In the Spanish language the term La Raza literally means "the race" or generally and symbolically "the people." Its meaning varies amongst various Spanish-speaking peoples. For instance, in Spain, "Raza" may denote specifically Spanish and often of a something or someone of an European Christian heritage. The Francoist film Raza, from 1944, which celebrates ideally Spanish qualities, is an example of this usage. In Latin America, depending on the location, it may primarily emphasize Spanish and European heritage, and/or the family, such as the name Dia de la Raza to mark the arrival of Christopher Columbus to America. In other Latin American contexts, it is used more expansively to describe the race formed by the fusion of White people, Native American and African peoples in Latin America.
In the United States, "La Raza" is sometimes used to denote people of Chicano and mestizo descent as well as other Latin American mestizos who share Native American heritage. The term is rarely inclusive of entirely European or African descended Hispanic peoples.
In his 1925 book, La Raza Cósmica (English: The Cosmic Race), Mexican writer José Vasconcelos described La Raza Cosmica as the product of gradual racial mixing that was already underway in the Latin world. Vasconcelos believed that eventually all of the people within the former Spanish Empire would be completely mixed into a new race.
The term is also used by the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group in the United States.
In popular culture
- "La Raza" is plainly visible as a tattoo across the upper back of the character "Romeo", played by Clifton Collins, Jr. in The Boondock Saints 2
- "La Raza" is a popular song among Mexicans and Mexican-Americans recorded by the Mexican-American rapper Kid Frost and released in 1990.
In the early 20th century, the cognate term "the Race" was used to refer to African Americans in a similar way – to show ethnic pride – particularly by the African American press, with terms such as "race man" and "race woman" used to refer to individuals who demonstrated pride in their ethnicity. Today the term primarily survives in the terms "race music" and "race records" for music of the era targeted at this demographic.