to Latino organizations etc etc.

    Being of Romanian origin, Latin by blood, I tend to feel that the Latin name has been hijacked. What do “Latinos” have to do with the real Latins, if at all? Now that’s the real question. Was hoping your article would go in that direction.

    Here is a good Census 2010 study that shows how seriously the Census Bureau is taking this issue. You made them sound like an amateurish agency in your article and that is a discredit to the hard work they do to plan, test and prepare for it.

    Thanks for the article. I did enjoy reading it.

  62. Via Email

    From Jacquie K.


    I just wanted to tell you – as a fellow documentarian and writer – that you are brilliant and your piece ‘But what’s a Latino?’ was very profound.
    I recently shot a Reggaeton documentary that addresses a lot of the same issues. I am 1/4 Cuban and don’t know if I can even say that I’m “Latina”, but it sure helped to get a lot of the interviews.

    Best of luck on your future endeavors and I’ll keep my eye out for your upcoming works.


  63. I nearly fell over when I read what you wrote stating that not all Latino’s are Mexican. I’ve been struggling with this for years if not decade’s.

    Its really tough I tell you. Because at the risk of coming out and sounding like an inter-racial-racist, I see a lot of what Mexicans do culturally in the states and how most of it is negative. The power culture then clumps the rest of us with those very negative elements which then suppresses the rest of us. No, Im not a gang-banger. No, I dont shave my head or wear baggy anything. No, I dont drink beer, no I dont have too many kids to support, no, I dont piss anywhere, no I dont drive with one hand over the steering wheel and look at other people all the time, no, I keep my neighborhood and myself clean and presentable. No, I dont waste my time. No, I dont lower cars or tattoo my arms with sad clowns. No I dont play loud Mexican music and no, I dont yell viva anything and so on. Understand?

    Anyway, the point is, that thats what we, the rest of us have to deal with. How to show how diverse we are, how good a people we are, how we want the best for the world, how we’re ready to move on from old ways of thinking to something new and innovative. We’re not just laborers, we’re contributers…the rest of us “Latino’s”.

    And I’ll tell you something very profound here. We us so called Latino’s really are American to begin with because most of us are from the America’s. CNN’s Latino In America does nothing to really say it how it is or advance us. That clarification needs to be made. How can I be a Latino in America when I was born in San Salvador? Uruguay? Brazil? Belize? Sure Im say Costa Rican but I’m also American already!

    And dont get me started on the inner racism that happens or comes from that one country against people of Central American and anyone who looks African. Thats a hot topic CNN is not even ready for.

  64. Via FB

    From K. Maldonado

    Thank you for your article on CNN. It is a discussion that rages with everyone I know of Spanish descent. I grew up in NM, and my family has been in NM since 1694. We are the classic “we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.” My ancestors have birth certificates that say “The Kingdom of New Spain.” The term Latino is not one we have ever used, and this recent phenomenon to use it baffles us. I am also Native American (Ute, Apache, Otomi), so that stirs it up even more.

    Keep the discussion going.

  65. Via FB

    From Scott L.

    Note: Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your personal story with me. It’s quite an amazing one!

    Hello Raquel,

    I hope this message reaches you in good health. I just wanted to share my story with you. I read your article “What’s a Latino” on CNN. I am a 34 year old adoptee living in Chicago IL. In 1974 I was born in Carbondale, IL., which as you know is located in southern Illinois. I have been told that my birth mother is a white woman from New York State going to college at Southern Illinois University. The assumption is that she was pregnant when she left New York. There is absolutly no information on my birth father. When I was born I was originally promised to a white couple under the premise that I was also white. But, upon looking at my rather tan complexion they decided against adopting me. At that point, I was classified as bi-racial African American and given to an African American couple who raised me as such. I have features that are interpreted as African American in Central Illinois.

    Recently I have been doing research to find more information about me birth parents. Also, upon moving to Chicago IL., from Decatur IL. (where I grew up) ten years ago my ethnicity was constantly questioned. During the search for my birth family I decided to submit a DNA sample to a reputable company that will compare your DNA with a database of DNA samples from around the world. The results were absolutely shocking to find that I am mostly Italian \ Norwegian and not African American at all. I have absolutely no Sub-Saharan DNA, but rather North African Berber \ Arab as I would suspect most southern Italians do. What is very interesting to most people is that in high school I was very “afro-centric” only to find out that I am “white”.

