HispanicHispanic is one of several terms used to describe residents of the US whose background are the Spanish speaking countries of Latin America. It is used to identify immigrants and their descendants of a wide range of ethnicities, races, cultures and nationalities, who use Spanish as primary language. Hispanics are the largest minority group in the US, comprising 13.4% of the population, i.e. about 40 million people in 2003. The Hispanic population grows at about 4% per year, much faster than other ethnic groups in the US.
Sometimes the term Hispanic is used also for people having immigrated from Spain. This is a misinterpretation, since the variety of roots of the population in Latin America (mainly white, black and indian) does not exist in Spain, a European country similar to Italy or France. The adequate name for the immigrants from Spain should be "Spanish", or better "from Spain".
Some people consider Hispanic to be too general as a label, and some consider it offensive, often preferring instead to use the self-chosen term Latino. This term states more clearly that it refers to people from Latin Amercia, excluding Spain.
The term Hispanic is believed to have come into mainstream prominence following its inclusion in a questionnaire in the 1980 USA Census, which asked people to voluntarily identify if they were of "Spanish/Hispanic origin or descent". The Filippino people were not included as Hispanics, but asiatics. Some suggest the word Hispaniola is where it comes from, which is a Caribbean island presently shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The name given by Christopher Columbus to the first island he took for Spain was "isla española" (Spanish island). Hispaniola is however not an Anglicization of "española". It is also used in Spanish, and it is the Latin form of "Española", coined by Pedro Mártir de Anglería, an Italian humanist whose real name was Pietro Martire d'Anghiera. The term Hispanic was recommended by a former President of the US to name the immigrants that come from Spanish speaking Latin American countries south of the US border.
Aside from "Latino", other terms are used for more specific subsets of the Hispanic population. These terms often relate to specific countries of origin, such as "Mexican American", "Cuban", "Dominican" or "Puerto Rican". "Mexican" is highly pejorative in some parts of Southwest USA (e.g. Santa Fe, New Mexico), but not in others, like the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.