Latinx terms
Photo: Flickr/GPA Photo Archive

Latinx, Latine, Hispanic, Latino/a: What Do We Call Ourselves?

Scrolling through the #Latinx tag on Tiktok you’ll find a mix of your everyday relatable content such as “Hispanics Be Like” or plenty of educational videos highlighting topics important to the community like immigration and Indigenous history. In the midst of all of this content, I’ve come across videos that present opposition to the use of the term “Latinx”. While the origins of the term are somewhat murky, writer John Paul Brammer found that Google Trends, “Latinx” first appeared in 2004. Princeton University scholar Arlene Gamio, author of Latinx: A Brief Guidebook, said the word “died down in popularity shortly afterward” but it once again popped up a decade later. In the last few years we’ve seen it used more and more often in the media and yet, only about 3 percent say they use “Latinx”to describe themselves, according to PEW Research.



Felt like posting cringe today. #latinx #fyp #hispanic #latino

♬ original sound – james


Whitewashing 😐 #hispanics#mexican#latinx#latino

♬ I stay automatic – Tik Toker



Faxx or no? #fyp#foryoupage#xyzbca#latino#latinx#hispanic#funny#Latinocomedy#haha

♬ Big Gangsta Remix – Scro

“Latinx” is a term that has surged in popularity in recent years, used as a gender-neutral term for people of Latin-American and Caribbean heritage. Although the term proposes a more inclusive way to refer to people, according to the PEW Research report, 23 percent of U.S. adults identifying as Hispanic or Latino have heard of the term. What this brings into discussion is the history and emergence of terms used to identify people of Latin American descent. We have become accustomed to identifying ourselves using specific terms. We might ask ourselves, at the end of the day are there terms that are more “correct” than others or is everything tainted by the lingering effects of colonization.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Hispanic as “Spanish-speaking, esp. applied to someone of Latin-American descent living in the United States” and has been used officially to identify Spanish-speaking folks since 1980. The issue with the term is that the word itself is a reminder of European colonization and the atrocities committed against the Indigenous people in Latin America. Its reference to Spain symbolizes the ways in which we have yet to get away from how the colonizer has impacted the community. Later on, Latino/a emerged in the 1990s to refer to people of Latin American descent. It appears that since then, both of these terms have been used interchangeably when talking about anyone who has roots in Latin America.  What is important to note is that these terms that we have used to describe ourselves are not really “ours”. These are identifiers that have been given to us as a way to label us all into one category which brings into question what exactly we should call ourselves.

Terminology is tricky to denounce or uphold. For example, “Hispanic” is an outdated, colonizer label but that doesn’t stop older generations from using them to identify themselves and others. Latinx, in particular, is a term that means something different depending on the person. As we’ve seen on social media and even in discourse held in our own kitchen tables,  there is a strong distaste for it so much so that “Hispanic” is still preferred despite the ties to colonization. For others, specifically gender non-conforming and non-binary people, Latinx is their preferred term. There’s also been an increase in the use of the term “Latine” which is also gender neutral but flows more in Spanish in than “Latinx” and has been adapted by some public figures. 

Something noteworthy about what I have seen regarding this debate against using “Latinx” is that it appears to be mostly driven by men. The reasoning for that is unclear, but one can assume that the patriarchal systems within Latinx culture could be a way to make sense of it. The term “Latino” and even in the U.S. with early Chicanx movements, the term “Chicano”—both masculine terms—have been the default. Masculine terms tend to be the default for the language and for years “Latino” has been used to describe the collective, despite gender. Perhaps the challenge against the use of androcentric terms in favor of something that diverts from it seems like a threat. A threat to a culture that by standard centers men.