Letter from the Editor: What’s in a name?

It’s the middle of October in New Orleans, and we all know what that means: fall time. The leaves are changing (kind of), the air is cooling down (sort of) and students are struggle-chugging coffee in Howard Tilton Memorial Library attempting to cram for any belated midterms.

This time of year also marks the end of “Hispanic” Heritage Month, the one month of the year the United States government has reserved to discuss the accomplishments and contributions of Hispanic/Latinos/Latinxs in the U.S. In an effort to honor the contributions of Latinx students, faculty members and staff on our own campus, we have dedicated our Oct. 18, 2018 issue of The Hullabaloo to telling these stories to the best of our abilities.  

On our front page, we have intentionally translated our typical “eyes and ears of the Tulane community” to Spanish and Portuguese to encapsulate only two of the different languages used by Latinxs. We acknowledge, however, that hundreds of indigenous and Creole languages are used by Latinxs in the United States.

One important thing to note and clarify when reporting on matters of Latinidad or Latinx identity in the United States is the importance of labels. The question of what Hispanic versus Latino versus Latinx means, and when we should use which term, is crucial when trying to understand the identity politics of being of Latin American descent.

Hispanic, according to the Pew Research Center, refers to a person with origins traced to a Spanish-speaking country, excluding Brazil, much of the Caribbean and other Latin American countries from the label. Latino, on the other hand, refers to anyone of Latin American origin. This includes Brazil and excludes Spain, attempting to distance Latino identity from the colonizing power. Latinx came about later and utilizes the X in order to make the term Latino gender neutral. In Spanish, because words are typically gendered, Latino and Latina do not include non-binary people who identify within the culture.

To use “Hispanic” and “Latino” or “Latinx” interchangeably can be hurtful, irresponsible and simply inaccurate. For the purpose of this issue, our staff will be utilizing the term “Latinx” in order to both distance from the colonizing power of Spain and allow space for trans and non-binary Latins to be included in the narrative.

As a non-binary Peruvian-American raised in a bilingual household, this issue is near and dear to my heart. The term “Latinx,” though marked by some as “corrupting the Spanish language” (a colonial language that was imposed on indigenous and black people in Latin American either way), creates room for me to exist within my own culture.

With any term categorizing such mixed group of people, however, there are limitations. The issue with even the term “Latinx” is that, though it allows space for non-binary and gender nonconforming people to exist within Latinidad, it also does not acknowledge the differential experiences of Latinx people in the United States. It is impossible for a label to truly encompass the experiences of over 20 countries, a multiplicity of cultures, different races and countless immigration statuses, not to mention language, religion and geography.

To say there is a specific one “Hispanic” or “Latino” or “Latinx” is simply false, just as it is to say there is one universal Latinx experience. This issue is meant to not define Latinidad for the reader, but rather it seeks to explore the different facets of Latinx experiences in the United States.

Latinx history should not be limited to one out of 12 months of the calendar year. Latinxs have continued to shape culture in the United States, and to not acknowledge the joy, struggle and resilience of such an important group year-round is a disservice and injustice.

For some of us, our family members or ourselves crossed the border. For others, the border crossed us. Regardless, it is imperative to acknowledge that without the labor of many groups of Latinxs in the United States, the land stolen from indigenous Latinxs, labor that was forced upon Afro-Latinxs, and black and brown hands that continue to do work deemed undesirable all while being persecuted, this country would be nothing.

Thank you. Gracias. Solpayki.

Best (English),

Saludos (Spanish),

Atispaykiqa, kutimuykuy (Quechua),

Canela López


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