    I have been doing a lot of research on the history of the Mediterranean, Italy, and the Italian American experience. Your article has helped me greatly in figuring all this out. I am currently writing a memoir and if you could lend me any suggestion to how go about getting it published I would greatly appreciate it.

    Keep up the great work and I hope to hear from you soon!!

    Scott L

  66. VIA Email

    From Helen V


    I just finished reading your article on, ‘But What is a Latino?” I, personally, would be classified by the US Census Bureau as “white,” although my biological father was half Swedish and half Mexican. My paternal grandmother had an affair during her marriage to a McMillen with a nameless man from Mexico that she met in El Paso, Texas. When she gave birth to my father, she gave him the first name of Carlos but the last name of McMillen. He was called Carl all his life. Upon his death, my half siblings refused to put his full name on the tombstone, inscribing only Carl Richard McMillen. I am of the opinion they were ashamed.

    I was unaware of my father’s parentage until I was 29 years old. My parents had divorced when I was only 4. I married at age 19 to a Valenzuela I met in Laredo, Texas when my stepfather was stationed there. My husband’s mother was born in Mexico, but his father was born in the U.S. to a French mother and a Mexican father.

    This odd mixture has led to my children, a daughter and a son, being of Mexican/French/Swedish/English/German descent. My daughter, who has olive skin, dark brown eyes and auburn hair, married a Logue and adamantly considers herself “white.” My son, who has much paler skin, light brown hair and light brown eyes, considers himself “Hispanic.”

    From our daughter, we have two grandsons. The oldest has darker blonde hair and blue eyes, the youngest has blonde hair and dark brown eyes. They both get their blonde hair from me since my daughter and son-in-law both have brown hair. Consequently, these two little boys are a mixture of Mexican/French/Swedish/English/German/Irish.

    This is what I call “American.” I have always been very outspoken against the United States trying to classify its citizens by race. I seriously doubt that we could find any one person in this country that is a pure-bred “Anglo.” The very foundation of our country was built on our ability – our freedom – to be whatever we want to be, marry whom ever we want, live where ever we want, and practice whatever cultural traditions we have individually. I long for the day that our country disposes of “race-typing” its’ people. Who cares who the majority is or the minorities are? We are all Americans.

  67. Via Email

    From George W.

    Hi Raquel,

    I just finished reading your very interesting “But What’s A Latino?” article on the Opinion page. Although I’ve had the very same questions about the Latino/Hispanic issue I never felt compelled to ask any of my Latino friends for their opinion about the issue figuring it to be closed and resolved. Your article rejuvinated all the lingering questions I’ve had about that very issue.

    I’m a Caucasian (aren’t the Caucasus Mountains in the Georgia/Armenia area?) by Census Bureau definition who grew up in upstate NY (near Elmira) and joined the Navy for a 20 year career in ’57. Because the size of town was so small, and the fact that we only had 2 black families and no Hispanics in residence, I really didn’t know what prejudice was except for the stories about the pre-war south. My Navy career took me all over the U.S. and some of the world and I settled in Seattle. I began sailing on merchant ships in ’81 and moved to Albuquerque, NM in ’89 and my first real introduction into the cultures of the Spanish language(s). For the first time in my life the Latino and Hispanic definitions became a reality; a confusing reality. My Merchant Marine travels took me to Caribbean and Central and South American countries (4 times around S.A. by ship) where I heard Spanish being spoken by just about every worldly DNA source possible to assemble. I began to lose a sense of ‘face’ on the language since I had been to Spain (’59, ’72) where the language is spoken only by people who look French, Italian, Romanian, Greek, Moroccan, or basically Mediterranean.

    Latin began as a language on a small penninsula that juts out from Southern Europe and was spoken by a small minority of people living in and around Rome. Because of greed and the conquests of Roman legions for several hundred years, Latin’s influence on the languages of the regions of Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Romania, considered Romance languages by most language experts, is obvious, long lasting and quite permanent. Even London’s original name was Roman Legion given Londinium. Latin eventually became a ‘silent/unspoken’ language used mostly by Science. By definition, then, wouldn’t Latinos and Latinas speak Latin? My sense of confusion knows no bounds.

