A frequent question we come across often when referencing Spanish-speaking populations is the use of «Latinx» and «Hispanic» when used to identify communities of people from Latin America or share a Spanish heritage.
While the terms can be used interchangeably, it depends on who you ask that you will get different definitions of the word.
Hispanics are defined as people with Spanish ancestry from Spain or Latin America. Typically the term applies regularly to foreign-born people from Latin American countries. Latino, however, has long been used to identify people of Hispanic heritage that are born in the United States.
The definitions have been the subject of much debate and there isn’t a consensus on the use of either word as of yet.
The term «Latinx» is often used to identify a broader community of people who want to neutralize the gender forms of «Latino» or «Latina» which is aimed at being more inclusive towards LGBTQ communities, for example.
However, a Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2020 shows that only 23% of U.S. adults who self-identify as Hispanic or Latino have ever heard of the term «Latinx». Of those, 65% refused the term altogether and still preferred the term Latino o Hispanic.
Furthermore, Pew Research Center adds that only 3% of young Hispanics use the gender-neutral, pan-ethnic label of Latinx.
«The emergence of Latinx coincides with a global movement to introduce gender-neutral nouns and pronouns into many languages whose grammar has traditionally used male or female constructions. In the United States, the first uses of Latinx appeared more than a decade ago. It was added to a widely used English dictionary in 2018, reflecting its greater use.» Says Pew Research about the subject.
Some Hispanics have gone as far as declaring the term «Culture cancelling, derogatory and insulting» since the whole Spanish language is based on gender and these roles are widely viewed as being very important in the largely conservative communities where Spanish is spoken.
Most foreign born Hispanics reject the term while a higher percentage of American-born use it.
In terms of usage, there are several suggested rules of etiquette to follow in the use of these terms.
It is always best to respect the wishes of the person or persons being addressed. Some individuals or communities will clearly prefer the term «Hispanic» and others will ask to be addressed as «Latinx».
- Ask by what term the person prefers to be addressed.
- If unable to ask for preference, it is best to use both terms independently or choose one that fits the demographic you want to address.
- Consider that the term «Latino» or «Latina» can be limiting to some people and others may be offended by the term «Latinx».