A recent Pew survey revealed aspects of the diverse population of people living in the United States who trace their origins to more than twenty Spanish-speaking countries worldwide. However, it is those Latinos or Hispanics, who trace their origin to Mexico who clearly predominate. Currently, there are 51.9 million Latinos living in the U.S.
The study shows that 64.6% of U.S. Hispanics, or 33.5 million, trace their family origins to Mexico, according to tabulations of the 2011 American Community Survey (ACS) by the Pew Research Center. However, by comparison, Puerto Ricans, the nation's second largest Hispanic origin group, number about 5 million and make up 9.5% of the total Hispanic population in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The next groups following the Mexicans and Puerto Rican are: Salvadorans, Cubans, Dominicans, Guatemalans, Colombians, Spaniards, Hondurans, Ecuadorians, Peruvians, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans and Argentines. When summed together, these 14 groups constitute 95% of the U.S. Hispanic population. Among them, six Hispanic origin groups have populations greater than 1 million. It should be recalled that some Hispanics, such as some communities in Texas and New Mexico, were never immigrants since they remained Spanish-speaking after the annexation by the U.S. of the formerly Mexican territory where they reside. Two of the signers of Texas declaration of independence from Mexico, for example, were Spanish-surnamed Mexican-Americans.
Hispanics of Mexican origin have always been the largest Hispanic origin group in the U.S. Among the 155,000 Hispanics living in the U.S. in 1860, for example, an historic high of 81% were of Mexican origin. The U.S. Hispanic population has diversified since then as growing numbers of Hispanic immigrants came from elsewhere.
The study showed the diversity found within the Hispanic category. For example, U.S. Hispanics of Mexican origin have the lowest median age, at 25 years, while Hispanics of Cuban origin have the highest median age, at 40 years. Venezuelans are the most likely to have a college degree (51%), while Guatemalans and Salvadorans are among the least likely (7%). Argentines have the highest annual median household income ($55,000), while Hondurans have the lowest ($31,000). The study showed that 46% of Hondurans and Guatemalans do not have health insurance, while 15% of Puerto Ricans and Spaniards do not have health insurance. Guatemalans, Salvadorans, and Hondurans are well represented, for example, in jobs requiring little training, such as migrant farm work.
Hispanic origin is based on self-described family ancestry or place of birth in response to questions in the Census Bureau's American Community Survey. It is not necessarily the same as place of birth, nor is it indicative of immigrant or citizenship status. For example, a U.S. citizen born in Los Angeles of Mexican immigrant parents or grandparents may (or may not) identify Mexico as the country of origin. Likewise, some immigrants born in Mexico may identify another country as their origin depending on the place of birth of their ancestors.
An example of the complications of the ‘Hispanic’ label can be found in the person of former Maine Governor John Sununu, an active and acerbic Republican. Gov. Sununu was born in Cuba, while his mother was born in El Salvador and his father was born in Massachusetts. However, the family traces its origins to Lebanon. Likewise, Republican Senator John McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone. Even while the Zone was under the administration of the U.S. at the time, it remained technically a part of the Republic of Panama.
Also, the term ‘Hispanic’ has not typically included persons who trace their origins to Brazil, Portugal or other Portuguese-speaking countries, despite their geographic proximity and linguistic similarity. Likewise, not all persons coming from largely Spanish-speaking countries are native speakers of Spanish. Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Peru have large numbers of citizens who speak any number of indigenous languages and are not proficient in Spanish. And on the Caribbean coast of Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, there are communities of blacks who trace their origins to Africa and Caribbean islands such as Jamaica, but who speak Garifuna: a language derived from the Arawak and Carib.