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Gripe : 'We're Chicanos--Not Latinos or Hispanics'

November 22, 1993

LEO GUERRA TEZCATLIPOCA

Director and founder, Chicano Mexicano Empowerment Committee, Los Angeles

There is a daily insult that we Chicanos and Mexicanos (Meh-hee-kah-nohs) receive from the English- and Spanish-language media as well as government and business.

They all refer to us as Hispanics and/or Latinos. We Mexicanos and Chicanos do this, too, parroting what we hear and read in the English- and Spanish-language media, mostly not knowing the damage we do to ourselves and our children.

We supposedly all fit under Hispanic and/or Latino. We are supposedly all the same people. We are not!

Hispanic refers to the people, land, language and culture of Spain. Latino means Latin in Spanish. Latin is the language of the old Roman-dominated part of Europe. Latino is equivalent to Hispano. Hispano is equivalent to European.

We Mexicanos and Chicanos are not Hispanic, Latino, Spanish or European.

Chicanos and Mexicanos who have pride in who we are do not want to be Hispanic or European. Chicanos are people of Mexican descent born in the United States. Some Central Americans identify with or (see themselves) as Chicano. Mexicanos are Mexicans born in Mexico. Mexicano comes from the word Mexica (Meh-chi-ca), which is what the original people of Mexico called themselves. Chicano comes from the word Mechicano. Chicano is more of an aggressive, proud and assertive political and cultural statement than Mexican American.

Chicanos and Mexicanos have a heritage that includes the long and proud history of the Olmec, Teotihuacano, Maya, Zapotec, Toltec, Aztec and the dozens of other native cultures and civilizations of Mexico, Central America and the Southwestern United States.

The terms Hispanic and Latino are insulting to Chicanos and Mexicanos because these words deny us our great Native Mexican heritage.

We make up more than 92% of the so-called Hispanics/Latinos in the U.S. Southwest, more than 80% in California and more than 71% in the United States as a whole (these are all official 1990 U.S. Census percentages). We are an even larger percentage when you count all of the undocumented Mexicanos in this country.

The convenience of media, government and business is not a good enough reason to obliterate our identity, our empowerment and our pride.

To better understand our anger, you should remember that the Irish speak English, but that does not make them English. You would not dare call the Irish British. African Americans speak English and have English surnames, but that does not make them English or of British descent. Most of the time the media refer to the Russian, British, German, French or Italian people. They don't constantly refer to them as Europeans, when, in fact, that is what they are. At best they refer to Western and Eastern Europe, but very rarely. The media respect the separate nations of Europe. We Chicanos and Mexicanos are demanding that same respect.

When referring to the general Spanish-surnamed, Spanish-speaking population (remember that we don't all speak Spanish, but we mostly have Spanish surnames) please use the following terms: Chicano, Mexicano and Latino, as in "the Chicano, Mexicano and Latino population of Los Angeles and the United States" or "Chicano Mexicano" when you are referring to our history, culture or people.

Remember that Aztecs, Mexican music, Mexican food and other specifically Mexicano things are not Hispanic or Latino. This is a serious issue of respect.

If, in a room, you have eight out of 10 so-called Hispanics who are of Mexican descent, why would you, for the sake of the two non-Chicano Mexicanos, deny the other eight their identity, and insult them at the same time by calling them Hispanic or Latino?

The majority of Chicanos and Mexicanos don't know our own history and we don't know that we're being insulted by Hispanic/Latino. Please give those other two persons their separate cultural identity--Peruvian, Argentine, Spaniard or whatever their cultural identity is. In general references, most of the time, use Chicano, Mexicano and Latino--all three words.

And please, never Hispanic.

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