Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 3
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Latinx’s Hidden Colonial Roots

Latinx. This new term has taken the western world by storm, appearing in corporate HR slides, DEI initiatives and so on. As the issue has made its way to the international debate stage over the past decades, figures involved in shaping Latin identity like civil rights icon Dolores Huerta have weighed in on the issue, and the reviews are less than stellar. 

In a 2018 interview for ABC News, Huerta asserted that ‘gender neutral’ terms like Latinx and Hispanic are “[taking] away from our indigenous heritage.” 

Admittedly, it’s a polarizing issue. America and Western culture often impose labels (like Latinx) in the name of inclusivity, seldom consulting the group in question and displaying a blatant disregard for historic, cultural and linguistic nuance. 

While some people’s visceral reaction may be to cry foul and defend the term, there’s more to it than meets the eye, from a hidden history to alternatives more warmly embraced by Latin Americans. 

Where and when did the term Latinx initially come to fruition? Although it’s unclear, most accounts vaguely cite a “white imposition” of the term on the Latin American community, or its first online appearances around 2004 as the term’s birthplace. Having ignored the sprawling diaspora of culture behind Latin-American Spanish, the term has (expectedly) encountered troves of resistance from both young and old Latines, but some say they’ve grown to accept it … sort of. 

Visiting Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies Mariana Peréz says that as someone who first came to the United States to complete her Ph.D., she was initially skeptical, but grew to understand its use. 

“I was a little skeptical because I wasn’t sure what it meant, particularly because in Mexico they used the @ sign instead of an ‘a’ or an ‘o’ to signal neutrality, and that was always a perfectly acceptable alternative in texts and dialogue,” Peréz said.

 Peréz also says that claims painting Latinx as linguistic imperialism aren’t necessarily wrong. 

“[Latinx] started in the U.S., and the country that initially introduced efforts to counter the globalization of the term was Argentina, which first introduced Latine as a way to “Latinize” the word,” Peréz said. Latine remains a term many countries and even their respective governments in Latin America have opted to use instead of the American Latinx

First-year Ivan Goris, a Latine student from the Dominican Republic, says that Latinx is a term made by Americans, for Americans. 

“I consider it to be something heavily based on American linguistic culture, which also means it’s not grammatically correct in Spanish,” Goris said. 

Goris added that many feel it makes those in the gender-curious community who don’t necessarily want to put themselves in the nonbinary box feel invisible, most notably because of X’s association with 0, and nothing. 

Although a Pew Research census from 2020 and a subsequent Gallup Poll from the following year show an increase of 1 percent (from 3 percent to 4 percent) in Latines who use Latinx, it’s evident that America’s supposed pioneers of inclusivity and allyship can’t help but incessantly colonize language under the guise of progress — and this isn’t the first time. It’s happened with many marginalized communities, and even during the Nixon administration’s 1970 census that labeled us as “Hispanics” a term that ties the Latin American population to the colonial powers that massacred our indigenous ancestors. 

So, why not abandon Latinx altogether in favor of a term like Latine that respects grammatical nuance and cultural significance? Some will tell you it’s a divide between the old-heads and the younger generation, but a quick conversation with international and American Latine students alike will assure you Latinx is a term even younger generations dislike, and the reason why is crystal clear; it’s not our word, and it wasn’t our choice. To have our linguistic identity mangled into a word that sounds like the newest iPhone in the name of progress has irreparably peeved the Latine masses, not because we don’t care about inclusivity, but because we care about the preservation of our cultures and are painstakingly aware that there’s already an alternative that respects linguistic differences. 

There is no question about it — this will happen again. Some other marginalized group will have to hold the hand of the newest “progressives” attempting to impose or popularize yet another label upon an overwhelmingly unwilling group, and explain not only why it’s unwelcome, but also why they shouldn’t ever be the ones telling us to do it.

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