Analyzing The Term Latino

Posted on Monday, 9th January 2012 @ 12:32 AM by Text Size A | A | A

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The term  Latino comes from the word Latin; Latin was the widely spoken language among Western Europe for more than a thousand years under the rule of the Roman Empire. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire circa 480 AD; during the dark ages only less than 5% of the population could read and write Latin, and the few that could were either nobles, or part of the clergy (Cardinals, Priests, monks, nuns), and therefore the Latin language rapidly began to die. However many nations in Western Europe syncretized the remnant of the  language spoken by their Roman forefathers with the local languages spoken by the different groups of people settled in those respective regions. Visigoths and Goths in Spain, Gauls in France(later called the Franks), Romans and Lombards  in Italy, and Lusitans in Lusitania( modern day Portugal).

This different groups of people by syncretizing their natives tongues with the the dying Latin language gave birth to the languages spoken today among many Western European nations; Italian, Spanish(Castellan), Aragonese( Catalan)   , Portuguese, French and Romanian  were the original languages derived from Latin.

During the year 711 AD, while all Europe was submerged  in the Dark Ages; a period in which disease, ignorance, and Anarchy were cracking the whip in this part of the world. Southern Spain was settled by the Moors. The Moors brought with them progress and the technological and scientific advancements of the Islamic world.  For more than six and a half centuries both cultures flourished in Spain; and despite the various conflicts and wars brought by La Reconquista( 400 year war that Spanish kings fought to free the Iberian peninsula from the Moors), the influence that Arabic had in the Spanish language cannot be denied.  Latin had the largest lexical influence in the Spanish language  with more than 90% of the words; but Arabic comes second with more than 3500 words. Almoada (pillow), Aceituna (olive), Almendra(almond), and alacran(scorpion) are examples of Spanish words that came from Arabic( or at least were influenced by it). In Conclusion; the Castellan language(old Spanish), plus the Arabic influenced from the Moors is what we know today as Spanish. But what the term Latino? Who does it applies to? It’s the application of the  term correct?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau Latinos make 18% of the US population, and are the largest minority with more than 50 millions. Also the U.S. Census Bureau states that the term  Latino applies to anyone that has origins in Spanish speaking South America, and Spain; however  Brazilians(Portuguese speakers) are not included as Latinos. Also French speaking and Italian speaking individuals are not categorized as Latinos. French speakers refer themselves as Franco-phones, neither  Italians, Portuguese and Brazilians don’t refer themselves as Latinos despite speaking a Latin-derived languages.

It seems that the term Latino carries  more of a social connotation. The term first was adopted by Criollos (Spanish for home grown) in South America and the Caribbean to differentiate themselves from the Spanish in the mother land( however a person born in Spain is also categorized as a Latino in the US).  Also Mexican American Civil Right activists and workers claimed the term Latino to show ethnic pride, and differentiation. However is the application of the term correct?

The answer is yes and no. As I stated before the term was first used in South America and the Caribbean by the Criollos to differentiate themselves from Spain. In part the term is correct because despite of skin color, creed, or social status anybody who speaks a language  that is derived from Latin, can be considered a Latino. But the term is also partially wrong because French, Portuguese and Italian speakers could also be classified as Latinos, because they speak Lain-derived languages.

In conclusion the term Latino is mostly used to name Spanish speaking individuals from South America and Spain.


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