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Hispanic ( ) is a term that historically denoted a relationship to the ancient Hispania (geographically coinciding with the Iberian Peninsulamarker). During the modern era, it took on a more limited meaning, relating to the contemporary nation of Spainmarker.

Still more recently, the term is used to describe the culture and people of countries formerly ruled by Spain, usually with a majority of the population speaking the Spanish language. These include Mexicomarker, the majority of the Central and South American countries, and most of the Greater Antilles. There are also Spanish influences in the African nation of Equatorial Guineamarker, and the cultures of the former Spanish East Indies.


The term Hispanic is derived from Hispanicus, which derived from Hispania (Iberian Peninsula), both of them Latin terms. Hispania may in turn derive from Latin Hispanus, or from Greek Hispania and Hispanos, probably from Celtiberian or from Basque Ezpanna. The words Spain, Spanish, and Spaniard are of the same etymology as Hispanic, ultimately.

Hispanus was the Latin name given to a person from Hispania during Roman rule. In English, the term Hispano-Roman is sometimes used. The Hispano-Romans were composed of people from many different tribes. Some famous Hispani (plural of Hispanus) were Seneca the Elder, Seneca the Younger, Marcus Annaeus Lucanus, Martial, Prudentius, the Roman Emperors Trajan, Hadrian and Theodosius I, and also Magnus Maximus and Maximus of Hispania.

Here follows a comparison of several terms related to Hispanic:
  • Hispano-Roman is used to refer to the culture and people of Hispania, ancestors of the Portuguese and Spanish peoples.
  • Hispania was known as Iberiamarker to the Greeks, while the native land of the Hispano-Romans later became a province of the Roman Empire and Al-Andalusmarker during the Moorish Muslim period.
  • Hispanic is used to refer to modern Spain, to the Spanish language, and to the Spanish-speaking nations of the world and particularly the Americas.
  • Spanish is used to refer to both to the Spanish language itself and to the culture and the people of Spain.
  • Spaniard is used to refer to the people of Spain.

Prior to the marriage of Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon in 1469, the four Christian kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula, namely the Kingdom of Portugalmarker, the Crown of Aragon, the Crown of Castile, and the Kingdom of Navarre, were collectively referred to as Hispania - the Roman name for the Iberian Peninsula. This revival of the old Roman name in the Middle Ages appears to have originated in Provençal, and appears to be first documented at the end of the 11th century. In the Council of Constancemarker, the four kingdoms shared one vote.

Portugal adopted the word "Lusitanic", or "Lusitanian" to refer to its culture and people, in reference to the Lusitanians, one of the first Indo-European tribes to settle in Europe. From this tribe's name had derived the name of the Roman province of Lusitania, which was a part of Roman province of Hispania, and Lusitania remains Portugal's name in Latin.

The expansion of the Spanish Empire between 1492 and 1898 brought thousands of Spanish migrants to the conquered lands, who established settlements, mainly in the Americas but also in other distant parts of the world, producing a number of multiracial populations. Today the term Hispanic is typically applied to the varied populations of these places, including those with insignificant or no Spanish ancestry. This is not necessarily so for people of Portuguese ancestry, in former Portuguese colonies such as Brazil or Portugal itself. For instance, Portuguese Americans are not considered "Hispanic" by the United States Census Bureau.

Definitions in the United States

The terms Hispanic and Latino tend to be used interchangeably in the United States for people with origins in Spanish–speaking countries. Latino, from American Spanish, is used in some cases as an abbreviation for latinoamericano or "Latin American". In other Hispanophone countries, Hispanic and Latino are not commonly used. The term "Latin American" was used for the first time in the nineteenth century when the French occupied Mexico (1862-1867), leading to the Second Mexican Empire, and wanted to be included in what is considered Spanish America.

The 1970 Census was the first time that a "Hispanic" identifier was used and data collected with the question. The definition of "Hispanic" has been modified in each successive census. The 2000 Census asked if the person was "Spanish/Hispanic/Latino".

