As Hispanic Heritage Month begins, I reflect on the terminology and language we all use to identify ourselves. Every day we hear people referring to themselves as Hispanic, Latino/a, Latinx, Mexican American, etc. Often, language is used to exclude or include certain populations, make assumptions, and place judgment. This makes is more important than ever to empower people to choose their own self-identity, to defied who they are as opposed to being assigned an identity.
To understand emerging terms, we must first understand what Hispanic and Latino/a mean and who they are used to reference. These terms do not mean to indicate race but rather merge a people who share a language, culture, ethnicity, or geography I can be Latino/a or while having a different race such as Black, Indigenous, Asian, White, etc. “Generally, Hispanic refers to those people who come from Spanish-speaking countries. This can be problematic because it includes Spain, which is in Europe. And it excludes Brazil, which is in Latin America, because they speak Portuguese. Many people do not see their identity as tied to the colonization of their country. It is even further problematic because in Spanish the word is translated as Hispano, which further limits the population to a person descended from Spanish settlers in the Southwest before it was annexed to the U.S. On the other hand, Latinos refers to people from Central and South America. This does include Brazil but does not include Spain. This is purely a geographic term. This does include many Caribbean nations. However, some countries that speak English as a primary language, such as Jamaica, do not identify as Latino.”[i] They terms have a long history which is problematic and, in many cases, imposed onto people. With all the issues surrounding these identifiers, new terms are being used for self-identification. This newly brought up terminology is self-driven and gives a person power of who they see themselves as.
One such word that is becoming more prevalent is Latinx. This term is used to identify people previously labeled or Latino/a but removes the gendered dynamic that exists with it. “Within academic and activists spaces, some have embraced the “X” in the term Latinx to acknowledge people’s lives, gender, histories, cultures, languages, and bodies in the United States provides examples of activists and news outlets who have voiced their reasons for adopting the “X” in the term Latinx, pointing to the impetus for ungendering Spanish and the relationship among language, subjectivity, and inclusion. While there is no consistency when the term Latinx was first used, the examination of published literature conveys that the “X” was first used in a Puerto Rican psychological periodical to challenge the gender binaries encoded in the Spanish language. Yet, other scholars have stated that it was first used at the front of Chicano (Xicano) as part of the civil rights movement for the empowering of Mexican origin people in the United States.”[ii] There is no consensus as to how and where Latinx originated, one thing that is certain is its use. “Despite its increasingly frequent use, a Gallup poll claims only 5% of Hispanic Americans prefer the term “Latinx.” In contrast, 37% preferred the usage of “Latino,” and 57% preferred “Hispanic.” While it was created with good intentions, “Latinx” is not made for Spanish speakers. Some people just see “Latinx” as a “White thing.” The kind of term that gets used in academics, but not at taquerias.”[iii] Latinx does not resonate with al people, instead, it is beginning to also be seen as a term that is self-imposed. Many are seeing it as too academic and not a term created by the people it is used to identify. Latinx is seen as causing the very harm it sought to eradicate.
Latine is and has been becoming a term seen as more inclusive. Developed by the LAGBTQIA+, gender non-binary, and feminist communities in Spanish speaking countries, Latine is a gender-neutral term whose “objective…is to remove gender from the Spanish word Latino, by replacing it with the gender-neutral Spanish letter E.”[iv] To me, Latine is a more organic substitute and although it may be seen as very similar to Latinx, it is far from it. Many can argue that both terms were created for inclusivity of all genders, however, it is important to note the difference being the creation of the word. “Latine fills the void in a way Latinx never could, mostly because it was designed to work with the Spanish language. It is not an insertion; it is an evolution. A natural progression from gendered terms to neutral ones. As such, Latine can be pronounced and conjugated in Spanish, while “Latinx” cannot.”[v] Latine is a term that, for me, came more from the people it seeks to represent and successfully removes gender from the conversation. “Many academics might feel compelled to continue to use Latinx because they fought hard to have it recognized by their institutions or have already published the term in an academic journal. But there is a much better gender-inclusive alternative, one that’s been largely overlooked by the U.S. academic community and is already being used in Spanish-speaking parts of Latin America, especially among young social activists in those countries.”[vi] To me, Latine is successful in many ways Latinx never was. Latinx is too closely tied to academia which is extremely exclusive and not representative of all. Latine eliminates the gender binary from itself and makes itself inclusive.
[i] Arkansas Advocates for Children & Families, Language Matters” Why I Choose Latine,” https://www.aradvocates.org/language-matters-why-i-choose-latine/
[ii] The History and Evolution of the Term Latinx, http://diversity.sonoma.edu/sites/diversity/files/history_of_x_in_latinx_salinas_and_lozano_2021_s_.pdf
[iii] The History and Evolution of the Term Latinx, http://diversity.sonoma.edu/sites/diversity/files/history_of_x_in_latinx_salinas_and_lozano_2021_s_.pdf
[v] The Tulane Hullabaloo, OPINION: Latinx vs Latine, https://tulanehullabaloo.com/57213/intersections/opinion-latinx-vs-latine/