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September 16, 2021

Am I Hispanic, Latina or Latinx? Thoughts from someone who’s Still Figuring it Out.

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!

For those who don’t know, Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in the United States from September 15th to October 15th.

And while I did see a joke about this on Twitter, our month-long celebration does not, in fact, start on the 15th because Latinos are notoriously late to everything (although, we usually are). This date is significant because it’s the independence anniversary for several Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico’s independence day falls on September 16th, while Chile’s is September 18th.

As a Black Puerto Rican, Hispanic Heritage Month has always been a huge source of pride for me and the culture that I was raised to embrace and adore.

But lately, I’ve been on the fence (and a little conflicted) about the terminology associated with my community.

If you scroll through Instagram or TikTok or Twitter, there are tons of debates happening about what this month, and our people as a whole, should be called.

As someone who’s inching closer and closer to 40, I grew up using either Hispanic or Latina when referring to my ethnic group. And I’ve used these terms interchangeably, although they technically don’t mean the same thing.

A few years ago though, the term Latinx began popping up in the news and on multiple pages that I follow. Depending on who you talk to or read, the term is meant to be inclusive of Afro-Latinos, Indigenous folks, and those who are gender non-binary, as Spanish is an inherently gendered language. Others believe that the term is offensive, whitewashed, and being used to erase the history of the Spanish language.

I believe that language matters, but it’s rarely a cut-and-dry issue, which is why I’m sure these debates will continue for the foreseeable future. But before we can decide what term fits us, both individually and as a community, it’s important to understand the meaning of these terms and why they matter.

This TikTok video by Erika Cruz, a Latina coach and speaker with a degree in Ethnic Studies, breaks it down to the basics for us:

 

@theerikacruzHappy Hispanic Heritage Month ##learnontiktok ##latinxtok ##hispanictiktok ##greenscreen ##latinxcreated ##tiktokpartner♬ Sunny Day – Ted Fresco

And another perspective from Spanish teacher, poet, and activist Señor Barragan:

 

@senor_barragan@gilbertjrobles3 If you are someone that doesn’t like Latinx, why is that? ? ##katespadenyhappydance ##latinxtiktok ##latinxnow ##antiracistteacher♬ original sound – ChurroBoi

Personally, Latinx doesn’t feel natural for me quite yet, and if asked, I’m still more likely to refer to myself as Latina. But I do believe that Latinx is an important and more inclusive way to refer to the community as a whole.

I think the bigger issue here, as Barragan mentioned, is bringing awareness to the problems impacting the Latinx community, whether that’s combating how others define us or how we deal with even more pressing issues like police brutality, racism, immigration, access to quality healthcare, and lack of representation in the workforce, government, and entertainment.

The way I see it, we’ve got a lot of work to do, so however you identify—whatever word fills tu alma (your soul)—make sure you’re using your voice and your time, this month and every month, to celebrate our heritage and tell our stories and take control of the narrative—para nosotros (for us).

And if you’re not a part of the Latinx community, please use this time to read and learn and listen. Appreciate our culture without appropriating it. Remember that there’s more to being Latino than Cinco de Mayo and tacos and J.Lo and all the other cliche stereotypes you’ve been taught to believe define us.

 

~

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