Name-calling with confidence: Gingers, Chicanos, & Hispanics.

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I have red hair.


Technically it’s orange, but people react oddly when a redhead characterizes his hair as orange.



I don’t know why.

But they do.



What’s also odd is the frequency with which people call me “ginger” (which I don’t mind although it carries zero positive connotation) or refer to either being the redheaded step-child or beating someone like a redheaded stepchild. Apparently it’s such a common phrase for some folks they’ll say it right to my face, even as I bat my blond-eyelashes and all.


I interject saying my parents divorced and remarried (which isn’t true – I love you Mom and Dad and remember: til death do you part…) and it goes completely over their head.


Apparently this name-calling is socially acceptable.


When it comes to Spanish-speakers, many of these same people are not sure what is acceptable.

Hispanics, Latinos, Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Chicanos… so many names during such politically correct times!



“Should I use the term Hispanic or Latino?”

“Can I call a guy Mexican… if he is, you know… Mexican?”

“Does Chicano have a negative connotation?”



Good questions all.

Let’s take each one in turn.



“Should I use Hispanic or Latino?”

If you’re looking for a catch-all term to apply to the Spanish-speakers you see everyday, both terms are fine. The government uses both interchangeably and Hispanics/Latinos have agreed either generic term is fine. A study done by Pew Hispanic Research found neither term is more or less appealing. Neither term is embraced by the comunidad.

However, either term is better than just calling every Spanish-speaker Mexican.

For more on this, see the next question.




“Can I call a guy Mexican… if he is, you know… Mexican?”

Of course, why couldn’t you?

Here’s the thing – be certain he is Mexican.


You can do this by taking an interest in him and you know… ask him where he is from.

As noted in the first question, most Hispanics don’t embrace the terms Hispanic or Latino.

It’s like calling a gringo like me an Anglo – I wouldn’t call myself that, but I understand the meaning and I don’t care if you use it.


So what do people from Mexico call themselves?



And what do people from Cuba call themselves?



And what do people from Puerto Rico call themselves?

Puerto Ricans.


You get the idea.

Hispanics don’t call themselves Hispanics – they opt for their native country. In fact, for many Hispanics the term Hispanic can be used by non-Hispanics, but never by, um, Hispanics. For more on this, see the next question.



“Does Chicano have a negative connotation?”

Chicano – another term for Mexican-Americans – once had a negative connotation, but not anymore.

Below is a fantastic satirical take on the Chicano vs. Hispanic from


(PNS reporting from IRVINE, CA)

Roland Vega, 33, formerly known as “Rolando,” has come to an important moment in his life: He’s transitioned from a “Chicano” to a “Hispanic.” The decision to change the way he self-identifies came as somewhat of a shock to his family and his homeboys, but not necessarily to Vega’s former Hispanic fraternity brothers.

He made the announcement on Facebook Sunday night.

“You know, Roli — er, I mean, Roland — was always the most radical Chicano in the fraternity, but c’mon man, he was studying accounting. I kinda always knew he was going to end up a Hispanic,” said Ed Taboada, Vega’s college roommate.

One of Vega’s strongest detractors is his cousin Pepe Castillo, who at 19, is in the full swing of his Chicano pride phase. Castillo told PNS that it was Vega who initiated him into Chicanismo in the first place, and that he’s become what he always said he wouldn’t be: A sellout.

“Look man, I’m not saying you can’t make a good living and move up and all that, but when you start saying ‘Hispanic this’ and “Hispanic that,’ it showed me that your priorities have changed,” Castillo said. “The movimiento was all good when you were using it to get chicks and weed, but as soon as you feel like you don’t need that anymore, your people aren’t important to you anymore? Fuck that, ese,” Castillo said.

Vega doesn’t think the transition to being Hispanic was such a big deal and he can’t understand why people had to be “hating on me just because I’m respectable now.”

As an accountant for BioSystems Inc., Vega is responsible for managing a team of seven accountants and oversees millions of dollars annually. He said his job gave him a newfound sense of pride that replaced what he once felt about his Chicanismo.

“It’s not that the movimiento isn’t important to me anymore, it’s just that I have a lot of responsibility now — I can’t be spending my time out at marchas when we have audits due on Monday at 10:30 AM,” he told PNS.

“Someone has to be the adult here.”




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So what’s the takeaway?

Hispanic is fine to use, but know it’s the redheaded stepchild of the Latino community.





Bradley Hartmann is founder and El Presidente at Red Angle (, a training, consulting and eLearning firm bridging the English-Spanish language gap in the construction industry.

Categories: Jobsite Leadership

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