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Latine Studies

A guide intended to aid research relating to Latine peoples and history, both within the greater Chicago area and within the broader context of the United States. This research guide will be updated in accordance with CHM's ongoing critical work.

The material in CHM collections may contain offensive language or negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language of a particular period or place. These items are presented as part of the historical record. The Chicago History Museum has an institution-wide initiative to critically consider the language used to describe people and materials, and we invite you to read more about our related projects.

Evolution of Language: Pan-Ethnic Identity Terms

The language used to describe Latin American pan-ethnicity varies, and it is important to acknowledge the numerous definitions and contexts for a given term. For example, although Hispanic and Latino are often treated interchangeably, they have different meanings. Generally, Hispanic refers to Spanish-speaking people or people from a Spanish-speaking country, while Latino refers to someone of Latin American descent. Some individuals prefer Latino as the term Hispanic could be perceived as redolent of Spanish colonialism and the erasure of Indigenous populations. Particularly in Chicago, it is important to remember that Latino and other pan-ethnic terms generalize a diverse population and, many times, a more specific term like Mexican American, Chicano, or Puerto Rican may be more appropriate.  Of course, communities are not monoliths and preferred identity terms are dependent upon personal experience, region, familial ancestry, and more.

Overview of common pan-ethnic identity terms: 

HISPANIC: Someone who is a native of, or descends from, a Spanish-speaking country. 

LATINO/LATINA: Someone who is native of, or descends from, a Latin American country. 

LATINX: A gender-neutral term to refer to a person who is native of, or descends from, a Latin American country.  While Latinx is meant to be inclusive, it's important to acknowledge that, to some, the term is seen as US-centric, and the addition of the "x" makes the word inconsistent with the Spanish language and difficult to pronounce for many non-English speakers.

LATINE: Gender inclusive term sometimes preferred for the existing use of "-e" at the end of some Spanish words (like estudiante). This is the preferred term at CHM.

LATIN@: Gender inclusive term used in writing. Refers to both the masculine Latino and feminine Latina. 

AFRO-LATINO/A/X: People of African descent in Latin America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, and by extension those of African descent in the United States whose origins are in Latin America and the Caribbean.  Other terms used may include Black Hispanic, Black Latino/a/x, and Afro-Caribbean.

CHICANO/CHICANA: Someone who is native of, or descends from, Mexico and who lives in the United States. This is also sometimes spelled Xicano, Xicana, or Xicanx, versions meant to embrace the indigenous etymology of the term, specifically the Nahuatl language where the "x" represents a /ʃ/ or "sh" sound.

TEJANO/TEJANA: a Texan of Mexican descent.


For more information on the evolution of this language from CHM's curator of civic engagement and social justice, Elena Gonzales, see the CHM Blog post, Why We're Saying Latine.  

Here is some further reading on the topic:

Library of Congress Subject Headings

The Chicago History Museum relies on subject headings authorized by the Library of Congress to organize its catalog records. This controlled vocabulary facilitates the uniform access and retrieval of items in libraries and archives worldwide. Researchers can search headings in CHM's online catalog ARCHIE either in the general keyword search, by limiting the "All Fields" to "Subject," or by using the Advanced Search.

In Library of Congress classification, the heading "Hispanic Americans" refers to United States citizens of Latin American descent; "Latin Americans" refers to citizens of Latin American countries; and "Latin Americans--United States" refers to citizens of Latin American countries living in the United States. CHM recognizes the limitations of these and other subject headings, noting that names and terms used may be inadequate or misleading. Furthermore, some headings are predicated on colonialist assumptions that might contradict an individual’s sense of identity and/or a researcher’s intentions. While CHM librarians are working to mitigate harmful language, these Library of Congress subject headings currently provide a way to isolate records within ARCHIE. 

Headings that appear frequently in ARCHIE include:

  • Cuban Americans--Illinois--Chicago
  • Hispanic Americans--Illinois--Chicago
  • Latin Americans--Illinois--Chicago
  • Mexican Americans--Illinois--Chicago
  • Puerto Ricans--Illinois--Chicago
  • Spanish Language Publications

Note:  This list is not comprehensive, but meant instead as a suggested starting point. 

Other search terms

In addition to Library of Congress subject headings, searching ARCHIE through the general keyword or the advanced search function is useful when seeking to narrow a search. It is important to search terms that go beyond Library of Congress subject headings. For example, many records in ARCHIE include the heading “Hispanic Americans," but the title, description, and/or summary uses "Latino." Similarly, many records with the subject heading “Mexican American” feature “Chicano” in the title, description, and/or summary. By searching terms not authorized by the Library of Congress, researchers can ensure they have conducted a more complete search. 

Geographical search terms

Depending on one's research goals, it may also be helpful to search by general keyword using geographical terms. This can include regions (e.g. "South America" or "Central America") or specific neighborhoods and countries.

Historically Latine Chicago neighborhoods:

Humboldt Park
Little Village
Logan Square
South Lawndale

Latin American countries and Caribbean islands reflected in ARCHIE records: 

Argentina Guatemala
Bolivia Haiti
Brazil  Honduras
Chile Mexico
Colombia Nicaragua
Costa Rica  Panama
Cuba Peru
Dominican Republic Puerto Rico (U.S. territory)
Ecuador Uruguay
El Salvador Venezuela 

Please note: In ARCHIE, spelling does not need to be exact, but if you only want to search for an exact spelling, use quotation marks around the word or phrase. 

Featured CHM Collections

Note: This is by no means an exhaustive list. Latine history is indelibly part of Chicago's history, so, in addition to these resources, know that books and collections about general Chicago history should also contain information about Latine peoples. Unfortunately, they (and other marginalized communities) are often misrepresented or unfairly excluded from the discussion, a concept known as archival silence.