From September 15th to October 15th is Latinx Heritage Month, a time where culture, history, language, and expression from Latin America are celebrated and uplifted. In recent years, this celebration has come to take on many names; with the words Hispanic, Latinx, and Latine being among the most popular three that are seemingly interchangeable. But are they?
The word Hispanic means related to Spain or Spanish-speaking countries. Many people choose not to use this word because 1) they are not Spanish, 2) they would like to remove their identity from the years of colonialism and genocide that come with the word, or 3) it doesn’t fit their identity properly.
Usually, it is the only option of identification for people who have any type of Latin American heritage, but it’s not always the most comfortable term for people to use, especially in relation to some of these newer terms we’re about to get into.
Latinx is a fairly recent term, derived as a more inclusive form of “Latino/a” and used more widely among Gen Z. Spanish is a gendered language with most words ending in the masculine “-o” or feminine “-a.” Adding the “x” to the end of the words makes space for nonbinary people and those of other genders that were previously excluded from Spanish vocabulary.
As with anything new and shiny, there’s pushback from older generations and traditionalists whom argue altering the words of a language is offensive and unnecessary. It’s also difficult to pronounce in Spanish, since the pronunciation is rooted in the English vocabulary, where “x” has a harder sound than it does in Spanish.
While the word Hispanic is tied to the countries conquered by the Spanish Empire, Latinx predominately refers to someone of Latin American heritage that lives in the United States. This word choice is popular for people that want to show a mix of their identities in one term.
A modern solution to a modern problem? Absolutely! At least, that’s the intention behind this genderless form of Latino/a. This word is the newest of them all, but it’s spreading quickly as it checks the gender-inclusive and vocabulary-friendly boxes of the community.
Appealing to linguistics, Latine ends with a rare gender-neutral “e” that already exists sparingly in the Spanish vocabulary. It flows easier in Spanish and does well to encapsulate the essence of its origin: Latino/a.
While the usage of the word increases in frequency every day, it has yet to become very mainstream, and the percentage of people identifying as Latine is small. However, it’s an important word to remember when referring to the Latinx community in an inclusive way.
Happy Latinx Heritage Month, regardless of which term you decide to use. I hope you enjoy learning about the many different cultures encompassing Latinidad and continue being respectful to the Latinx community and the identities within.