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Creating The Latino Identity

Travel the Globe Series - Central America
chrispecoraro/Getty Images
Studying Geography - Photograph of Central America on retro globe underneath a magnifying glass.

This week on Innovation Hub:
On the 2020 U.S. census, Americans faced five options: White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. These might have reflected a broad swath of the population, but for citizens from any of the dozens of countries south of the United States, there was a pretty obvious choice missing: Latino.

Laura Gómez, a law professor at UCLA and the author of “Inventing Latinos: A New Story of American Racism,” argues that Latinos – both the word and the ethnic category – are pretty recent inventions. The government only officially recognized it in the 1980s, and acknowledging people from Central and South America as a distinct ethnic group was a paradigm shift with real social and political impact. The question of Latinos’ race has affected issues from marriage laws, to access to education, and beyond.

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