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Orlando Sentinel

Hispanic Is Term Of Choice In Poll

by Maria T. Padilla

December 17, 2000
Copyright © 2000 Orlando Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.

An age-old Hispanic riddle has been solved.

A new national poll finds that among Hispanics, the term Hispanic is preferred over Latino.

For a long time it was thought that Latino was the description of choice, although there was little evidence to substantiate it.

Now comes the firm Hispanic Trends Inc., which at the urging of Hispanic magazine, decided to put the riddle to the test.

The results: About 65 percent of those surveyed nationwide chose Hispanic over Latino. Only 30 percent opted for Latino, according to a report in the magazine`s December issue.

A total of 1,200 Hispanic voters were polled nationwide, and the answers varied little from region to region.

That means that Mexicans on the West Coast feel the same as Puerto Ricans on the East Coast, who feel the same as Cubans in South Florida, and so on.

During a Hispanic leadership conference in Orlando three years ago, this very question was put to some attendees. Many responded that it was an East Coast-West Coast thing -- that is, Hispanics in the East liked to be called Hispanic, but not so those in the West.

So the dispute remained unsettled, but now it seems the argument is over. It`s up to the pundits to try to divine the meaning of it all.

Already the analyses are flying. One holds that since the 1970s, when this discussion was all the rage, the term Hispanic has become more universal and accepted.

Others think that Hispanic voters tend to be younger and more assimilated, and that`s why they like the term Hispanic. After all, this generation hadn`t been born when the duel started.

For the record, it was the Census Bureau that ignited the discussion by settling on the term Hispanic to describe all people of Spanish-speaking origins.

The move immediately created critics who didn`t like the idea of a government agency deciding what to call Spanish-speaking people who had begun to pop up in big numbers in the census.

However, the choice of words may boil down to something far simpler and far less complex, said Sergio Benedixen, president of Hispanic Trends. He told the magazine he now thinks that people who dislike the term Hispanic simply "are more vocal."

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