You may have heard or seen the term “Latinx” around this university’s campus these past few weeks. It’s all because of Latinx Heritage Month, which began Sept. 15.
The official posters for the month-long celebration have “Latinx” written across the top. A compass replaces the “x,” which is superimposed over the full scope of Latin America against a cheerful turquoise background.
Several important landmarks appear across the map in a minimalist vector design.
In order to clarify what each label means, I’m going to list the meanings behind Hispanic, Spanish, Latino/a/@ and Latinx.
Spanish, or Spaniards, are people from Spain, the country to the east of Portugal and south of France. They speak the most formal variation of Spanish.
Hispanic refers to people who are either from a Spanish-speaking country, or descendants of those from Spanish-speaking countries. The term excludes people from nations such as Haiti or Brazil, where Spanish is not the national language. Individuals have different reactions to acknowledging the term “Hispanic.”Since in the 1970s the U.S. government used the term to identify millions of its citizens. Some people dislike it because it connects them to Spanish imperialists.
Latino/a or Latino@ describes people who are from Latin America, which includes Central America, the Caribbean and South America. The @ at the end is used to represent both the masculine and the feminine.
Latinx is a non-binary gender term, which includes everyone of all sexual orientations and of all genders, binary and non binary.
These terms are mostly used by Latinx-Americans.
People in Latin America distinguish themselves through nationalities—saying they are Cuban, Uruguayan, Chilean, etc. Each country has its own dialect, slang, accent and culture. These unique cultural factors are why Latinx immigrants are confused about the labels that are imposed on them, when they move to the U.S.
Latinxs come in all races and speak a variety of languages. Some of them may speak Quechuan or Guaraní, which are indigenous languages. Some may be white, Afro-Latino, mestizos, indigenous, or of Asian descent, as Peru had a wave of Japanese immigrants in the 1800s and Guyana has a primarily Indian and black population.
They may have curly brown hair, straight black hair or wavy blond hair. Their eyes may be blue, green, black and brown eyes. And they may have names like Hernandez, Paul and Murillo.
At this university, the use of “Latinx” is igniting a movement that promotes inclusivity. Using it as the title for the heritage month is a step in the right direction.
“Three semesters ago I encountered the term Latinx at a PLUMAS (Political Latinxs United for Movement and Action in Society) meeting. It’s more inclusive. In Spanish, the terms that we use can be exclusive,” Dennys Amaya, a junior public health major and United States Latino/a studies minor, said.
“It’s going against what a lot of people know, so they might not feel comfortable using the term. Hopefully it sticks and people ask more questions about the term and be more open-minded.”
In addition to the inclusion of the word, “Latinx,” in the heritage month, the tagline, “pride,” was written in English, Spanish and Portuguese. This is to combat the idea that members of the Latinx community only speak Spanish.
“It shows that it’s going through different cultures. There’s not that many transgender Latinx people that are visible so the fact that the term is there, it kind of helps people feel more comfortable in sharing their identity,” Sam Sauter, senior environmental science and policy major, said.
Sauter is also a member of Pride Alliance, a group that provides a safe and supportive environment for LGBTQ students within the UMD community.
“I was in a focus group on the Diversity Plan, talking specifically about LGBTQ issues. I think that’s where we need to address it and try to reach different groups that probably don’t know about these terms,” Sauter said.
Featured Photo Credit: Jessy Jimenez, PLUMAS Vice-President, sits with his fellow e-board members during Latinx Monologues, which was held Oct. 1. (Ryan Eskalis/Bloc Reporter)
Karla Casique is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.