Why it Should be Called Latinx Heritage Month

As of Sept. 15,  Hispanic Heritage Month is officially in full swing. Originally known as National Hispanic Heritage Week, it was expanded by Richard Nixon in 1988. How ironic that the president who started the war on drugs, which disproportionately incarcerated hundreds of thousands of Black Americans and Latinxs, wanted to celebrate us for a whole month! But, like many other things, he and the presidents before him got it wrong.

During the 20 years that I’ve lived in United States, I’ve had to choose Hispanic as my ethnicity dozens of times. Yet, like millions of other first-generation women who speak Spanish, I identify as Latina. I’ll never forget the day I finally saw Latinx on a form and how welcoming it felt.

Hispanic means a person from a Spanish-speaking country, especially from Latin America.

Latinx — a gender-neutral term, because Latino refers to a Latin man and does not include women or non-binary individuals —means someone from Latin America and the Caribbean.

I know what many of you are thinking: Mija, it’s the same thing. However, in terms of inclusion and respect for our history, it really isn’t. You see, the reason why most people identify as Latino/a/x is because the term Hispanic reminds us of the fact that the Spanish colonized our ancestor's land, pillaged, and then left us speaking their language. Most Latin American countries have not recovered from the violence and corruption perpetuated by our colonizers. So, if Spain has affected our culture, our religions, and our politics, why should it affect our identity as well?

The term Hispanic also excludes millions of peoples. What about the countries in Latin America that don’t speak Spanish? What about Brazil where they speak Portuguese? The term Latinx is so inclusive that even Haitians, who have an extremely different culture, can identify as Latinx if they choose to do so. French is a Latin language after all, and Haiti is in Latin America. What do the countries left out have in common? They are predominantly Black

If Brazilians want to racially identify as Black and ethnically identify as Latinx, they should be able to do so. And if the month that is meant to celebrate their culture is called Hispanic Heritage Month, it excludes them.

It excludes the mestizxs who come from Mexico and Central America. You know, the people who pull the fruits and vegetables we eat from the Earth every single day. They usually identify as Latinx and make up more than 75% of ALL immigrants in the United States. This month is about celebrating the contributions Latin Americans have made to the United States, from the food to the music to the dancing. So, let’s call it what it really is: Latinx Heritage Month.

If you still think it’s ridiculous to change it to Latinx or to use the term Latinx in general, you should ask yourself some serious questions: Do I really care about the people I claim to celebrate? Who am I hurting by being more inclusive? Would it take any time, money, or energy away from me to change a single world to make millions of people feel more seen? And now that I know how millions of people feel, will I change my actions or continue to use words that remind them of unpleasant realities?

During a time when countless Latin Americans feel unsafe in their homes, I think it is never too late to make people feel welcomed in the spaces they take up. And, I don’t think it’s ridiculous to respect the way others want to be perceived-- I think it’s long overdue.

PS: Don’t indulge in a culture if you won’t support the people who created it, and that goes for every race and ethnicity.

Happy Latinx Heritage Month!