First, I am Puerto Rican.
Second, I am Afro Caribbean.
And third, I am American.
Yet once I arrived to the United States I became “Latin American” or sometimes “Hispanic.”
I disliked both, but one day I found Latinx, and for a while I loved it. However, I have chosen to reject this word to describe myself. The word “Latinx” has been a center of conversation here in the United States among people in LGBTQ communities who consider themselves “Latin American” but do not agree with the limited contextual gender perspective of feminine and masculine the Spanish language offers, basically the “a” or “o” ending, which in Spanish could determine someone’s assumed gender. Using a neutral termination allows the fluidity of gender identity for those people who consider themselves to be outside the gender binary—those who are neither male nor female.
The “X” termination was conceived as a reaction to what our community considers a patriarchal language centered on the male gender as the dominant one. For example, if there is a group of women gathered, semantically, a pronoun we could use would be “ellas,” but if a man were to enter that group of women, although he represents a minority in that specific group, the indicated pronoun would change to “ellos.” The word “Latino” is of male gender termination regardless of whether the percentage of men in that group is less or equal to that of Latinas. In an effort to counter misogyny in our language, the term “Latinx” was devised.
In recent years, the use of the word has brought controversy, as it breaks with the conventional linguistic parameters established by the Spanish language. Its use continues to increase among our young LGBTQ circles, members of whom begin to explore their gender identity and language as well as a term that adequately describes them. The argument has been based on grammar and as to which language mostly represents colonial oppression, Spanish or English. Many of these conversations are also being held by American scholars studying our culture, which in reality are many cultures, in plural; a complex amalgam of races and nations with unique regional linguistic characteristics and dialects.
The “Latin” as a race concept was invented by the French in the 19th century, linking themselves to the Americas’ territories who spoke Romance languages and used as a justification for their invasion of Mexico. Ironically, if a white French Canadian walks down the street, nobody would consider them to be of Latin race. Yet if an Ixchil person walks in, they would be immediately assumed to be of Latin American origin, although that person has not one single drop of European blood in their veins nor speaks any Spanish.
To me, being of Latin origin resonates as of being a colonial trophy for Latin Europe, while “Hispanidad” only covers a very limited percentage of my cultural heritage.
I am Boricua and I am queer, but not Latinx. To be Latinx, just like Latino, Latina, or Hispanic, is to make invisible the African and the Taíno in me. It erases my ties with the Ixchil people and Lesser Antilles neighbors. It centers my cultural identity around European colonizers, perpetuating patriarchy and colonialism. My solidarity with the rest of the Americas is based upon a common history and constant struggle, indigenous blood ties, stolen people, and a stolen land. I know my history and also who killed, raped, and enslaved. I must celebrate those who gave everything to free my people from oppression, not the oppressors. I do not feel comfortable being identified or described by a word that echoes the legacy of genocide and slavery of the Spanish Empire in the Americas.
My perspective is based on a historical context, the evolution of my regional Spanish as well as the evolution of existing dialects, and corresponding to my country of origin. Often we can also find culturally appropriate ways to define sexual genres. Knowing our individual history is critical to our identity, and this is a new facet in the conversation that must be discussed among ourselves.
Hugo Marín González is a correspondent Pittsburgh edition of La Jornada Latina who also writes for infinitelexico.org. Hugo has a BA in Spanish linguistics with a concentration in Latin American and Caribbean dialectology.