Latinx Heritage Month: We Choose Our Community
“Hisanic Heritage” month begins on September 15th and lasts until October 15th of each month in the United States. Signed into law by Ronald Reagan in 1988, it celebrates the history, diversity, and contributions of a richly diverse and vibrant community.
But who are we? And how do we chose our name?
As new and diverse generations of latinx people grow up and thrive in the United States, the term “hispanic” fades into the background, a relic from an older state.
According to the United States census, there were 55.6 million latinx people in the United States in 2015, making us the largest ethnic or racial minority in country. 64% of us are from Mexico or from Mexican origins, 73% of us speak Spanish at home, and 35% of us were not born in the United States.
Yet these statistics only scratch the surface of the complex diversity and multitude of histories encompassed by our community. We are black, white, indigenous, and of asian descent. We hail from Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico. We speak Spanish, English, Quechua, Mayan, Portugese, Nahuatl and many more. Our ancestors are Aztec, Olmec, Toltec, Maya, Spanish, German, White, African, and so many more. We identify as mestizos, ladinos, gueros, indigenas, afro-latinx, and asian-latinx. There are more pyramids within our lands than on the rest of the planet combined.
And yet there is one thing we can all agree on: we do not identify with the colonizers of our lands, the Spanish.
“Hispanic” is a term derived simply from an assumed commonality of language: Spanish. At the time, policymakers thought that the defining characteristic of our community was its shared tongue: the one thing that defined our people was the language given to us by our colonizers. And because of the emphasis of language over shared culture, these same colonizers, the Spanish, are also considered “hispanic” in the United States.
Obviously, this wrong has to be made right.
In the last ten years, the term “latinx” has been on the rise as the new label for people who hail from Central America, South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico. Emphasizing geographical origin and shared cultural heritage, this term celebrates the history of our people without the machismo of its roots.
The “X,” which has been a focus of controversy in the latinx community, will no doubt continue to remain contentious as we deal with our own machista roots. Representing an effort to move away from the binary gender pronouns inherent in the Spanish language, it is a way of honoring people of all gender identities.
As we continue to move forward with acceptance, compassion, and understanding at the roots of our culture, the “x” will prove less a source of ire and more a source of pride. We, as an embattled people, embrace and support each and every one of us in this battle for human rights. No person is illegal; and no person is invisible.
That is why we at Latinx.com proudly choose to celebrate this time as Latinx Heritage Month. We strive to unite this complex and diverse group of people as one, towards a common goal: liberty and respect. Together, we can enact change.