    Hispanic is a term historically associated with the Spanish speaking inhabitants of the Iberian peninsula, perhaps in our modern era even associated with the country of Spain(English). Weren’t the island nations of the Dominican (a sect of monks) Republic and Haiti formerly called Hispanola (also a city name in NM) meaning a Spanish (Espanola) island, or as Columbus called it “La Espanola?” Now I’m really confused.

    Would I be close to correct in ‘assuming’ the the term for anyone who speaks Spanish in the Americas, either as a first or second language with the caveat the the parents use it as a first, can be considered Hispanic or Latino, without taking into consideration the sources of their DNA? That analogy seems correct on the streets of the Americas. Indigenous tribes of South America speak Spanish as a first language as do/did the tribes of North and Central Americas. Are they associated with Spain in anyway except through language?

    I’m as dumb and ignorant about such worldly affairs as it appears many of my contemporaries are here in Albuquerque, NM. If governments and separatist groups wish to continue boxing peoples of the same citizenship we will continue to have these discussions. To me all white, all black, all Latino, all Asian, et al, mean nothing if we share the same dwindling earthly resources.

    That’s my story as I see it. I am a retiree who for 3 years has concentrated all my efforts toward becoming a better jazz (guitar) musician. My musician friends all speak the language of jazz. I look at faces for recognition and fraternity. I judge only on capabilities in the jazz music world. I love to play the music of all the Americas. Give me Clave’, and swing and Bossa, and ballads of all rhythms. I learn and teach. Nothing is as multicultural as Jazz music.

    PBS has been airing the most interesting “Latin Music” series and I watched all if it that was available. Even I, a long time musician, had little idea of who was most responsible for what but it all came together in a remarkable way for me. Of course I knew who Ricky Martin, Gloria Stefan (Miami Sound Machine), Shakira, Marc Anthony and Jaylo, and Selena (I was in Corpus Chirsti aboard a ship the day she died) et al, were but not how they fit into the larger musical picture. What a joy.

    I’ve watched, with interest, some of Soledad O’Brien’s presentation of Latino’s in America. Confusion continues to reign.

    Gotta run to a rehearsal. I wish you nothing but success and look forward to more articles from you.

    George W, resident of the 3rd rock from the sun.

  68. Via Email

    From Nigel R.

    Hi Raquel – thanks for the thoughts. So (as someone living in the US who’s heritage is Russian, and who was born in England of a half-Moroccan father), what should my company be asking on our surveys and studies we pose to the US nation to most accurately record someone’s ‘culture’?

    Should we use a list of countries and ask participants which they feel most association with? Or ask which they were born in? Or which they are ‘citizen’s of? I’d like to make sure we have it right, but I’m honestly not sure which we should use.

    Your thoughts and experience with this much appreciated.

    Best wishes, and thanks,


  69. Via Email

    From Melissa D.

    Hi Raquel!!

    I just read your article on CNN, and I must say that I am so pleased at what you wrote. I am African-American with no Latino roots that I am aware of. I am fluent in Spanish, though (through education and self-teaching). I watched most of “Latino in America” this weekend, and I was disturbed by what I perceived to be a reluctance of anyone to admit to African ancestry. Because, I looked at a lot of the people in the documentary, and I thought to myself, they look like my relatives. The only thing that I feel really separates many of us is language. My family is a mixture of white (European), black (African) and Native American, just like most African-Americans I know, and Afro-Caribbeans that I know. But, we are often relegated to second-class citizens in the eyes of our Latino counterparts who share similar blood lines. I don’t understand this, as we have a common ancestry, and common social problems.

    I don’t know, I guess I am just rambling, but I wanted to thank you for the honesty in your article.

    Melissa D.

  70. Via email

    From Rafael P.

    In my opinion a Latino is a group of people with diverse ethnic background but share common cultural links like a latin language, spanish, portuguese; a common religion, christianity; a common birthplace America, north-central-south-caribean . Like you mention in your writting, there are subcategories to the Latino definition but why to tald about subcategories. The US has 50 states and some define themselves as Americans first and New Yorkers or Texans second. I’m a Latino first, and a colombian born with spanish and who knows what else background second. I was christian, speaks fluently spanish, english, and some french and arabic. But I consider myself, first and formost a Latino.

