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     Countries where Spanish has official status.      Countries and regions where Spanish is spoken without official recognition.

The term Hispanophone (hispanohablantes or hispanofonía in Spanish) denotes Spanish language speakers and relation to the Spanish-speaking world. The word originates with the Latin political name of the Iberian Peninsula, Hispania, which comprised basically the territory of the modern states of Spain and Portugal.

In a cultural, rather than merely linguistic sense, the notion of "Hispanophone" goes further than the above definition. The term specifically refers to people whose cultural background is primarily associated with Spain, regardless of ethnic and geographical differences. The Hispanophone culture is the legacy of the Spanish colonial empire. As a result of this empire, there are over 350 million individuals in the Americas that speak Spanish. The vast majority speak Spanish as a first language, although some indigenous groups will be more likely bilingual in Spanish and their native language; in a few instances, they may not even speak Spanish at all.

In modern times, these Spanish-speaking peoples of the New World have adopted other cultural labels to identify themselves.[citation needed] The term Latino, which stems from a contraction of latinoamericano (Latin American)[1] is one example. In Spanish, Latino, however, refers to the Latin language,[2], as well as people who speak Romance languages, both in Europe and the Americas. Cultural and linguistic issues related to Spaniards are often confused with those of Mexicans or other Latin American people. While some are conscious of this issue, many of the people to whom the labels Latino or Hispanic are applied are not aware of it. As such, they often help perpetuate further misuse of these terms as racial labels instead of cultural ones, to the point that today the term is excluding the Hispanics to whom the labels originally applied.

Hispanophones are estimated between 450[3] and 500 million [4] globally, making Spanish the second most spoken language in amount of native speakers. The whole of Hispanophone peoples are called The Hispanidad and includes the people of Spain, Hispanic America as well as Equatorial Guinea and Western Sahara[5]. There are a large number of Spanish speakers in the United States, more than in Spain or Colombia.[citation needed] In the 2000 census, it comprised 10.7% of the population over the age of five - over 28 million people.[6] There are also smaller Hispanophone groups in Canada, northern Morocco, Equatorial Guinea, the Philippines (the latter three being former colonies of Spain) and in many other places, particularly large cities.




Hispanic World
     Spanish identified as the sole Official language     Spanish identified as a Co-Official language     Spanish significant Non--Official language
The Countries of the Hispanic-influenced World

During the Spanish colonial period between 1492 to 1898, many people from Spain migrated to new lands they had conquered. The Spaniards brought with them their language and culture, and integrated with the society they had settled, creating a large empire that stretched all over the world and producing several multiracial populations. Their descendants are found in the following continents and countries that were originally colonized by the Spanish people.

List of Spanish-speaking countries by population

Rank Country/territory/entity Population Source
1  Mexico 111,211,789 CIA 2009
2  United States 46,943,613 Census Bureau 2008 (Hispanic population)
3  Spain 46,745,807 Official INE estimate
4  Colombia 45,350,000 Official Colombian Population clock
5  Argentina 40,518,951 Official INDEC estimate
6  Peru 29,461,933 Official INEI estimate
7  Venezuela 28,680,000 Official Venezuelan Population clock
8  Chile 17,094,270 Official INE projection
9  Ecuador 14,130,000 Official Ecuador Population clock
10  Guatemala 14,027,000 UN 2009 estimate
11  Cuba 11,268,000 UN estimate
12  Dominican Republic 9,760,000 UN estimate
13  Bolivia 9,525,000 UN estimate
14  Honduras 7,106,000 UN estimate
15  El Salvador 6,857,000 UN estimate
16  Paraguay 6,127,000 UN estimate
17  Nicaragua 5,603,000 UN estimate
18  Costa Rica 4,468,000 UN estimate
19  Puerto Rico 3,991,000 UN estimate
20  Panama 3,343,000 UN estimate
21  Uruguay 3,340,000 UN estimate
22  Philippines 2,900,000 [7]
23  Equatorial Guinea 507,000 UN estimate
24  Belize 94,422 2000 census
25  Andorra 50,322 Institut d'Estudis Andorrans



The languages of Spain (simplified)
     Spanish official; spoken all over the country      Catalan/Valencian, co-official      Basque, co-official      Galician, co-official      Aranese, co-official (dialect of Occitan)      Asturian, recognised      Aragonese, unofficial      Leonese, recognised      Extremaduran, unofficial      Fala, unofficial

The modern day people that live in the region of ancient Hispania are the Portuguese, Spanish, Andorra and Gibraltar people. Historically, the modern country of Spain was formed by the accretion of several independent Iberian kingdoms through dynastic inheritance, conquest and the will of the local elites. These kingdoms had their own nationalistic loyalties and political borders.

