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March 16, 2010



i was always a big fan of the "other" category when in the US. however, if "latin american" was an option, i would put that down. when asked to put in "some other race," i would either get feisty and say "human race" or leave it blank... i'm not a fan of defining race. nationality maybe, but race is def. tough for brazilians...

one of my funniest experiences in brazil was getting my RG and them telling me i was white - i'd never been white before! haha.


I always get confused with that and ended up submitting to put hispanic out of habit. It makes me angry everytime I do it, though.


That's funny..

My wife also filled out the census form and we put Brazilian as the race because I did not fit in any of the categories..hehe


I usually leave them blank as nobody checks the information. If I really have to answer I write "mixed race". When I was applying for the Social Security I wrote down Latino but a lady working there corrected me saying Brazilians are not considered Latinos! Who understands it?


Hi, Rachel!

I agree it is really hard to decide which box to select in the census survey. We are a family of four Brazilians living in the US and also selected "another origin" (we are not Hispanics since we do not speak Spanish, but we are Latinos!!) in the origin box. As for race, we usually select "white".
It will be interesting to see what other people in our situation selected.


All my life, whenever I have filled out the census form, I check the box marked "Other" for race, and write in "Human". That's all I care to identify as, thanks.

Marcio Bernardo

When I was filling the ppwk for my first employer in the US (large bank) I actually drew a small square and wrote "Latin American" because I couldn’t place me in any of the given categories, later a HR person called me and said that I had to use one of the given categories because it was a Government questionnaire, so I told her to put me as a Hispanic

Later I found out that Hispanic is the correct answer because the definition of Hispanic actually refers to Hispania (the Latin name for Iberian Peninsula) and all their descendents, so it includes not only Brazilians but also Spanish and Portuguese people.

A lot of the confusion arises because "Hispanico" in Brazil usually refers to the population of Spanish speaking countries of Latin America, so Brazilians usually have a strong reaction to this definition

Further (and unnecessary) confusion is due to excess PC in this country... US Census Bureau doesn't use the dictionary definition of the word!!! It uses “Persons of Hispanic origin, in particular, were those who indicated that their origin was Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or some other Hispanic origin. It should be noted that persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race. "

The race question is complex for a Brazilian. In Brazil I'm considered as being white but I doubt the average American would consider me as white so I usually put mixed.


Mine arrived as well and I just put black, although I think this category don't fulfill my ethnic-racial background.

Ray Adkins

Marcio Bernardo,

Keep one thing in mind, the term HISPANIC was invented/created during the Reagan administration in the 80's to "segregate" the growing wave of new immigrants flowing into the US from south of the border.
The term was created with pejorative intentions, it is wrong, it doesn't make any sense principally because it mixes RACE and ETHNICITY causing massive confusion.
Portuguese and Spanish are WHITE, CAUCASIAN, PERIOD!
The Hispania, Iberian theory is ludicrous to say the least! The Reagan administration never tried to classify Spaniards or Portuguese immigrants for that matter.
If you go to any town in Massachusetts and try to convince anyone PORTUGUESE decedent that they are HISPANICS you would be in a straight jacket quicker than you would be able to spell
M A S S A C H U S E T T S, according to this absurd "HISPANIA-IBERIAN" theory, MEREDITH VIEIRA from the Today Show on NBC would be categorized HISPANIC! I don't think so and neither anyone who understands the difference between ETHINICITY, RACE and the term HISPANIC would agree or even begin to understand.
By the way MEREDITH VIEIRA is from FALL RIVER, MA, where the largest population of PORTUGUESE decendents can be found in North America, NOT HISPANICS by any kind of classification, just google geographical information on Fall River, MA and find out the percentage of CAUCASIAN and HISPANICs in the town.
Let me illustrate another example of how WRONG this term is: Tony Soprano from "The Sopranos" is considered WHITE, right? He ( the character )is an Italian guy born in New Jersey.
NOW! If I am an Italian guy called Antonio Soprano born in Buenos Aires I am not white? I am HISPANIC? REALLY WEIRD! They are both Italians, CAUCASIAN, how can you classify one HISPANIC and the other CAUCASIAN, because one speaks English and the other Spanish, well, that is LANGUAGE classication, not RACE.
Just to clarify, RACE is CAUCASIAN, AFRICAN, ASIAN and whatever other classification or combination there might be available at the form you might be filling out...
PLEASE! BRAZILIANS ARE NOT HISPANICS, they don't even speak Spanish, you can't even classify BRAZILIANS if you decide to go along the ludicrous classification created by the REAGAN administration.
Easier example, try to convince any "HISPANIC" that you "A BRAZILIAN" is one of them! Good luck!
As form filling etiquette goes, one should choose the RACE it identifies with the most, not every Race that has a trace in your DNA.
If we would try to do that, we would all be AFRICANS!
For example I am 100% Caucasian, 1st generation Italian/German/English American, my partner is part Italian, part Portuguese, part Polish, part African American, part Native American, he never choose African American or Native American or even Mixed Race for that matter because he looks White/Caucasian, has light green eyes, fair skin and his non-Caucasian ancestors are 4th generation and a at very small percentage.
For the folks confusing LATINO with HISPANIC etc...let me ilustrate another situation...
If you are from FRANCE, you are LATIN CAUCASIAN, if you are from ENGLAND, you are ANGLO CAUCASIAN, if you are from RUSSIA you are SLAVIC CAUCASIAN...so if you are a BRAZILIAN OF PORTUGUESE origin you are a LATIN CAUCASIAN, in other words, if you are classified as CAUCASIAN, most likely you don't have to specify what kind of CAUCASIAN you are and MUCH LESS GET CONFUSED between CAUCASIAN, LATIN and the ridiculous term HISPANIC.
Long story short, you should chose the RACE that you better identify as yourself, CAUCASIAN, AFRICAN, ASIAN or whatever else you think you are...
You could be OBAMA and be half AFRICAN and HALF CAUCASIAN but you feel and identify yourself more as being an African American and you could be Mariah Carey and identify yourself as being Caucasian and so forth and so on...do you get my point?
Yes, we could easily go on and on and write a book about it and still cover less than 1% of this important and complex subject.



