Spanish American

Spanish American

Infobox Ethnic group
group = Spanish American _es. "Hispano Americano"

caption = Notable Spanish Americans: Rita Hayworth·Joseph A. Unanue·Nathalia Ramos
Joanna García·Michael Lopez-Alegria·Martin Sheen· flagicon|Spain flagicon|USA

poptime = Spaniard/Spanish
1,103,577 Americans1
0.4% of the US population in 2007 [cite web |url= |title=B03001. HISPANIC OR LATINO ORIGIN BY SPECIFIC ORIGIN |work=2007 American Community Survey |accessdate=2008-10-30 |publisher=United States Census Bureau]
White Hispanic
"'24,452,046 Americans 8.11% of the U.S. population (2007 est)cite web |url= |title=B03002. HISPANIC OR LATINO ORIGIN BY RACE |work=2007 American Community Survey |accessdate=2008-09-27 |publisher=United States Census Bureau]

popplace =
region1 =
pop1 =
region2 =
pop2 =
langs = American English·Spanish·Spanglish·American Spanish·Ladino
rels = Predominantly Roman Catholic·Protestant · Agnostic or Atheist·Jewish minorities
related = Spaniards·Basque-Americans·Catalan Americans·Hispanic and Latino Americans
#Excludes those not listed as "Hispanic or Latino"

Spanish American ( _es. Hispano Americano, derived from _la. "Hispania" now known as _es. "España", the Roman name for the Iberian Peninsula including modern-day Portugal) is a citizen of the United States who has ethnic Spanish ancestry from the southwest European nation of Spain, whether it be immigrating via a Hispanic country of the Americas or directly from Spain to the United States.

Spanish-Americans currently form one of the largest self-reported ancestry groups in the United States, accounting for 8.11% of the U.S. population in the 2007 American Community Survey, as millions of "(Latin Americans)" such as "White Cubans", "White Mexicans" and "White Puerto Ricans" are of direct Spanish descent. Instead, specific most recent national origins are requested. In addition to stating Spanish/Hispanic/Latino in the United States Census, 2000, the respondents are also asked their "race" and "ancestry".

Colloquially, the term is also commonly applied to people whose ancestry stems from Hispanic Latin America [ [ Definition Of Spanish American] ] . In the former context, it is colloquially understood as a synonym for White Hispanic, while in the latter arguably less-accurate context, the term is employed as a synonym to Hispanic regardless of racial background.

Spaniards are just one of over 20 Hispanic national groups — Spain being the only Hispanic country located in Europe, and in fact, the European country where Hispanicity has its origins. While other U.S. citizens or residents with national origins in any of the Hispanic countries of Latin America may be closely related to Spaniards in language, culture, and in some cases also blood ties, to avoid confusion, and for the purposes of U.S. census data collection, the term "Spanish American" is not officially used.

Immigration Waves

The southern provinces of Spain, which include Almería, Málaga, Granada, and the Canary Islands, have been another major source of Spanish immigration to the United States. A number of factors combined to compel citizens to leave these regions: the hot, dry climate; the absence of industry; and a latifundio system of large ranches that placed agriculture under the control of a landed caste.

Basques stood out in the exploration of the Americas, both as soldiers and members of the crews that sailed for the Spanish. Prominent in the civil service and colonial administration, they were accustomed to overseas travel and residence. Another reason for their emigration besides the restrictive inheritance laws in the Basque Country, was the devastation from the Napoleonic Wars in the first half of the nineteenth century, which was followed by defeats in the two Carlist civil wars. (For more information about the Basque, and immigrants to the United States from this region, please see the essay on Basque Americans).

In colonial times there were a number of Spanish populations in the New World with governments answerable to Madrid. The first settlement was in St. Augustine, Florida, followed by others in New Mexico, California, Arizona, Texas, and Louisiana. In 1598, when the first New Mexican town was established, there were about 1,000 Spaniards north of Mexico; today, their descendants are estimated from 900,000 to as high as 2.7 million. [cite web| url=| title=B03001. HISPANIC OR LATINO ORIGIN BY SPECIFIC ORIGIN - Universe: TOTAL POPULATION| work=2007 American Community Survey| publisher=U.S. Census Bureau| accessdate=2008-10-01] Since the founding of the United States, an additional 250,000 immigrants have arrived either directly from Spain or following a relatively short sojourn in a Latin American country.

