“Are Brazilians Hispanic?”, “are Brazilians Latino?”, “are Brazilians Hispanic or Latino”? The answer isn’t that simple, so we decided to explore the subject further.
Hispanic and Latino
First of all, it’s important to note that these terms are not popular outside of the United States!
In Spanish, for instance, we use “latinoamericanos” (lit. Latin Americans) to refer to people living in Central and South America who speak a Romance language. “Latinos” are people who speak languages derived from Latin (in English, Romance Languages), so we consider ourselves, our Portuguese neighbors, the Frenchmen and the Italians to be “latinos” as well. For example, “los pueblos latinos comen mejor” (Latin peoples eat better).
None of these terms is used to refer to ethnicity - it’s simply an indication of a shared Latin culture, in the same way countries so different as Poland and Serbia call themselves Slavic. Hispanic is used to refer simply to those latin americans who speak Spanish or a Spanish-based creole. Again, this is not an ethnicity.
People from Guyana, Suriname or Belize (which is, surprisingly, English-speaking) don’t count as Latinos - and, of course, they are not Hispanic either.
Brazilians are Latino, not Hispanic
Brazilians speak Portuguese, which is a Romance language. So while they’re definitely Latin Americans, they are not Hispanic. In fact, Portuguese has been the official language of Brazil since the 16th century! That alone was a huge contributor to creating a culture so distinct from that of its Spanish-speaking neighbors.
However, Spanish and Portuguese are closely related. If you try to speak to a Portuguese speaker in Spanish, there is a good chance they will understand most of it. We bet you will have a harder time getting a grasp of their answer - we’ve have previously debated whether Portuguese and Spanish are mutually intelligible or not, and we invite you to join the conversation.
So Brazilians are Portuguese?
But just like Americans, Brazilians can’t be pinned down to a single place of origin. It would be naïve to think all Brazilians descend from the Portuguese. The territory that comprises modern-day Brazil was once an effervescent melting pot, comprised of people coming from all over the world and of various ethnicities.
Yet the Portuguese language prevailed. Over the years, due to the physical distance from Portugal and due to foreign influences, Brazilian Portuguese became a variety of the language, just like South African English when compared to British English. And that makes Brazilians lusophones, just as countries like Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé, East Timor and Portugal itself.