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5 facts about National Hispanic Heritage Month

Today is the last day of National Hispanic Heritage Month. This time, observed from September 15 to October 15, is set aside in the U.S. to celebrate the contributions Hispanic Americans have made to society and culture.

Here are five facts you should know in connection with this observance:

1. Hispanic is a term applied to the ethnic group that consists of people from Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish cultures. Hispanic is not a race and the term can be applied to a person from any racial group (White/Caucasian, Black/African American, Asian, etc.) or a mix of racial groups. (Nearly half of Hispanics identify their racial category as White.)

2. In 1997, the United States Government officially expanded the ethnic categorization from Hispanic to “Hispanic or Latino.” The reasoning was that Hispanic is commonly used in the eastern portion of the United States, whereas Latino is commonly used in the western portion. But while Hispanic and Latino have a considerable degree of overlap, the terms are not interchangeable. Hispanic come from Hispania, the Latin word for “Spain” while Latino is believed to be an English derivation of the Spanish word latinoamericano. Hispanic is therefore used to refer to people from Spanish-speaking countries (e.g., Spain, Central America) while Latino refers to those of Latin-American descent even if they do not speak Spanish (e.g., some Brazilians).

3. In 2014, a survey found that a majority of Latino adults (55 percent) say they are Catholic, while 16 percent are evangelical Protestants and 5 percent are mainline Protestants. Mexicans and Dominicans are more likely than other Hispanic origin groups to say they are Catholic, while Salvadorans are more likely to say they are evangelical Protestants than do Mexicans, Cubans, and Dominicans.

4. About eight-in-ten Hispanic churchgoers in the U.S. (82 percent) say their church offers Spanish-language services, 75 percent say there is Hispanic clergy at their church, and 61 percent say that most or all of the other people they worship with also are Hispanic. More than half (51 percent) say the place of worship they attend most often has all three of these characteristics.

5. Nearly six-in-ten Hispanic churchgoers (57 percent) say their church maintains close ties with countries in Latin America by sending money or missionaries to these countries or receiving clergy from countries in the region. About one-in-five Hispanics say that their place of worship does not maintain close ties to Latin American countries (21 percent) and the same share say they do not know if this is the case (21 percent).

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