News Column

Totals of Number of Hispanics in US House Differ

February 12, 2013
Congress

How many Hispanic members are there in Congress? Turns out narrowing it down to one number is not easy.

There is no dispute about the Senate, which has three Hispanic senators. The House, however, is another matter.

The House Press Gallery, which helps media and House officials get the data and background they need, counts 33 Hispanic representatives in the 113th Congress, not including delegates. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, a nonprofit affiliated with the caucus, puts the number at 31. The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials tallies 28.

The conflicting numbers on Capitol Hill illustrate just how elastic Hispanic identity can be.

Hispanics can be of any race, and some 18 million Hispanics -- or roughly 37 percent -- used the "some other race" category on their 2010 census forms rather than identify as black, white or Asian. Because of that, the Census Bureau is considering making Hispanic a distinct category. On the 2010 form, the bureau asked whether or not people identify as Hispanic, and if the answer was yes, from which country of origin.

NALEO defines Hispanic or Latino as someone who can trace their ancestry to a Spanish-speaking country and identifies with that culture, said Arturo Vargas, NALEO's executive director.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute has no formal guidelines for compiling its list; it simply counts members who self- identify as Hispanic, including Portuguese.

The House Press Gallery identifies as Hispanic anyone whose linguistic origins come from Spain or Portugal.


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