A message from the Latinx community
Show Some Skin | Thursday, September 20, 2018
The use of Latinx is intended as a gender-neutral term. It is also used in contrast to Hispanics as a way to encompass anyone from Latin American origin or ancestry. It is in no way meant to offend anyone. Although not the official term, Latinxs is used as the plurality form of Latinx.
The celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15) has arrived. This month is intended to recognize and honor the impact the Hispanic and Latinx communities have in the United States. The observation started off as only a week in 1968, and was later expanded to an entire month in 1988 under President Reagan. Now, the month is dedicated to celebrating our various cultures, histories and presences “that enrich the spiritual, cultural, economic and political life of the U.S.,” as Director of the Institute for Latino Studies Luis Fraga said in an email correspondence.
Despite making up roughly 18 percent of the U.S. population, and being the second fastest-growing ethnic group, Latinxs still have many false notions about them. Misconceptions that often offend and can jeopardize relationships with us. So, from the Latinx community — on campus and nationwide — to you, here are seven misconceptions about us which we would like to clear up.
1) We are not all Mexicans
It is extremely important to us that we get this off of our chest, so I’ll say it again. Not every Latinx individual is from Mexico. We come from more than 20 countries. We are from La Repbulica Dominicana, Colombia, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Haiti, Ecuador and so many more countries besides Mexico. The Mexican hegemony within the Latinx community creates a bias towards the Mexican culture and traditions as the accepted norm. It becomes synonymous with Latinxs when in reality, they are but one group within the whole community.
2) Not all Latinxs look alike
Because we all come from different countries, not every Latinx resembles the caricature the media portrays us to be. We are all not short, tan and curvy human beings. Nor do we do go around wearing sombreros and sarapes. Some of us are tall and thin. We can have light skin and we can have dark skin, too. And some of us are tired of the lack of representation of Afro-Latinxs. Hello, we exist and we need to be heard! Latin America has a large African-descended population, but somehow, our history is forgotten. And Asian Latinxs, we are here too. Latinxs come in all races. There is not a single description of what a Latinx person looks like. We all look different, and that in no way diminishes our Latinidad!
3) We do not all speak Spanish
Considering the previous two points, not every Latinx speaks Spanish and that is OKAY! The term Latinx encompasses all countries of Latin America origin, even those without Spanish-speaking origin, such as Brasil or Haiti. Latinxs from Brazil speak Portuguese and in Haiti, the official languages are French and Haitian Creole. Some of us grew up in the United States as second, third, fourth generations, and thus our primary language is English. Do not assume when we tell you that we are Latinx that the SAP button has switched on. It does not work like that.
4) We’re not all radically religious Catholics
People like to think of Latinxs as being extremely Catholic. They picture us fondling small tokens of La Virgen de Guadalupe, praying every day in front of an altar decorated with flowers and pictures of Juan Gabriel or Chente. Not all of us are Catholic. In fact, only about 55 percent of us consider ourselves Catholic. Roughly 22 percent of Latinxs are Protestants, while 18 percent are unaffiliated. Moreover, some of us who are Catholic are not as “hardcore” as people think us to be.
5) All Latinxs are not undocumented immigrants
Do not assume that every Latinx person you meet is undocumented. People appear to forget that the Latinx community has been present in the United States practically since the beginning of colonization. Many of us, as stated before, are third or fourth-generation Latinxs. Some of us were born in the United States, and are therefore naturalized citizens. Furthermore, some of us are residents or visa holders. Some of us are undocumented, but that doesn’t diminish who we are as human beings (P.S. no human being is illegal so do not even go there).
6) Do NOT refer to us as feisty, macho, caliente, exotic etc
First of all, no. Second of all, excuse you. Third of all, do NOT describe us as if we were a plate of food. We accept that we are passionate people, but that does not give anyone the permission to call us feisty. As for macho, some of us are just your typical guy. Our traditions may be different than yours, but do not refer to us as exotic as if we were an object. We do not have a higher body temperature than anyone else, so there really is no reason to call us caliente, either. Honestly, these terms are not compliments, but instead continue to objectify us, so just stop.
7) Latinxs are not all fantastic salsa dancers
We don’t all love to dance salsa. People do realize that there are more types of dances within our cultures, right? Different cultures have different popular dances so not all of us know how to salsa. Some of us even suck at dancing, truthfully. But, many of us do love Salsa Night and are wondering where our nights have gone, @Legends? Can we please work on bringing back our three nights a term? Thank you!
“Hispanic Heritage Month gives us the opportunity to build broader understanding of how [Latinxs] share a linked fate and common destiny with all Americans,” said Professor Fraga. Indeed, Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to learn about all the different cultures within the Latinx community. Honestly, if you want to better understand our culture and heritage, we’d much rather have you ask us directly than to go around believing misconceptions. We are here and we are proud of our cultures — Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!
Odalis Gonzalez can be reached at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.