© 2023 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Is ‘Latinx’ The Future Of Latino Identity?

For her new book, journalist Paola Ramos traveled around the U.S. in search of the voices redefining Latino identity.
For her new book, journalist Paola Ramos traveled around the U.S. in search of the voices redefining Latino identity.

Despite the fact that “Latinx” is mostly used by young people, it’s far from new. And the confusion surrounding its use isn’t exactly fresh either.

According to its proponents, the letter “x,” which replaces the gendered ending of the designation, allows a member of the Latinx community to identify without adhering to a binary definition of gender.

Only 3 percent of the Latino population uses the term “Latinx,” according to the Pew Research Center. But its meaning is moving beyond semantics, to represent an entire sociopolitical movement.

Some criticize the term as an attempt to police the Spanish language and say that it’s an invention of those without a stake in the community itself.

Journalist Paola Ramos wrote about what the term means to her in 2018:

Yet this six letter word is much more than a nod to nonbinary Latinos—it’s an invitation to anyone in the community who has ever challenged traditional norms. It’s for the Afro Latinos who have been neglected for far too long; for the English-speaking Latinos who were frowned on; for the DREAMers who were turned away; the Latina mothers who strived for equality or the trans activists who fought for basic humanity. Rather than dismantling our Latino culture, the “x” is the reinforcement of that American dream that drove our families to this country in the first place: freedom.

But while young Latinos are increasingly subscribing to the Latinx movement, many others distance themselves from this term because of their allegiance to their home countries or their own sociopolitical backgrounds. Two days ago, I asked my Cuban grandfather if he knew what “Latinx” meant, and he immediately asked, “Que carajo significa eso?” (What the hell does that mean?). Even after using this word for a couple of years, I hesitated to respond to him because I knew my answer would lack that concreteness he craved. I told him, “Latinx soy yo, abuelo.” ( I’m Latinx, grandpa).

Who is Latinx? And what does the term represent?

And, we’re also talking about the Latino vote and the upcoming election. We unpack what polling shows us about how different groups within the Latino community might vote in November.

Copyright 2020 WAMU 88.5

Kathryn Fink