Today, there is no single Castilian-Spanish identity for the whole country. Many Spanish citizens feel no conflict in recognizing their several Spanish identities at the same time. Spain is a culturally heterogeneous country, home to a wide range of subcultures, each one with its own customs and traditions. Some such subcultures have their own language. Since the beginning of the transition to democracy in Spain, after the Francisco Franco dictatorship, there have been many movements towards more autonomy in certain regions of the country, some with the aim of achieving full independence and others with the goal of autonomous community.

Spain's various subcultures coexist in Spain's provinces, and each one has its own traditions and idiosyncrasies. Some even have their own language, all of them along the dialectal continuum of Romance languages, with the exception of the Basque language. This resulted from the former dictator Francisco Franco's attempts to remove any signs of the sub-nations that today comprise Spain.

The existence of multiple distinct cultures in Spain allows an analogy to be drawn to the United Kingdom. Using the term Spanish for someone of Spanish descent would then be expected to be equivalent to using Briton to describe someone descending from some part of the United Kingdom. Cultures within the United Kingdom, such as English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh, would then correspond in this analogy to cultures within Spain such as Castilian, Catalan, Galician and Basque among others. In contrast with Spain, because of centuries of gradual and mutual consolidation across the Iberian peninsula, such distinctions tend to be blurred. It is a subtle, yet important, distinction.

In Spain, as in the United Kingdom, the economically dominant territories (Castile and England) spread their language for mutual communication. However, the political dominance in the UK tends to be sharper compared to Spain, where the medieval territories don't exist anymore. For example, people will never refer to King Juan Carlos I of Spain as "the King of Castile," whereas the British sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, is sometimes referred to colloquially as "the Queen of England."


Hispanic America

Spanish is the official language in a great part of the Americas.

United States

Part of a series of articles on
Argentine Americans
Bolivian Americans
Chilean Americans
Colombian Americans
Costa Rican Americans
Cuban Americans
Dominican Americans
Ecuadorian Americans
Guatemalan Americans
Honduran Americans
Mexican Americans
Nicaraguan Americans
Panamanian Americans
Paraguayan Americans
Peruvian Americans
Puerto Ricans (stateside)
Salvadoran Americans
Spanish Americans
Uruguayan Americans
Venezuelan Americans
History of Hispanic and Latino Americans
History of Mexican-Americans
Christian Hispanics and Latinos · Catholicism · Hispanic and Latino Muslims · Santeria
Political movements
Hispanic and Latino American politics
Chicano Movement
National Hispanic Institute
Congressional Hispanic Caucus
Congressional Hispanic Conference
National Council of La Raza
Association of Hispanic Arts · MEChA · UFW
Hispanic culture
Literature · Studies · Music
English · Spanish in the United States
Spanish · Spanglish
Communities with Hispanic majority
Puerto Rico-related topics
Notable Hispanics
Related topics
Latino and Hispanic Portal

Origins and demography

Hispanic Americans are citizens of the United States whose ancestry or national origin is of any of the nations composing the Hispanosphere. A Hispanic person's status is independent from whether or not he or she speaks the Spanish language, for not all Hispanic Americans speak Spanish. A Hispanic person may be of any race (White, Amerindian, Black, Asian or Pacific islander). As of July 1, 2004, Hispanics accounted for 14.1% of the population, around 41.3 million people. The Hispanic growth rate over the July 1, 2003 to July 1, 2004 period was 3.6% — higher than any other ancestral group in the United States — and more than three times the rate of the nation's total population (at 1.0%). The projected Hispanic population of the United States for July 1, 2050, is 105.6 million people. According to this projection, Hispanics will constitute 25% of the nation’s total population by the year 2050.[8]

