Who Are Hispanic Americans?
Hispanic Americans are American citizens who are descended from people of Spanish-speaking countries—Mexico, Central and South America, and Spain. Hispanic and Latino are often used interchangeably. Preference of either term depends largely on the region. For example, those residing in the eastern U.S. prefer the Hispanic term while those residing in the western U.S. prefer the Latino term. Both terms encompass ethnicity, and a Hispanic or Latino may be of any race. Although the U.S. Census excludes Brazilian Americans from the Hispanic or Latino American population because they descend from a Portuguese language culture, there is much similarity in other areas that Brazilian descendants also identify as Hispanic Americans. In addition, the Smithsonian Institution coin the term Latino as including people of Portuguese roots, such as Brazil, as well as those of Spanish-language origin.
Many Americans forget that after Native Americans, Hispanics are the oldest ethnic group to inhabit what is today the United States. The Spanish founded Saint Augustine, Florida in 1565 and served as the capital of Spanish Florida for over 200 years until Florida was ceded to the United States by Spain in the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819. In addition, Spain colonized larges areas of the American Southwest and West Coast, consisting of present-day California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas—all of which belonged to the Republic of Mexico until the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848, in which Mexico ceded approximately half of its national territory to the U.S. Today, those states of Spanish origin contain greater percentage of Hispanics than the rest of the U.S. population.
Hispanic Americans are the second fastest-growing ethnic group in the U.S. after Asian Americans. Still, they are the largest ethnic minority (17.1% of the population) topping 54 million as of 2013, with a growth rate of 2.1% over 2012. In contrast, the Asian population grew to 19.4 million, with a growth rate of 2.9%.
Of note, ethnic group is different from race. People who identify as Hispanic or Latino may be of any race—and they may also identify as white, mestizo (of mixed European and Native American ancestry), mulatto (of mixed European and African ancestry), black, American Indian, Asian, or Pacific Islander. The largest numbers of White Hispanics come from Mexico and South America while the largest numbers of Black Hispanics come from the Caribbean islands, including Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Panama.
Despite mainstream viewpoints, 90% of all Hispanics speak English, and at least 89% speak fluent Spanish. With 40% of Hispanics being immigrants and 60% being U.S.-born, bilingualism is the norm in Hispanic communities throughout the country. At least 69% of all Hispanics over the age of five are bilingual in English and Spanish. Surprisingly, up to 22% of Hispanics are monolingual English-speakers.
[Information taken from Wikipedia and the U.S. Census]