Almost 5 years ago, I happened to be backpacking around Europe for about 2 months.
I didn’t have much money so I was almost like a typical backpacker except I didn’t have one of those huge backpacks you see European backpackers walking around with.
And I was basically just hopping from European capital to European capital on the cheap Ryanair to fly me around.
Spend a few days in each city to see the main highlights before moving on elsewhere.
During the trip, I got stuck in Krakow, Poland.
To leave Poland, I thought instead to catch a bus to any nearby European country.
However, for some reason, the Polish bus websites weren’t accepting my debit card info.
I could’ve gone to the nearby bus station and just order a ticket in person.
But I didn’t care enough to put in the effort because I actually liked Krakow quite a bit.
Mostly because it was such a great city to party and very comfortable to spend more time in.
With my roughly 2 weeks in the city that you can see here, I spent a good deal of it sightseeing and partying.
And, from what I saw, it seemed like quite a popular city for partying among young Europeans and British folks also.
Many of whom who were staying at the same Cuban themed hostal that I was staying at.
And this hostal, like others in Krakow, had great deals for those who wanted to get wasted.
They all had the same deal where you’d basically spend like 5 bucks for a good night.
Where, in the first hour, they give you as many drinks as you want.
Then you all run around the city as a group going from bar to bar with no cover and a free shot at each place.
Honestly, I have no idea how they ever made a profit from that given all the alcohol being consumed.
And, being honest, I could never finish the entire night.
Several nights doing that ended with me being black out drunk and leaving the group lost in Krakow looking for the hostal.
Thankfully, I always did find it.
At one of those night parties though, I remember meeting up with a few folks.
Another American dude who was from Chicago.
Mostly Europeans though.
Some cute Polish girls too.
And, during the first hour before bar hopping, we’re playing a drinking game where I got talking with some Italian dude.
Forgot his name but we kept talking later in the night about whatever.
Roll the clock a few hours and we’re at a bar getting our shots.
And he was curious simply about my time in Latin America and how I’d be going to live in Mexico soon.
Given how drunk I was, I don’t remember very well how we got to the topic of “Latinidad.”
But it came out somehow in which, for whatever reason, the dude wanted to tell me that he is “Latino.”
All I remember then is being confused and asking him “what part of Latin America are your parents from?”
Because, to be fair, maybe the dude is legit Latino?
Could have Latino parents but born in Italy.
But the dude proceeded to, almost like he was waiting for his time to shrine, give me a 5 minute monologue about how Italians are “Latinos too.”
And, being honest, I didn’t have anything to say.
Didn’t even try to argue with the dude.
I had no idea what he was talking about and I was half-wasted by then.
He was a cool dude either way.
Wasn’t an ass about clarifying his point on being “Latino too.”
I simply was just slightly confused by what he was getting on about (the insane amount of liquor probably didn’t help) and just nodded away at what he was saying.
I have never heard a single person say that people like Italians are Latino.
However, as I wrote in my last article before this one, I stumbled across a video where some dude briefly remarks how people like “Italians” are Latinos that you can see here.
It’s an argument I have, since talking with the Italian dude, rarely seen on the internet.
Maybe once a year I will see someone on the internet claim this.
And that video reminded me of the topic today.
Are they right?
Are people like Italians Latino?
Or other Europeans who speak Romance languages?
Because, from what I have seen, they extend the argument to other Romance language speakers in Europe.
Personally, I have never investigated the topic before today.
But I feel like looking into now just because.
We’ll break down the main arguments I can find online before going into my thoughts on the matter.
So let’s begin!
The Logic Behind the Argument
The arguments in favor of this idea basically cite information related to the origins of Romance languages and the history behind the word Latino.
Here’s a good article breaking down briefly this argument.
In which it details how the word Latino technically has meant someone from a region in central-western Italy known as Latium.
In that region, the Latin language was used historically.
Going from there, the region of Latium eventually founded Rome and so Romans were Latinos.
Beyond that, the argument goes further into saying that Romance languages were branched out from the Latin language.
By that logic, anyone who was born in a region with a Romance language can call themselves Latino.
That includes Latin Americans but also Italians, Spaniards, Romanians, the French and the Portuguese.
Historically, you could also see examples efforts to close the divide between Latin America and countries in Europe like France.
For example, as that same article points out, Napoleon III tried closing that gap as he sought control of Mexico. It was his goal to “to bridge Mexican and French cultures through a shared sense of Latin identity.”