    Agree with your opinion of Cristobal Colon. Colon with the spanish army and the blessing of the catholic church masacred million of natives. This is a Holocaust that has been ignored and few people talk about it. Could it be because the Catholic Church gave their blessing to the killing and rather keep that “can of worms” with a tight lid?

    Would like to hear your opinion

  71. Via Email

    From: Michael N.

    Great article. Two points to make.

    There are only 3 “races”: black, white and Asian. Everything else is an ethnicity. My understanding that 1/3 of ethnic Hispanics are categorized as racially black. The US is currently 83% white, 13% black and 4% Asian by race. Some of the white, black and Asian totals are made up of Hispanics.

    The reason there is a dilemma re: categorization is this. On the one hand, if people were to categorize themselves as they have in Brazil, I’m sure US residents would end up with hundreds. This would help people more comfortably identify themselves and their “tribes.” On the other hand, the more tribes, the less political leverage each tribe has. Instead of the muscle of 16% (?) of US voters, Hispanics would be splintered into, say, 10 groups with 1 – 2%. This is one of the reasons whites have even more power than their numbers would suggest — they are lumped together as one group. Personally, I am categorized as white but I am of German-Jewish, Irish-Catholic and Welsh-Anglican descent. My wife is of Norwegian and Finnish descent. My children are, therefore, German-Jewish, Irish-Catholic, Welsh-Anglican, Norwegian, Finnish Americans. But they are seen only as white or Euro. If these tribes were split up, each would have considerably less leverage in the political (and social) arena.

    I’m sure you recognize these two points and chose, for the purposes of your narrative, not to address them. But I thought they might be pertinent. Thanks again for the interesting POV.

  72. Via Email

    From: Kevin Jones

    In response to your comment/questions, from Cepeda:
    I love your Yoshi stories. Thank you for making your point in such a creative manner! One sentence stood out to me that you wrote:
    “So, for your discussion, it may be good news or it may be disheartening – the experience of the modern Latino is just the latest example of new vigorous cultures born of expiring older ones.”
    I have so say, I disagree with that sentiment. I am speaking from a first-generation American (New York) born perspective. I know people in the Dominican Republic—relatives of mine that are even a little younger—who think/act/behave as the “expiring older ones.” I don’t think it’s a matter of “Modern” verses “Expiring.” I think our point of view is shaped by our experience and as a New Yorker/first-gen American, I just have a different world view.
    You asked me two questions:
    * Do you have an views on this Latin vs Latino dust up? Is it even relevant to you?
    It’s not something I spend too much time on, personally. I am more vested in learning about our roots, racially speaking. So, honestly, it doesn’t infuriate me if someone uses the term “Hispanic” or “Latino.” There are bigger fish to fry. But I must tell you, I am fluid and open to learning and most open to changing my mind and allowing other factors to inform me point of views. But today, this is how I feel. The comments I’ve received are informing. And give me something to think about.

    * As a Latina, do you feel any affiliation with Romance-Language Europeans?
    What do you mean? Do I feel a connection? Well, I can tell you that I have been to the South of Spain and I loved it. I felt a connection to Andalusian culture. I am aware that we Spanish and other European peoples blood flows through our veins. My issue isn’t with Europeans. My issues is with our rejection/repulsion of anything or one that is perceived as African/black. I think we need to embrace that part of our heritage like many of us laud our European roots.

    Hi Raquel-

    I enjoyed your essay on – I’d like to offer my thoughts with another meta-cultural example.

    Like many these days, I’m running out of patience for the cranky old term, “race.” Beyond notions of unfairness and inequality, it simply doesn’t measure anything with any accuracy. Ethnicity can be problematic as well since people move around quite a bit. (Nothing new here, the Bronze Age was humanity’s own Great Race throughout the Eurasian continent.) As people move, communities mix and intermarry. Identities come and go, old ones fall away and new ones are born. Have you ever met anyone who claims to be ethnically Gothic? No, I feel the best way to identify, or self-identify, is by culture.

