Over the past few months, pushback has grown throughout the United States against the use of the term “Latinx,” a gender-neutral term referring to people of Latin American descent.
Hispanic congressional representatives, newspapers and organizations have criticized its use. Others, including the country’s oldest Latino civil rights organization, The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), have dropped the term from their official communications altogether.
In 2020, the Pews Research Center found that just 3% of surveyed U.S. Hispanic/Latino adults self-identify as “Latinx,” while only 23% had heard of the term. The same survey found that its use was most prevalent among young Hispanic adults: 42% of adults aged 18 to 29 reported that they’d heard the term, while 7% reported using it.
In light of recent pushback, the News + Record spoke with several Latin American immigrants and Hispanic community members in Chatham County about the use and meaning of “Latinx.”
Here’s what they had to say:
The word “Latinx” represents to me a disgrace, a disgruntled attempt to influence and change what has been called a beautiful language. I first noticed it in newspaper clippings on or about November of 2021.
— Carlos Simpson, Costa Rican immigrant and member of Siler City’s Immigrant Advisory Committee.
Latinx is a term created by a younger Hispanic generation to show inclusion, to indicate that females, males, and LGBTQ+ are accepted and loved by our community. I started hearing this term about 10 years ago.
— Alirio Estevez, Colombian immigrant, ESL teacher and local advocate for the Latino community.
It was in a professional meeting in 2017 that I first heard the term “Latinx.” I understood it to be a nonbinary term that replaces the gender-specific aspects represented by the words “Latino” and “Latina.” However, I never really implemented it in my vocabulary, not because I feel particular about it. Outside of the academic context, it is not a very common term or a term people go around using in everyday discourse.
The truth is that there are relatively few older adults from my generation and older (not to give away my age) that have heard of the term Latinx. Its use has undoubtedly generated controversy, but some people have never heard of it. I see Latinx most often being embraced and asserted by younger generations. It appears that older generations pushing back against the use of Latinx are tired of labels or perceive the use of it as an affirmation of a particular ideology.
The term sparks debate because there is always debate when you try to put a name or label to a racial or ethnic group. Regardless of which side people are on, the fact that we are having a debate or conversation about a term in the Spanish language reminds us of the power of words. The discussion around the term Latinx has helped emphasize our identity as individuals and community and increased respect for how others perceive themselves. The term presents an opportunity to be progressive and inclusive about non-gender conformity in our society.
— Jisselle Perdomo, Honduran immigrant and member of Siler City’s Immigrant Advisory Committee.
The first time I heard the term Latinx was in 2016 when I was a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Latinx to me represents a protest — a protest against colonialism and the “normal.” I see it as a movement toward inclusivity within a very gendered language, which I love. It also represents another term for queer, nonbinary or genderfluid individuals to feel included and seen.
More so I see it as a term that represents me as a Latina growing up in the United States who speaks both Spanish and English, and as someone who considers themselves bi-cultural, being from both Mexico and the United States, not fully one or the other but both together.
I understand that it defies the linguistic rules of formal Spanish, but that is why I love it so much because it reminds me of that history. It reminds me that I come from Indigenous ancestors that were forced into using the colonizer’s language but were yet resilient, that even some of the words we now use in Spanish derived from Indigenous dialects. Similarly, it reminds me of the Spanglish words that have been formed by my community living here in the United States. It’s a representation of how our language has morphed into its own identity for those of us living here or who have been here for years.
I see the word Latinx as a movement of defiance of the old with the hope of progress toward change.
— Selina Lopez, Mexican immigrant and the Hispanic Liaison’s Orgullo Latinx Pride youth program director.
I only heard this term until recently (maybe in the last five years). For my entire childhood and until most recently, I understood that anyone of Hispanic/Latino roots was called a “Hispanic” or “Latino.” I know that over time, ethnicities will change in how they refer to themselves, and I would like to think that I am progressive-minded, so if this is the accepted term one day, I will most likely be inclined to use it. But as it stands today, I have never used it when referring to myself or anyone else.
More importantly, I honestly cannot tell you what it means exactly. I imagine that it was coined in an attempt to be inclusive. In my opinion, it may have had the opposite effect, as now, it delineates a clear shift from old to new generations of Hispanics/Latinos who are more conscious of using inclusive language (most likely young, college-educated Hispanics).