The earliest Spanish settlements north of Mexico (known then as New Spain) were the result of the same forces that later led the English to come to that area. Exploration had been fueled in part by imperial hopes for the discovery of wealthy civilizations. In addition, like those aboard the Mayflower, most Spaniards came to the New World seeking land to farm, or occasionally, as historians have recently established, freedom from religious persecution. A substantial number of the first settlers to New Mexico, for instance, were descendants of Spanish Jews who had been compelled to leave Spain Fact|date=June 2007.

Immigration to the United States from Spain was minimal but steady during the first half of the nineteenth century, with an increase during the 1850s and 1860s resulting from the social disruption of the Carlist civil wars. Much larger numbers of Spanish immigrants entered the country in the first quarter of the twentieth century—27,000 in the first decade and 68,000 in the second—due to the same circumstances of rural poverty and urban congestion that led other Europeans to emigrate in that period, as well as unpopular wars in Spanish Morocco. In 1921, however, the U.S. government enacted a quota system that favored northern Europeans, limiting the number of entering Spaniards to 912 per year, an amount soon reduced further to 131.

The Spanish presence in the United States continued to diminish, declining sharply between 1930 and 1940 from a total of 110,000 to 85,000. Many immigrants moved either back to Spain or to another Hispanic country (mostly neighboring Mexico). Historically, Spaniards have often lived abroad, usually in order to make enough money to return home to an enhanced standard of living and higher social status. In Spanish cities located in regions that experienced heavy emigration at the beginning of the twentieth century, such as the port city of Gijón in Asturias, there are wealthy neighborhoods usually referred to as concentrations of indianos, people who became rich in the New World and then returned to their home region.

Beginning with the Fascist revolt against the Spanish Republic in 1936 and the devastating civil war that ensued, General Francisco Franco established a reactionary dictatorship that ruled Spain for 40 years. At the time of the Fascist takeover, a small but prominent group of liberal intellectuals fled into exile in the United States. After the civil war the country endured 20 years of extreme poverty. As a result, when relations between Spain and most other countries were at last normalized in the mid-1960s, 44,000 Spaniards immigrated to the United States in that decade alone. In the 1970s, with prosperity emerging in Spain, the numbers declined to about 3,000 per year. Europe enjoyed an economic boom in the 1980s, and the total number of Spanish immigrants for the ten years dropped to only 15,000. The 1990 U.S. census recorded 76,000 foreign-born Spaniards in the country, representing only four-tenths of a percent of the total populace.

Areas of Settlement

Five areas of the United States have had significant concentrations of Spaniards: New York City, Florida, California, the Mountain West, and the industrial areas of the Midwest and Appalachia. For nineteenth-century immigrants, New York City was the most common destination in the United States. Until 1890 most Spaniards in this country lived either in the city itself, with a heavy concentration in Brooklyn, or in communities in New Jersey and Connecticut. By the 1930s, however, these neighborhoods had largely disintegrated, with the second generation moving to the suburbs and assimilating into the mainstream of American life.

At the end of the nineteenth century, Florida attracted the second largest group of Spaniards in the country through its ties to the Cuban cigar industry. Most of the owners of factories were originally from Asturias, and in the second half of the century they immigrated in substantial numbers, first to Cuba, then later to Key West, and eventually Tampa, taking thousands of workers with them. Several thousands of their descendants still live in the Tampa Bay area. Many also reside in nearby South Florida and the Florida Keys.

California is also home to descendants of southern Spanish pineapple and sugar cane workers who had moved to Hawaii at the beginning of the twentieth century. The great majority of those immigrants moved on to the San Francisco area in search of greater opportunity. In Southern California's heavy industry, there have been substantial numbers of skilled workers from northern Spain.

