For as long I’ve been hearing people use terms like Latina, Latino, or Latinx, there’s always been this constant back and forth as to who actually gets to claim Latinidad. Racial identity has been one part of it, but a lot of the confusion I’ve witnessed has always been around whether or not Brazilians or Spaniards should be considered Latinx. In fact, recently fans of Spanish singer Rosalía have called out media outlets for referring to her as Latinx. It calls into question, though, who gets to identify as Latinx. But the reason why there’s confusion in the first place is that most folks still aren’t clear on the differences and nuances between Latinx and Hispanic identities.
Rosalía sings in Spanish and creates music that pays tribute to her native Spain. Many would classify it under modern Flamenco. Her songs have become popular worldwide but her Latinx fan base is large and loyal. With that said, Rosalía, despite being a Spanish-speaker from Spain isn’t technically Latinx. In fact, she was recently featured on the latest cover of Vogue Mexico where the cover line read: “Rosalía + 20 Latino artists making the world dance.” Her Latinx fans immediately called it out.
”Rosalía Spaniard fans are quick to say she’s Latina bc she speaks Spanish, a Latin language, but does that mean France, Italy, Romania, and parts of Canada and Africa, among others that speak Romance languages, are also Latinx?” one fan tweeted.
Rosalía Spaniard fans are quick to say she’s Latina bc she speaks Spanish, a Latin language, but does that mean France, Italy, Romania, and parts of Canada and Africa, among others that speak Romance languages are also Latinx?
Calling her Hispanic is not that hard.
— the bolt cutters fetched ME (@necroliate) July 29, 2019
Rosalia is on the cover of Vougue Mexico as an "Artista Latino." Am I missing something? pic.twitter.com/ata949PFfe
— Brigette Lugo (@lalatinamerican) July 27, 2019
Teen Vogue points out that numerous media outlets have placed Rosalía in the Latinx category, including NPR Latino. She even participated in a Billboard magazine video-interview series titled “Growing Up Latino” that caused a ton of confusion and controversy. But Rosalía herself recognizes that she’s not Latinx and does not identify that way.
“If Latin music is music made in Spanish, then my music is part of Latin music,” she said in an interview with The Fader. “But I do know that if I say I’m a Latina artist, that’s not correct, is it? I’m part of a generation that’s making music in Spanish. So, I don’t know—in that sense, I’d prefer for others to decide if I’m included in that, no?”
Her music also doesn’t touch on Latin American culture at all. Instead, it pays homepage to her Spanish culture and roots. The key here is in understanding that Latinx/Latina/Latino and Hispanic identities are not the same. In order to understand why Rosalía or anyone from Spain wouldn’t be considered Latinx, you first need to understand the differences between Latinx and Hispanic identities. What a lot of folks don’t understand is that Hispanic refers to language—specifically people of Spanish-speaking origins. Latinx identity, on the other hand, refers to people whose origins geographically come from Latin America, which includes countries and territories in Central and South America, as well as countries in the Caribbean including Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic.
Though these countries share a history of Spanish colonization, Brazilians would still be considered Latinxs because Brazil is located in Latin America. They are not considered Hispanic because they do not share the Spanish language. The country’s primary language is Portuguese. And Spaniards would not be considered Latinxs because Spain is not geographically located in Latin America, regardless of the fact that Latin America was colonized by the Spanish. Spaniards would be considered Hispanics due to the language.
It’s also only taken until recent years for folks—Americans especially—to understand that being Latinx isn’t limited to one race. Hispanic or Latinx identities refer to one’s ethnicity—not race! We are not one homogeneous group. Instead, we are racially diverse. You can be Latinx or Hispanic and be black, white, Mestizo, Indigenous, mixed-race, of Asian-descent, etc. The more we make an effort to understand this, the more we can understand people and their distinct experiences. Internalized racism and colorism which stems from white supremacy, is why many Latinx people themselves often feel pressure to identify as white despite actually being Indigenous or Afro-Latinx.
The complex history of Latin America and its Spanish/Portuguese colonial roots, as well as the cultural overlap, is what oftentimes confuses people in regards to Latinx/Hispanic identities. But it’s important to understand these distinctions and this is especially important when it comes to the mainstream press. We need to recognize these nuances. We need to do better.