How to Be Offensive.


Do you find Hispanics are offended easily?



The question caught me off guard.



No. Why?” I asked.



Well, a few times I’ve referred to some Hispanic as a Mexican… and it turned out he wasn’t, actually – you know – “Mexican.” And they always seem to be offended by this. Maybe it’s just me….



The person to whom I was speaking was a fairly intelligent guy. Despite the odd practice of making quotation marks in the air with his fingers every time he used the term Mexican, he was generally well-informed. Among construction-types of all nationalities, he was friendly. So this last statement from him caught me by surprise.


Just don’t do this in general.



It is you.” I clarified. “The individuals in question were probably offended for 2 reasons: A) this is not an infrequent occurrence among non-Hispanics in construction and B) you may be making a stereotype or generalization because he has dark skin and speaks Spanish.



He pondered this for a moment…. “Sure, but 99% all Spanish-speakers in the US are Mexican, right?



Apparently his multiple first-hand experiences in offending Hispanics was struggling mightily with his misguided belief that anyone who speaks Spanish must be Mexican.



Unfortunately for non-Mexican Hispanics, this little story is all too common. Research recently released (say that 5x fast…) from the Pew Hispanic Center sheds some light on the topic of who Hispanics are and where they come from.





65% of Hispanics in the US are Mexican.

This fact is the key driver in the “All Hispanics are Mexicans” misconception. If you had to guess the origin of a random sample of Hispanics, sure – play the odds and guess Mexican.


But I have never heard of anyone being held at gunpoint, forced to guess the nationality of any group of individuals, Hispanic or otherwise. So… this would seem purely hypothetical.


The Pew Report confirmed that among the 60 largest Hispanic metropolitan areas, Mexicans are “the largest Hispanic origin group” in 50 of them. In 46 of the 60 Mexicans represent more than half. Furthermore, in 33 of the 60 Mexicans “are also bigger than any other racial or ethnic group.”


But not all….



Cubans Majority in Miami.

Unsurprisingly, Cubans are the majority in Miami at 54%.


Q: What would make Mark Cuban cooler than he already is?

A: Cuban would be cooler if he owned the Miami Heat.

Miami Cuban.

Sorry… that was dumb. Let’s move on.


What is a bit surprising is the age of the Cuban population in Miami. The median age of the Miami Cuban population is higher than the rest of the population (39 years old vs. 38).




Puerto Rican Strongholds in NY and Philly.

With over 4.2M Hispanics, NY/NJ is the second largest metro area after LA. Puerto Ricans are the dominant Hispanic in NY/NJ, but what is less known around the country is that Philadelphia – the 24th largest Hispanic metro area – has a very strong PR contingent also. 53% of all Hispanics in Philly are Puerto Rican.

No, The Fresh Prince, “West Philadelphia… born and raised” is not Puerto Rican.





Salvadorans Dominate DC.

In the Washington, D.C./Maryland/Virginia, area—the 12th largest Hispanic metropolitan population—the largest Hispanic origin group is Salvadoran, making up 34% of the area’s Hispanic population.



Huh. Didn’t know that.



If you need a quick geographical refresher, here is a map indicating where en el mundo El Salvador is. Interestingly, “El Salvador” translates as “The Savior.”


$20 says you’d know where a country named “The Savior” is….




Dominicans and Guatemalans in Rhode Island & Mass. 

You need to descend the list of Top 60 Hispanic metro areas to see Dominicans and Guatemalans as its highest ranking Hispanics. But in the Providence-Fall River-Pawtucket, Mass./R.I. area (#51) Dominicans pull rank at 33% while Guatemalans have their highest percentage also at 13%.




So what?

In short, not all Hispanics are Mexican. Other than offending people, why should you care?


Look at the disparity in median age between the Hispanics and the rest of the metro population. Other than Miami, the age disparity is 6-10 years. From a demographic perspective… that’s a lot.


Couple that with the high Hispanic birth rate (currently 1 in 4 babies born in the US are Hispanic), this trend will continue in the coming decades.




We’re in this together.

So take an interest. The majority of Hispanics in the US speak English to some degree. My experiences have indicated their English is better than your Spanish. Instead of fretting how to say ¿De dónde eres? (Where are you from?) or risk offending someone…. Just say “Where are you from?




Bradley Hartmann is founder and el presidente at Red Angle (, a Spanish language training firm focused on the construction industry.



Categories: Jobsite Leadership

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 replies

  1. Man I hope I get top meet you on my bike tour.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: