CIPR | Center For Inter-American Policy & Research

Tulane University

United States

Residents of the United States who trace their ancestry to countries in the western hemisphere where the Spanish language is spoken have lived in what is now the United States since the 17th century. In 2000 the U.S. census counted 34.3 million Hispanic or Latino Americans. Most experts think that an additional 2 to 3 million illegal Hispanic immigrants live in the United States. In 2006 the Census Bureau released updated figures that estimated the Hispanic population had increased to 42.7 million as of 2005, about 14.4 percent of the total U.S. population. Hispanic Americans are the fastest-growing minority group in the United States. Experts predict that Hispanic Americans will number more than 50 million by the year 2025 and could reach 102.6 million by the year 2050.

The Hispanic American community is a mix of subgroups with roots in various countries of Latin America, such as Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama. Official U.S. government documents and the English-speaking media typically use the term Hispanic when referring to the larger community comprised of these varied national groups. Spanish-language radio and television stations generally use the terms Hispano or Latino. Many Hispanic Americans are uncomfortable with all of these broad categories and prefer more specific designations, such as Cuban American or Mexican American.

In the 2000 U.S. census 21.5 million people identified themselves as Mexican Americans, or Chicanos. An additional 2 to 3 million illegal immigrants from Mexico are estimated to live in the United States. Mexican Americans constitute the largest group of Hispanic Americans. About 90 percent of the Mexican American population today can be traced to emigration from impoverished rural regions of northern Mexico during the 20th century. The rest trace their roots to 17th- and 18th-century colonists who settled in Mexican territories that are now part of the southwestern United States, including California, Texas, and parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona. Mexican Americans still live primarily in these southwestern states. Large Mexican American communities have also been established outside the Southwest in a number of big cities, including Chicago and New York City.

MSN Encarta: Hispanic Americans
MSN Encarta: Mexican Americans

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