From the WSJ:
"Hispanic" and "Latino" have become embedded in the American mosaic, appearing in Census forms, newspapers and political polling since the U.S. government in 1976 passed a law requiring federal agencies to collect data on people who trace their ancestry to Spanish-speaking countries by aggregating them in one group. The classification is based on common language, culture and heritage. But people placed in that category aren't a homogeneous lot: While the majority of them have roots in Mexico, they also include Puerto Ricans, Argentines, Colombians, Cubans and Spaniards, among others. Indeed, when asked whether Latinos in the U.S. had a common culture, just 29 percent of Hispanics agreed, according to the Pew survey. The lion's share, almost 70 percent, said Latinos had many different cultures. "That catch-all [Hispanic] label has a particular meaning only in the U.S. context in which it was constructed and is applied, and where its meaning continues to evolve," said Ruben Rumbaut, a sociologist at the University of California, Irvine, who has written about the topic.

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