Historically, a continuous Hispanic presence in the territory of the United States has existed since the 16th century, earlier than any other group after the Native Americans. Spaniards pioneered the present-day United States. The first confirmed European landing on the continent was that of Juan Ponce de León, who landed in 1513 on the shore he christened La Florida. Within three decades of Ponce de León's landing, the Spanish became the first Europeans to reach the Appalachian Mountains, the Mississippi River, the Grand Canyon, and the Great Plains. Spanish ships sailed along the East Coast, penetrating to present-day Bangor, Maine, and up the Pacific Coast as far as Oregon. From 1528 to 1536, four castaways from a Spanish expedition, including a "black Moor," journeyed all the way from Florida to the Gulf of California, 267 years before the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

In 1540 Hernando de Soto undertook an extensive exploration of the present US. In the same year Francisco Vázquez de Coronado led 2,000 Spaniards and Mexican Indians across today's Arizona-Mexico border and traveled as far as central Kansas, close to the exact geographic center of what is now the continental United States. Other Spanish explorers of the US make up a long list that includes, among others, Lucas Vásquez de Ayllón, Pánfilo de Narváez, Sebastián Vizcaíno, Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, Gaspar de Portolà, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Tristán de Luna y Arellano, and Juan de Oñate. In all, Spaniards probed half of today's lower 48 states before the first English colonization attempt at Roanoke Island in 1585.

The Spanish created the first permanent European settlement in the continental United States, at St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565. Santa Fe, New Mexico also predates Jamestown, Virginia (founded in 1607) and Plymouth Colony (of Mayflower and Pilgrims fame, founded in 1620). Later came Spanish settlements in San Antonio, Tucson, San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, to name just a few. The Spanish even established a Jesuit mission in Virginia's Chesapeake Bay 37 years before the founding of Jamestown.

Two iconic American stories have Spanish antecedents, too. Almost 80 years before John Smith's alleged rescue by Pocahontas, a man by the name of Juan Ortiz told of his remarkably similar rescue from execution by an Indian girl. Spaniards also held a thanksgiving — 56 years before the famous Pilgrims festival — when they feasted near St. Augustine with Florida Indians, probably on stewed pork and garbanzo beans. As late as 1783, at the end of the American Revolutionary War, Spain held claim to roughly half of today's continental United States; in 1775, Spanish ships even reached Alaska. From 1819 to 1848, the United States and its army increased the nation's area by roughly a third at Spanish and Mexican expense, including three of today's four most populous states: California, Texas, and Florida. Hispanics became the first American citizens in the newly acquired Southwest territory and remained the ancestral majority in several states until the 20th century. (See also New Spain.)

Hispanic Americans have fought in all the wars of the United States and have earned some of the highest distinctions awarded to U.S. soldiers ([1] [2] [3] [4] List of Hispanic Medal of Honor recipients). Historic figures in the United States have been Hispanic from early times. Some recent famous people include actress Rita Hayworth and baseball legends Lefty Gomez and Ted Williams.

National Hispanic Heritage Month

The National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in the USA from September 15 to October 15.[9]


"Hispanic cuisine" as the term is applied in the Western Hemisphere, is a misnomer. What's usually understood as 'Hispanic' cuisine in the United States is mostly Mexican and Central American cuisine, which has Native American origins, and not of Spain. In fact, there are wide differences in the cuisines of the different Spanish-speaking countries.

The cuisine of Spain has many regional varieties, with Mediterranean flavors based on olive oil, garlic, and tomatoes, and a great selection of fish and seafood due to its long Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines, while in the Castilian interior, there is a great culture of cured pork meats, as well as roasts and stews, based on beef, pork, lamb, and poultry. The European and Arab heritage of Spain is reflected in its food, along with cosmopolitan influences beginning in the many new ingredients brought in from the New World since the 16th century, e.g. tomatoes, potatoes, or chocolate, and the more modern tastes introduced from Europe since the 19th century, especially French and Italian dishes. It is only in the last ten years that Latin American dishes have been introduced in Spain. Whereas in the US, the number of "Spanish" restaurants is in a growing trend, following the "Tapas" fashion that spread in the 90's.

The cuisines of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and other Central American countries are still heavily dependent and greatly indebted to staples of the cuisine and diet of the Aztec and Maya, including maize, beans, chili peppers. After 1492 these tradition came to be melded with those from Spain to form the modern cuisines of that region. Among the more popular and well known dishes of this region are tacos, enchiladas, tamales, rice and beans, horchata, and pupusas.

