Happy Latinx Heritage Month!

¡Saludos a mi gente! It’s our time of the year (but everyday is a great day to celebrate our Latinidad)! September 15 to October 15 is the National Latinx Heritage Month (otherwise known as Hispanic Heritage Month, but we will cover this distinction more in depth later). National Hispanic Heritage Week began in 1968, when President Lyndon Johnson issued Proclamation 3869, which delegated a week to honoring the history and culture of Latinx Americans. As time progressed, the week became a month. National Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15, the independence day of five Latin American countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua), and ends on October 15. 

In Proclamation 3869, Johnson officially names this week the National Hispanic Heritage Week. But nowadays you will probably hear people refer to it as the National Latinx Heritage Month. What’s the difference between these terms, Hispanic and Latinx? What terms should you use and when? The first step is to understand that there is a difference. There is a difference between the terms “Hispanic,” “Latinx,” and “Spanish,” and it’s important for you to understand and be able to properly use these terms.

The term “Hispanic” refers to people who were born in or are of descent from Spanish-speaking countries. This includes most of Latin America, Central America, as well as some countries in the Caribbean. These countries were colonized by Hispania, a former province of the Roman Empire, now known as Spain. The term “Hispanic” leaves out indigenous communities, Brazil, Haiti, and other non-Spanish speaking groups and countries. It has racist undertones, as it associates our identity with Spain — the Europeans who colonized our countries through violence genocide — and erases the Indigenous and African aspects of our culture.

The term “Latinx” refers to people who were born in or are related to countries in Latin America. The terms Latino and Latina also exist, but Latinx is a more inclusive term that emcompasses anyone of Latin American descent, regardless of gender. This term applies to Latin America, Central America, and some countries in the Caribbean; it is inclusive of Indigenous and Afro-Latinx communities.

If you are confused about these terms, think of it as a Venn diagram. There is an overlap between people who are both Hispanic and Latinx, but people from some countries fall into only one category and not the other. The term “Spanish” only refers to people born in or of Spanish descent, meaning from the country Spain. Just a clarifier, Latinx is not a race. You can identify as any race and still be Latinx.

For this week’s article, our spotlight is on Miriam Jiménez Román. Scholar and activist Miriam Jiménez Román dedicated her life to researching  race and gender studies. She is a Black Puerto Rican, and much of her scholarly work is concerned with the intersection of her identity and experiences. She opened up conversations about what it means to be Latinx, the intersection between Blackness and Latinidad, racism within the Latinx community, and many more issues. She was the founder and executive director of the [email protected] Forum, an organization advocating for the visibility of Latin American and Caribbean afro-descendants in our society. Along with this, she co-edited the scholarly source “The [email protected] Reader: History and Culture in the United States.” Unfortunately, Jiménez Román passed away this past August due to cancer, but her legacy and impact lives on. We must continue to push and engage in conversations that force us to take a look at the racism which exists within the Latinx community. Then, we can begin to dismantle the racism that plagues our society.

It’s important to learn about and remember the Latinx people who paved the road for us. It’s important to appreciate the Latinx people who are changing the world right now. This month is Latinx Heritage Month, and alongside the celebrations of our culture, we must examine the ways in which we uphold white supremacy and patriarchy with the Latinx community, and work towards dismantling these systems so that we can become more inclusive and supportive.