PALCUS seeks to define Portuguese

The PalCUS survey which they hope will influence the US Census Department's 2020 Census forms seeking to have a category for Portuguese.

The PALCUS survey which they hope will influence the US Census Department’s 2020 Census forms they lobby to have a category for Portuguese speakers.

How do you see yourself?
That is the question the Portuguese American Leadership Council of the United States (PALCUS) wants you to answer as if you were filling out your Census forms.
Why? Well, PALCUS says the U.S. Census Bureau is looking into whether to offer Portuguese as a choice on the 2020 Census.
Currently, Portuguese is not among the listing of ethnicities on the Census forms. Many Portuguese have to decide whether to choose “other” on their forms and write in Portuguese or choose Hispanic or some other combination.
“As of now, we have no classification,” said PALCUS President Fernando Rosa. “In terms of actually creating a definition, that is what we are trying to accomplish. 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.”

Census Officials told O Jornal on Friday that no determination on any changes to how categories on the Census forms to appear in 2020 have been made.
Meanwhile, PALCUS has been using social media and emails to disseminate the survey across America. By Monday’s end, more than 700 people had taken the survey, which uses some Census Bureau questions and asks people how they would like to be categorized. The survey takes about four minutes to complete, depending upon your server speed and engagement.
“We are going to keep it up for at least another week,” said Rosa. “We are trying to get as large a sampling as we possible can to add to our date base. We are going to compile it and review it. We have a consultant on board and once we have the final analysis, once we have it all, we will present it to them (Census Bureau) to try to influence the position.”
The issue of what is a Hispanic and what is a Latino remains fluid. The original term Hispanic was adopted by the Census Bureau on their forms in 1970 as it was first used in the 1970’s by Government agencies seeking to classify people of Spanish origin. But, not all who speak Spanish are content with the classification of Hispanic, especially those in the Caribbean and Central and South America.
Brazilians, who do not speak Spanish, are also technically Latinos, but Portuguese who share the Iberian Peninsula with Spain are not technically “Latino” nor “Hispanic.”
Hence, the question and the confusion. The U.S. Department of Labor also allows people to self-designate themselves as a Hispanic, if they are Portuguese, and it cannot be contested.
It sets the table for more confusion. Take the world’s largest and at times questionable encyclopedia – Wikipedia. It lists the definition of Hispanics like this: “Hispanic (Spanish: hispano, hispánico; Portuguese: hispânico, hispano, Catalan: hispà, hispànic)[1][2] is 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.”
Even the United States government is not universal in its recognition of what is a Hispanic. 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.

You can take the survey here.



  1. David da Silva Cornell

    Regarding “Brazilians, who do not speak Spanish, are also technically Latinos, but Portuguese who share the Iberian Peninsula with Spain are not technically “Latino” nor “Hispanic.””: The first part of this is actually not correct. At least for the 2010 Census, the Census Bureau explicitly stated that Brazilians too are neither “Latino” nor “Hispanic.”

    This is the official Census definition:

    “Hispanics or Latinos are those people who classified themselves in one of the specific Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino categories listed on the Census 2010 questionnaire -“Mexican,” “Puerto Rican”, or “Cuban”-as well as those who indicate that they are “another Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin.” People who do not identify with one of the specific origins listed on the questionnaire but indicate that they are “another Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin” are those whose origins are from Spain, the Spanish-speaking countries of Central or South America, or the Dominican Republic. The terms “Hispanic,” “Latino,” and “Spanish” are used interchangeably.

    Origin can be viewed as the heritage, nationality group, lineage, or country of birth of the person or the person’s parents or ancestors before their arrival in the United States.”

    It refers only to those with origins in “Spain, the Spanish-speaking countries of Central or South America, or the Dominican Republic.” Brazil is not a Spanish-speaking country, even though it is in South America, and so Brazilians do not meet the definition.

  2. Fernando Silva

    Portuguese has nothing to do with Spanish and it should not be considered as a hispanic language.
    The fact that Portugal and Spain hostorically constitute the Iberian Pensinsula, it does not necessarily mean that we all have the same traditions or language…
    Portuguese is the 5th. most spoken language in the world and it deserves to be classified individually, by itself.

  3. Maria Isabel Camacho-Santos


  4. This is interesting and complex on many, many levels. First off, I can already imagine the barrage of negative (and racist) sentiment and comments from certain sectors of the Portuguese-American community who have forgotten their roots and forgotten that we too were once (and to some extent continue to be) looked down upon and considered racially and ethnically inferior by the white Anglo power structure.

    Secondly, the term “hispanic” in and of itself is extremely problematic when used to refer to persons who trace their lineage to Latin America/the Western Hemisphere south of what is now the US. It completely erases and ignores the fact that many of those considered “hispanic” by the US government are actually indigenous, African, or some combination of indigenous, African, Asian, European, etc. It is a whitening term, born in Spanish colonialism, and one that has run its course.

    Thirdly, if Portuguese were classified under the designation of Hispanic, it also negates the unique and separate cultural and linguistic identity of Portugal and the Portuguese language and culture that is not — as some people would have it — simply an extension of Spain or “Spain light.”

    Fourthly, we also need to include in this discussion the question of “whiteness” and how “being white” is a social/cultural construct. Portuguese were amongst the many ethnic groups (Irish, Italian, Jews, Eastern European, etc.) who were not initially accepted as “white” in the US… and I would argue that to some extent we are still not, and that should be a point of critical thinking, dialogue, pride, and a point of departure for solidarity and linkages with other immigrant communities and communities of color, rather than a source of derision or shame.

    And lastly, for now, it also begs the question of how we think about folks from Brazil, Cabo Verde, etc. I am all for a Portuguese-American identity that celebrates our unique culture, our diaspora and the political and economic reasons for that diaspora; that supports, partners with, and respects other immigrant groups because they are us and we are them; and that is anti-racist and embracing of all humanity — especially those who have had to leave their countries of origin due to circumstances beyond their control, as far too many of us and our families have had to do — while also being proud of and preserving the Portuguese language, food, music, customs, identity, and nature of the Portuguese people as diasporic and impacted emotionally, psychologically, culturally, and economically by diaspora and emigration: Saudade.

    In other words, I am for Portuguese pride that does not include us being a bunch of racist assholes who kick down the ladder after we’ve used it to climb to the next level.

    The fact that the overwhelming percentage of folks responded to this survey saying that they would “actively oppose” being included as Hispanic through some kind of public campaign (I forget the exact wording in the survey) is absolutely horrific and disgusting. I mean, Really?! Portuguese people are going to go out there and publicly organize a campaign — in the political climate of Arizona and “border security” and a nationwide attack on Latinos and immigrants — saying “no, don’t include us with those people down there, we’re better than them.” And I don’t care how the language is finessed or what the intention is; that’s how it’s going to come across.

    I’m tired of seeing Portuguese people in the US assimilate and try to anglicize and “fit in” with white conservative Anglo America to the point of forgetting who they are and where they come from. That’s not who we are.