Before 1970, the US Census Bureau classified Mexican, Cuban and Puerto Rican immigrants as whites. Each community of Latin American origin would go by their nationality and by the region where they lived in the United States. But all that changed in the seventies, as activists began lobbying the US Census Bureau to create a broad, national category that included all these communities. The result was the creation of the term “Hispanic”, first introduced in the US Census in 1970.

Then it was up to Spanish-language media to get the word out. The network that would later become Univision released this series of ads calling on “Hispanics” to fill out the 1980 Census. The ads feature “Hispanic” sports stars and… Big Bird:

By the 1990s, Univision was creating the images and sounds associated to Hispanics in the US. The 1990 Census ads feature the likes of Tito Puente and Celia Cruz telling Hispanics to fill out el censo:

Maria Hinojosa interviews author and scholar G. Cristina Mora about origins of the term, the people that crafted it, and what it actually means to be Hispanic in the United States today.





Cristina Mora

G. Cristina Mora is a sociology professor at UC Berkeley. Her research focuses mainly on questions of racial and ethnic categorization, organizations, and immigration. Her book, Making Hispanics provides a socio-historical account of the institutionalization of the “Hispanic/Latino” panethnic category in the United States.




Videos courtesy of Univision Communications and the Univision News library in Miami, Florida. 

Photo courtesy of El Telecote archive on Found SF