Basic Information | Factual Commentary | Interpretive Commentary | Gallery

The question of how Latinos, or Hispanics, fit in with the American construction of race is a complex one. Latinos have certainly suffered from racial prejudice in this nation’s history, but at the same time, Latinos do not fall neatly into the standard racial categories familiar to America. Some Latinos do indeed have dark skin, but other Latinos also have European, African, Native, and even Asian roots ― or mixtures of these. Latinos often define themselves ethnically and nationally rather than racially.

Nevertheless, Latinos from other parts of the Americas, who come to the United States as immigrants, often bring with them very different social constructions of race that vary from country to country. And of course, other Latinos, such as the woman in this daguerreotype, have roots in the territory of the United States that reach back before this nation’s founding. Given this complexity, the Latino experience of the question of race also has the potential to help Americans see how arbitrary race is as a social construction, and so perhaps the growth of Latinos in the United States will contribute to a dissolution of our entrenches racial categories.