In order to do so, he coined the term “Latin America.”
As a side point, it does make me wonder if we’d still use the term Latino for people of Latin America if the term “Latin America” was never widely adopted as it is now.
At any rate, you have plenty of people in Europe who identify as Latino in some way.
Like some Italians for example as mentioned before.
Or like this Spanish politician here known as Albert Rivera who claimed that “the Spanish are the Latinos of Euorpe.”
But it gets better!
While some Europeans consider themselves Latinos, other folks online don’t think folks born in Latin America are even Latino at all!
Latin Americans Are Not Latinos
Here’s a funny argument I found online. Not sure how many people believe this but I have seen it on several sources online claiming as such. You can see all of it here and I’ll copy and paste some of it below.
“Well firstly, the term “Latino” isn’t Spanish or Portuguese, it’s firstly LATIN/ITALIAN. Spanish, Portuguese, and French did not come directly from Latin. They came from old Italian (I’ll touch on that at the end). There is also a HUGE difference between being Latino and Hispanic. Which is what most people refer to as Latino. Latino means you come directly from Latin blood. That’s it, that’s all. Most South American people “Latino American” as some say, don’t have Latin blood. There are descendants of the natives of those regions, some very thinned out Spanish bloodlines, etc. They live in and are raised in Spanish SPEAKING areas with South American CULTURE that is INFLUENCED by Spanish. THIS is Hispanic, not Latino.. the Spanish from Spain aren’t even as Latino as Italians, yet they are still more Latino than ANYONE from South America.”
There isn’t much to say here outside of how ignorant it is.
Particularly with the exaggeration regarding how “native” the locals in Latin America are and how seemingly nobody in Latin America has strong European (Spanish, Italian, etc) heritage.
But that was for a good laugh and it covers one of the arguments I’ve been seeing repeatedly.
Let’s move on.
Ethnic vs Linguistic Connection
As you can tell by now, there’s clearly a difference in how the term “Latino” is being seen by both parties.
Where, in North or South America, the term has more of a connection to ethnicity (being someone with roots tied to Latin America), it seems to be the case that those arguing that Italians & other Europeans are Latinos are basing that on linguistic connections.
That being that they all speak a language connected to the Latin language.
And speaking of language…
There’s been an argument I’ve seen a few times online regarding translation issues of the word “Latino.”
The argument being that, in English, Latino is for folks of Latin American heritage but the word Latin would be more fitting for those of “Latin” heritage in Europe like Italians.
And that people like Italians or French, not speaking English natively, are simply confused as to which word would be more appropriate to use.
That they shouldn’t use the word Latino to describe themselves in English but instead Latin.
And how, in their languages, maybe Latino is more commonly used to describe themselves in say Italian?
I’m not entirely sure how legit this argument regarding what the word they would use in Italian, French, etc.
In Spanish, obviously it’d be Latino perhaps like we saw with that Spanish politician way back.
But, as someone from the US, I get his point regarding the distinction between “Latino” and “Latin here.”
Not sure though if that distinction is made in other English-speaking countries like the UK, Australia, Belize, etc.
Of course, meaning of words in a language can even change across countries.
Like how British folks and Americans have a different understanding of what “chips” means.
But, in a US context anyway, I think the argument is more sound here.
Here’s one article proposing the idea that I quite liked.
“In Spanish, it means someone belonging to the people of ancient Latium, in Italy, whose language was Latin; so the Romans of course were latinos. Another and related meaning of latino in Spanish refers to someone who belongs to the cultures of the Romance Languages, that is, those peoples whose language, and to a varying extent, whose culture, too, derive from the language and civilization of Rome, which was latin. Among these Romance languages are Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Rumanian. Therefore, all Italians, Frenchmen, Spaniards, Rumanians, and Portuguese, as well as all those Latin Americans whose language is Spanish or Portuguese (an English-speaking person from Jamaica would not qualify) are latinos. This last meaning can be found in the English language as well, in the English word “Latin,” when used in some contexts …”
“However, the Spanish word latino has narrowed its meaning when used in English untranslated as “Latin.” This narrowing was clinched when the United States government adopted the term latino officially in 1997 to complement the English word “Hispanic,” which until then had been used to classify, or rather, attempt to classify, people living in the United States who were Spanish speakers, or belonged to a household where Spanish was spoken, or who were somehow of Spanish heritage, or who self-identified with Spanish ancestry or descent.”
