The first national census was conducted in 1790, and has been repeated at ten year intervals ever since. While census taking has been consistent, the way individuals have been counted and categorized on the basis of race and ethnicity has varied over time. This paper examines how the official census definition of Latinos has changed over the twenty-two census periods. The modifications of the official definition of this group are discussed in relation to changes in national borders, variations in methodology used for census data gathering, and shifting political contexts.

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