Latino: Language is Not Perfect, and That is Okay

Rosamelia Sanchez | Editor

The word Latino has been around for a long time. It is often dated to the 19th century, and it has since then suffered many changes. It is commonly used to describe Latin American individuals, including people from the Caribbean and other regions.

Photo from: Adobe Stock, By: Julian Peters Photos

Throughout the years, a few terms have been used to describe the Latin American community. Some of these terms include Hispanic and LatinX. However, as more conversations about gender identity and inclusivity have started to take place, many people are no longer comfortable with using said terms. The word Hispanic is used to describe someone who speaks Spanish, so many people think it is only reasonable to call Latin Americans Hispanic. The problem with this is that not all Latin Americans speak Spanish. Therefore, referring to everyone as Hispanic would exclude people from Brazil, Haiti, and any other non-Spanish-speaking country in Latin America. This lack of inclusivity is why so many people lean towards using the term Latino instead of Hispanic.

If Latino is a much more inclusive term than Hispanic. Then why is there also some conflict surrounding this term?

The short answer to this question is that it does not fit into a lot of people’s ideas of gender identity and preferred pronouns. It is common to use words that end with an “O” to describe the plural of some words and nouns when speaking and writing in Spanish. However, the “O” is also commonly used to describe masculine gendered words. While this fact might seem harmless to many, it does have an impact on the lives of some people who identify with neither masculine nor feminine pronouns, which is why the term LatinX started gaining popularity in the early 2000s.

Then why has the term LatinX been so criticized in recent years?

While LatinX does include people of all gender identities, many have found the anglicization of the word offensive since neither does it belong in the English language nor can it be translated from it. In response to this, some people have started using Latine, which, in a way, can become a gender-neutral Spanish version of Latino, or Latin@, which can be pronounced in different ways. In contrast, many members of the community are comfortable with using Latino.

As a member of the Latin@ community, I think it is always important to keep having healthy conversations about identity and our different traditions and customs. But the truth is that there will never be a perfect way of communicating with one another. Instead of aiming for perfection, we can try to build inclusivity, and be open to change what that looks like as the world experiences its own changes.