The article goes into more interesting detail. You should check it out here!
Who Really is Latino?
Another point that needs to be considered is how, if we were to adopt the European idea of what is Latino, one could argue that it dilutes the word quite strongly.
Even in Latin America, using the word “Latino” is fine but it is understood that there are some noticeable changes in demographics and culture from one Latin country to the next.
Brazil to Cuba or Argentina to Guatemala.
They have similarities for sure in many regards but plenty of very noticeable differences.
And some countries are considered by some to be in “Latin America” by some folks like Haiti for example.
Despite Haiti having even larger differences from the rest of Latin America.
And you got folks wondering all the time if countries like Belize is Latin American due to their own significant differences (speaking English).
Of course, that all goes into the differences anyway between terms like “Latin America” or “Iberian America.”
Now, if we were to extend the word Latino for anyone else who speaks a Romance language natively, then we are extending what “Latino” means a lot more.
After all, is someone from Quebec Latino?
That’s an easy example because some people do ponder if Quebec is “Latin America” as you can see here given that it was owned by the French like Haiti was.
“Quebec — though a province rather than a full country — is technically Latin American if you're defining it by its use of a Romance language alone. And areas of the Caribbean that speak English or other languages are often lumped into Latin America, though that's not strictly accurate”
What about other countries where French is spoken like the Congo (DRC), Camaroon, Ivory Coast, etc?
Are the people in those countries also Latinos?
And I could go all day listing other random countries where, if we understand Latino to be a linguistic connection tied to the Romans, then we could claim that the people in those countries are also Latino.
Not only are they not likely to self-identify as Latino (if I had to guess) but also you dilute the term so much by that point that it almost feels like a pointless term to me?
The Shared Brotherhood
Going beyond how the term “Latino” in a linguistic sense might come across as relatively diluted in my opinion, we could contrast that to the use of the term along an ethnic sense.
Again, I’m not an expert on Europe but, despite the creation of the European Union and the long history between countries over there, I always imagined that Europe as a whole has less of a shared brotherhood than what you see between countries in Latin America.
Despite the noticeable differences mentioned before, they at least share a common language: Spanish (outside of Brazil, to be fair).
And were all colonized by European countries and all have memory of US interventionism.
More similar culture relatively speaking.
To some, this might make use of the term “Latino” along an ethnic line than a linguistic one more understandable.
How Many People Actually Identify as Latino in Europe?
Of course, some seem to do so.
Like that Spanish politician or the Italian dude I met in Poland.
But outside of that – how many actually use the term to describe themselves?
I imagine it might vary by country.
While looking into this topic, it seems much more popularized in Italy given so much of the discussion centers around that nationality specifically.
Not as many French or Romanians asking if they are “Latino” online from what I could tell relatively speaking.
We have this interesting quote here.
“What Romanians consider as Latino about themselves? Maybe some Romanian chick might think of her tumbao as being like that of some Latina chick, but other than that I’ve never personally met Romanians that consider themselves as being Latino or having something “Latino” about themselves… although some of those I know do like livin’ la vida loca…
Now, if you actually want to say Latin (not Latino, as it is used in the English language), then yes, most (educated) Romanians would consider the language relation enough to see themselves as (descendants of) “Latins” or at least belonging to the Latin “family”, although I think most would agree that we’re generally seen as that often-forgotten country-side relative of the Latin family, not a hardcore member like the Spanish or Italians for instance.”
At any rate, I’ll leave that point alone up in the air since I can’t comment much given my limited experience in Europe and not having discussed this topic with any other European outside of one Italian dude.
Where Are the Original Latinos Now?
This will be a sort section of the article because I couldn’t find an answer to it.
However, some arguments I have seen online have tried stating that “Roma was such a long time ago” and how “Latin isn’t really spoken anymore.”
Along with questions about how many people today truly have genetic ties to the “Latins.”
A group you can read about here.
And so the argument is this: Many try to claim the use of the word “Latino” for people like Italians because, as we have seen, the logic goes that they speak a language derived from a people in Italy known as Latin.
And that people and their language were centered around an area called Latium that eventually founded Rome.
So if so much of their logic is based around linguistic connections to this specific group of people, then how many people who speak Romance languages today are even genetically connected to them?
Yes, their understanding of the term “Latino” is more linguistic than genetic but the argument I have seen online is their definition is weak without a genetic relation.
So how many people who speak Romance languages are genetically tied to “the Latins?”