Cuban, Dominican, and Puerto Rican cuisines, on the other hand, tend to use a lot of pork and can be heavily dependent on starchy root vegetables, plantain and rice, and the most prominent influences on their Spanish culinary traditions are those which were introduced by African slaves, and to a lesser degree, French influence from Haiti and later Chinese immigrants. Hot, spicy foods are practically unknown in traditional Spanish-Caribbean dishes. The cuisine of Haiti, a Latin American country (with, however, a Francophone majority), is very similar to its regional neighbors in terms of influences and ingredients used.

The Argentine diet is heavily influenced by the country's position as one of the world's largest beef and wine producers, and by the impact that European immigration had on its national culture. Grilled meats are a staple of most meals as are pastas, potatoes, rice, paella and a variety of vegetables (Argentina is a huge exporter of agricultural products). Italian influence is also seen in the form of pizza and ice cream, both of which are integral components of national cuisine. Chilean cuisine is similar to that of Argentina, though seafood is much more dominant in this coastal nation. As another one of the world's largest producers, wine is as much a staple drink to Chileans as beer is to Germans.

In Ecuador and Peru, potato dishes are typical since the potato is originally from this region. Beef and chicken are common sources of meat. In the Highlands is the cuy, a South American name for guinea pig, a common meat. Given the coastal location, both countries have extensive fishing fleets, which provide a wealth of seafood options, including the signature South American dish, ceviche. While potato is an important ingredient in the Highlands, Rice is the main side dish on the coast.

This diversity in staples and cuisine is also evident in the differing regional cuisines within the national borders of the individual countries.

In the United States, with its growing Hispanic population, food staples from the Mexican cuisine and other Latin countries have become widely available as have unique American forms such as the Tex-Mex cuisine. This so-called "Mexican food," which actually originated in Texas, is based on maize products, heavily spiced ground beefs, cheese and tomato sauces with chilis. This cuisine is widely available not just in the U.S. but across other countries, where American exports are found. In Florida, Cuban food is widely available. All of these "Hispanic" foods in the U.S. have evolved in character as they are commercially Americanized by large restaurant chains and food companies.

Racial diversity

The term "Hispanic" is cultural and not racial. The racial diversity to be found among Hispanics stems from the fact that Hispanic America has always been, since 1492, an area of immigration until late in the 20th century, when the region has increasingly become an area of emigration. Even outside the broad U.S. definition of Hispanic, the term encompasses a very racially and ethnically diverse population. While in the United States, Hispanics are often treated as a group apart from whites, blacks or other races, they actually include people who may identify with any or all of those racial groups.

In the mass media as well as popular culture, "Hispanic" is often incorrectly used to describe a subject's race or physical appearance.[citation needed] In general, Hispanics are assumed to have traits such as dark hair and eyes, and brown skin. Many others are viewed as physically intermediate between whites, blacks and/or Amerindians.[citation needed]

Hispanics with mostly Caucasoid or Negroid features may not be recognized as such in spite of the ethnic and racial diversity of most Latin American populations. Hispanics who do not look like the stereotypical Hispanic may have their ancestral status questioned or even challenged by others.[citation needed] Actors Martin Sheen and Cameron Diaz, for example, are Hispanic even though they may be presumed not to be so because, being white, they do not fit the stereotype.

A great proportion of Hispanics identify as mestizo (mixed European and Amerindian) regardless of national origin.[citation needed] This is largely because most Hispanics have their origins in majority mestizo Latin American countries. El Salvador, Paraguay, and Mexico are examples of mostly mestizo populations, with 90% of Salvadorans, 95% of Paraguayans, and 70% [10] of Mexicans identifying as mestizo, with Mexico having the largest total mestizo population at over 66 million.[11]

Many individuals identified as "Hispanics" (based on the U.S. definition) are of unmixed Native American ancestry. For example, many of those from Bolivia, Guatemala, and Peru constitute a majority or plurality of the population as do a considerable proportion in Mexico.[citation needed]

Many Hispanics born in or with descent from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Cuba, Uruguay, and other countries may be of African descent, be it mulatto (mixed European and black African), zambo (mixed Amerindian and black African), triracial (specifically European, black African, and Amerindian), or unmixed black African.

