In this study, we evaluated the extent to which regional history has shaped the social identity nomenclature in New Mexicans of Spanish-speaking descent (NMSD). We asked 507 NMSD to list the social-identity terms they used to describe themselves and their parents, and we examined the correspondence between these choices and family ties to the region, birthplace, and continental ancestry. NMSD frequently identified using the regional terms “Nuevomexicano/a” (15%) and “Spanish” (12%). These individuals reported family ties to the region that predate New Mexican statehood. They and their parents were frequently born in New Mexico, frequently chose the other of the two terms as a secondary descriptor, and frequently ascribed one of the two terms to their parents. About 10% of NMSD identified as “Mexican American” and “Mexican.” About 25% of these individuals, and more than half of their parents, were born in Mexico. They also frequently chose the other of the two terms as a secondary descriptor and frequently ascribed one of the two terms to their parents. Compared to NMSD who identified as “Mexican” and “Mexican American,” individuals who identified as “Nuevomexicano/a” and “Spanish” had higher European ancestry and lower Native American and African ancestry. Our results also suggest that the term “Hispanic,” frequently chosen as both a primary and secondary social identity term by NMSD, may, as it continues to rise in prominence, mask more deeply rooted and potential socially relevant aspects of social identity in New Mexico. More broadly, these results indicate that regional history influences social identity nomenclatures in ways that are potentially incompatible with US Office of Management and Budget standards. This incompatibility may adversely affect the ability of researchers in the social sciences to assess the causes of social inequality and health disparities in individuals of Spanish-speaking descent in different regions of the United States. We argue that future studies would benefit from more fine-grained, region-specific analyses of social identity.
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Vol. 89 • No. 3