More than once I've read Mariah Carey is stacked under "black music" on record stores. I mean, was... people don't buy records anymore.


I have no idea what I'd put. Maybe "mixed" race and try to identify "Brazilian" somewhere in there. They don't consider Brazilians to be Latinos? Geez, I had no idea. I've always figured that since Spanish and Portuguese languages descend from Latin, we're all Latinos at some point. Hmm. Tough call.


That's why I like the Canadian approach better - here they simply ask "do you consider yourself a member of a visible minority?" and you simply choose yes or no...


My mixed cousin (1/2 Korean, the other 1/2 being Scottish & Native American Indian Sioux) had a grandfather who in the 20th century census put himself as "White." He did this also being 100% Sioux so as not to be discriminated in paper applications.

Marcio E. Goncalves

I never, ever put "latino" in any form - because here in the USA latino means hispanic.
Of course we are "latinos", but in portuguese (as well in italian, spanish, french, etc...) latino means anything related to the Roman Empire and latin language. But try to explain to an american that a italian or a french is "latino" too. He/She will laugh at you (trust me, it happened some times here in San Francisco).

So I'm no Latino here - and the Federal government agrees with me (they don't classify Brazilians as latinos, so Eli chose the wrong option in the census).

About color I'm pretty straigh-forward - I always put "mixed" or other. Even though I'm considered "white" (branquelo ate) in Brazil, I have always considered myself "pardo" (as my family is totally mixed) so that's the most precise definition.

Marcio Bernardo

Ray, interesting info about the creation/term/original use of the term Hispanic, it explains the discrepancy on the definition and why US Census Bureau is carefull about it's definition of "Hispanic".

I will keep it in mind and be careful about "labeling" other people as Hispanic; but as a Brazilian I don't share your American history/background so the work isn't loaded for me, I take the US Census definition and I'm fine with it.

I define myself as Latin American and if possible I will always use it but I take Hispanic/Latino as a proxy for my ethnicity. (I sure have more cultural traits in common with them than with Anglo-Saxon countries)

I did the Census yesterday and was bit desappointed by the lack of depth of the questions, there wasn't any questions about income, job, heath care nor education... you need these type of questions to have a comprehensive view of the challenges and opportunities in the country.

Ray Adkins

Dear Marcio,

If you are a Brazilian you are NOT a HISPANIC PERIOD. If you choose this option you made a mistake and you are deceiving the intent of the CENSUS.
You must have some origin, right? Are you Native American? Caucasian? African American? Mixed, if you are mixed, Who do you think looks more like you? Cacique Juruna ( Native American)? Pele ( African American) ? or Jaime Lerner ( White-Caucasian)?
Even if you tell me you look MEXICAN, and you LOVE JALAPENOS, your first language is not SPANISH and that alone disclassify you as a HISPANIC for CENSUS reasons.
Drinking Coronas and celebrating 5 de maio doesn't make you HISPANIC either.
Even by the Reagan Administration official documents that created the term HISPANIC, they used to consider HISPANICs only people from CUBA, MEXICO and PORTO RICO.



Sra. López

I am also struggling with this one. My husband is Salvadoran, (and my kids are half Salvadoran.) Searching around the internet, I've found I'm not the only one who is confused and even a little angry about the race question on the Census.

