The infants who are included within the Latino categorization are a diverse and complex group. “Latino” derives from Spanish and is preferred over the English-originated term “Hispanic” by the populace represented by this designation. Hispanic was introduced by the U.S. Bureau of the Census in 1980 to represent those who have a Spanish surname, are born in a Spanish-speaking country, or are Spanish speaking. This classification and its use are often misleading, since the people originating from Mexico, Central and South America, Puerto Rico, and Cuba and other parts of the Caribbean are a heterogeneous group who share a partial heritage and language, while maintaining vastly different cultures and lives. These differences in racial and ethnic populations of Latinos include place of origin, number of years in the United States, immigrant status, levels of acculturation, levels of education, degree of English proficiency and reliance on Spanish language for communication, geographical distribution, and level of economic and political power. Research on infants must reflect this rich heterogeneity.
In 1995 more than 10% of the U.S. population was of Latino origin, which translates into approximately 27 million people (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1995). Approximately 63% of Latinos originate from Mexico, 13% from Puerto Rico, 12% from Central and South America, 6% from Cuba and 8% from other countries (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1988). Of these, 40% are foreign-born or were born in Puerto Rico. The Latino population of the United States is quickly rising. In the 10 years before 1990, the Latino population increased by 39%, while during the same period there was an 8% increase in the non-Hispanic white population. By the year 2000, the U.S. Latino population is expected to reach 31 million and make up the largest ethnic group (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1990). There will be 2.5 million Latino children under 5 years of age, and 6.2 million children in the age range of 5 to 12 years. This increase is due to an increase of immigra-