The majority of people in Argentina and Uruguay are largely of European descent; not only of Spanish Europeans, but Italian, Portuguese,German, Polish, Irish, etc. In countries like Mexico, Chile, Cuba or Puerto Rico, people of European descent comprise an important minority of the population. Many white Mexicans, though labeled "Hispanic" by the U.S. definition because of their assimilated culture and country of birth, trace their ancestries to European countries other than Spain, and some to non-European countries (see next paragraph). Nevertheless, in most cases, they have some Spanish ancestry, as the waves of European immigrants to these countries tended to quickly assimilate, intermarrying with the country's local population.

Likewise, a percentage of Hispanics as defined by the U.S. government trace their ancestries to the Middle East, for example Colombians, Ecuadorians, Chileans, and Mexicans of Lebanese or Palestinian ancestry. Many Hispanics are of East Asian ancestry, as in the case of Cubans, Mexicans, and Peruvians. If they were to migrate to the United States, the definition most frequently advocated would consider them Hispanic. See also: Asian Latin American and Asian Hispanic and Latino Americans.

The presence of these mentioned ethnic groups are not country-specific, since they can be found in every Latin American country, whether as larger of smaller proportions of their respective populations. Even in Spain, the European motherland of Hispanicity, recent decades has seen a growing population of mestizos and mulattos due to the reversal of the historic Old World-to-New World migration pattern.

Of the over 35 million Hispanics counted in the Federal 2000 Census, 47.9% identified as white (termed "white Hispanic" by the Census Bureau); 42.2% "Some other race"; 6.3% Two or more races; 2% Black or African American; 1.2% American Indian and Alaska Native; 0.3% Asian; and 0.1% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander.[12] Note that even among those Hispanics who reported one race only, most would also possess at least some ancestral lineage from one or more other races, despite the fact that only 6.3% reported as such. (This is also applicable to the Non-Hispanics counted in the U.S. Census, although maybe in less proportion.)

According to one study (Stephens et al. 2001), "From the genetic perspective, Hispanics generally represent a differential mixture of European, Native American, and African ancestry, with the proportionate mix typically depending on country of origin." [5]

The populations of Iberia (both Spain and Portugal), like all European populations, have received multiple other influences, even though they are still largely descended from the prehistoric European populations, and to a greater degree than any other major group.[13] The ancestry of Iberians has thus received many, (limited and often very localized) influences from the many people which have settled on its territory throughout history including Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Punics, Celts, Vandals, Suebi, Buri, Visigoths, Alans, Byzantines, Slavs (saqaliba) ,Berbers, Arabs, Magyars, Jews and, particularly in Andalusia, the Roma.[14]


Equatorial Guinea

In the former Spanish colony of Equatorial Guinea, the majority of the population speak Spanish[citation needed], there is a small minority of African people who possessed Spanish and other European ancestry. These individuals form less than 1% of the population.


In the former Spanish protectorate of Morocco, Spanish speakers are present in small numbers, located in the northern coastal region of the country. However the majority of Moroccan people are predominantly Muslims of Berber and African ancestry.

Plazas de Soberanía

Since the Reconquista, the Spanish have held numerous emplacements in North Africa. Most of them were promptly lost, but to date, with an approximate population of 143,000 people, the Autonomous Cities of Ceuta and Melilla, which constitute the two Plazas de Soberanía Mayores (or Major Places of Sovereignty) remained Spanish, and the Islas Chafarinas, the Peñón de Alhucemas and the Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera, which constitute the three Plazas de Soberanía Menores (or Minor Sovereignty Places), still forming part of the Spain.

Western Sahara

In the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara, Spanish speakers are present in small numbers and Spanish is de facto official there; however, most people in the country speak Arabic as their first language and also practice Arab culture.



In the former Spanish colony of the Philippines, there is a small minority of people who possess Spanish or Latin American ancestry, or both. The size of this population is unknown due to emigration to Spain, Latin America, and the United States, following the bombing of Intramuros, home to thousands of Spanish-speaking families. Many emigrated also during the Ferdinand Marcos regime. After its decline in the 20th century there has been a revival of interest in Spanish in the first decade of the 21st century.

Guam and Mariana Islands

In the former Spanish colonies of Guam and Mariana Islands there is a small minority of people who possess Spanish ancestry. However they have since integrated with the American way of life. The people living on these islands while no longer speaking Spanish do partake of certain Spanish-influenced activities like fiestas. Also, the native Chamorro language has a noticeable Spanish influence. Spanish surnames are prevalent in Guam and the custom of the women keeping their maiden name after marrying is a byproduct of Spanish culture on these islands.

See also


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