One of my first visits to the United States years ago had the mission of learning more about the language, and I clearly remember my English teacher who, upon seeing me, told me, “You are Colombian”! His comment left me speechless because without knowing me or hearing any of my Spanish accent, he identified me immediately. He only told me: “You have it written on your forehead.”
Searching for definitions on the web, Hispanics are those who share the same language, in this case, Spanish. According to 2022 figures, 21 countries speak it as an official language and make it the second most spoken language in more countries in the world after English.
Latinos are those born in Central and South American countries and Mexico who belong to North America or have ancestral roots. In this sense, they would not include Spain and would include those countries that do not speak Spanish, such as Brazil or Haiti, among others.
Doing this research, I found very interesting data about Latin America: Although French Guiana, Suriname (former Dutch Guiana), and English Guiana are located in South America, they are not Latin. Of the approximately 700 islands in the Caribbean (which are located in the maritime areas of Central and South America), 16 are island countries such as Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic; others are part of Latin American countries such as San Andrés Islands in Colombia, and others that are not Latin, are part of the United States, England, France, or the Netherlands. It seems that many countries wanted a little piece of the Caribbean! And if we go south, we can see the Malvinas Islands, which are close to Argentine territory but were colonized by England.
Geography, history, customs, racial mixtures, traditions inherited from generation to generation, battles, and victories, among other components, have made the Latin race what it is today. Although a ‘classification’ or ‘label’ does not fully tell who is who, it can determine several traits, and here I want to highlight several of them.
Although geographically and historically, there are differences between Latinos, such as accents, words, expressions, individual and social behaviors, influences from European countries, Nordic countries, or indigenous traditions, there are similar characteristics to highlight: they are very warm, friendly, happy people, they take great care in their physical appearance; many of them possess a tenacity and desire to improve what would illuminate an entire auditorium. They are generous people, always with their doors open for whoever arrives; they value family and friends. Everything is celebrated: Marriages, birthdays, births, Christmas, religious holidays, and even the defeat of the soccer team becomes a celebration, which brings a community closer, strengthens it, and turns it into an authentic and interesting mix of color and flavor!
Carolina Rojas-Gee is the Marketing and Communications Director for the Greater Palm Bay Chamber of Commerce and works with the Multicultural Networking Group to strengthen this community. She is originally from Colombia, which makes this experience more exciting and relevant.