Jonathan is a Latino food influencer, furparent to a one-year old JRT, avid traveller, multi-linguist, and stagehand for a few Korean entertainment events. He is also an Ecuadorian-American dual citizen. Follow him on Instagram @ meetmeinmytummy and meetmeinmytravels.
If you’ve stumbled upon this post through the magic of social media then I say, Welcome! I’m Jonathan and I am a Product Manager in an ad agency, but I am also an active leader in my network and company’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives. I focus on our Ethnicity pillar.
As I’m writing this, it’s been about a month since I’ve returned from my two-month remote journey in Latin America. In my two months abroad, I took about five days of vacation which means the rest of the time I was working. I find it very important to point this out because there is this misconception that if you’re not in the office, then you’re on vacation. I visited Antigua, Guatemala; San Jose, Costa Rica; San Salvador, El Salvador; Lima, Peru; and Cuenca, Ecuador.
While visiting these countries, I asked drivers, locals, restaurant owners, and anyone that would have a conversation with me, if they have heard of the term LatinX. To no surprise, I found that many folks have not heard of this term and those that did were on the younger side.
I also asked people how they self-identify. Are they latino/a, latinx, or hispanic? There were mixed responses, but let’s take a step back.
How I’ve identified timeline:
Pre-high school: Ecuadorian
High School – College: Hispanic/Latino
Post-College aka Adulting: Latino/Latinx
There was a consensus that most locals in Latin America identify themselves by the country in which they were born. This makes sense because anyone born in the US identifies as a US citizen (you thought I would say American, didn’t you?). It’s probably a mistake to identify as an American in Latin America because you will get a snarky reminder, at one point or another, that Latin America is part of the Americas and they are also considered American. Ya mindblown, or nah?
Anyway, most people seemed to identify as Tico if they were born in Costa Rica, Peruan@ in Peru, Ecuatoriano/a in Ecuador, etc. I asked people if they would further identify as Latino or Hispanic. Most people said Latino since they were born in Latin America. The interesting part was that the people didn’t feel the need to identify as Latino unless they were in the US. Why you do this, USA? (┛ಠ_ಠ)┛彡┻━┻
So this brings me to the crux of this lengthy post. It’s my observation that people born in a Latin American country identify with their country of origin, but when they arrive in the US, they are labelled as Latino or Hispanic.
The discussion point that has received a lot of buzz is with the use of the ‘X’ in LatinX.
I understand the need for inclusion, but the use of the letter ‘X’ is probably not the best. There is an argument against the use of the term “LatinX” which is something that came to light during my trip. LatinX follows the customs of an English speaking country. If we’re using an ‘X’ to replace the -o or -a that identify Spanish words as masculine or feminine then how would we read a sentence like, “Lxs niñxs fueron a lx escuelx a ver sus amigxs.” The letter ‘X’ was introduced, but it only aimed to solve self-identification. Where is the thought for the rest of the Spanish language?
I am personally for the use of the letter e as explained by Terry Blas. The letter ‘e’ rolls off the tongue and fits nicely into the Spanish language.
If I had to examine this closer, I feel that we need the Latin American academics to chime in. Or maybe we focus in on this one portion,
In Spanish, when referencing groups, we only use the feminine ending when referring to an exclusively female group. On the other hand, when we refer to groups using the masculine ending, the group could either be exclusively males or a mix of people. For example, when someone says “los cubanos” an English speaker may instinctively interpret this as “the male Cubans,” but a Spanish speaker simply hears “the Cubans.” In fact, the only way to refer to a group that is not exclusively female in Spanish is by using the masculine ending. Therefore, according to the grammatical rules of Spanish, the term “Latinos” is already all-inclusive in terms of gender.
Like most things, I feel like this will be a never-ending discussion and I will still [do] not know how to refer to my people.
Mi gente, ¿qué dicen ustedes? How do we identify our own group? Because if we can’t decide among ourselves how confused do you think everyone else is? Leave it in the comments.