Juan is a Meher Schools parent and member of the Equity & Inclusion Committee.
For the first time after many years of embracing, celebrating, and working in and for the U.S. Hispanic media market, I am using this space to share what I have learned from my heritage.
Growing up in the U.S. as a young adult and through my mid-adulthood years, I thought the word “Hispanic” fully and inclusively described us, those born in Latin American countries. However, some people are now adopting a better term, “Latinx,” a word that not only describes heritage but successfully includes race, nationality, religion, and gender identity.
There isn’t a better way to celebrate the complexity of the Latino heritage during Hispanic / Latinx Heritage Month than by talking about what the word Latinx means and why it transcends all conceivable borders. Whoa! “Borders” . . . stay with me.
By border I’m not only suggesting the most common physical definition when thinking about Latinos, Latinas, and “Latines” in the U.S., but instead I’m using the word to describe everything that separates us from the rest, from the “mainstream.” Such borders are those delineated by race, nationality, religion, and gender.
So what is Latinx?
There isn’t an official scholar or academic definition of this word available anywhere, but that is where the word hides all its potential. The unofficial definition gives the term flexibility and fluidity to embrace a single community made out of multiple factors.
The term Latinx (la-teen-ex) was introduced in the early 2000s in the U.S. as a gender-neutral term for Latino / Latina. The idea was to include those outside the gender binary, such as transgender or gender-fluid individuals. The Latin LGBTQ+ communities have embraced the term because Spanish is a gendered language, and using x to neutralize gender takes care of this challenge in English. Similar to using e in Spanish when saying Latine.
Beyond being inclusive of gender, Latinx describes people who don’t speak Spanish but whose roots are Latin American, such as Brazilians, Haitians, and indigenous Latin Americans. Additionally, Latinx embraces first-, second-, and third-generation Americans who don’t speak Spanish and are mixed-race, but whose culture is as Latin as mine or as a Cuban Son.
In other words, Latinx stands for everyone who has felt left out in the Latino, Latina, Latine communities, and its objective is to make everyone count.
Lastly, Latinx debunks the “bad hombres” definition once given to Hispanics. Our abuelos (grandparents) are not all from the same continent; our political views are not all the same; we have every skin color available in the human color scheme; we are not all from the same country; our prayers are not addressed to the same-named God; and, certainly, our Latinx cultures are unquestionably greater than one language.
Let’s celebrate this month the heritage, race, nationality, gender, and virtues of those Hispanics / Latinos / Latinas / Latines that live under the same roof of the term Latinx.