Rae’s Rules to Remember #54: There’s a difference between Latinx and Hispanic

First, let me start of saying that I do not identify as Latinx or Hispanic but I previously wrote about my experiences being on the executive board of the Latino Student Association at my university.

A lot of people seem to be under the impression that the terms Latinx and Hispanic (and sometimes, Spanish) mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably. Well, that’s not true.

*Note: The term Latinx is being used more often to show gender inclusivity*

Let’s start with the fact that Latinx and Hispanic are ethnicities, not races. That’s why when you fill out a demographic survey you have check of whether you are Latinx/Hispanic in addition to something else. What that basically means is that on top of being Hispanic or Latinx you also have to be black, white, Asian or, Native American, etc.

If someone identifies as Hispanic it means they have ancestry in (or are from) a Spanish speaking country.

People who identify as Latinx have ancestry in (or are from) a country in Latin America. (There’s some debate about what specifies as Latin America. It seems that most people believe it is anywhere south of the U.S., some say Central and South America, then people question whether or not it should include the Caribbean, but that’s a much more complicated discussion for a different time).

Hispanic identifies language.

Latinx identifies geographical location.

And yes, you can be both!

For example: Someone from Brazil would be Latinx but not Hispanic because the primary language in Brazil is Portuguese. Someone from Spain would be Hispanic but not Latinx because Spain is not in Latin America. Someone from Costa Rica would be both because the country is located in Latin America and the primary language there is Spanish. Does that make sense?

If someone is Spanish, they are from Spain. That is their nationality as well as the language they speak. Like someone who is French or Italian.

You cannot tell whether or not someone is Latinx or Hispanic just by looking at them. To prove that point, here is the game that I used during my diversity lesson at RA training:

Which of these women identifies as Latina or Hispanic?

From left to right: Alexis Bledel, Gina Torres & Sofia Vergara

If you answered the question with “all of them” them you are correct!

Alexis Bledel is someone that people would say “looks white,” but she is of Argentine descent and Spanish was her first language. People would say that Gina Torres “looks black” right? Well she’s Cuban. Sofia Vergara is someone who people would say “looks Latina or Hispanic” either because of the fact that she has tan skin or because people already know that she has an accent. She is Colombian.

So, I hope that cleared things up a bit. Try to keep this in mind when you meet people because you really can’t tell anything about them just by looking!


About Bookmark Chronicles

Hi! I'm Rae. 24. Avid Reader. Book Blogger. Intersectional Feminist. Gryffinclaw. Coffee & Tea Lover.
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29 Responses to Rae’s Rules to Remember #54: There’s a difference between Latinx and Hispanic

  1. You learn something new every day! I had honestly never even heard of the term Latinx before!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting. How about the Latin countries of Europe? France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Romania. We don’t count as Latin? 🙂


    • Yes they do and I already know that. That’s why I said that the explanation for Latino is a more complicated discussion for another time. There’s no definite definition that includes all places that speak romance languages. I took that into account already and that’s why I stuck to what was considered Latin America.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Do you think the use of racial/national/linguistic labelling is something that contributes to greater equality in society?
        I ask because this is a departure from the movements that wanted (as much as possible) labels abolished.


      • Yes. I don’t think that the labels themselves are the problem when it comes to equality. Given the fact that the social construction of race was built on being able to label people, I can see how some think that it hinders equality. However, it’s too late to change the fact that race, to many people, is something that is visible. I think that labels are important for the purpose of not being able to deny people’s identities. Also, having those labels allows for proof of how certain people are treated certain ways, and being able to identify that mistreatment allows education and activism.

        Liked by 1 person

      • But in reinforcing labels (sometimes of a an extraordinarily pointless variety) are we simply not reinforcing divisions?
        When I was a boy I remember people making a strong distinction between hispanic spanish and castilian spanish. Behind that was a caste system which placed Iberians above potentially mixed raced Latin Americans.


      • I understand how within cultures and across cultures they can (and do) put up barriers but honestly I don’t think it’s up to society as a whole to decide that the barriers need to be broken or how. I think that ability to look past that is a choice made by each individual person. I agree that some labels are pointless and can cause unnecessary divides but even if people are able to see past the labels that doesn’t necessarily mean that they just disappear. They will still be there and people will still use them to identify themselves and others.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I get where you’re coming from, but I see a side-effect of this approach being oppression. Or at the very least forcing people into an assigned identity. Doesn’t laying out a definition make the decision for people?


      • How so? People don’t HAVE to follow the barriers that are already established nor do they have to label themselves. However, because a lot of people take pride in their cultures (even if there are aspects that they don’t agree with), if “society” decided to so called “get rid of labels” a lot of people would feel that their identities are being stripped from them or ignored. Either way, no one is making a decision for anyone else. There are plenty of people who simply refuse to answer questions of ethnicity or say that they are human just like everyone else. Ethnicity after all is, by definition, self-identified.


      • But are *you* not labelling people? If you speak X then you’re Y?


