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Oh, that “x”
in Latinx

March 03, 2022

Lately, a new gender-neutral, pan-ethnic label, Latinx, has emerged as an alternative to identify our community with Latin-American roots that lives in the USA.  

Some people think it was needed; others think it is weird. Some like it -nobody seems to love it- and some hate that “x”

It is a controversial label: according to Politico, only 2 percent of those of Latin American descent polled as late as November 2021, refer to themselves as Latinx. Moreover, still according to Politico, the word has been advertised by the right as a product of the U.S. left or white elites. And as we all know, “perception is reality” … 

Nevertheless, we called our podcast Latinxyz… “Ay mija what were you thinking?!”  our mothers would say!

We were thinking hard… 

 So, we invite you to wear our thinking hat and walk this journey with us:

1-   First, a little history.

Since the Spanish language is a gendered language, words that are not specifically feminine are pluralized using the masculine gender.  That’s how the word Latino, the male default of the term, started being used in the US to refer mainly to people of Mexican ancestry, as decades ago, Mexicans formed the largest Spanish-speaking group in the USA by far. Then, little by little “Latino” was used to describe all people from Spanish-speaking countries. However, as the USA became more and more diverse, some people felt it was too narrow a term. Not only was it gender-biased, but it also did not include all of Latin American countries.  

Then the word Hispanic was popularized in the early ‘80s, first by political organizations and then adopted by the media and went mainstream. At least it was gender neutral and was about those living in the USA.  -People outside the USA did not use this term but instead identified by country-

 And then, at some point, here in the USA, people felt that the word Hispanic was not inclusive enough and had a colonialist connotation. 

Anyway, for decades, although neither was perfect, the two terms would coexist without much controversy. 

2-   A need for inclusion

Lately, a new name has come along, and it is also somewhat controversial: Latinx. 

Why is this relevant?

Because a name is an identifier, a statement. There’s a new generation fighting for the liberties promised in the American Dream. They needed a better name to describe their cultures and aspirations, one that encompasses the transformation of society in many aspects.

As cultural markers evolve, language also needs to do the same. Latinx is a name that attempts to make everyone aware that this community is inclusive. Inclusive of any gender, any label, any socioeconomic and sociopolitical status, any country that shares not only the same language but the same need for a clear and respected identity.

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to our community. We are a complex group, and our new generation is fighting first and foremost for the freedom of naming their identity.

How we define ourselves  will tell the world who we are, what our needs are, and what we stand for. We need everybody to recognize we are not all the same, we are not a homogenous group.

Some of us identify as Black, or Brown, as Half-White or Mixed race, as Mestizo/a, as a man, or a woman, or Non-binary, or LGBTQ; for some, ancestry is important, others see themselves as just American; then again, what about the language we prefer to speak? So many possibilities, can we embrace them all? 

Probably not just with a name, but it is the foundation of an identity.   

3-   La ‘x’ que incomoda

Yes, it is a fact that the “x” letter added at the end of that word makes many of us uncomfortable and maybe that’s why the term hasn’t really caught on yet?

  •     It did not come from the ground up, but the other way around rather: From politicians, the media, academic circles…
  •     It has been stigmatized by Republicans, saying it is a product of the U.S. left or white elites.
  •     We are not used to the “sound” of it. Some would say it is not “organic” to our language.

It is also a name that makes us accountable to our community: It confronts us to our own differences. 

New labels and vocabulary come about because of a new awareness, a cultural change. New words make us think about our place in a sociocultural group. 

And in this case, they make us ask ourselves: Are we taking charge of our identity and place in this country?  Or are we playing along with how other groups have defined us? 

Are we willing to include it in our everyday language?

Or will this word live on only in papers, the media, and academia? Only time will tell. 

It might live on only in certain, specific spaces, and that’s okay too. 

We definitely think that llegó para quedarse. It is here for good. Freedom of choice included! For anyone who wants to use it and for others to understand it.

4-   What’s in our name

That’s how we decided to name our podcast “Latinxyz!!

It just made sense!

First, because we think we need to have these difficult, important, conversations about our own identity as a culture.

Also, because we are not afraid of being both serious and playful and talking about things that make us uncomfortable—this is how we grow as a society.

Latinxyz is a play on words for the name of our podcast because it talks “about this and that”, about  “XYZ” as we say in Spanish … 😉

We adopted that “X” in Latinx as a no-nonsense way that reflects our own principles: trying not to perpetuate systems of oppression, sexual discrimination, gender discrimination, religious discrimination, patriarchy, cultural clichés, and more.

Yep, this is how we feel about the name of our podcast.

If you’re open to it, drop us a note, let us know what you think about it. Whether you love or hate everything we just said, totally fine, we can take it – we’d still like to hear from you.

 Contact us: hi@moirastudio.com and our podcast at clem@latinxyzpod.com

 

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