Does Calling a Mexican 'Hispanic' or 'Latino' Say Something about Your Political Ideology?

[¡Ask a Mexican!] And why do Mexicans love 'Crystal Blue Persuasion' so much?

DEAR MEXICAN: Is it just me, or has what to call our friends from south of the border become a partisan issue? While taking in both political conventions over the past couple of weeks, I've noticed Republicans invariably use the word "Hispanics," while Democrats are far more likely to say "Latino/a." What gives? Is there some nefarious semantic plot afoot, such as when right-wing commentators dropped the "ic" from "Democratic?" Or is there a more innocent explanation? How do Hispanics and/or Latinos refer to themselves?

Ensuring My Future in Brown America


DEAR GABACHO: Man, I can write a whole book on your pregunta—and I did! It's called Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America—so let me be brief. While you overgeneralized a bit (Latinos from the East Coast tend to call themselves "Hispanics" regardless of political affiliation, while Republican Latinos usually call themselves vendidos), you're on to something. It's not just a political ideology litmus test, but also a gabacho one, and it boils down to is this: Any gabacho who calls brownies "Hispanics" is usually clueless about them, while any gabacho who calls us "Latinos" is a fellow traveler of the Reconquista. Voila—there's your explanation to why the GOP favors "Hispanic," while Dems prefer "Latino"! A gross generalization, yes, but apply this rule to the gabachos, Democrats and Republicans in your life, and I guarantee you'll be pleasantly surprised!

 

DEAR MEXICAN: What is the Chicano culture's relationship with the song "Crystal Blue Persuasion"? I've seen Tommy James and the Shondells perform it numerous times and never got goosebumps or teared up or anything. But Chicanos ALWAYS request that song. Why? What is the connection? Did Tommy James have a Chicana heina on the side, and it's about her? Was it a 1970s drug, a bottle of wine (such as Boone's Farm)? What? ¡Dime, por favor!

MC Cuervo


DEAR READERS: It's rare I break my pseudonym rule, but I'm doing it for MC Cuervo, whose real name is Danny Valenzuela. Along with Ricky O, he co-hosts the Latino Soul Party every Friday night on KUVO-FM 89.3 in Denver and worldwide on publicbroadcasting.net/kuvo. It's an awesome show, with the best oldies-but-goodies and new Latin soul tracks—puro DESMADRE, so tune in! Anyhoo, I'm surprised MC Cuervo doesn't know his Chicano-soul history: While it's true that hippy-dippy gabachos Tommy James and the Shondells recorded the first (and best) version of the best-seller in 1969, multiple soul groups with a Chicano fan base quickly covered it, as did Latin soul pioneer Joe Bataan. From there, it lived on in muchos oldies-but-goodies compilations, including Art Laboe's Dedicated to You and Oldies But Goodies anthologies, in Thump Records' Old School Love Songs album, and even that Barrio Oldies series with the pink covers that everyone's cholo cousin had a pirated version of in the 1980s. It got a new lease on life in 1990, when A Lighter Shade of Brown incorporated it into their classic "On a Sunday Afternoon," and it just got major play on Breaking Bad. But the question remains: Why do Chicanos love the song so much, and how did it transition into the pantheon of Chicano-favored oldies-but-goodies? It's basically a Mexican song—the bongos and the acoustic-guitar arpeggios come from Latin America, while the dreamy electric guitar and dramatic organ riffs sound similar to "96 Tears" (another Chicano classic) after a couple of bong hits, with the horns and harmonies straight out of East Los Angeles. Perfect cruising music and perfect love song equals a canción that's more Mexican than Vicente Fernandez's mustache.

 
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13 comments
abramsrl
abramsrl

Both Hispanic and Latino are used for the same reason we say Asian, White, or Black.  Somehow we have the idea that there are large groups of people who have such great similarities to each other that they should be given a label.

Some people know that someone from Italy has a background different from someone for Sweden.  Thus, they believe that people of European origin have more in common with each other than they do with Asians.  I doubt the usefulness of these broad geographic based labels -- they are basically geography -- Black = Africa. Hispanic means South of US-Mexico border and speak Spanish.

The GOP sounds more prejudiced as they are less likely to know that Marco Rubio as a Cubano is not identical to Xavier Becerra whose mother hails from Jalisco.  Thus, they say stupid things like Hispanics in California would vote for GOP Rubio.  Showing ignorance of the intra-group differences does indicate a lack of familiarity, and if one is a politician, that type of ignorance is not acceptable.  Just as a politician in the N/E should know the difference between a Christian Greene from England and a Jewish Greene from Poland, a California politico should distinguish a Californio Pico from a Guatemalan Ramirez.

jorge.morejon.garcia
jorge.morejon.garcia

I would like to give confirmation to what he says about the names versus location. I'm from Miami and everyone says hispanic here. I went to California and the term used everywhere was latino.

