Wednesday, March 31, 2010


So, now with the 1000th post out of the way, we can continue on to our regularly scheduled programming. ;-)

This is one of the things I forgot in yesterday's post. If you were wondering which decision we made regarding this issue... I'll tell you in a minute. (And for a while there if you googled something like "Census 2010 are Brazilians Hispanic?" I was the third result. Wait a minute, I come in first now, but probably because Google "knows" I may be looking for my own post, ha ha).

First of all, perhaps you didn't see my friend Meredith's comment to that post, I liked it a lot, so here is part of it (the beginning is good too, about people who refuse to collaborate with the census, M is an economist, BTW):
[T]he Census Bureau will call you Hispanic if you call yourself Hispanic. But the "official" OMD definitions* make it clear that the government does not consider Brazilians to [b]e Hispanic because their origin is not a Spanish speaking country. (Yes, yes, there are a million problems with this. Your origin IS a Latin country.) The vast majority of Brazilians do not select "Hispanic" on the census form.
I also found this about the 2000 census here:
Among those born in Brazil,** 50.5 percent were identified as “not Hispanic” and 4.5 percent were “Hispanic” in both the CPS and Census 2000. However, 43.8 percent of Brazilians identified as “Hispanic” in CPS but were identified as “not Hispanic” in Census 2000. The main reason for this may be that respondents who identified as “Other Spanish/Hispanic/Latino” and wrote-in “Brazilian” were recoded into “not Hispanic” in Census 2000.
and I cannot, for the life of me, remember what I answered on the 2000 Census! In any case, if what I quoted above is true, we will end up not counted as Hispanic because what I put down in the end, because of K's insistence, but I guess he's right in the end, was "Hispanic Other" and added Brazilian. For the boys too, although maybe for them I should have put down "Brazilian American"?

Why did K (and his brother "K2" as well) insist we join the ranks of our Hispanic "brothers and sisters"? First, because the Census includes the word "Latino" and we're most definitely "Latinos," from "Latin America" -- a strange, non-geographic "area" to begin with since it encompasses Mexico in North America, most of Central America and South America, but then, again, if you guys in "this country of yours" (as K loves to say) considered America as ONE CONTINENT as I was taught in grade school in Brazil,*** saying "Latin America" might make more sense and signify more of a "place" too.

Now, the term "Latino(a)" is quite problematic because it derives from "Latin" and alludes to historical fact that the Romans invaded Spain, Portugal, etc. So it refers to domination, colonization, so some people think it's a negative term. In addition, French, Italian (and Romanian too, if I'm not entirely wrong) are "Latin Languages" and "Latin people" too, not only Spanish and Portuguese (and the former Spanish and Portuguese colonies in the Americas), so, "Latino(a)" is a very complicated term. I have to concede that I've always identified myself as "Latina," though (Brazilian first and foremost, obviously).

Going back to the discussion above, if our first reason was the "Latino" category, for the second one K argued that we have to identify with our fellow Hispanic immigrants, because we understand them (not just the language, but we "get them" in more general terms) and also join their ranks to make Hispanics less and less of a "minority" here in the U.S. And, BTW, my googling above led me to find out that some Hispanics are boycotting the census claiming that we need immigration reform. I don't see how this boycott would help them, though! Quite the contrary, the sheer numbers would prove that reform is needed, I guess.

OK, this is long enough already, but I guess that you can see how this issue is complicated for me. I guess I'm OK with having categorized myself as "Hispanic and Latino(a)." I do intend to really "learn" Spanish anyway at some point ;-). If I don't, it looks like I won't be able to have a teaching job in the future since I teaching Portuguese/Brazilian literature is not an option most anywhere in the country. :-( (I already missed a teaching opportunity in VA because of that).

* Meredith, maybe you can give us a link and let us know more what "OMD definitions" are? (I should have emailed you about this, I know).

**How in the world can the Census Bureau know that respondents were born in Brazil? Do they cross information with other agencies? I thought that these statements were strange.

***I discussed this here in the blog years ago, we are taught there are only 5 continents -- like in the Olympic rings -- not counting Antarctica, obviously.


Andromeda Jazmon said...

This is really interesting. I have wondered if Brazilians considered themselves Hispanic or Latino. I still have difficulty keeping those terms straight, to be honest. It is also an important distinction between race/ethnicity, which is hard to keep straight sometimes. I think many people use the terms interchangeably.

One of my sons has a Cuban grandfather. I put him down as Hispanic, African American. It never occurred to me to call him Latino. I don't know what other folks do when one grandparent is Hispanic. Does 1/4 count? I decided it does for us because I want to honor all of their heritage and we don't have a whole lot of information to go on - I want to make the most of what we do have.

My boys are learning that there are 7 continents, BTW. North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, & Antarctica. That is the same thing I was taught as a child in American public schools. The U.S.of A. is only part of NA. Our neighbors are important, even though we sometimes don't act like it.

pithydithy said...

Hi! So, I'm about an eon late, but I'll provide some links. First, though, I should have said "OMB" not "OMD." I'm groggy early in the morning.

Here are the OMB definitions:

You'll notice that they say Hispanic encompasses South America and they do not explicitly exclude Brazil. I've been told and see in several places online that the OMB definition only applies to Spanish-speaking countries (e.g., Wikipedia, but I can't seem to find this stated explicitly by the OMB. I'm probably missing it. Or maybe I'm wrong. More reliably, the Census Bureau states that it does re-categorize anyone who says they are "Hispanic" and writes in Brazilian as non-Hispanic. (

I agree about the problems with the term "Latino." I believe that the government used to only provide the term "Hispanic," but that changed with the 1997 revision the OMB definitions (I think). They were responding to the fact that west coast people are more likely to use the term "Latino" than "Hispanic." But that means Hispanic origin, not Latin origin. I guess.....race and ethnicity are obviously confusing to everyone.

Oh, and the Census Bureau gets its estimates about respondents that are born in Brazil from those who got the "Long Form" which asks more detailed questions.

I think that the issues that you're talking about about how to identify yourself and how the U.S. government wants you to identify yourself are really interesting. As an easily categorized "white" person, I've never had to think much about filling out these forms.

For the many people who have more interesting backgrounds, I guess there just isn't a right answer. The government gives you some (imperfect and unclear) options, and you are whatever you select....unless you select Hispanic and write in Brazilian. :-)

I think of the whole Hispanic option as the Census Bureau paying special attention to one group that has high representation in the U.S. Many people have complex ethnic heritages that they cannot adequately express in the Census. What the Census lets you do is self-identify your race. Then, because we have a large population of people originating from Spanish-speaking countries, just that ethnic group gets to self-identify themselves.

By the way, here is an interesting article from Time about this. It also notes that Brazilians aren't defined as Hispanic and talks about how Arab-Americans are "white.",8599,1975883,00.html