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Are Mexicans considered Hispanic?

Are Mexicans considered Hispanic?

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The question of whether Mexicans are considered Hispanic is an interesting one with a complex answer. At its core, it involves understanding the historical context behind the term “Hispanic” as well as examining how this term has evolved in its modern usage in the United States. While there are clear connections between Mexico and the broader definition of Hispanic identity, there are also important distinctions. Ultimately, while the majority of Mexicans do fall under the Hispanic umbrella, not all Mexicans identify this way.

Background on Hispanic Identity

The term “Hispanic” has its origins in the Spanish colonial era. It refers broadly to people with cultural ties to Spain, including those from Latin America and certain parts of Africa that were colonized by Spain. The connections between Mexico and Spain run very deep. Mexico was a Spanish colony for over 300 years, from the early 1500s when Hernán Cortés conquered the Aztec empire until Mexican independence in 1821. Spanish influence shaped many aspects of Mexican culture, language, religion and traditions.

Because of this robust Spanish influence, Mexicans are considered one of the seminal Hispanic nationalities, along with others from Latin America like Colombians, Peruvians and Cubans. However, the meaning of Hispanic evolved when this term was formally adopted by the United States government in the 1970s. It was originally coined as a way to categorize and count Americans with origins in primarily Spanish-speaking Latin American countries and Spain itself on the U.S. Census.

Hispanic as an Official U.S. Designation

On the U.S. Census and other government forms that collect racial/ethnic data, Hispanic/Latino is considered an ethnicity, not a race. Hispanics can be of any race. Being Hispanic is defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as “a person of Cuban, Mexican, Chicano, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.” So per this definition, people from Mexico and their descendants are absolutely considered Hispanic by the U.S. government.

But it’s also important to understand that for the U.S. Census, Hispanic/Latino ethnicity is completely separate from race. Hispanics can choose to identify their race as White, Black, Indigenous, Asian, multiple races, etc. They can identify as both Hispanic and with any racial category. According to Pew Research, over 50 million Americans, or 18% of the total U.S. population, identified as Hispanic/Latino in 2019. The vast majority, over 60%, identified their race as white alone on the Census.

Do All Mexicans Consider Themselves Hispanic?

While Mexicans are squarely included under the broad U.S. definition of Hispanic, this does not mean all Mexicans consider themselves Hispanic or Latino. Just like with any identity marker, self-identification is complex and personal. For some Mexicans, identifying as Hispanic or Latino is important to recognizing their cultural heritage and roots in Latin America. But others may forego this identity and consider their Mexican, Chicano, indigenous, mestizo, or racial identity to be more salient.

Studies show that the majority of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the U.S. do self-identify as Hispanic or Latino, including those who are third- or fourth-generation Americans. But the percentages who identify as Hispanic decrease with each generation as cultural assimilation increases. And there are regional differences too. For example, Mexican-Americans in parts of the Southwest U.S. that were originally part of Mexico are less likely to adopt a pan-ethnic Hispanic identity than Mexicans in other parts of the country.

Ultimately Mexicans can exercise autonomy in how they self-identify. If they consider Mexican or Mexican-American to be their primary identity, they can certainly still celebrate their Mexican heritage without adopting the Hispanic/Latino label. But with Mexican ancestry at the core of the pan-ethnic Hispanic identity, the large majority of Mexicans in the U.S. today are broadly considered Hispanic by society.

Challenges to Hispanic Identity

While the U.S. government provides the Hispanic/Latino ethnicity as an option for self-identification, this also comes with some controversy. Some Mexicans and other Latin Americans argue this pan-ethnic term is overly simplistic and flattens the diversity of nationalities, racial mixes, indigenous roots, immigrant experiences and cultural practices into one categorization.

There can also be arguments that the term Hispanic harkens back to Spanish colonialism and disregards Native American history. Some thus prefer to identify by their family’s specific country of origin or use terms like Latino/a, Chicano/a, or Latinx that reference pan-ethnicity without direct connections to Spain. Others want to reclaim or elevate their indigenous backgrounds that predate Spanish conquests.

Additionally, since Hispanic identity has been imposed externally by the U.S. government to track populations, some believe it encourages stereotyping and tokenization rather than meaningful representation. So some Mexicans and Mexican-Americans question its utility.


To conclude, while Mexicans are considered Hispanic based on their historical, cultural and linguistic ties to Spain, self-identification as Hispanic or Latino is nuanced. Not all Mexicans adopt this pan-ethnic marker, instead identifying in other ways that reflect their own complex family histories, racial mixes and experiences. But the majority of Mexicans in the U.S. do still self-report as Hispanic on the Census and other forms that provide the designation as an option. The layered meaning behind Hispanic identity will likely continue being discussed and debated within Mexican-American communities.

Data Summary

Hispanic Population of the U.S. 18% of total U.S. population (over 50 million people)
Mexicans as a percentage of U.S. Hispanics 62%
Hispanics identifying as White alone on U.S. Census Over 60%
Mexicans who speak Spanish at home (2016) Around 71%