A growing number of Latinos in the U.S. are identifying as Amerindians–a term used to identify indigenous people of the Americas. According to U.S. Census Data, the number of both South- and North American-born Latinos who identify as Amerindians has tripled since 2000, to 1.2 million from 400,000. The trend underlies an ongoing debate over how many Latinos can and should identify their ethnic origin.
“There has been an actual and dramatic increase of Amerindian immigration from Latin America,” José C. Moya, a professor of Latin American history at Barnard College, told the New York Times this weekend in a story about more U.S. Latinos identifying as Indians. Moya attributes the increase of Amerindians to immigration over the last two decades from regions with larger indigenous population.
But Carlos Quiroz, a Washington D.C. activist and blogger born in Peru, says the identifying as Hispanic or Latino is innaucurate for most immigrants in the U.S. coming from North and South America. Quiroz developed YouTube tutorial videos discussing how immigrants from Latin America should fill out in the 2010 Census.
“Do not mark Hispanic unless you were born in Spain and all your ancestors are from Spain, you’re not Latino unless you speak Latin or if you’re ancestors are from any Latin country of Europe. Latinos are people of European descent from Southern Europe,” Quiroz said in his video titled “2010 Census: Write in Your True Race.”
“Hispanic is not a race, ” Quiroz told The NY Times this weekend. “Hispanic is not a culture. Hispanic is an invention by some people who wanted to erase the identity of indigenous communities in America.”
The same article quoted Nancy Perez, who shares her household in Brooklyn with her sister and parents. Her parents moved to the United States from Mexico, in the 1970s, and although her family had mixed feelings about identifying as indigenous ultimately it came down to “if you go back far enough, we are indigenous,” Perez said.
“We felt that there were very limited options to identify with,” Perez, 32, said. “So out of the options available, that was the best one.”