How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

How the Latino/Hispanic label still fails to stick

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Spotted on a car window in L.A., February 2011

It's been approximately four decades since the origin of the "Hispanic" ethnic identity category on census forms, later updated to "Hispanic, Latino or of Spanish Origin." And it's been argued that in the years since, while Hispanic/Latino is not a racial category, the term itself has forced a racialization of Latinos in spite of their being so culturally and racially diverse, they defy a cohesive definition.

It's the latter point that's driven home in a new Pew Hispanic Center report. As it turns out, all these years later, a majority of Latinos still prefer to buck a one-size-fits-all label, tending instead to identify by country of origin.

According to the Pew study, 51 percent of those surveyed said they most often identify themselves by their family's country of origin, while only 24 percent prefer to use a pan-ethnic label. And more than two-thirds described Latinos as having "different cultures rather than a common culture," according to a report summary.