      • No. All I did was explain the difference between two terms that people don’t know that there is a difference between. It’s not up to me do decide how people identify. I can’t, especially if don’t know anything about them. Someone could very well fall into one of these categories by definition and still choose NOT to call themselves either of these terms. Explaining what something means doesn’t mean that I’m telling someone what to call themselves. If you know anything about me by now (which you should from the multiple conversations that we’ve had) then you would know that that’s a line that I wouldn’t cross.


      • I’m sure that your intention isn’t racist; but laying out definitions ends up being racist in practice.
        When you lay out a definition you’re not just giving it to the person who wants to define themselves- you’re also giving it to the person who’s prepared to label them a rapist or a murderer. Just ask the Trump voters.


      • Really? I’m racist now?
        I laid out a definition for the purpose of knowing that these two terms aren’t interchangeable. Trump can’t tell the difference between Mexico and any other Spanish speaking country even if it were broken down in the simplest of terms. Me giving a definition has nothing to do with people that label others as rapists based off of their ethnicity. Me giving a definition isn’t the cause of someone else’s bigotry. But sure, blame me for that.


      • I started by clearly stating racism wasn’t your intention 😉 So no, I don’t think you’re racist now. I do however think that the more people embrace (exclusivist) racial labels, the more they facilitate and reinforce racist ideology.


      • I disagree. Embracing your identity doesn’t reinforce racist ideology. Neither does respecting how other people identify. Because if we shift from race to something else, it’s like saying that by embracing the fact that I’m a woman, I’m reinforcing sexism.


      • Except race as we know it actually is a construct. Being biologically male or female, on the other hand, isn’t. The use of these terms isn’t about embracing an identity, it’s about embracing tribalism. And to a certain degree it’s the revival of the colonial Casta System. If one speaks Spanish, one is hispanophone. If one has Spanish nationality, one is Spanish. How in the world does *latinx* contribute to anything?


      • Yes I know that race is a construct, I’ve acknowledged that already and the fact that society can’t just “get rid of labels” because of it.If you don’t agree with how I see it then fine but don’t keep asking me questions if I’m just going to have to keep repeating the same things over and over. And what do you mean about how latinx contributes to anything? Just because you don’t think that its about embracing identities doesn’t mean that other people don’t. I can’t speak for any else and I won’t bother the attempt speaking on other people’s behalves but someone could choose to look at it either way.


      • Perhaps we can’t just gt rid of labels. But we can make a decision to stop promoting them in cases when/where they don’t have a purpose other than fostering and promoting tribalism.


      • So you think that that’s what I did by giving definitions?
        And if that’s the case then when are labels “acceptable” in your opinion?


      • 1. Yes (although I don’t think it’s your intention)
        2. I think as little attention as possible should be given to labels of that type- and that we should try, as much as we can, to set aside (useless) distinctions. Latino is to me a substitution. A lazy way to refer to *brown and beige* people 😉 And one that was also traditionally used to exclude black people.


      • Okay, I can see that. However a lot more people have recognized the exclusion of the terms and are fighting against it. Also, I don’t think it’s fair that you say that people (mostly minorities in this case) can’t choose how they want to identify. Some people won’t want to use labels but it isn’t fair for you to try to tell those who do that they can’t. How is it any different from white people who identify as Italian or Irish?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I hope you’re not annoyed with me! I think this is a tremendously important debate society needs to be having right now. It’s the only way we’ll figure out what works best.
        In all honesty, to the average European I’d say the terms Irish American or Italian American also seem a little bit odd. Americans mix ethnicity/culture/nationality in a way other cultures don’t. For example,the prime minister Manuel Valls isn’t Hispano-French. He’s not Catalan French. He’s just French. President Sarkozy wasn’t Polish-French. I think if we stick to objective & necessary labels (nationality), we might be able to reduce opportunities for discrimination?


      • Not annoyed, just trying to understand. So you think that nationality labels are okay but not ethnicity?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well, we don’t have much of a choice on nationality. It’s an objective legal right. And it should never be treated as anything more than that as nationality isn’t a causal factor in any behaviour or personality trait.

        Ethnic labels are universally used to hierarchize people- with one group always winning- and everyone else losing. Let me give you an interesting example. The Germans were responsible for the (arguably) greatest horrors of the 20th century, from robbery and exploitation to the holocaust. But if I say German what adjectives come to mind? Efficiency? Organization? The automotive industry? Mercedes? Oktoberfest?
        Society is able to separate nationality from behaviour very easily. Race on the other hand is loaded.
        Say *darkish* man and some cross the street. Others shoot. In that context I feel obliged to oppose certain forms of categorization that I think feed that dangerous dynamic.


      • I don’t disagree with that. However, if we were to stop using ethnic labels when being Latinx or Hispanic is only considered an ethnicity and not a race, where does that leave them?
        And I agree that race can be loaded but for me (while one of my biggest pet peeves is being stereotyped) I don’t want people to ignore the fact that I am an African American woman. It has a huge impact on my experiences and how I see the world.
        When it comes to categorization and all that I think that is a flaw within individuals even though (like we said) the construct was built by society. People aren’t born racist, they’re taught to be that way. If someone is old enough to know the difference between right and wrong and they continue to choose wrong then that’s on them. The fact that you can shoot a minority on camera and get placed on paid leave is a completely different issue although I don’t think that getting rid of labels would solve that problem.

        Liked by 1 person

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