I wasn’t surprised when Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders banned the use of the word Latinx in state government. She is a Republican and was the spokesperson for Donald Trump, who promoted anti-immigrant and anti-Latino rhetoric and policies.
But now a group of Democratic Latino politicians in Connecticut are jumping on the anti-Latinx bandwagon.
Geraldo Reyes Jr., a Connecticut state representative, is chief sponsor of the bill, HB 6384, sponsored with four other Latino Democrats, Christopher Rosario, Juan Candelaria, Robert Sanchez and Minnie Gonzalez.
They argue Latinx is not a Spanish word but a “woke” term offensive to the large Puerto Rican population in the state.
“The Spanish language, which is centuries old, defaults to Latino for everybody,” Reyes said in The Guardian. “It’s all-inclusive. They didn’t need to create a word, it already exists.”
They are mistaken. Latinx is a word that is meant to be inclusive and gender neutral. It first gained traction within the Latino LGBTQ community more than 20 years ago. Today, it is more commonly used in academia and also by the younger generation and the LGBTQ community.
One could argue that Latinos is a patriarchal language. Nouns that end in “o” are masculine and nouns that end in “a” are feminine. Although there are a few exceptions.
But the “o” trumps the “a.” If you have a group of 11 Latina women and 1 Latino man, then the word used in Spanish to describe the group is Latinos. Why do 11 Latina women count less than one Latino man? They shouldn’t and that is why some people prefer the “x.”
It is true that less than 3 percent of Latinos/as use the term, according to Pew Research.
But if politicians on the East Coast or South start banning Latinx, we could see West Coasters move to ban Hispanic.
Hispanic is a term coined by the U.S. Census and that is why some people oppose it. It’s also more popularly used in states like Florida and Texas, and less so in California.
In California, Latino is more commonly used and so is Chicano/a/x, Latinx and Latine.
Latine also is meant to be a gender neutral term. Some people accept it more than Latinx because the “e” it’s easier to pronounce in Spanish. The ending of Latine sounds like estudiante.
We should not legislate language, which is constantly evolving. We have to respect the diversity of terms we use to define ourselves – including Latinx, Latine, Latino/a, Chicano/a and even Hispanic. Some even use Latino American. I would argue that is redundant because Latinos are Americans.
Studies also show that most Latinos/as/xs/es identify more with their country of origin than with a broader umbrella term. They would say Mexican, Mexican American, Cuban, Cuban American or Puerto Rican before they use an umbrella term.
The reality is there is not one word that will make everyone happy. There is no correct answer. There is no single word that can define the entire diverse community of people of Latin American origin. We have to respect the right to choose for us to decide what we want to be called. If some people want to use the “o” the “a” the “x” or the “e,” we should let them.
Banning Latinx is an attack on our community, and especially harmful to our LGBTQ brothers, sisters and friends. It’s also a distraction from the issues that really matter to our Latino/a/x/e community. Let’s not get bogged down by las palabras