Nearly half of Houston’s population, 44.5 percent, identify as “Hispanic or Latino”, according to the latest U.S. Census data. But what do those terms mean, and when do we use them? We explain below.

What is the difference between Latino and Hispanic?

Latino, or Latina (the feminine form), is a noun or adjective used to describe a person or group of people with origins, ancestors or cultural ties to a Spanish-speaking country or Latin America, according to the Associated Press Stylebook. 

People from places as diverse as Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Panama and Argentina may all consider themselves Latino. Brazilians may consider themselves Latinos, despite the fact that Portuguese is the main language used, because Brazil is located in Latin America. There is some ambiguity over whether someone from Spain is Latino. According to the AP Stylebook, anyone from a “Spanish-speaking land” could be Latino; According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a Latino is someone from Latin America.

Hispanic is a term used to describe a person from a Spanish-speaking country as well, but historically in the U.S. it was used to describe those of Spanish descent, from Spain. 

The Houston Landing, whenever possible, follows the Associated Press Stylebook’s guidance on when to use these terms. And a person’s personal preference is always prioritized.

What about Chicano?

Not everybody from Spanish-speaking countries identifies as Latino or Hispanic.  

Chicano, for example, is a term mostly adopted by Mexican Americans, or México-Americanos, who do not identify as Latino or Hispanic. It’s especially used in the southwest U.S. and in El Paso. The term embraces the notion of being “ni de aquí, ni de allá,” which translates to “neither from here, nor from there”. Those who identify with this term might have strong cultural ties to México but were perhaps the first- or second-generation born and/or raised in the U.S., leaving them to feel like they don’t fully fit in with either culture.

Why would we ever use Hispanic?

The U.S. Census Bureau includes a box on their surveys for “Hispanic or Latino”. So in stories where we refer to census data, we use the same terminology and cite it as such. We also use this term if a person, group or organization identifies with or prefers this term.

Why do some people prefer the term Latino?

Latino is a term that can be seen as more inclusive when describing the Spanish-speaking community at large. This is due in part to the term “Hispanic” being linked to a history of Spanish colonization that can be painful and exclusionary of community members. 

What does Latinx or Latine mean? 

In Spanish, words are often given a gender, and so Latino is the masculine version of the word, and Latina is the feminine version. But some people don’t want to be categorized by gender. Latinx and Latine are newer, gender-neutral words preferred by individuals who don’t identify with the gender-specific terms. If either is preferred by someone, that’s the term the Landing uses.

Hola! My name is Danya Pérez, one of Houston Landing’s diverse communities reporters. I cover Latino/Hispanic communities here, including those who are mixed race or mixed status. ¡También soy México-Americana y hablo español! ¿Qué notas te gustaría leer? What topics or stories would you like to see me cover? Email me your ideas at

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Danya Pérez is a diverse communities reporter for the Houston Landing. She returned to Houston after leaving two years ago to work for the San Antonio Express-News, where she reported on K-12 and higher...