Why Being of Latin American Descent Does Not Always Mean "Mexican"
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Politics and Activism

Why Being of Latin American Descent Does Not Always Mean "Mexican"

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Why Being of Latin American Descent Does Not Always Mean "Mexican"

"How can you be Latina and not be Mexican?" is a sentenced I have heard through variation from time to time again. As a half Peruvian-half White american, I have come to the point in my life where having people assume I'm Mexican is annoying at best.

Like many of my Latino/a/x friends, it can be tiring if the people you are around, and even friends, never outright ask you about your ethnicity and simply put you in the "Mexican" folder in their brain-cabinet. Sometimes you laugh it off, give them a snarky comeback or hold every fiber and being of your body together to not shake them and say, "Do you know any other countries besides Mexico?" Of course that is the last stage of sanity and you quickly resort to the aforementioned responses.

Before going any further however, it is important to note that the original terms Latino and Hispanic were created by the U.S. census bureau back in the '70's as compliance from activists in demand for a broader term to include all Latin communities. Therefore keep in mind that these are not universal terms, rather in-based terms used to identify these groups within the cultural diversity of the U S of A.

So, what does it mean to be Latino/a?

Well, Latino/a: is a person that is of Latin American origin or decent. Which means, someone who is, or parent(s), or grandparent(s) are from a country located in Central and/or South America.

Latinx: (pronounced "La-teen-ex.) This term is used to include the people of Latin American descent whose gender identity fluctuates along different points of the binary spectrum, from agender,nonbinary,gender non-conforming, to genderqueer/genderfluid. There are great stories and examples of why people use this term written by Raquel Reichard at Latina.com .

If anyone hasn't looked at a map in a while, this one should be a nice refresher:

Now one could ask : so what is the difference between Latino/a/x and Hispanic?

Hispanic is someone who or ancestry hails from a Spanish speaking country or a country that was previously colonized by Spain and therefore has Spanish heritage. So if some of you are wondering, the following map shows the aforementioned Spanish-colonized countries in Latin America:

Therefore, Someone who is Hispanic can most likely be Latino/a/x, but not all Latino/a/x are presumably Hispanic.

For example:

Marc's Parents are from Guyana, therefore Marc identifies himself as Latino, however his parents are ethnically Indo-Guyanese (East Indian), therefore Marc does not identify as Hispanic.

If this was a little confusing, my apologies. Here is a link to a great video by Jessica Learish from Bustle.com in which she asks New Yorkers to define what the difference is between Hispanic, Latino and Spanish. Also, remember that the definition of these terms are ever-changing and not always perfect because it is all a social construct. How does someone who is biracial or multi-racial use these terms? How are people who identify as Latin-Indigenous, Latin-Asian, or Latin-African descent fit in as well? Hopefully the conversation will keep going because that is what is important; to have an open dialogue so that people who are not fully aware of these terms and the social issues our communities face can educate themselves and also promote more discussion and action. At the end of the day, always ask how that person identifies themselves as rather than " So you say your Latino/a/x, what part of Mexico are you from?"Although Mexico is a pretty cool country...

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