The steel and metalworking centers of Appalachia and the Midwest also attracted northern Spaniards. In the censuses of 1920, 1930, and 1940, due to sizable contingents of Asturian zinc workers, West Virginia was among the top seven states in number of northern Spanish immigrants. Rubber production and other kinds of heavy industry accounted for large groups of Spaniards in Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. With the decline of this sector of the American economy in the second half of the twentieth century such centers of industry have largely lost their drawing power, accelerating the dispersal and assimilation of these Spanish communities.

US communities with high percentages of people of Spanish ancestry

The top 20 US communities with the highest percentage of people claiming Spanish ancestry (and/or born in Spain) are: [ |title=Top 101 cities with the most residents born in Spain (population 500+) | |accessdate=2007-08=02]

"(For total list of the 101 US communites, see reference.)"

# Ruth, NV 3.8%
# Key Biscayne, FL 2.6%
# Island Park, NY 2.4%
# Harrison, NJ 2.3%
# Salton City, CA 2.2%
# Mountainhome, PA 2.0%
# Wetherington, OH 2.0%
# Clearview Acres, WY 1.9%
# Kearny, NJ 1.8%
# East Newark, NJ 1.6%
# Verplanck, NY 1.5%
# Tacna, AZ 1.4%
# Bal Harbour, FL 1.4%
# Westchester, FL 1.3%
# Hastings, FL 1.3%
# Dorchester, WI 1.3%
# Bruce, MS 1.2%
# Big Coppitt Key, FL 1.1%
# Coral Gables, FL 1.1%
# North Arlington, NJ 1.1%

Assimilation in the United States

The decrease in the flow of Spaniards to the United States in recent decades, combined with their ability and willingness to form part of both the Hispanic sector and the society at large, has largely obscured any specifically Spanish presence in the States. As Europeans, Spaniards are the least different from the country's predominantly European cultural and racial origins, they are often perceived as less alien than other ethnic groups, and are more readily accepted into American society.

The Spanish work ethic is compatible with the values of both pre- and post-industrial Europe. Spaniards have a strong work ethicFact|date=October 2008. Leisure time is used to maintain essential social contacts and is identified with upward social movement. Another element of the Spanish character is a concern with a public image in harmony with group standards, even if at variance with the private reality. As in other cultures that motivate people through the fear of shame rather than the sting of guilt, the achievement of these goals is substantially validated through the opinions held by others. This notion is exemplified by the Spanish phrase ¿Qué dirán? (What will they say?).

Stereotypes of Spanish immigrants derive in part from legends created and spread by the English in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when the two countries were rivals for European domination. Revulsion is expressed at the alleged cruelty of bull fighting, a sport that is believed by supporters to exalt individual worth through the demonstration of almost chivalric courage. Other stereotypical images, including exaggerated ideas of wild emotional intensity, create the misperception of Spain as the land of the tambourine and castanets, fiery flamenco dancing, and the reckless sensualism of Bizet's opera heroine, Carmen. Most of these elements are only connected, and in a much attenuated degree, with the southern region, Andalucía. As in matters of religion, northern Spaniards often view the character of life in their own regions as profoundly different.


Though known throughout the world as a "Spanish" style of music and dance, flamenco is mainly associated with the southern region of Andalucía, where Gypsy influences are strong. Flamenco music is characterized by rapid, rhythmic hand clapping and a specialized form of guitar playing. The dancing that accompanies this music is typically done in duet fashion and includes feet stomping and castanet playing. Dancers generally wear the traditional Andalucian costumes described above: ornate, ruffled dresses for women and short, tightly fitting jackets for men. Although flamenco has not become widely popular in America, it can be found—especially in restaurants in major urban areas that have significant Spanish American populations.


Many of the older generation of Spanish immigrants were keen to assimilate as quickly as possible into mainstream American society. As Spanish becomes more and more the second language in the United States, the American-born generations of families that emigrated from Spain have been increasingly likely to retain it in both its spoken and written forms. Newcomers integrate easily into the United States Fact|date=October 2008.

Strong believers in the value of their culture, Spanish Americans make an effort to keep the language alive in the home, and many subsequent descendants of Spanish immigrants are keen to learn the language of their forefathers. Many, however, are opposed to bilingual education in the schools, a position grounded in their awareness of the need to assimilate linguistically in order to compete in an English-speaking society.