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget currently defines "Hispanic or Latino" as "a person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race". This definition excludes people of Portuguese origins, such as Portuguese Americans or Brazilian Americans. However, they are included in some government agencies' definitions. For example, the U.S. Department of Transportation defines Hispanic to include, "persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Central or South American, or others Spanish or Portuguese culture or origin, regardless of race." This definition has been adopted by the Small Business Administration as well as many federal, state, and municipal agencies for the purposes of awarding government contracts to minority owned businesses. Still, other government agencies adopt definitions that exclude people from Spainmarker, since there is a distinct ethnic difference (indigenous American or European American). Some others include people from Brazilmarker, but not Spain or Portugalmarker.The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission encourages any individual who believes that he or she is Hispanic according to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget definition (any Spanish culture or origin) to self-identify as Hispanic. The United States Department of Labormarker - Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs encourages the same self-identification. As a result, any individual who traces his or her origins to part of the Spanish Empire may self-identify as Hispanic, because an employer may not override an individual's self-identification.


Hispanicization is the process by which a place or a person absorbs characteristics of Hispanic society and culture. Modern hispanization of a place, namely in the United States, might be illustrated by Spanish language media and businesses. Hispanization of a person might be illustrated by speaking Spanish, making and eating Latin food, listening to Spanish language music, dressing in Hispanic styles or participating in Hispanic festivals and holidays - Hispanization of those outside the Hispanic community as opposed to assimilation of Hispanics into theirs. In the United States Anglo culture has long been the dominant culture and, historically, U.S. immigrants have assimilated by the third generation.

One of the reasons why the assimilation of Hispanics in the U.S. is not comparable to that of other cultural groups is that Hispanic and Latino Americans have been living in some parts of North America for centuries, in many cases well before the Anglo culture became dominant. For example, Californiamarker, Texasmarker, Coloradomarker, New Mexicomarker (1598), Arizonamarker, Nevadamarker and Floridamarker have been home to Hispanic peoples since the 16th century, long before the U.S. gained independence from Great Britainmarker. These and other Spanish-speaking territories were part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, and later Mexicomarker, before these regions joined or were taken by the United States in 1848. Some cities in the U.S. were founded by Spanish settlers in the 16th century, prior to the creation of the Thirteen Colonies. For example, San Miguel de Galdape, Pensacolamarker and St. Augustine, Floridamarker were founded in 1526, 1559 and 1565 respectively, Santa Fe, New Mexicomarker was founded in 1604, and Albuquerquemarker was established in 1660. Therefore, in some parts of the U.S., the Hispanic cultural legacy is older than the Anglo-Saxon origin. For this reason, many generations have largely maintained their cultural traditions and Spanish language.

Language retention is a common index to assimilation, and according to the 2000 census, about 75 percent of all Hispanics spoke Spanish in the home — even many Hispanics who can trace their ancestry to the original Spanish settlement of the U.S. Southwest between 1598 and 1769. Spanish language retention rates vary geographically; parts of Texas and New Mexico have language retention rates over 90 percent, whereas parts of Colorado and California have retention rates lower than 30 percent.

Hispanic retention rates are so high in parts of Texas and New Mexico and along the border because the percentage of Hispanics living there is also very high. Laredo, Texasmarker; Chimayo, New Mexicomarker; Nogales, Arizonamarker and Coachella, Californiamarker, for example, all have Hispanic populations greater than 90 percent. In these pockets, Hispanics have always been the majority population. These communities are known within the Hispanic community or Hispanidad, as "continuous communities" because Hispanics have continuously been the majority population since they were settled in the 16th or 17th centuries. Interestingly, Anglo Americans moving into these communities often Hispanicize, creating a situation where assimilation and Hispanization are one and the same.

Spanish-speaking countries and regions

Today, Spanish is among the most commonly spoken first languages of the world. During the period of the Spanish Empire, between 1492 to 1898, many people migrated from Spain to the conquered lands. The Spaniards brought with them their languages and culture, and in this process that lasted several centuries, created a global empire with multiracial populations. The interracial marriages between peoples in the colonies led to the creation of the new mixed (mestizo) peoples in many countries. Genetically Spaniards are typically European and are believed to be the longest continuously established population in Europe; they also have small traces of many peoples from the rest of Europe, the Near East and the Mediterranean areas of northern Africa. The Spanish heritage also includes an international community of Spanish-speakers, which are found in Spain, as well as throughout its former colonies in the continents and countries shown in the table below.

Spanish speaking countries

Note: Spanish is identified as a co-official language in Perumarker, Boliviamarker and Equatorial Guineamarker.

