Reflecting our Communities: Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month, is it Latino?

Anne McCune

by Anne McCune, CEO, The Carol Emmott Foundation

September is Hispanic Heritage month.  Started in 1968, Hispanic Heritage Month starts annually on September 15 which is the independence anniversary of eight Latin American Countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Chile, and Belize.

The terms Latino and Hispanic are typically used interchangeably, though there is a technical difference. Hispanic describes people from Spain or Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America. However, that would exclude Brazil, where the official language is Portuguese. Latino (or the feminine version, Latina) refers to people from Latin America, including Brazil, but excludes people from Spain. The U.S. Census Bureau most often uses the term “Hispanic,” according to the Pew Research Center.

The term Latinx emerged about a decade ago as part of a global movement to introduce gender-neutral words, according to Pew. It also is now considered an all-encompassing word that includes both “Hispanic” and “Latino.”  Only 4 percent of Hispanic/Latino individuals prefer the term Latinx over the others. Pew found that 61 percent say they prefer Hispanic, while 29 percent prefer Latino.

Hispanics represented 19 percent of the U.S. population in 2020, up from 16 percent a decade earlier. One broad study, based on data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, found that Hispanic workers hold only 5 percent of executive level jobs.  Black executives account for 3 percent of such posts, while Asians hold 6 percent.  Women represent a small fraction of these opportunities.  Additionally, Hispanic leaders represent only 2.3 percent of the board members of companies on the Russell 3000 index, according to Latino Corporate Directors Association. However, they noted that appointments of Hispanic board members grew four-fold in 2021.

The Association of American Medical Colleges found about 5 percent of medical school graduates identified as Hispanic in 2019. Healthcare workers and physicians need to represent the communities we serve.  There are many reasons why this is important, including cultural beliefs, religious beliefs, and language barriers.

This month, we recognize that Hispanic heritage is American heritage.  We benefit from the contributions of Hispanic scientists working in labs across the country and doctors, nurses and healthcare workers on the front lines caring for people’s health. When healthcare providers reflect their communities, there are better chances with preventive medicine and active engagement.