This month we’re celebrating and honoring our siblings within the Hispanic and Latinx community!
While September 15 is the beginning of what many recognize as Hispanic Heritage Month, there are nuances with the terms Hispanic and Latino/a/x/e that we believe are important to examine and explore.
From September 15 to October 15, National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
Hispanic Heritage Month started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson, and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 – the independence day for the Latin American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile also celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively.
Hispanic: Can be used to describe the people, descendants, and culture of Spanish-speaking countries
Latino/a/x/e: Can be used to describe the people and culture of Latin American descent
On the U.S. census, you will see “Hispanic” listed, but that term does not include everyone in the diaspora. The term Hispanic has historically been used to describe Spanish speaking people, but it excludes those from Brazil and Haiti. The terms Latino/a/x/e can be used to describe the people and culture of Latin American descent, but it excludes those from Spain.
Oftentimes these words are used interchangeably, but in recent years there has been more dialogue and public discourse within the community regarding what term(s) to use. Language matters, and that’s why we are highlighting the differences in terminologies this month, while also acknowledging that we do not speak for everyone in the diaspora.
There are people who no longer want to ascribe to the term Hispanic and there are those who don’t like the term Latino/a or Latinx. There are also those who prefer Latine, because you can pronounce that in the Spanish language as opposed to Latinx. Additionally, some individuals would choose a different way to identify that may not be included here.
It can be tempting to seek out an umbrella term or one-size fits all label that can be used to describe an entire group for our own comfort or convenience, but we encourage you to join us in taking the bridge-building steps to lean in and get specific. In this instance that can mean asking the person you’re engaging with to clarify what terms they prefer, and in the process reaffirming their inherent dignity.
At the end of the day we need to be aware that this community contains multitudes, and such a wide diaspora cannot be defined by one umbrella term. We should recognize and highlight the fact that there are different people with different cultures, dialects, and appearances that are all worth celebrating.
Below are some resources we’ve compiled for you as you learn more about how to honor the Hispanic and Latinx community. Be sure to follow us on social media as we spend the next few weeks sharing ways to celebrate and esteem the history of those of the Latino community – this, and every month.