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The 1940 census was officially released today. (Photo/Getty Images)
While you might have listed yourself as “Puerto Rican,” or “Mexican,” or “Hispanic,” in the 2010 census, this is not how you are going to find your bisabuela or your abuela if she was in the U.S. and counted in the newly released records of the 1940 census.
“The terms “Hispanic” or “Latino” were not used then,” says Mark Hugo López, of the Pew Hispanic Center. It was not until the 1970 census that Hispanics could identify themselves as such.
I remember when I looked at a copy of my mother’s birth certificate (1963) when I was about thirteen and saw that my grandparents were put down as ‘Caucasian’. I was confused about that until I learned that those of Mexican descent were counted as ‘white’ for government purposes at the time. Apparently, in 1940, the ‘Mexican’ category was taken out for the census.