    My favorite example comes from my three friends named Yoshi. I’ve known them, meeting the first back in the ’80s, for years but they’ve never met each other. All three are “pure blooded” Japanese by ethnicity, but even that is a rather weak descriptor if you read on…

    * My first Yoshi was born in San Jose, California as third generation Japanese immigrant family. He is completely a creature of US West-Coast culture, specifically the SF Bay and Silicon valley.
    * Yoshi number 2 is a friend I met in grad school. I lost track of him years ago but he was, is and ever will by a Tokyo boy, with all that entails.
    * My final Yoshi hails from São Paulo, Brasil and is, again, third generation Japanese. But he is entirely Brazilian.

    I say that Latino is a cultural umbrella, or a meta culture. National origin and skin color matter far less than one’s cultural affiliation and self-identification. This notion of umbrella culture is nothing new, either. By example, I’d posit my own familial cultural identification: Celtic. Today, as a group, Celts are a distinct minority in Europe, populating Ireland, Scotland, Wales and coastal pockets of Spain and France. While their appearance may differ, they share many cultural attachments and common linguistic root. While Spanish and Portuguese are closer, Gaelic, Scots Gael, Welsh, Old Galician and the languages of Brittany are mutually intelligible. But it is older Celtic culture, back when it was in ascendancy, that makes a better comparison to modern Latino culture.

    Back in days of the Roman Empire, much of Eurasia was on the move. The Celts were no different. This culture “started” more or less in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and went both east and west. (When Paul wrote his letters to the Galatians, these people were culturally Celtic.) But the most successful went west. Because of this insatiable movement, archaeologists has concluded that Celt is not an ethnic or “racial” term but a descriptor of cultural affiliation. As Celtic peoples migrated, they intermarried and established trading networks. Local peoples elected to “become” Celtic, to join up or marry in as a way to have access to know how, the arts, sophistication and social mobility. They discarded their old languages and cultures and became adopted Celts. Eventually this acculturation hit a critical mass and became self-perpetuating. As the Roman Empire crumbled and the Dark Ages settled in, much of what was Celtic Europe was superseded by younger, more aggressive cultures, say for examples, the Goths, and eventually the Celts became marginalized at the fringe of the far western edge of Europe. But while they were in ascendancy, Celtic Culture for a powerhouse of the Iron Age.

    I guess the point I wish to express is this: from the Bosporus to the Irish Sea, Celtic peoples lived and traded with a series of related languages and common cultural markers such as the visual arts, music, poetry and (pre-Christian) religion. There was no empire, no king, no nation, no ultimate authority – no “center.” Instead there was an organic cultural umbrella, not so much defining as shading what it meant to be a Celt. This sounds a awful lot like modern Latino culture to me: common traits such as music, literature, art, religion. If we include Portuguese in the mix, related but not common language and an enormous amount of local variation all existing under the shade of the Paraguas de Cultura Latina Universal.

    So, for your discussion, it may be good news or it may be disheartening – the experience of the modern Latino is just the latest example of new vigorous cultures born of expiring older ones. As long as it is in the growth phase, other older cultures will find it threatening and perhaps worse. Eventually, supra-national Latino Culture will become the New Normal and from there is will be a holding action, trying not to lose its cultural accomplishments to younger, hungrier groups, probably yet to be born.

    Again, thanks for your essay and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    Warmest regards,


    PS – I would further posit the difference between Latino and Latin as cultural descriptors. I would say that Latin is a less cultural and more linguistic definition. For example, 20 years ago, I almost married a girl from Northern Italy. Because she is an Italian-speaker, a Romance Language, she would be considered a Latin by other Europeans such as Germanics, Celts and Slavs. Likewise, so would the French, Spaniards Portuguese and the Walloon-speaking Belgians. (Hitler even referred to Romanians as Latins because of their language.) Of course, Latin America falls into this category by name!

    * Do you have an views on this Latin vs Latino dust up? Is it even relevant to you?
    * As a Latina, do you feel any affiliation with Romance-Language Europeans?

  73. Via Email

    From Anthony H.

    Hi Raquel,

    I read your article, and found it to be very interesting. In your case, your extensive family background could lead to some very interesting stories about what makes us all who we are.

