What is a Latino?

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Photo by laverrue

Photo by laverrue

I‘ve been racking my brain the last few days trying to come up with a definition of what’s a Latino. And, for the life of me, I still don’t have an answer.

I mean, I guess I could look it up in the dictionary, but the word evokes so many different attributes that the truth is there just can not be a sole interpretation. Plus, I’ve found that it really depends on who you ask.

Although it’s no longer news that we are the largest minority group in the country – I actually can’t wait to see the results of next year’s census – I find that we’re still pretty much misunderstood. I see it and feel it especially now that I live in Colorado. Most non-Latinos here assume we are all Mexican, we all eat tacos and we all listen to Los Tigres del Norte. Nothing against Mexicans – half my family on my mom’s side hails from that amazing country – but I’m Peruvian, and a very proud one at that.

I must admit it truly bothers me that many times we’re all just lumped into one homogeneous group when nothing could be further from the truth. I know many times it’s ignorance and I have tried to enlighten some, but for some reason many find it hard to understand Latinos are a diverse group.

Yes, we share the same language, but as we’ve written about before in this blog, we also have our own regional vocabulary. We come in different colors, including white which many find impossible to believe. We are Catholic and Jewish and Muslim. We gave birth to salsa, merengue, tango, samba and reggeaton. Our food is spicy, eclectic and world-renowned. We are passionate about our culture and proud of our heritage. We are first, second and third-generation Americans. We are Latinos.

I think it’s crazy, and I love it, how all-things-Latino have exploded in the last few years, especially the last two. Just do a Google search for ‘being latino’ for example and you’ll be dumbfounded by the results. In fact, there’s a fan group on Facebook called just that: Being Latino and its the fastest growing one with close to 20,000 members! I’ve truly enjoyed some of the discussions posted on this page, including this recent one about whether or not you must speak Spanish to be considered Latino. What do you think?

And, in case you didn’t know it, CNN will soon be airing a two-part series entitled Latino in America hosted by anchor Soledad O’Brien who traveled the country to compile an in-depth look at what it means to be Latino in the U.S. I can’t wait to see it! Oh, yeah, she also wrote a book about it which should be an interesting read… The series airs Oct. 21 and 22 on CNN. Here’s a preview:

So what do you think? What does it mean to you to be a Latino?

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