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!