A common greeting among Spaniards is "¿Qué hay?" (What's new?) and "hasta luego" (See you later). Spaniards can easily be distinguished from other Spanish speakers by their ubiquitous use of the word "vale", employed identically to the American "okay." However, this last one ("vale") has of late been making inroads into various other Spanish-speaking countries, with the greatest penetration being in Colombia where it is currently in common day-to-day use. Two commonly heard proverbs are "En boca cerrada no entran moscas" (Don't put your foot in your mouth - literally, "If you keep your mouth shut you keep out the flies") and "Uvas y queso saben un beso" (Grapes and cheese together taste as good as a kiss). A customary toast before drinking is "Salud, dinero y amor, y tiempo para disfrutarlos" (Health, wealth, and love, and time to enjoy them).

Family Structure

The structure of the Spanish family resembles the American and European pattern. Grandparents often live in their own house or a retirement home; women frequently work outside the home. The obligation of children to personally care for elderly parents, however, is somewhat stronger among Spaniards—even those raised in the United States—than among the general American population; a parent often lives part of the year with one child and part with another. The traditional practice of one daughter not marrying in order to live with and care for the parents during their last years has not been maintained in this country. The traditional pattern of mothers being completely devoted to their children—especially the boys—while fathers spent much of their time socializing outside the home has diminished. Despite various changes within the family structure that broadened women's roles, most community leaders are men.

At one time, young Spanish women were allowed to date only when accompanied by a chaperone, but this custom has been entirely discarded. Family pressure for a "respectable" courtship—a vestige of the strongly emphasized Spanish sense of honor—has been largely eroded in both Spain and the United States. Long engagements, however, have persisted, helping to solidify family alliances while children are still relatively young, and giving the couple and their relatives a chance to get to know each other well before the marriage is formally established.

Because careers outside the home are now the norm for Spanish women, differences in the schooling men and women pursue are minimal. A large segment of the community stresses higher education, and, in line with the sharper class distinctions that differentiate Spain from the United States, professional pursuits are highly respected. A significant number of Spanish physicians, engineers, and college professors have become successful in the United States.

panish Communities

Spanish communities in the United States, in keeping with their strong regional identification in Spain, have established centers for Galicians, Asturians, Andalusians, and other such groups. Writing in 1992, Moisés Llordén Miñambres—the specialist in emigration patterns from Spain—regarded this as a given, a natural condition, and referred in passing to the "ethnic" grouping of recent Spanish emigrants reflecting the individual characteristics of the "countries" from which they come. But these were certainly not the only type of community organizations to spring up in the United States; a variety of clubs and associations were formed. The listing by Llordén Miñambres shows 23 in New York City, eight in New Jersey, five in Pennsylvania, four in California, and lesser numbers in Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York State, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Florida.


Many Spanish Americans are less active in Catholic church activities than was common in past generations in Spain; they rarely change their religious affiliation, though, and still participate frequently in family-centered ecclesiastical rituals. In both Spain and the United States events such as first communions and baptisms are felt to be important social obligations that strengthen clan identity.

Employment & Economics

Since Spanish American entrance into the middle class has been widespread, the employment patterns described above have largely disappeared. This social mobility has followed logically from the fact that throughout the history of Spanish immigration to the United States, the percentage of skilled workers remained uniformly high. In the first quarter of the twentieth century, for example, 85 percent of Spanish immigrants were literate, and 36 percent were either professionals or skilled craftsmen. A combination of aptitude, motivation, and high expectations led to successful entry into a variety of fields.

Number of Spanish Americans

napshot of the U.S. Census

2006 Community Survey

These statistics show only Spanish Americans who identified as "Hispanic or Latino." If it were to include all Americans who identified having Spanish ancestry, then the total would be much higher. [ [ 2006 U.S ACS Spanish Origin Statistics] ]

2000 U.S Census

The Twenty-Second United States Census, 2000 shows the states with the largest Spanish populations:

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Look at other dictionaries:

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