See also: List of countries where Spanish is an official language

Language and Ethnicities in Spanish Speaking Areas Around the World
Continent/Region Country/Territory Languages Spoken Ethnic Groups Picture References
Europe Spainmarker Spanish (official) 89%, Catalan 9%, Galician 5%, Basque 1%, are official regionally. (Spanish is spoken by 100% of the population, over 100% indicates bilingual population). ]]). Majority composite of Mediterranean and Nordic types; includes North African Arab, Berber and/or Moor bloodlines mostly sequestered/abolished during the Inquisition period. Also included rather recent sub-Saharan African immigrants, some of whom are mixed with the established composite bloodlines and/or North African bloodlines. The population also includes recent North African and Middle East immigrants, especially from countries like Algeria and Morocco. Roma people (Gitanos) still make up a considerable part of the population. Recent Asian immigrant groups, like East Indians and Chinese, make up a small portion of the population.
North America Mexicomarker Spanish 92.7%, Spanish and indigenous languages 5.7%, indigenous only 0.8%, unspecified 0.8%; (Indigenous languages include various Mayan, Nahuatl, and other regional languages) (2005) Mestizo (European-Amerindian) 60-67%, Amerindian or predominantly Amerindian 18-25%, European or predominantly European 9-18%, other 1%
United Statesmarker English 80.3% (english only), Spanish 12.2%, other Indo-European 3.8%, Asian and Pacific island 2.7%, other 0.7% (2000 census) (Hawaiian is an official language in the state of Hawaii).

Note: While the U.S. is an English speaking country, the historical populations of Spanish-speakers in the American West/Southwest, and the large influx of immigrants from Spanish speaking countries in recent years
White 79.96%, Black 12.85%, Asian 4.43%, Amerindian and Alaska native 0.97%, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.18%, two or more races 1.61% (July 2007 estimate)

Note: a separate listing for Hispanic is not included because the U.S. Census Bureau considers Hispanic to mean a person of Latin American descent (including persons of Cuban, Mexican, or Puerto Rican origin) living in the U.S. who may be of any race or ethnic group (white, black, Asian, etc.); about 15.1% of the total U.S. population is Hispanic.
Central America Belizemarker Spanish 43%, Creole 37%, Mayan dialects 7.8%, English 5.6% (official), German 3.2%, Garifuna 2%, other 1.5% Mestizo 34%, Creole 25%, Spanish 15%, Maya 10.6%, Garifuna 6.1%, other 11% (2000 census)
Costa Ricamarker Spanish (official), English White 85%, Mestizo 10%, Black 3%, Amerindian 1%, Chinese 1%
El Salvadormarker Spanish, Nahua (among some Amerindians) Mestizo 90%, White 9%, Amerindian 1%
Guatemalamarker Spanish 70%, Amerindian languages 30% (23 officially recognized Amerindian languages, including Quiche, Cakchiquel, Kekchi, Mam, Garifuna, and Xinca). Mestizo (mixed Amerindian-Spanish - in local Spanish called Ladino) and European 59.4%, K'iche 9.1%, Kaqchikel 8.4%, Mam 7.9%, Q'eqchi 6.3%, other Mayan 8.6%, indigenous non-Mayan 0.2%, other 0.1% (2001 census)
Hondurasmarker Spanish, Amerindian dialects Mestizo (mixed Amerindian and European) 90%, Amerindian 7%, Black 2%, White 1%
Nicaraguamarker Spanish 97.5% (official), Miskito 1.7%, other 0.8% (1995 census) (English and indigenous languages on Atlantic coast). Mestizo (mixed Amerindian and White) 69%, White 17%, Black 9%, Amerindian 5%
Panamamarker Spanish (official), English 14% (many Panamanians bilingual) Mestizo (mixed Amerindian and White) 70%, Amerindian and mixed (West Indian) 14%, White 10%, Amerindian 6%
South America Argentinamarker Spanish (official), Italian, English, German, French White (mostly Spanish and Italian) 97%, Mestizo (mixed White and Amerindian ancestry), Amerindian, or other non-White groups 3%
Boliviamarker Spanish 60.7% (official), Quechua 21.2% (official), Aymara 14.6% (official), foreign languages 2.4%, other 1.2% (2001 census) Quechua 30%, Mestizo (mixed White and Amerindian ancestry) 30%, Aymara 25%, White 15%
Chilemarker Spanish (official), Mapudungun, German, English White and White-Amerindian 95.4%, Mapuche 4%, other indigenous groups 0.6% (2002 census)
Colombiamarker Spanish Mestizo 58%, White 20%, Mulatto 14%, Black 4%, mixed Black-Amerindian 3%, Amerindian 1%
Ecuadormarker Spanish (official), Amerindian languages (especially Quechua) Mestizo (mixed Amerindian and White) 65%, Amerindian 25%, Spanish and others 7%, Black 3%
Paraguaymarker Spanish (official), Guarani (official) Mestizo (mixed Spanish and Amerindian) 95%, other 5%
Perumarker Spanish (official), Quechua (official), Aymara, and a large number of minor Amazonian languages Amerindian 25%, Mestizo (mixed Amerindian and White) 45%, White 20%, Black, Japanese, Chinese, and other 10%
Uruguaymarker Spanish, Portuñol, or Brazilero (Portuguese-Spanish mix on the Brazilian frontier) White 88%, Mestizo 8%, Black 4%, Amerindian (practically nonexistent)
Venezuelamarker Spanish (official), numerous indigenous dialects Mestizos (mixed Amerindian and White), White, Africans and Amerindians.
Caribbean Islandsmarker Cubamarker Spanish White 65.1%, Mulatto and Mestizo 24.8%, Black 10.1% (2002 census)
Dominican Republicmarker Spanish mixed 73%, White 16%, Black 11%
Puerto Rico

