32 min

Inventing ‘Hispanic‪’‬ The Experiment

    • Documentary

Do Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, and Cubans share an identity? The answer wasn’t necessarily clear before 1980.

That’s when the Census Bureau introduced a pair of new terms, Hispanic and Latino, to its decennial count. The addition was the result of years of advocacy and negotiation: Being counted on the census meant the potential for far more government action, yet the broad category oversimplified the identities of an immense and diverse group. 

“The way that we define ourselves is consequential,” says G. Cristina Mora, a sociology professor at UC Berkeley. “The larger the category, the more statistical power it would have.”

This week on The Experiment, the origin story of a core American identity—and what’s lost when such a broad category takes hold.


Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at theexperiment@theatlantic.com.

This episode was produced by Julia Longoria and Gabrielle Berbey, with editing by Katherine Wells. Fact-check by William Brennan and Stephanie Hayes. Sound design by David Herman. Special thanks to Christian Paz and A.C. Valdez.

Music by water feature (“a horse”), Ob (“Mog”), Parish Council (“Museum Weather”),  Column (“Shutt,” “Sensuela”), r mccarthy (“Contemplation at Lon Lon”), and infinite bisous (“Sole Mate”), provided by Tasty Morsels. Additional audio from the U.S. Census Bureau, CBS, Agence France-Presse, CNN, UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center, Tom Myrdahl, Third World Newsreel, Newsreel, Univision Communications, and El Show de Cristina.

Do Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, and Cubans share an identity? The answer wasn’t necessarily clear before 1980.

That’s when the Census Bureau introduced a pair of new terms, Hispanic and Latino, to its decennial count. The addition was the result of years of advocacy and negotiation: Being counted on the census meant the potential for far more government action, yet the broad category oversimplified the identities of an immense and diverse group. 

“The way that we define ourselves is consequential,” says G. Cristina Mora, a sociology professor at UC Berkeley. “The larger the category, the more statistical power it would have.”

This week on The Experiment, the origin story of a core American identity—and what’s lost when such a broad category takes hold.


Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at theexperiment@theatlantic.com.

This episode was produced by Julia Longoria and Gabrielle Berbey, with editing by Katherine Wells. Fact-check by William Brennan and Stephanie Hayes. Sound design by David Herman. Special thanks to Christian Paz and A.C. Valdez.

Music by water feature (“a horse”), Ob (“Mog”), Parish Council (“Museum Weather”),  Column (“Shutt,” “Sensuela”), r mccarthy (“Contemplation at Lon Lon”), and infinite bisous (“Sole Mate”), provided by Tasty Morsels. Additional audio from the U.S. Census Bureau, CBS, Agence France-Presse, CNN, UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center, Tom Myrdahl, Third World Newsreel, Newsreel, Univision Communications, and El Show de Cristina.

32 min

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