    With that in mind and with the understanding that you are a mix of many different races and cultures, how ever could anybody truly put enough catagories on any sort survey/census to truly represent where we are all from. Me as an example: White male. Family lines are from Sweden, Ireland, England, Scottland, ect… Believe me, I am as white as they come. However, my heritage is never a concern when taking these polls. If you are white, you are white. 1 box to check thats it. I am also just white, not European American, Irish American, Swedish American, you get the picture or any other such label that has to define me as a certain kind of white. I respect what you are saying, and understand that you want your heritage to be recognized, but how real is that expectation on a national scale. I guess the census could list every country in the world and have people pick what two countries their parents are from, but again, how real is that being that thier parents may also be of mixed decent? Just a thought I guess.

    Thank you for your time, and I look forward to reading more of your work.


  74. Via Email

    From Arturo C.

    Note, from Cepeda: I stand corrected Arturo! I accept you checking me in reference to Cristobal Colon in your P.S. Love it! Also, i am not surprised that your beautiful daughter recalls a relative of yours that looks nothing like you (from your description, this is what I assume). The other day, while walking through my neighborhood park, I happened upon a set of twins: a girl and a boy, of about 3. The girl was blonde and had light colored eyes. The boy was very tan with dark hair and eyes. I asked their grandma if they were Dominican and of course…they were! Thanks for your comment.


    Great article, I especially like the way you pointed out that not all Latinos are Mexican, we are an eclectic bunch to say the least.

    I myself am Mexican-American, first generation but have had my own experiences where my own ethnicity has been questioned.

    My father is a Mestizo, (Spanish and Toltec), from central Mexico and my mother was born in Michoacan, Mexico but her family actually hails from Galicia, in northern Spain.

    My mother is Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian. And, since the Moorish occupied Spain for close to 800 years, we can’t really leave the Middle Eastern influence out now can we?

    My mother is very white and my father had dark features, my siblings and I are a good mix of both.

    My own experience is that the majority of people who guess as to what my ethnic background may be tend to lean toward the Middle Eastern part of the globe. I have also been mistaken for Puerto Rican on numerous occasions as well as Cuban and Dominican. The funny part about this is that, in every case, the person that mistakenly guessed at my ethnicity was of the ethnicity that they mistook me for! I guess that people are so proud of their race; they wish we all were part of their particular race.

    My personal opinion is that I hope that we continue to grow more diverse, that is always a good thing, plus it’s kind of cool to see the different features seemingly come out of nowhere.

    (My own daughter’s features resemble those of my maternal grandmother, tall, thin, auburn colored curly hair and the most beautiful pair of green eyes I’ve ever seen)

    Most people freak out that a tall, dark man with black hair could have child with those features, or maybe they just feel we shouldn’t be able to.

    In any event, I too will take the census seriously and hope that I am able to correctly identify myself before I forget how to.

    P.S. I noticed that you referred to Cristobal Colon as Christopher Columbus, this is a major pet peeve of mine.

    I’ve never seen a history book written in Spanish or Italian that refers to George Washington as Jorge Guajira!

  75. Via Email

    From Daniel P

    Note, from Cepeda: By definition, pirates are marauders. Marauders are people who roam in search of things to steal or people to attack. Therefore history tells us that Columbus was certainly a pirate.

    Good evening Ms, Cepeda,

    I read your article “But What’s a Latino?” on the CNN website and your blog site. It is an interesting and thought provoking article. I too get confused with America’s and the government’s obsession with categorizing the populace. In my eyes there are only three types of Americans: 1. Native born, 2. Naturlized 3. Waiting to be a U.S. citizen.

    Like most Americans, I have a mishmash including Spanish, Italian, Sicilian, Russian, Romanian and Cherokee blood in my family lineage. On top of that, my family lineage is now enetring its third century on this sacred land. Unlike most of my generation and current generation, I hold deeply and proudly to my American roots and heritage. My birth certificate, those of my parents, and two of my grandparents bear the seals of American cities and states. We hold to President Theodore Roosevelt’s ideal that there are no hyphenated Americans, only Americans. This is something that this country and our people need to, and should relearn and understand again.