(Territory of the U.S. with Commonwealth status)
Spanish, English white (mostly Spanish origin) 76.2%, black 6.9%, Asian 0.3%, Amerindian 0.2%, mixed 4.4%, other 12% (2007)
Africa Equatorial Guineamarker Spanish 67.6% (official), other 32.4% (includes the other 2 official languages - French and Portuguese, Fang, Bube, Annobonese, Igbo, Krio, Pichinglis, and English) (1994 census)
Note: Equatorial Guinea was the only Spanish colony in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Fang 85.7%, Bubi 6.5%, Mdowe 3.6%, Annobon 1.6%, Bujeba 1.1%, other 1.4% (1994 census)
The CIA World Factbook is in the public domain. Accordingly, it may be copied freely without permission of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Areas with minor Spanish influence, not Official
Continent/Region Country/Territory Languages Spoken Ethnic Groups Picture References
Asia and Oceania Easter Islandmarker
Territory of Chilemarker
Spanish (official), Rapanui Rapanui
Guammarker, Philippinesmarker, Northern Mariana Islandsmarker, Federated States of Micronesiamarker and Palaumarker Most former Spanish territories in Asia-Pacific no longer recognize Spanish as an official language. The predominant languages used in Guam are English, Chamorro and Filipino. Also, in Guam -a U.S. territory- and the Northern Mariana Islands, a commonwealth in political union with the U.S., a Malayo-Polynesian language called Chamorro is spoken, with numerous loanwords with Spanish etymological origins. However it is not a Spanish creole language. Chavacano, a Spanish-based creole language is still spoken in the Philippines by 600,000 people. The top four languages used in the Northern Mariana Islands are Filipino, Chinese, Chamorro and English. Additionally, Micronesia's official language is English, although native languages, such as Chuukese, Kosraean, Pohnpeian, Yapese, Ulithian, Woleaian, Nukuoromarker and Kapingamarangimarker are also prominent. In Palau, Spanish is no longer used; instead, the people use their native languages, such as Palauan, Angaurmarker, Sonsorolese and Tobian. Asian/Pacific Islander and other
The CIA World Factbook is in the public domain. Accordingly, it may be copied freely without permission of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).


Folk and popular dance and music also varies greatly among Hispanics. For instance, the music from Spain is a lot different from the Hispanic American, although there is a high grade of exchange between both continents. In addition, due to the high national development of the diverse nationalities and regions of Spain, there is a lot of music in the different languages of the Peninsula (Catalan, Galician and Basque, mainly). See, for instance, Music of Catalonia or Rock català, Music of Galicia, Cantabria and Asturias, and Basque music.

On the other side of the ocean, Latin America is also home to a wide variety of music, even though "Latin" music is often erroneously thought of, as a single genre. Hispanic Caribbean music tends to favor complex polyrhythms of African origin. Mexican music shows combined influences of mostly Spanish and Native American origin, while traditional Northern Mexican music — norteño and banda — is more influenced by country-and-western music and the polka, brought by Central European settlers to Mexicomarker. The music of Hispanic Americans — such as tejano music — has influences in rock, jazz, R&B, pop, and country music as well as traditional Mexican music such as Mariachi. Meanwhile, native Andean sounds and melodies are the backbone of Peruvian and Bolivian music, but also play a significant role in the popular music of most South American countries and are heavily incorporated into the folk music of Ecuador and Chile and the tunes of Colombia, and again in Chile where they play a fundamental role in the form of the greatly followed nueva canción. In U.S. communities of immigrants from these countries it is common to hear these styles. Latin pop, Rock en Español, Latin hip-hop, Salsa, Merengue, and Reggaeton styles tend to appeal to the broader Hispanic population, and varieties of Cuban music are popular with many Hispanics of all backgrounds.


