The word Hispania refers to the people and culture of the Iberian peninsula, especially Spain. The term Hispano (Hispanic) later was used in referring to Spain and to New Spain in the Americas, colonial areas in Africa, Philippines, Guam and the Spanish East Indies. People whose culture and heritage have ties to Spain and, in the case of second and third generation Hispanic-Americans, who may or may not speak Spanish. The word Hispania was changed to Hispanic in the United States.
Hispanic is an ethnic distinction, not a separate race, an essence note in Hispanic genealogy. Hispanics can come from all races and physical traits. Within the United States the word Hispanic is used interchangeably with Latino, all referring to Spanish-speaking people, cultures and countries.
The Hispanic culture is centered around family members, both the immediate and extended members. Each person feels responsible to other family relatives and will help in times of trouble. Even decisions concerning one person will have the entire family involved in the decision-making. The same attitude is felt with community members and co-workers in Hispanic areas.
Expressing one’s feelings in a physical method is important. It is very normal to not only shake hands, but to give kisses on the cheek, hugs and pats on the back to family, friends and acquaintances. Also, face-to-face contact is an important method of communication.
When celebrating holidays, birthdays, baptisms, first communions, graduations and weddings, all family members gather for the event. They believe in honor, good manners and respect for authority and the elderly.
When Hispanic families live in a region where another language is primary, most individuals will learn both the adopted language and Spanish. Maintaining and practicing Spanish is important in the Hispanic genealogy. A good deal of hand gestures are used when speaking Spanish.
The Roman Catholic faith is very significant in the lives of most Hispanics. The Catholic Church influences family life and community affairs, giving spiritual meaning to the Hispanic culture. Most traditional celebrations have their origins with the religion. There is a small minority of Hispanics who practice other religions such as Protestant and Jewish.
In the Caribbean Islands there are many Hispanics of mixed racial heritage. There are of Spanish and African mix and of Native Indian and Spanish mix. Some of the people of Mexico, Honduras, Paraguay, Dominican, Chile, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, and Columbia heritage are referred to as Mestizo, those with a mixture of Western European and Spanish.