In establishing the Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy (HJHP) at the John F. Kennedy
School of Government at Harvard University in 1985, our founding editors were cognizant
of the importance of terminology and naming. They sought to form a credible publication that
would bring the US Latina/o community to the forefront of policy debates and that would name
new priorities, challenges, and opportunities for policy makers to consider.
Naming the journal itself proved to be an important endeavor. For decades, the terms used
to define US Latina/os fluctuated greatly, creating much dissonance within the policy discourse.
Ethnic origin (e.g., “Mexican”) and regional labels (e.g. ,“Central American”) were not inclusive
enough to capture HJHP’s mission as a publication. Similarly, emerging pan-ethnic constructs
(e.g., “Latin American”) implied homogeneity where incredible diversity and fluidity exists.
Even with these limitations, our founding editors knew that a common language was needed to
bridge conversations across disciplines.
Our founding editors thus reached consensus around “Hispanic,” a term that reflected
national trends at the time. The term’s adoption by the federal government reflected the growing
prominence of US Latina/os in domestic policy. In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson
announced the observation of Hispanic Heritage Week, an important step in recognizing the
population’s presence and history. In 1976, Congress passed legislation requiring the federal
government to collect and analyze data on “Americans of Spanish origin or descent” in order to
understand how this subgroup was impacted by federal policies and programs. The following
year, the Office of Management and Budget developed standards for this data collection, hoping
to create coherence across educational, health, and human service agencies. Finally, and perhaps
most significantly, the US Census Bureau added a Hispanic question in 1980 in an effort to
obtain more accurate population estimates with which to inform national policy making.
Since the journal’s founding in 1985, the lexicon has only continued to evolve. In 2000,
the US Census Bureau introduced survey language that used “Hispanic” and “Latino” interchangeably.
Similarly, many national advocacy, leadership, research, and civic organizations
continue to use “Hispanic” in their name, while adapting their communications to be inclusive of
the term “Latino.” Today, we too have adapted. Standing at the eve of our thirtieth anniversary,
we are proud to carry our name and legacy with us while remaining forward-looking. For this
reason we have begun to intentionally use “Latina/o” and the plural term “communities” within
our publication, social media sites, and website.
Our Editorial Board remains committed to inclusivity and will continue to publish works
from individuals and organizations that may use different terms. It is our firm belief that, in the
difficult work of naming the policy needs of our community, no singular term may ever be comprehensive
enough for the complexity at hand.