Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month

Emilio Rivera Gives A Brief Guide to Ethnonyms

Here at Gogo, we are committed to creating and overseeing an organizational culture steeped in diversity. With the evolution of the pandemic, the world has changed forever, and in these difficult times, it has become increasingly vital to support one another and strive to create inclusive, welcoming spaces that echo appreciation. The feeling of being part of something greater is a strong tenet of ours and we are wholeheartedly dedicated to engaging and educating ourselves every step of the way.

To dive even deeper and help understand the similarities and nuances in Hispanic communities, we connected with Emilio Rivera, Gogo 5G program manager and a member of our Diversity and Inclusion Committee, to help shed light on National Hispanic Heritage Month and define commonly used terms and when, or how, it might be helpful to use them.

Emilio Rivera 


Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month – A Brief Guide to Ethnonyms

National Hispanic Heritage month, celebrated annually from September 15 to October 15, recognizes the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and honors the positive influence and heritage of the Hispanic culture. Their strong commitment to family, faith, hard work and service have enhanced and shaped our national character with centuries-old traditions that reflect the multi-ethnic and multicultural customs of their community. Learn more about the origins and significance of the month by reading the below graphic or visiting hispanicheritagemonth.gov.

Emilio shared, “All of us who are within or interface with the Hispanic community are intimately attuned to the beauty and vibrancy of various cultures and origins within the Hispanic or Latino community. I hope this understanding makes you more appreciative of the commonalities and differences between the Hispanic/Latino/Latinx community.”

A Brief Guide to Ethnonyms

Research shows that among Hispanics, a family’s Hispanic origin group (i.e., Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, etc.) is the most significant way Hispanics describe their own identities. Nevertheless, the pan-ethnic terms “Spanish”, “Latino”, “Latina”, “Latinx”, and “Hispanic” are often used interchangeably to describe Hispanic communities. This can be confusing as the pan-ethnic terms can lend one to assume that these communities are monolithic or homogenous. Hispanic/Latino/Latinx communities are quite varied, unique, and their differences are worth understanding. An honest assessment shows we are still a little confused when to use the terms “Spanish”, “Latino”, “Latina”, “Latinx”, and “Hispanic”. Though you will never achieve collective agreement, below is a brief guide on these ethnonyms, their origins, and when it might be helpful to use them.

  • Hispanic: The term Hispanic was introduced by the U.S. government during the Nixon administration and was implemented in the U.S. Census in 1980. Generally, it refers to people who are from countries where Spanish is the primary language. 

  • Latino/Latina: Latinos are defined as individuals living in the United States of Mexican, Latin American, or Caribbean heritage (De Luca & Escoto, 2012). Though there is not complete consensus, the key difference that you might observe is that these terms are strongly correlated to geography, not language. Therefore, individuals from non-Spanish-speaking countries such as Brazil, Belize, Guyana, etc. can be considered Latino/Latina. Latino has also historically been used as a gender-neutral term whereas Latina(s) refers to females. This is a good segue into the origins of Latinx.

  • Latinx: The origins of Latinx mostly correlate to the promotion of inclusivity. As shown above, Latino and Latina are anchored in a gender binary. Therefore, to circumvent the masculine-centric “Latino” as the normative gender-neutral term, Latinx has been introduced to accommodate the inclusivity of multiple communities. It’s pronounced: \luh-TEE-neks\

  • Spanish: Similar to “Hispanics”, this term has generally been used to anyone who has their origins from a Spanish-speaking country.

As stated above, the Hispanic/Latino/Latinx community generally prefers to be identified by their family’s Hispanic origin group. One reason for these preferences stems from personal experiences and broad public perception of being categorized into one monolithic Spanish-speaking group in lieu of being recognized for their unique identity. 

Also, important to note is that “Hispanic” and “Latino” do not refer to race, they correspond to culture and ethnicity. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) defines “Hispanic or Latino” as a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race (according to the United States Census Bureau, 2020). Regardless of race, what does this mean? Hispanics are unique in that they have an official ethnicity and race. For example, I am Puerto Rican, this is my ethnicity. Many Puerto Ricans likely have their origins from Spaniards (European), Native Taino, and Africans, all different races.

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