What’s in a name? Much for those honored during Hispanic Heritage Month – Cronkite News

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Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in this 2014 file photo from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. While September 15 to October 15 is designated for Hispanic heritage, the people it honors may use different names to describe their heritage, and new ones have emerged in recent years. (Photo courtesy of the US Department of Housing and urban development)

WASHINGTON – Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of Hispanics in the United States and Latinos. And the Chicanos. And Latinas. And…

As the number and influence of Hispanics continued to grow in the United States and the state, terms describing people with roots in Spanish-speaking or Latin countries have also increased. These names have “become a source of debate, and perhaps even at times friction, over who should and should not be included in this definition,” said Mark Lopez, director of race and ethnicity at the Pew Research Center.

For Ada Martin, a single label is not enough to cover the range of origins of this community.

“I cannot speak to how other members of my organization feel, but I do not consider the terms to be interchangeable,” said Martin, president of the Chicano / Latino Arizona State University Faculty and Staff Association. “I don’t particularly like the term Hispanic, because it’s a general term that brings together many identities under one umbrella.”

The american government defined hispanic in 1977 as a person of Spanish culture or origin. Twenty years later he added latino to describe someone from Latin America who may or may not speak Spanish, like Brazilians.

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These “hard and fast” government rules about who is Hispanic and who is Latino are not perfect, Lopez said. Some organizations, like Pew, have decided to use the terms interchangeably.

“When you hear people debate these two definitions, that’s the heart of the conversation,” he said. “The way the government has defined these groups and the way people from those areas choose to identify and define themselves. “

Martin, who identifies as Afro-Latina, said that a label or two is not enough to cover the spectrum of people in the community.

“It doesn’t deal with the complexity of who we are as a community and as Afro-Latina,” she said of the term Hispanic. “I don’t think it accurately represents who I am, nor does it address other members of the community whose identity is not directly linked to Spain.

“I’m not particularly in love with Latino either, but it more accurately represents my cultural background,” Martin said.

In addition to Hispanic and Latino, identifiers like Latinx and Latin, two gender-neutral forms of Latino, have started to appear more recently. They emerged to cover transgender and non-binary people who may be uncomfortable using Spanish words based on gender, Latino, or Latina.

The terms are not universally accepted, with some critics claiming they represent linguistic imperialism that denies their Spanish roots. A 2020 Pew Research Center survey found that only about one in four Hispanic or Latin Americans had heard of the new gender-neutral terms, and just 3% use them.

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“I know a lot of people in the Latin American community don’t particularly care about the term Latinx, but I appreciate that it tries to evolve into a more inclusive language,” Martin said. “Latin is a new term that the community is exploring as it is more closely aligned with Spanish pronunciation.”

United States Census office said 30.7% of Arizona’s population was “Hispanic or Latino” in 2020, up from 29.6% in 2010. Nationally, the Hispanic population has grown from 16.3% to 18, 7% over the same period.

So what’s the correct way to refer to Hispanics and Latinos? In 2013, Pew discovered that half of Hispanics and Latinos don’t have a preferred ID, but Lopez said that doesn’t excuse people from asking what someone prefers.

“I think it all comes down to asking people what they want to be identified as,” he said. “I think that’s the most important thing.”

Martin agreed that “it’s always nice to ask what people prefer to be called”. In the meantime, she said this is a discussion that must continue.

“Conversations drive change, and it’s always good to examine and re-examine the language we use,” said Martin. “By revisiting what we’ve done in the past, we can then look for ways to improve or do better in the future, but really, it has to be an ongoing conversation.”


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