Latinos are the largest minority population in the United States. Although usually classified as a single ethnic group by researchers, Latinos are heterogeneous from cultural, socioeconomic and genetic perspectives. From a cultural and social perspective, Latinos represent a wide variety of national origins and ethnic and cultural groups, with a full spectrum of social class. From a genetic perspective, Latinos are descended from indigenous American, European and African populations.

This study reviews the historical events that led to the formation of contemporary Latino populations and uses results from recent genetic and clinical studies to illustrate the unique opportunity Latino groups offer for studying the interaction between racial, genetic and environmental contributions to disease occurrence and drug response.