If someone from Portuguese or Brazilian heritage had to fill out a census form, what would they call themselves? That is the one-million dollar question that the Portuguese American Leadership Council of the United States (PALCUS) wants us to answer.
According to PALCUS, the U.S. Census Bureau is looking into whether to offer Portuguese as a choice on the 2020 Census (Portuguese is not among the ethnicity lists on the Census forms). Currently, many Portuguese and Brazilians just say “other” on their forms and write in Portuguese or Brazilian and choose Hispanic or some other combination.

The term Hispanic was adopted by the Census Bureau on their forms in 1970 and it was used for the first time in the 70s by Government agencies seeking to classify people of Spanish origin. Not all who speak Spanish are content with the Hispanic classification, especially those in the Caribbean and Central and South America. As you know, Brazilians, who do not speak Spanish, are Latinos, but Portuguese who share the Iberian Peninsula with Spain may not want to be called “Latino” or “Hispanic.” And the U.S. Department of Labor also allows people to self-designate as a Hispanic, if they are Portuguese, and it cannot be contested.

Wikipedia defines “Hispanic as an ethnonym that denotes a relationship to Spain or, in some definitions, to ancient Hispania, which comprised the Iberian Peninsula including the modern states of Andorra, Portugal, and Spain and the British Crown Dependency of Gibraltar. Today, organizations in the United States use the term to refer to persons with a historical and cultural relationship either with Spain and Portugal or only with Spain.”

Then again, the United States government does not offer a uniform definition of Hispanics. The Department of Transportation recognizes Portuguese as Hispanic, as does the Small Business Administration, but the Census Bureau still does not. And in 2020, it will recognize the Portuguese and Brazilians as something, but just what remains to be seen.

PALCUS President Fernando Rosa says that “As of now, we have no classification.” He continues:“We either are falling into the white category, the black category or the Hispanic category. At this point, the Census (Bureau) is trying to revise the definition and we are hoping we will fall into a category where people are comfortable.”

What do you think? Click here to take PALCUS survey.