Art, Culture, & Creative Minds

The “X” in Latinx

It has been in my personal and academic experience that many have a negative idea when it comes to using “Latinx” rather than “Latino/a”. It is important to remember that utilizing either or is up to personal preference and neither choice is wrong.

Let us first define some terminology:

  • Latino/a: a person who inhabits a Latin American country or who’s origin is Latin American but lives in another country (i.e., the U.S.).
  • Hispanic: a person who still has familial ties in Spain; a term given to generalize all Spanish speaking people who live in the U.S. only and was first seen during Richard Nixon’s presidential term; term is not used at all in any Spanish speaking countries.
  • Chicano/a: a term created for and by those who were raised in the U.S. but face racial prejudice and stereotyping from both their country of origin & the U.S.; the term implies political rebellion and unity regardless of country of origin; coined primarily by Mexican-Americans circa 1960’s-1970’s from the word “Chico/a”, meaning “boy” or “girl”; often times spelled as “Xicano/a”.
  • “X”: neutralizes the gender when referring to people of Latin American origin; used as a non-binary identifier; an homage to indigenous speaking languages as a means to feel closer to ancestral roots; for example, “Latinx” is pronounced as “La-teen-eh”.
  • Machismo: a negative culturally constructed concept that is prevalent in the Latinx community in which men are superior to females; specific ideas of what proper masculinity looks like for men; the belief that men and women must have specific gender roles to obtain “proper” family values; pronounced “ma-cheez-mo”.

As you may have gathered by now, identity plays a major role in Latinx culture. Translating this to the real-world however is more challenging because there is division among the Latinx population for a number of reasons; machismo being one of them. Machismo entails: sexism, rejection of mental health, hazing, and lack-of sexual education to name a few. We all have experienced it and have seen how it has affected our tios, tias and even the baby cousin who can’t even walk yet. Silence enables machismo to stay dormant in the family; however under certain circumstances, it’s the only option to keep a surface level “peace”.

Whether we care to admit it or not, machismo was or is part of our lives. As an art historian, there is no room for narrow-minded lenses. It is our academic obligation to view art and culture with respect; this is where “Latinx” comes in.

Art History Fact:

Prior to the western-colonization of indigenous peoples, many cultures viewed gender as a state of being rather than a social contract. For many indigenous people, spirituality and deities coexisted within a pre-colonized society. For example in Mexico, the Zapotec culture still to this day recognizes a third gender, “Muxes”; take notice of the usage of the “x”. Spiritual practice and the complexity of the spiritual realm was how people of the ancient world understood their existence in this life and the one after. The concept of genders was not as black and white as it was in other parts of the world.

Let’s put this into modern-day context:

A former friend of mine had stated that the use of “Latinx” was at best a “racial slur” & a “bastardization of the Spanish language”. His entire statement was not only heavily-laced with layers of machismo, but also historically inaccurate. The Spanish language is gender-specific as many Latin-based languages are; languages that were forced upon indigenous people to erase their identity and way of life.

Spanish, English, Portuguese, and French colonizers raped indigenous women for centuries; technically speaking, we all have “bastards” in our lineage. The language we speak IS a “bastardization” of our native tongues. I invited this individual to self-reflect why someone else’s identity actually bothered him. Because in reality, someone else’s way of life shouldn’t affect you in the slightest; if it does, it’s more telling of your own inner struggles with your identity.

This is why it is important for art historians to educate rather than use cancel-culture as a means of getting the point across; no matter how painfully ironic it can be.

Latinx stands for the recognition of how colonization set the stage for the many generations of machismo we still see today. Latinx stands for solidarity with those who are healing ancestral trauma. Latinx stands for the understanding that not everything is linear when it comes to an individual’s identity because we are an evolving species. Latinx is a term of respect.

Latinx Art Blog

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