Sound Off

Sunday, Nov 25 2012 03:00 AM

SOUND OFF: When is it "Hispanic" and when is it "Latino"

BY JOHN ARTHUR Californian Executive Editor jarthur@bakersfield.com

READER: I am what most people -- and official forms -- would label as "white". My father, and my maternal grandparents, come from the Portuguese archipelago The Azores (English spelling), a group of islands about 900 miles off the coast of mainland Portugal. The Azores were settled in the 1500's by the Flemish (Dutch), so there's a lot of "white" there and in me.

I have resided in Bakersfield for the most part of the past 30 years; I have seen it change from a predominately "white" community to what is now a predominately Mexican and/or Mexican-American community. That's cool.

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But I am confused, and have been for the past many years (it's probably my ignorance on this subject). In the interest of respect to my (majority-race/nationality [when is it "race", and when is it "nationality"]) fellow-Bakersfieldians, I am wondering: When is it proper to use the term "Hispanic", and when is it proper to use the term "Latino". And when do I use either of those terms in preference to "Mexican" or "Mexican-American" (I can pretty much figure out when to differentiate between the terms "Mexican" and "Mexcian-American").

Thank you for any insight into this sensitive (hush-hush; don't speak it) subject. I think it's about time that us minority "whites" learn how to refer to our fellow majority Bakersfieldians, and learn what they consider to be the difference between the four terms, and which they prefer.

Alvin Gregorio

ARTHUR: This is a great subject for discussion. Thanks for bringing it up.

I can't speak for the community, and I didn't call Bakersfield College or CSUB to get some insight to this question. Perhaps we will hear from some academics.

However I can tell you why our style is what you see and how another newspaper handles the matter.

The Associated Press, the world's largest newsgathering organization and the primary provider of wire news to The Californian, has full "stylebook" of matters of grammar and usage. Here's how they define these two terms:

"Latino - - Often the preferred term for a person from -- or whose ancestors were from -- a Spanish-speaking land or culture or from Latin America. Latina is the feminine form. Follow the person's preference. Use a more specific identification when possible, such as Cuban, Puerto Rican, Brazilian or Mexican-American. See Hispanic, nationalities and races, and race.

"Hispanic -- A person from -- or whose ancestors were from -- a Spanish-speaking land or culture. Latino and Latina are sometimes preferred. Follow the person's preference. Use a more specific identification when possible, such as Cuban, Puerto Rican or Mexican-American. See Latino, nationalities and races and race."

That sort of seems interchangeable, doesn't it.

At the Los Angeles Times (and we also use their stories), a long debate almost two decades ago resulted in a style preference that few others use: Latino.

Here's the latest update on their thinking, as posted online in their style guide last year:

"A memo on usage from Assistant Managing Editor Henry Fuhrmann to Times copy editors:

"We have updated our rule on the use of Latino to reflect more accurately what the editors of the 1995 Times stylebook intended: that the term in virtually all cases is the appropriate choice over Hispanic, in keeping with the practices and sensibilities of residents of our region.

"We offer this combined new listing in place of two separate and occasionally confusing former entries:

"Latino, Hispanic: Latino is the umbrella term for people in the United States of Latin American descent. It refers to Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans and others from the Spanish-speaking lands or cultures of Latin America. A Latino woman is a Latina. It is preferable to say that an individual is Mexican American, of Salvadoran descent and so forth, instead of using the umbrella term.

"Keep in mind that Latino is an ethnic group, not a race category. Latinos may be of any race: white, black, Native American, Asian, mestizo, etc. Some speak Spanish; some don't. Some are U.S. born; others are immigrants.

"Note: Hispanic is acceptable in quotes or in proper names. The U.S. Census Bureau uses terms such as "Hispanic or Latino" and "non-Hispanic or Latino" in its survey questions on ethnicity and race. Stories and graphics based on census information are allowed to use that language when it is essential to explain methodology, but we should otherwise use Latino to describe the people in question.

"In describing the old entries as "occasionally confusing," we mean especially every 10 years upon the release of fresh census data. It was easy to see why many of us interpreted the old rules as not only an invitation to use Hispanic but, in census stories, a requirement to do so. The old entry on Hispanic said, in part, "Use Hispanic only in quotes, in proper names or reports based on census data."

"So, to be clear: Latino should be used in nearly all contexts; the exceptions, as described in the revised entry, must truly be exceptional. The online stylebook has been updated accordingly."

These are some rules. Would our readers offer others?

***

READER: While we New Yorkers are fairly clever, I didn't think we'd already gotten the hang of being in two places at once, cf on page C3 of today's paper:

Warriors 106, Knicks 98

closely followed by

Grizzlies 105, Knicks 95

An ounce of paying attention is worth a pound of "For the Record."

Liz Keogh

ARTHUR: I knew the Knicks were off to a good start but....

***

Reader Tom Webster posed a comment on Lois Henry's Wednesday column about how the system worked to get a government report released:

READER: It's a great system if you have 10s of thousands of dollars available to file the suits necessary. For those without a jD or an extra $50k lying around, we're thankful for Lois and the fourth estate who can at least bring attention to these things. thanks.

Tom Webster

ARTHUR : We are, too. Thanks! This feedback forum is designed to give readers a way to voice criticisms

and compliments or ask questions about news coverage. Your questions --

which may be edited for space -- are answered each Sunday by Executive

Editor John Arthur. Follow John Arthur on Twitter @BakoEditor

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