The Latin community has undergone significant changes in recent years. Throughout history, the community has pushed boundaries to achieve change. These new political movements were pioneer by a new generation of activists, the Chicanos. This key demographic of young Mexican-American activists helped push the community in a more forward-thinking direction. As a direct result, their vision for change in the community failed to take into account those on the other side of the border. This is important in the term “Latinx”, which does not take into consideration non-English speaking members of the community. To be truly inclusive, we must use terms that are available to all members of the community.
Latinx was first used in the early 2000s, appearing in Google Trends in 2004. The term came on the heels of several feminist and civil rights movements, in which the letter “x” was widely used to promote inclusiveness. For example, feminists the activist used the letter at the end of masculine ending words, taking the words from a masculine connotation to a more neutral connotation. Simply adding “x” to the end of a word turns it into a gender-neutral term. And yet, to consider this a genius modification of the English language would be going too far.
Data shows that 23% of Latinos prefer the term “Hispanic”, while 15% prefer the term “Latino” and only 4% prefer the term “Latinx”. We can look at this data and assume that community members simply don’t like the term “Latinx”. This simplification has been used by many who have objected to the broader implication of the term. Community members who dislike the term at all have flagged its lack of a Spanish translation as problematic. A native Spanish speaker and someone who does not understand the English language has no way of using the term. This is just one pin in the Chicano community’s pattern of exclusion toward members within their own coalition.
Non-sexist terms are important – there’s no denying that. This is a driving factor behind the word “Latinx” which has grown in popularity in recent years. Especially for LGBTQ+ members within the community, which has fully embraced its definition and punctuation, the term fills a gap that did not previously exist. This subsection of the community has only benefited from the introduction of the term as it serves as an umbrella term for those within the community who identify outside of the gender binary. It offers a sense of identity, which comes at a high price.
The terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” both have their share of negative connotations. The word “Hispanic” serves as a direct link to Spain. Connecting an entire population of people to the country that colonized them is not the prettiest thing to do. “Hispanic” also categorizes people from a Spanish-speaking country. Meanwhile, the term “Latino” refers to anyone born in Latin America, from Mexico to Argentina. Many have criticized the term simply because it attempts to lump several distinct cultures into one. For example, someone born in Brazil would be considered Latino, but not Hispanic. Yet these two terms have become fundamentally interchangeable, especially among Americans.
Nevertheless, all these different words have a special place in the rich history of the community. Simply ignoring them wouldn’t solve the biggest problem at hand. New terms like “Latin” are a stepping stone in the right direction. It is a term accessible to everyone in the community, not just a few educated people. If the Chicano community wants to be truly inclusive, they would consider native Spanish speakers. Moving away from terms like “Hispanic” and “Latino” greatly benefits everyone in the community. It is possible to be more gender inclusive while considering the needs of the community as a whole.