The Invention of Hispanics

Dancers from Son de Café de Colombia perform the “Yo me llamo Cumbia” during Hispanic Heritage Month at the base exchange on Kadena Air Base, Japan, Sept. 15, 2014. Kadena celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month and reflected on this year’s theme: “Hispanics: A legacy of history, a present of action, and a future of success.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Naoto Anazawa/Released)

Many of us feel deeply attached to the groups to which we belong, whether they are defined by religion, nationality, geography, gender or language. These identities can be sources of belonging, pride, and power. While these identities may feel natural, in fact, the creation and importance of group identities is influenced by our environment. Sometimes we forget that identities have histories. In response to their surroundings, people form groups that might not have formed in other places and other times.

In her book Making HispanicsAuthor Christina Mora asks, “How did Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, and Cubans become known as “Hispanics” and “Latinos” in the United States? How did several distinct cultures and nationalities become portrayed as one?” She explores these questions and the importance of Hispanic identity in the United States, in this interview with Latino USA’s Maria Hinojosa. 


Reflection Questions

  1. After listening to the interview, spend a few minutes reflecting on identity. What do you know about identity (Hispanic identity in particular)? What questions does it raise and what would you like to know about identity after listening?
  2. Based on the interview, what do you think is the importance of having Spanish speaking people and non-Spanish speaking people recognize Hispanic identity in the United States?
  3. What did activists want people to recognize as they lobbied for the recognition of Hispanic identity? Why were activists frustrated by being labeled “white”?
  4. According to the interview, how was a Hispanic identity created? Can you think of other identities that were created? How do created identities take root?
  5. How did the creation of a Hispanic identity influence the lives of people now thought of as Hispanic? What do you make of Maria Hinojosa’s comment that Mora’s daughter may not choose to identify herself as Hispanic? What do you think about Mora’s response?
  6. To wrap up a lesson on  the interview, consider the questions from Project Zero’s Three Why’s Thinking Routine: 1) Why does this matter to me? Why does this matter to my community? And, why does this matter to the world?