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The debate: Is it Latino or Hispanic?


Hispanics Photo Credit: Tiffany L. Clark

October is Hispanic Heritage Month, but the name of the observance is, for some, fraught with ambivalence, since many Latin American New Yorkers do not identify with the word Hispanic.

Angelo Falcon, president of the National Institute for Latino Policy, said there are multiple reasons why people stick to Hispanic, which national surveys show to be the preference, and others are embracing Latino to describe their heritage.

Hispanic is used to identify all those with Spanish heritage, but some “prefer not connecting ourselves with colonizers,” he explained.

John Jay Latin American studies professor Suzanne Oboler said the term Hispanic enjoyed new prevalence in the United States as a way to measure integration following the civil rights movement. That’s why the federal government chose the term Hispanic, first used in the 1980 Census.

The term Hispanic has a long history, though. The phrase was used to describe Spanish speakers who came to the southwest U.S. On the other hand, the word Latino rose as a grassroots term, part of the Chicano movement.

“They complained, saying ‘we don’t want to be called Hispanics because it leaves out most of us since we are all mixed.’”

In fact, Oboler said, “Afro-Latinos were left out, indigenous [people] whose relation to Spain [was] not of ancestry but of oppression and suppression.”

Both experts agree that Latino and Hispanic were both created in the U.S., and Latino made it into the 2000 Census. That also benefited Brazilians. “They had no category, they are not Hispanics, they are not African-Americans, they have Portuguese ancestry.”

They also point out that the younger generation also seems to be embracing the term Latino.

“They are calling themselves Latino more often than they call themselves Americans, due to exclusion from racial prejudice, [doesn’t] make them feel that they belong,” added Oboler.

For Falcon, it’s an “idea in constant motion.”

“Some people prefer their national origin but that also is changing; we are in the middle of all that change.”


A pioneer looks back

Melba Alvarado, 91, is the only surviving founding member of the Hispanic Day Parade.

The parade celebrates its 46th anniversary on Sunday. Today’s committee president,Carolina Beteta, said the parade is still true to its roots. Alvarado, who emigrated from Cuba, spoke with amNewYork about the parade’s origins and this year’s theme, “Together We Are One.”

Tell us about your early years in New York’s Hispanic community.

I became a member of different organizations when I came from Cuba in the 1930s as a teenager. My father had a dry cleaning business at 113 Street and Fifth Avenue in El Barrrio, which also served as a community center.

How did the Hispanic Day Parade start?

We had the idea of uniting all our countries, and what better day than the date when America was discovered. We decided to make it the Sunday before Columbus Day so as not to conflict with the Italian Day Parade.

What memories do you treasure from the early parades?

I will never forget the participation of Cantinflas (the Mexican comic) as our first celebrity participant in 1973. He has been the most modest Grand Marshall we have had. I knew Ricardo Montalban (above), and he helped me get Cantinflas. Cantinflas called to ask what the event was about and he immediately accepted.



152 Stanton St.,
Chorizo, parrillada completa, meat and more meat — all by the glow of  soft candlelight — make this Argentine restaurant a Lower East Side favorite.
El Viejo Yayo Restaurant
35 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn,
Yayo might be an old fellow, as the restaurant name suggests, but he sure offers delicious Latin American food in the heart of Brooklyn.
Tu Casa Restaurant
119-05 Metropolitan Ave., Kew Gardens, 718-441-6363
“Mi casa es su casa” goes an old saying, and after just your first visit you’ll want to make this
restaurant your home for Peruvian cuisine. 

La Flor Del Paraiso
Bar & Restaurant
491 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn, 718-643-0037
You might not believe what you’re about to read: $5 margaritas and mojitos plus inspired Mexican dishes. A good deal.

Don Pedro’s Restaurant
1865 Second Ave., 
If you want a sophisticated atmosphere in which to taste the flavors of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, Don Pedro’s is the place.


de América Latina at
Instituto Cervantes
211 E. 49 St., Oct. 8-9
Films from across Latin America will be shown all month.

King Juan Carlos I
of Spain Center
53 Washington Square South, 212-998-3650
CortoCircuito Latino Short Film Festival of New York unspools more than 50 films as part of a festival that began Thursday.

Desfile de la Hispanidad/Hispanic Day Parade 
Oct. 10, Fifth Avenue and 47th Street
Twenty Spanish-speaking countries will be represented on Fifth Avenue to celebrate New York’s Hispanic heritage.

El Museo del Barrio?
Oct. 14, 1230 Fifth Ave. at 104th Street, 212-831-7272
Comedy Central and standup comic Bill Santiago bring The Funny of Latin Dance, Santiago’s latest act, to El Museo for a free performance.


199 Bowery, 212-982-7767
This Lower East Side club pumps out all kinds of music, including a Saturday night Latin dance party.
Miss Favela
57 S. Fifth St., Williamsburg, 718-230-4040
Samba music lives under the Williamsburg Bridge thanks to this roomy Brazilian restaurant/bar.
Area Lounge
32-03 Farrington St.,
Flushing, 718-321-3949
Area Lounge proves great Latin music can be found anywhere in the city.
Teddy’s Bar & Grill
96 Berry St., Williamsburg, 718-384-9787
A Williamsburg staple for years, Teddy’s now has live Cuban music during its Tropical Tuesdays party.


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