According to that last source here, we have some minor information on the topic.
“Examined individuals from the city of Rome during the time of the Roman Empire (27 BCE – 300 CE) bore almost no genetic resemblance to Rome's founding populations, and were instead shifted towards the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. The Imperial population of Rome was found to have been extremely diverse, with barely any of the examined individuals being of primarily European ancestry. It was suggested that the observed genetic replacement of the city's founding populations was a result of heavy migration of merchants and slaves from the populous urban centres of the Middle East and Greece. During late antiquity, after the Imperial era, Rome's population was drastically reduced as a result of political instability, epidemics and economic changes. In this period, more European ancestry is evident in Rome; its inhabitants started to again approximate present-day Italians, and can be modeled as a genetic mixture of Imperial-era inhabitants of the city of Rome and populations from central or northern Italy. In the following Early Medieval period, invasions of barbarians brought further European ancestry into Rome, resulting in the further loss of genetic link to the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. By the Middle Ages, the people of Rome again genetically resembled European populations.”
While the article claims that the population returned to “genetically” resemble European populations, it doesn’t clarify if that means they were genetically resembled again to the original rounders of Rome.
I would imagine, given that extensive history through the Roman Empire and the years since, that not everyone in modern day Italy as of now is genetically related to the Latins.
And the same could be asked then of people in Spain, France, Romania, etc.
Therefore, if you change the population so much, are they still Latin?
Take Latin America for example.
Before Latin America was colonized, the idea of a “Latin America” literally did not exist.
You didn’t have a common language connecting everyone from what we call Mexico to what we call Chile.
There were genetic similarities but very different cultures and languages.
Then a major event happened called colonialism and it fundamentally changed what we now call the people in the territory of Latin America versus alternative identities that could have become more popularized if colonialism never happened.
Whatever those identities would have been.
At any rate, that’s the argument that I’ve come to understand from what I’ve read online.
As I said, I do see some holes in the argument since it doesn’t address how, as we have covered many times, the European understanding of Latino is not based on genetics but instead linguistics.
So it almost makes you wonder if it’s relevant to bring up?
But it’s one argument out there.
Final Verdict: Are European Romance-Language Speakers Latinos?
Honestly, I don’t have much to say here because I think it’s a dumb argument either way.
Look, words can have various meanings depending on the context.
For example, I have heard people refer to Native Americans as “Indians” but other people not like calling them Indians and think that word should only be used for those actually from India.
In a bilingual context, you got a few Americans who come to Latin America and find it weird or offensive that the word “negro” is used.
Or Americans getting annoyed at the word “gringo” in general when it could be used in a neutral or negative context.
I’m sure there are other words that either change in literal meaning or connotation depending on the context they are used in and with who you are speaking with.
After reading the arguments online about this topic, that’s what this feels like to me.
That you simply have a different way of understanding the word “Latino” depending on if you are from certain countries in Europe or if you are from the US or Canada.
For us North Americans and for anyone in Latin America, the term Latino means those with heritage to Latin America.
Outside of maybe some Italian-Americans and a few others, most people don’t apply the word “Latino” to those from Italy, Romania, etc.
But, for some Europeans, they might identify as such given their understanding of the word.
I’m not going to say that they aren’t correct with their interpretation of the word.
They have their reasons and I get it. I simply laid out the arguments for and against the use of the word Latino in that sense above.
But my opinion anyhow?
Only that, as I said, words can have different meanings depending on the context and who is using them.
That’s how I see it.
So are European Romance-Language Latinos?
Depending on the context, I’d say sure.
But it’s not the same thing as being someone with roots from Latin America in my opinion.
Even if you have cultural similarities between Italy and Argentina and Spain and most of Latin America, you still have noticeable differences.
And, more importantly, I think the social context here necessitates the distinction in saying that the meaning of the word “Latino” for an Italian isn’t the same as the meaning for the word “Latino” for a Latin American.
Simply because, in the real world, most would see those two as distinct with their own understanding of the word that excludes the other.
Like the Latin American who doesn’t see the Italian as Latino or maybe some Italian out there who doesn’t see a Latin American as Latino.
If that exists…
I don’t know, haven’t seen anyone deny Latin Americans their Latinidad but maybe a few do).
Anyway, that’s all I got to say.
As I said, I’m not an expert on this topic and only laid out the brief information I could find given my sudden curiosity about the topic.
If you have anything to add, drop a comment below in the comment section.
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