My freshmen year of college, I was part of a group project, and I came across an odd encounter. I had mentioned to my group that I was from Spain, therefore, part of the Hispanic community. The boy next to me eyed me and bluntly stated, "If you're from Spain, you're not Hispanic." I eyed him back and replied "Yes I am."
"No you're not. You're European."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. "Did it ever occur to you that I can be both European and Hispanic?" The boy rolled his eyes and went back to his Twitter feed. This is just one encounter.
Another day, I was talking to some class mates and we were introducing ourselves and where we were from. I said "I'm Spanish." and half of my classmates looked at me with puzzled expressions and said, "Yeah, but where are you from? What country?"
Is it really that hard to figure out? If someone says "I'm Jamaican" you realize they're from Jamaica. If someone says "I'm Cuban" they're from Cuba. Why is me saying "I'm Spanish" so difficult for people to grasp? Why is it so difficult for people to understand that even though Spain is in Europe, Spanish people are still Hispanics. "Latino" is also a term that applies to Spaniards. A co-worker of mine once told me "You're European, not Latina" which really annoyed me. Once again, I felt like I had to give a history lesson.
Latino is a Spanish word that is used by the English Language. It means someone from the origins of Italy: including the Romans. So people from Italy would be considered "Latinos" or Latins. Those who speak the Romance languages (Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French and Rumanian) stem from the civilization of Rome. Therefore, natives from Spain, Italy, Portugal, France, and Romania (and their old colonies for instance, Brazil) are considered Latinos. For example, a Cuban individual may be referred to as Latino(a) because he or she comes from a Spanish origin.
The term "Hispanic" originally comes from the Iberian Peninsula (also known as ancient Hispania). The term also refers to anything pertaining to Spain and the countries that Spain colonized. When I've spoken to Brazilians of Portuguese descent, they've too, been heavily annoyed with people labeling them as Hispanic. This is another thing to consider. Just because you are Latino does not mean that you are Hispanic. The Portuguese (unless mixed with Spanish origin) are NOT Hispanic. But, a person who is from both Latin America AND of Spanish origin are considered both Latin and Hispanic.
When I was 17 and applying to different universities, I noticed that when you refer to your ethnicity, the schools often mix up Hispanic with Latino and use either or, which is incredibly incorrect. Also, if we are referring to races, (which I still think we shouldn't categorize people based on the color of their skin) a Hispanic or Latino can be from any "race". Cue to the time when I heard a girl in my Religion class say "Oh my god!! I didn't know Hispanics could be blonde with blue eyes!" Tell that to my Hispanic blonde, blue-eyed aunt.
What I am trying to say is that we shouldn't be dogmatic and spew "facts" if we really don't know what we're talking about. Be informed. Be educated. The world is a vast and diverse place, and we must try our very best to refer to people with the correct terminology.