 

I think that the reason democrats say latino instead of the «official» hispanic is that it's the more common word in spanish, and they want to appear to be more in tune with the people they are talking.

 

I also have a complete bias to the word hispanic. Because being a spaniard, hispanic includes us and latino doesn't.

JamesRobertReade
JamesRobertReade

Hi Gustavo! I love your articles! The Lightly complexioned Hispanic-Latino John Leos was raised around his mother's family of gang members with whole body gang tattoos. A vote for John Leos is a vote for the gang lifestyle. John Leos was heavily influenced by gang members in his family since childhood.  John Leos is sympathetic to the gang lifestyle. John Leos walks up to the podium and blurts out public comment with Fitzgerald-like nonsense. Say Hi to Amber! James Robert Reade

 

jlecheverria51
jlecheverria51

Lo mejicanos son americanos como los que màs. Los mejicanos no son' hispanic' y menos 'latinos'- nada màs hay que verles la cara; los hispanic son los de la 'Madre Patria'.

Los periodistas llaman americanos a los estadounidenses. Y no a todos: solo los blancos(waps: han visto ya un anglosajon que no sea blanco); los otros son : afroamericanos, italoamericanos, etc.; es decir de segunda zona.Hay que recordar a esos periodistas quién descubriô América, y quién la conquisto. Los ingleses llagan màs tarde, cuando en 'trabajo' ya esta hecho.

América es un solo continente, de Alaska a tierra del Fuego.

hispanico
hispanico

Dear Mexican,

I’m a Hispanic that work in the Hispanic marketing industry. I’m surrounded by people that are very knowledgeable about us... and spend millions of dollars in research so they can understand us even better.

Granted, it’s with the purpose of making money, but isn’t that what makes the world go 'round? (even your great column is written “for profit”).

In this world, the preferred term is Hispanic. Mainly because it’s the “official” Census category. But truth be told, we use Hispanic and Latino interchangeable. No political agendas.

IMHO the giveaway of a clueless gabacho is when they call us “Spanish.” Ah, and as a Republicano we actually call ourselves just “Republicans” – I though Democrat Hispanics were called “gullible”?

itchy
itchy

hey, "mexican", arent you a us citizen hence not a mexican?

BillxT
BillxT topcommenter

 @jlecheverria51

 True that, there will always be a problem trying to apply lables to groups of people. As I've gotten older, I've moved towards trying to understand the intent of a lable, when used. "Negro" was the polite term for people of African-American descent, then over time it became to be viewed as derogatory. Many other, more or less, analagous. Now I just try to understand the intent.  No intent to insult, no foul. Pigeon-holing, gross generalizations, no damn bueno.

GustavoArellano
GustavoArellano moderator editortopcommenter

 @hispanico No, if someone calls you "Spanish" nowadays, they're in their mid-80s. And I know most of you folks in the "Hispanic" marketing industry—you're selling gabas and wabs alike the biggest loads of shit this side of Kohler with your "research." But kudos for making muchos pesos out of it!

BillxT
BillxT topcommenter

 @rustycheeks As far as I can tell my ancesters came over from Scotland and Germany pre-1850 (some pre-revolution).  I still maintain connections to those roots, as do many others with similar family historys. It would be strange if people more recently arrived didn't also maintain connections to their historys.

elchino
elchino

 @GustavoArellano  @hispanico

 Well, when I lived in New York City, quite a number of Puerto Ricans there refer to themselves as "Spanish", or their food as "Spanish" (as opposed to comida espana).   I think it's a regional thing - in California, we tend to use the term Latino/Latina more.  On the East Coast, especially Florida, and New York to some extent, Hispanic is used more often.  I don't see any particular political matter. 

 

In official/governmental/corporate circles, you'll probably see the term Hispanic used more often, such as Hispanic marketing, and US Census bureau (I walked precincts for the 2010 Census). 

JamesRobertReade
JamesRobertReade

 @GustavoArellano  @hispanico Hi Gustavo! I love your articles! The Lightly complexioned Hispanic-Latino John Leos was raised around his mother's family of gang members with whole body gang tattoos. A vote for John Leos is a vote for the gang lifestyle. John Leos was heavily influenced by gang members in his family since childhood.  John Leos is sympathetic to the gang lifestyle. John Leos walks up to the podium and blurts out public comment with Fitzgerald-like nonsense. Say Hi to Amber! James Robert Reade

 
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