I also feel that in its attempt to be inclusive, the term Latinx has implications that people who refer to themselves like this have ties to certain political ideals, therefore excluding those of us who do not identify with any particular political belief. If I were to be more honest, I would say that instead of focusing on what we are being called, we have to focus on causes that are directly impacting our lessened quality of life, education, medical access immigration reform. Of course, names are important, they help define us, and it is our presentation card to the world. The change will come whether we like or accept it or not. It is just a sign of the times.
— Norma Hernandez, vice-chairperson of the Siler City Immigrant Advisory Committee.
Latinx is an effort within the USA to be gender-neutral when referring to the Latin American community versus the use of Latino or Latina. I first heard Latinx in the mid-2010s. I recall earlier inclusion efforts such as Latin@, during my time in high school in the late 2000s.
— Franklin Gomez Flores, Chatham County commissioner representing District 5.
It does not mean anything to me, just another label. I heard that word about three to four years ago.
— Maria Soto, family advocate for Communities In Schools of Chatham County.
I do not identify with that word; I do not know who would fit under that label. I always identify myself as Hispanic. I heard that word about three to four years ago.
— Veronica Nuñez, family advocate program assistant for CIS-Chatham.
I don’t use or identify as “Latinx” because I am comfortable with my current identification and usage of “Latin” or “Latino.” From a vocabulary standpoint, it’s the right thing to do!
I would like to add that because we’re not aware of the reasoning behind this attempt to influence what has been called “a beautiful language,” we must be cautious not to jump to accept something that could inappropriately crack the language … think what the language would look like if you put an X on words ending with a consonant.
I urge and implore newspapers, book writers, article writers and proofreaders not to use this word because it could have a devastating effect on the language that has been called “a beautiful language.”
Since Latinx is a term that refers to a group of people of Hispanic descent, I use Latino to refer to myself since I’m male. When I talk to a Hispanic audience, I’d like to use the term they prefer to be called — either Latino, Latina, Latinos or Latinx.
The discussion regarding whether to use the term Latinx is a minor issue, if any, for our community. Unfortunately, some people with political and selfish interests want to create an artificial division among us. Some people prefer to use the adjective Latino since it has been the tradition for a long time and that is fine by me; young generations tend to use the term Latinx to indicate their commitment to inclusion and that is fine by me, too. I respect the decision taken by each person in how to be called and/or addressed. Their feelings and beliefs are to be valued.
I don’t use the term Latinx because I don’t typically lean towards labels for people. In our society, especially in the United States, it is common for people to want to know which “group” someone belongs to, but our culture is so diverse that we can’t put people inside a box or assign a label. Latino, Latina, Hispanic, and Latinx are very U.S.-centric terms. I only found the need to identify myself using one of those terms once I started living in the United States. I often identify as a Latina because it makes me feel part of a larger community. However, when I want to tell people about myself, I refer to my nationality and birthplace instead. I think it tells more about me and my cultural background.
I identify as Latinx, Latina, Mexicana and Xicana because they are all identities that make up who I am and reflect different aspects of my story. I do choose to use Latinx because I resonate with the term in addition to doing my small part to make our language and spaces more inclusive to others. Working with a variety of youth, I want to make sure I am as welcoming as possible and intentional about making safe spaces for them to feel comfortable being themselves with or without labels.
I do not identify at all with that term.
In general, I use Latin American, not Latinx. In my opinion, Latinx is not specific enough and leaves a gray area of whether some Europeans would be included. I am not a linguist, but if we get into the technicalities, referring to someone/something as Latin infers having roots to Latin or Latin-derived, which includes the romance languages, which includes some of Europe.
I do not identify as Latinx, but I do recognize that when Latinx is used, the user is referring to my community and that I may be included. I believe we all have the freedom of expression. Remember, the English language has no official regulatory authority/body. So if individuals/agencies want to use Latinx or Latin American, in my opinion, that is their freedom of choice.
I, personally, prefer Latin American because it reinforces that we too are Americans and because Latin American is also more specific, in reference to the Americas. It is also gender-neutral.
— Gomez Flores
I do not use it and I do not identify myself as one. The term “Latinx” has been embraced by the Latin LGBTQ+ communities. However, not everyone in the Hispanic/Latino community identifies with that term. I prefer Hispanic/Latino because they are more inclusive terms.
I disagree that a very small percentage of Hispanics/Latinos wanted to be called “Latinx” and then everybody decided to call Hispanic/Latinos “Latinx” without asking us if we wanted to be called “Latinx.”
I do not use it and do not identify myself as a Latinx. By definition it’s a word that I do not understand. I prefer Hispanic/Latino because that is what I have learned since I was a little girl.
I do not like that people call us “Latinx” without asking us if we want to be called that.
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