Understanding how your consumers identify: Latino, Hispanic or Latinx?

Editor’s note: Natalia Infante Caylor is the founder of Hola Insights. This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared under the title “Are your consumers Hispanic, Latino, or Latinx?

As the Hispanic population continues to grow in the U.S., an increasing number of businesses have started allocating more resources into learning more about this diverse market.

As such, it's important to be familiar with some definitions and know your audience when determining the right marketing strategy for this group. Have you ever wondered, what's the difference between Hispanic, Latina/o or Latinx? What is the proper way to use it? And how do most Hispanics feel about it?

Well, there’s no simple answer and I’ll explain why. For the purpose of this article, I’ll be using the term Hispanics to talk about the differences. 


Latinos refers to people from Latin American countries where the majority of people speak Spanish, including Brazil where Portuguese is the primary language. Latinos also refers to male and female as a group, whereas Latina represents a female and Latino represents a male.

Latinos is a common word used outside of the U.S. by Hispanics, although most Spanish-speaking people living in the U.S. prefer to be identified by their country of origin and not a group. For instance, I’m originally from Paraguay, in South America, and even though I became a U.S. citizen in 1999, when it comes to culture, I proudly say I’m from Paraguay and not necessarily that I’m Hispanic or Latina. The same is true for many of my Hispanic friends, we tend to mention our country of origin instead of belonging to a specific group (Hispanic, Latina/o or Latinx). 


I never heard the word Hispanic until I moved to the U.S. in the early 1990s. The word Hispanic is utilized in the U.S. only. It was introduced in the 1970s by the federal government for the purpose of collecting accurate information on the Census and allocating resources to the population. The word Hispanics refers to those born in Spanish-speaking countries, including Spain.  

According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2019), 64% of Hispanics living in the U.S. are 21 years old or older, which represents a tremendous opportunity for brands as Hispanics are known for being loyal to brands and services. 

Latin@ or Latinx

I was first introduced to the term Latinx or Latin@ in 2018 by my co-advisor while finishing my dissertation related to working with multicultural populations in a national health/nutrition education program. The term Latinx is mainly used in the U.S. and it’s meant to include gender-neutral identities. The word Latinx is most known or used among Hispanics born in the U.S. or Gen Z and younger Millennials.  

If you’re wondering whether you should refer to people from Latin American countries as Hispanics, Latinos or Latinx, I would say first ask what their preference is, if you’re able. Would you prefer I refer to you as Latina, Hispanic, Latinx, Argentinean, Colombian, etc.? After a while, if you still cannot remember what their preference was, I think referring to them as Hispanic would be safe. 

Most people who have recently arrived in the U.S. might prefer to be associated either with their country of origin or with the word Latino or Latina.