Hispanic literature and folklore is very rich and is influenced by a variety of countries. There are thousands of writers from many places, and dating from the Middle Ages to the present. Some of the most recognized writers are Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (Spain), Lope de Vega (Spain), Calderón de la Barca (Spain), Octavio Paz (Mexico), George Santayana (US), José Martí (Cuba), Sabine Ulibarri (US), Federico García Lorca (Spain), Miguel de Unamuno (Spain), Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia), Horacio Quiroga (Uruguay), Rómulo Gallegos (Venezuela), Rubén Darío (Nicaragua), Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru), Giannina Braschi (Puerto Rico), Cristina Peri Rossi (Uruguay), Clarice Lispector (Brazil),Luisa Valenzuela (Argentina), Roberto Quesada (Honduras), Julio Cortázar (Argentina), Pablo Neruda (Chile), Gabriela Mistral (Chile), Jorge Luis Borges (Argentina), Pedro Henríquez Ureña (Dominican Republic), Carlos Fuentes (Mexico), Ernesto Sabato(Argentina) and Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel (Equatorial Guinea), Ciro Alegria (Peru), Joaquin Garcia Monge (Costa Rica), amongst many others.

Religious diversity

With regard to religious affiliation among Hispanics, Christianity — specifically Roman Catholicism — is usually the first religious tradition that comes to mind. Indeed, the Spaniards took the Roman Catholic faith to Latin America, and Roman Catholicism continues to be the overwhelmingly predominant, but not the only, religious denomination amongst most Hispanics. A small but growing number of Hispanics belong to a Protestant denomination.

There are also Hispanic Jews, of which most are the descendants of Ashkenazi Jews who migrated from Europe (German Jews, Russian Jews, Polish Jews, etc.) to Latin America, particularly Argentinamarker, Uruguaymarker, Perumarker and Cubamarker (Argentina is host to the third largest Jewish population in the Western Hemisphere, after the United States and Canadamarker) in the 19th century and during and following World War II. Many Hispanic Jews also originate from the small communities of reconverted descendants of anusim — those whose Spanish and Portuguese Sephardi Jewish ancestors long ago hid their Jewish ancestry and beliefs in fear of persecution by the Spanish Inquisition and Portuguese Inquisition in the Iberian Peninsulamarker and Latin America. The Spanish Inquisition led to a large number of forced conversions of Spanish Jews. Genetic studies on the (male) Y chromosome conducted by the University of Leedsmarker in 2008 appear to support the idea that the number of forced conversions have been previously underestimated significantly. They have determined that the current population of Spain has ancestry through the male line that is at least 20% Jewish. This seems to imply there was much forced conversions than which was previously thought to be about 200,000. There are also the now Catholic-professing descendants of marranos and the Hispano crypto-Jews believed to exist in the once Spanish-held Southwestern United States and scattered through Latin America. Additionally, there are Sephardic Jews who are descendants of those Jews who fled Spain to Turkeymarker, Syriamarker, and North Africa, some of whom have now migrated to Latin America, holding on to some Spanish/Sephardic customs, such as the Ladino language which mixes Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic and others, though written with Hebrew and Latin characters. Though, it should be noted, that Ladinos were also African slaves captive in Spain held prior to the colonial period in the Americas. (See also History of the Jews in Latin America and List of Latin American Jews.)

Among the Hispanic Catholics, most communities celebrate their homeland's patron saint, dedicating a day for this purpose with festivals and religious services. Some Hispanics syncretize Roman Catholicism and African or Native American rituals and beliefs. Such is the case of Santería, popular with Afro-Cubans and which combines old African beliefs in the form of Roman Catholic saints and rituals. Other syncretistic beliefs include Spiritism and Curanderismo.

While a tiny minority, there are some Latino Muslims in Latin America and the US.

In the United States some 70% of U.S. Hispanics report themselves Catholic, and 23% Protestant, with 6% having no affiliation. A minority among the Roman Catholics, about one in five, are charismatics. Among the Protestant, 85% are "Born-again Christians" and belong to Evangelical or Pentecostal churches. Among the smallest groups, less than 4%, are U.S. Hispanic Jews.

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