    History cannot be rewritten or undone. There are no apologies needed, and our history does not need to be watered down or revised, cleansed or treated. As an American of European descent, I really, truly have nothing to be ashamed of or feel guilty about. What part of me is of Italian ancestry is not troubled by the journeys of Cristoforo Colombo. More so as he was a Genoese ship captain hired by the monarchs of the then newly liberated,reconquered and unified Kingdom of Spain. Where I get “Offended” is with the current hatred, especially in the press and school textbooks that paint Columbus as a villain. This stain of Anti-Italianism, Anti-Europeanism and self loathing Anti-Americanism is disturbing, abusive and just wrong.

    He seems to be the favorite “whipping boy” for those who are either anti-Italian or are just down right ashamed oftheir own history and background. Where is the logic? Why the shame? Why the anti-Italian hatred? Have these people forgotten that the Spanish and French really did a number and killed more people than Columbus ever did? To be ashamed of what those people did is likewise to be ashamed of one’s own ancestors, one’s own self. Those who villfy those “nasty, evil” people from Europe forget that in millions of cases those people are our own ancestors. To villify them is to villify one’s own bloodline one’s own self.

    That the voyages of Cristoforo Colombo had violent occurrances is hsitorical fact. To call his crew pirates might be going a bit too far. The blame, if any, was not his alone. Without the funding and sponsorship of Spain, Colombo would never have seen the Americas. It happened. Spain came and was then followed by Portugal, France, England, the Netherlands, Sweden and finally Russia.

    Those who wish to villify Columbus should also remember the names of Cortez, Pizzarro, deChamplain, and Cartier. They were not Italians. Those who villify these, and other explorers forget one thing – Without European exploration, colonization and sadly conquest none of us, not one of us, you, me, our families or friends would be on these shores. Perhaps those who wish to denegrate and villify those from the past should really ask where they, their achievements, their “toys” and everything else would be before blaming one man for all the ills over a four century period. They should take time to live in other countries not in any of the Americas to really see what lies “beyond”.

    I am one who has had enough of rewriting history. It happened, deal with it. My conscience is clean on this as my family made it to these shores after the conquest and colonization. What is equally repuslive is why should the descendants of those whose bloodlines date further back be condemened or made to feel tainted, evil for what happened centuries in the past.

    One of my relatives, whose ancestors arrived on the sacred shores millenia before “them”, the peoples from the Great Salt Water ever arrived (the Europeans) made his peace with his people’s past. He served this nation, his nation, our nation for 35 years in three wars. The arguments of the revisionists and self-haters ring hollow and have no meaning. Columbus was not the only one.

    Those of us who live now, for better or worse are heirs to lands made possible by the likes of Jefferson, Washington, L’Overture, Hidalgo, Bolivar, San Martin, Duarte, Mackenzie, Zapata and Marti.

    Is being a son or a daughter of any of the nations of the Americas such a bad thing?

    Daniel P
    New York, New York, United States of America

  76. Via Email

    From: Jim C

    Note, from Cepeda: I chose to focus on this subgroup because, as you stated, we’re such a broad and diverse group, in order to start a conversation, I had to narrow my pov down. And since the piece was a commentary and i am from the Caribbean, it was a given that I focus on this region.

    While I enjoyed you recent CNN commentary, I found it interetsing that you chose to focus on one subgroup of Latino – Spanish heritage – as representative of all Latino culture. Many Latinos ar enot of Spanish heritage; your description would leave out the majority of South American’s. A syou point out, Latino is a very broad description that goes well beyond the Hispanic/Spanish speaking heritage. Given the very diverse mix of cultures that have influenced the Latino hritage it is not surprising that you were though to be Arabic; I know of Latinos who were thought to be Persian as well.



  77. Via FB

    From Eddie F.

    Hi. I was browsing through the web and came across your CNN Opinion article and found it very refreshing. It made much sense and I agree wholeheartedly. I recently got married in a civil court and had to fill out the paperwork. When I came across the “race” question I was stumped for a bit. White, Latino, Black, Asian, etc etc… So since I was in such a delightful mood and didn’t think it was a big deal, I checked all that applied. When I submitted the paperwork I was told that I could only choose one category. I was dumbfounded by this because here I am, a Dominican born man with a lineage around the world. One side of my parents are European and the other Middle Eastern and African. I have citizenship in the Dominican Republic, U.S. & Spain. This whole conundrum with race is quite tiring.
    I hope you get many readers because you couldn’t of said it better.
    Take care.

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