The word “Hispanic” was used in 1970 for the first time. Since then, people in the United States apply it to refer to the inhabitants (citizens and non-citizens) of the country whose cultures derive from the Spanish one. These people are also known as “Latinos”. All those who come from Latin American countries or Spain belong to this group.

All throughout the U.S. history, Latinos have worked in many different fields. As a consequence, they have contributed to the country in a variety of areas. Here are some examples:

Origin and Meaning of the Dollar Sign

The $ symbol has its origin in the Spanish American peso, also known as “Spanish dollar”. Due to this, in the 18th century, after the 13 colonies declared independence from England in order to become the United States of America, they had problems to access money. In some states, people used the Spanish dollar that came from the Spanish colonies of America. Later on, the Spanish dollar became the American dollar.

Origin of the Turkey

There was a so-called “wild turkey” in the United States, but the domestic one, which is the turkey that people eat on Thanksgiving nowadays, probably came from the coasts of the present New England. However, that might not necessarily be its origin. In fact, some consider that it was brought from Spain.


In England, it was named “turkey” (after “Turkey”, the country), because they knew that it came from exotic faraway lands, not from Spain.

In reality, the turkey comes from Mexico, where its domestication took place at the beginning of the first millennium of our era. Then, it was taken to Europe by the conquerors, and finally brought to the United States by the English.

Surprising Facts About Latin Food in the U.S.

  1. People buy more tortillas (excluding the tortilla chips) than hamburger buns and hot dogs.
  2. Ketchup is a best-selling product.
  3. Some Latin ingredients are not translated into English: chorizo, fajita, paella, carnitas, burrito, paletas (popsicles), guacamole, nachos, ceviche, elote, empanadas, quesadilla, etc.
  4. The Häagen-Dazs Dulce de Leche ice cream is number four in sales.
  5. Goya Foods is one of the richest companies in the United States. Its owners are the Unanue family (of Spanish and Puerto Rican origin).
  6. Some Mexican beer brands are among the 12 best-selling ones in the U.S.

Latino Relevance in American Pop Culture

The Latino culture is strong, especially when it comes to popular events and activities such as:

  • Many Latinos play this American sport. One out of four Major League Baseball players is Latino.
  • Music. Salsa, merengue, bachata, vallenato, etc. are important in the American society; but “música norteña” has a very special place indeed. At present, pop music in the style of Enrique Iglesias with Spanglish lyrics dazzles young people.
  • The best TV actress in the United States is Sofia Vergara.


  • In some places, soap operas are broadcast with English subtitles.
  • Univision broadcasts only in Spanish, and it is the fifth most-watched TV network in the country.
  • La Mega is the most popular radio station in New York.
  • More and more people celebrate Cinco de Mayo every year. It is a date to commemorate the French defeat against Benito Juarez’s troops.
  • About 12 million piñatas are sold in the United States every year. Half of them are bought for non-Hispanic kids.

Influence of the Spanish Language in the United States

The influence of the Spanish language (and some indigenous languages of Latin America) has become more and more evident.

  • Last names: Hispanic last names are among the 10 most common ones.
  • Names: according to data from the Social Security, two male names, which are written equally in English and in Spanish, are on the top 20 baby names in the U.S.: Daniel (11) and David (20). Among the female names, there are two Latino ones on the list: Sofia (with “f”, not “ph”) and Amelia.

Words of Spanish or Latin American Indigenous Origin Used in English:

  • Nahuatl: avocado, cacao, chocolate, chia, chicle, coyote, guacamole and tomato, among others.
  • Quechua: condor, Inca, lima, llama, puma, pisco, quinoa, quinine and soroche, among others.
  • Taino and other Caribbean languages: barbecue, cacique, caiman, canoe, guava, hammock, hurricane, iguana, tobacco and yucca, among others.
  • Guarani and Tupi: cayenne, jaguar, cougar, maraca, petunia and tapioca, among others.
  • Spanish: adios, adobe, alligator (from “lagarto”), amigo, ancho, apache, armada, armadillo, bronco, bodega, bolero, bonito, barrio, burrito, cafeteria, canyon, cargo, caudillo, chorizo, churro, conquistador, cordillera, dengue, desperado, fiesta, flotilla, guerrilla, hola, incommunicado, junta, loco, macho, marijuana, matador, merengue, mesa, mestizo, nacho, nada, ole, oregano, patio, paella, peccadillo, piña colada, pimento, piñata, piragua, playa, politico, poncho, pronto, pronunciamiento, pueblo, rancho, renegade, rodeo, salsa, siesta, tango, telenovela, tortilla, turista, vanilla, vaquero and zorro, among others.

The Role of Latinos in the Civil Rights Movements

Latinos have also led the struggle for equality and civil rights.

Leaders of the Civil Rights Movements:

  • Cesar Chavez was a great leader and activist who fought for the farm workers’ rights.
  • The Chicano Movement fought in different sectors for political and social integration.
  • Comision Femenil Mexicana Nacional successfully participated in “Madrigal v. Quilligan”, which imposed the informed consent in English and in Spanish to avoid abuse in cases of adoption or sterilization involving mothers who could not understand English well.
  • National Council of La Raza.

At the present time, the Dreamers have movements and leaders who seek to reclaim the rights of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States when they were kids. Their struggle is behind the success of measures like Diferred Action (DACA).