Andrés Acosta, a nonbinary content educator of Puerto Rican and Honduran descent, identifies as Latine. “The most simple reason is that for my parents, it’s easier to say ‘Latine’ than ‘Latinx,’” they explain, adding that they “had a misconception, at first, that there was a linguistic imperialism behind ‘Latinx.’ When I Googled the history behind ‘Latinx,’ I thought it was a term coined in academic spaces in the United States. Later on, I found out there were actually lots of Latines — queer Latines — who came up with ‘Latinx.’ That changed my perspective a little, but I still prefer to identify as Latine.”
Though “Latine” is more tailored to Spanish pronunciation than “Latinx,” it hasn’t been embraced by the majority of Latin Americans. “People who identify as Latino but don’t like ‘Latine’ have struggled themselves with being included,” Acosta reflects. “They feel like by me using ‘Latine,’ I’m stepping on the toes of the work they’ve done to be included. I see myself as adding to that progress.”
Terms like “Latinx” and “Latine” may feel like uncharted territory, especially for those who spent decades being pigeonholed into “Hispanic” or “Latino” by an American society that can’t wrap its head around our diversity. Dr. Fernandez points out that Latin Americans tend to identify with their country of origin first, followed by “Hispanic,” and then “Latino.” Still, she says the dilemma around identifiers is a tale as old as time.
“This is a philosophical question: Who am I? Everyone is interested in answering that question,” she says. “[Non-hispanic] white Americans live in a country where to be American is to be white American by default, so there’s no question about who you are. But if you are on the outside, there’s a quest to find out who you are, so naming — what we call ourselves — is very important.”
Still, Chavez and Acosta both say they believe Latin communities in the U.S. have spent too much time fighting over the “right” term to categorize us as a whole. “People need to focus on finding the right identifier for them instead of finding an identifier that encapsulates us as a whole,” says Chavez, who usually identifies as Central American first. “Most of my conversations are in English, so I gravitate toward using ‘Latinx’ more than ‘Latine,’” she adds.
Acosta urges people of Latin descent to consider where we can redirect the energy we’ve poured into this argument. “[Identifiers] should always be part of the conversation, but trying to think of a term that encompasses all of us is always going to leave out some of us,” they say. “Why are we arguing when we have underrepresentation of indigenous Latinos, underrepresentation of Afro-Latinos, and there are people who don’t even know that Latinos can be Black?”
For many, gender-inclusive identifiers like “Latinx” and “Latine” feel like a baby step toward inclusion, and Chavez expects that the terms are around to stay. “I’ve gotten a chance to understand this young Latinx consumer on a micro-nuanced level, and I think their values are different from Gen X and even older millennials,” she says. “They want to create a more inclusive space that allows for people to feel seen, whereas I think the latter wants to protect culture and whatever culture means to them.”