Latino millennials seem to have a hard time choosing the proper term (s) to identify with. Often, growing up Latino meant it was common to use terms such as “Latino,” “Hispanic,” and “Spanish” interchangeably without knowing their differences or origins. What Latinos and non-Latinos alike have failed to realize is that said terms—one more inclusive than the other, the other a product of oppression and colonialism—can come off as a form of microaggression, something many are not conscious of.
No Latino should ever choose to identify with the term “Spanish” unless he or she is referring to the language. To be clear, the term “Spanish” should only be used to identify two things: the language, or a descendant of Spain—no exceptions.
The term “Hispanic” is a term coined by the U.S. Government in the 1970 Census. The term can be used to identify a Spanish-speaking person, making the terms “Hispanic” and “Spanish” almost synonymous. The term “Spanish” is exclusive to Spain and the language itself, where the term “Hispanic” is inclusive of Spain and any Latin American country that are primarily Spanish-speaking. Overall, the term “Hispanic” is used to identify people, nations, and cultures that have historical links to Spain.
The term “Hispanic” has no basis on geography, it is based solely on the language native to the European Settlers that conquered the Americas from the Indigenous. The term “Hispanic” is inclusive of Spain and exclusive of Brazil, due to the fact that Portuguese is Brazil’s official language. The term Latino excludes Spain and includes Brazil, as Brazil is in Latin America and Spain is in Europe.
“Latino” is a term used for people with cultural ties to Latin America. The term “Latin America” was coined in 1860 by the French Emperor, Napoleon III. The term was initially used to marginalize the Indigenous by creating a label to distinguish the land and its inhabitants from Europe. The term “Latino” should be used to identify a group with ties to Latin America regardless of race or gender (although the “o” is used to identify the masculine form in the Spanish language).
Although we can tear into the pros and cons and historical points of each word (none are without a tinge of colonialism, by the way) deciding to use the term “Hispanic” over the term “Latino/a” is a clear marker of the 1492 Conquest of the Americas. The birth of the term “Hispanic” is what the conquistadores used to oppress when discovering the land almost 500 years ago. The term “Hispanic” embodies the bloodshed of the Indigenous and discredits the culture that was native to the lands before it was stolen by its colonizers.
Now enter “Latinx,” the gender-neutral option that strips the masculinization of the term “Latino.” According to Google Trends data, the term Latinx was first used via the Internet by the LGBT community circa 2004. The importance of owning the term Latinx is extremely significant. The term was remixed as a form of identity that is all-inclusive in a social climate in which autonomy and self-definition is more and more critical. Self-identity, after all, is nothing short of empowering.