Apparently they expect most Latinos to select "White" - but this seems disingenuous. My husband doesn't look stereotypically "white" at all, he speaks English with a strong accent, and he most certainly is not treated "white" by racist people. Why should he claim to belong to a group that generally doesn't accept him as their own? --- Also, why should my husband deny his indigenous roots? He isn't ashamed of them and he has more indigenous blood than white/Spanish blood.

I just don't understand why this race question is even being asked in this day and age. Why does the Census need to know? ... I understand counting people and getting their ages - but what does the color of our skin have to do with how funds are allocated? They haven't given a satisfactory answer on why they want to know either, which is a bit disturbing. I'm not usually a conspiracy theorist but it seems that information could be used for bad things some day.


not sure what to put for the census. I am half mexican american and half german-irish. Then my son who is even less"hispanic" should I put mexican american orgin for him, even though he is only 25% mexican american 4th gen. (The rest is Italian, German, Irish, English, Scotch Irish, Dutch and French in order of most to least %)What to do?


I was surprised to see the word "Negro" on the census form in the age of Obama. It wasn't there in 2000.

Monica Fielder

Hi, Rachel, tudo bem?
we also had to fill out this census and I had no option but to put in "white", something I am far beyond to be, haha. Like Eli, I am also a "mixed" one but this option didn´t come to mind while filling out the form, so the "white" one was the only one that was the closest. Beijos


I would put LATINO (because I am a LATINO-AMERICANO in birth origin) and check the white box for race. As for my kids, if they had been born in the US, they would fill only WHITE, because thats their "race". I wouldnt consider them latinos because they were not born in Latin America.

Marcio Bernardo

Ray, I can't understand how using the US Census definition of Hispanic I'm mistaken or deceiving the Census, It's clear that you have an issue with the creation/origin of the term and if we were filling out a census during Reagan administration you would be right... Alas it's 2010, Russian are no longer a major treat, China is out-growing the west, City bank is owned by the US government and Disco is dead and U2 is the best rock band on earth (wait! they were the best in the 80's also)

We will have to agree to disagree regarding the use of Hispanic term.

About origin, well as I said its complex for Brazilians... It could be confusing for a "Gringo", maybe this would be a interesting topic for Rachel to address in a future blog. Basically Brazilians are the mix of three races European, Native Brazilians (Indios) and Africans... so we don't have a origin besides Brazil because our culture and genetic make up is the unique mixture/interaction of these three races. If you can read Portuguese check out - Homo Brasilis - by geneticist Sergio Danilo Pena about his findins about how deep we are mixed and for the cultural and Brazilian Psyche read Gilberto Freire's - Casa Grande e Sensala - (great read and up to this day the best anthropologic study about Brazil). I my case I'm proud that my family has the three races. European (Spanish, French and Portuguese), Native Brazilian (my great-great-grand Mother from my mother female line side was from Puri tribe) and African (4 generations ago the male descendent from my father male line was a Mulato), My skin is fair (I'm prob have 90% plus of European genes)and I'm a sarara (blondish with funky hair), it gets more complicated when you add the descendent of immigration to Brazil (Japanese, Chinese, Lebanese, German) but they we quick to mix with the Brazilian genetic poll and fast to adopt our culture (I guess multiculturalism wasn't big back them) so instead of a mosaic like you have in the US you do have a real melting pot in Brazil. Brazilian definition of Ethnicity is more culture driven that comom back-graund etc... a Nisei (100% genetic Japanese) is a much a Brasilian as I'm in any part of our society and he will define himself as Latin American.

Again, given the choice I would put Latin American, this is how I define my Ethnicity but Hispanic in my point of view is a proxy for my culture so I am OK with it.


Ok, I'm going to top everyone :-)

I'm American, but my ancestry is 100% Japanese. My wife is Brazilian, but has 100% Japanese ancestry as well.

Our poor kids are going to suffer through this conversation many times while traveling:

Them: Where are you from?
Child: United States
Them: Well, where is your father from?!
Child: United States
Them: Well, where is your MOTHER from?!!!
Child: Brazil

It's a little annoying that people can't accept that I'm American just because of how I look, but that's how the world works!

Ray Adkins


I clearly have waisted my time trying to share any valuble information with you.
Carry on your selective comprehension of life, it's your problem.
You refuse to understand the most basic of explanations.
You are obviously obsessed with the term HISPANIC and truly determined to classify yourself as one, so go ahead, knock yourself out, call yourself HISPANIC and tell everyone in the world you are a HISPANIC.
who I am to stop you?



I'll make it easy for you - If you're born in the US you are American PERIOD and can classify yourself by whatever race you most identify. If you were born in South America you are Hispanic/Latino, and that's how the gov wants you to identify yourself. The race doesn't matter, it's all about where you are from. I was born in Brazil and am 1/4 mestizo and 1/3 pardo - on the census I am Hispanic/Latino - Done! Don't make it hard, it's really not that big of a deal! Cheers

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