Hispanic or Latino?
"Hispanic" and "Latino" are two terms that are widely used to describe people and culture whose ethnicity is influenced by the Spanish language. Are these terms equivalent? Is one better than another? Which term should you use?
To answer these questions, we must look at the terms more carefully. "Hispanic" is a word that was adopted by the U.S. government during the Nixon administration as a response to pressure to acknowledge that this was a distinct group of people with distinct problems and needs. On the other hand, "Latino" is more of a grassroots term that sprung up spontaneously within the community, and is quite likely a shortening of the term "latinoamericano" (Latin American).
As you might expect among a people whose history is one of conquest, for some this dichotomy sets up an antagonistic "people vs. government" relationship. But there is no "safe" term. Within the Hispanic/Latino community, opinions about these two terms vary widely. You will find people who embrace one term, and reject the other. You will also find people who reject both terms. Eventually, you will offend someone, no matter which term you use.
One thing can be said with certainty, and that is that nearly all Hispanic/Latinos prefer to be identified by their "patria" or country of origin. Thus terms such as "Mexican" and "Mexican American" (and their Spanish equivalents) are, for the most part, safe bets.