When I came from Spain 11 years ago, I was immediately put in the Hispanic/Latina bag. I didn’t consider myself Latina before that, but I realized none of my other Latin friends considered themselves “Latin” when they were living in their country of origin. Let’s say, my Colombian friends, in Colombia, they called themselves Colombian, not “Latin.” The Argentinian ones were Argentinians, and so on. But once you are in the USA, it’s all the same – if you speak Spanish or Portuguese, you are Latin – period.
So, I embraced that label. After all, I had a great affinity with Latin Americans (in fact, I married one) – the love for food, how familiar we are, the music, and most importantly, the language. Because that’s probably the biggest cultural barrier of them all…speaking different languages.
However, all of that changed when the term Latinx was created. It was thought to be a gender-neutral term, but it actually implied much more. All of a sudden, it was controversial that Rosalia or Alejandro Sanz, who are Spanish artists, were winning Latin Grammys. (Spaniards and Italians had been included in the Latin Grammys for years, and no one had ever questioned it). It had never been a problem before, but it quickly became one. So amidst my identity crisis, I looked up the definition of Latino/a in the Google dictionary and this is what it said:
1. the language of ancient Rome and its empire, widely used historically as a language of scholarship and administration.
2. a native or inhabitant of a country whose language developed from Latin, especially a Latin American
1. relating to or in the Latin language.
2. relating to the countries or peoples using languages, especially Spanish, that developed from Latin.
Ok, so by this definition, I am Latina. I’m not Latin American, but I am Latina. However, when I say that, I spark debate. Once someone told me, you are a “white European.” What the does that even mean? First of all, Spain is probably the least “white” country in Europe along with Italy and Portugal. The North African Muslims and Sephardic Jews were in Spain for 8 centuries. In every Spaniard, there are at least a few genes of these tribes from North Africa. Unless you are from the north, Galicia, Basque Country, where neither the Muslims nor the Romans set foot, you are not “white.”
Second of all, it is a problem to use the term “white” when talking about Latinos, because we come in all shapes and colors. Giselle Bundchen is more white than most Spaniards I know – her roots come from Europe too; however, she is not considered a “white European” even though she is white and from European descent.
Someone else told me, “you’re not Latina because were born in a privileged country.” Okay, then all the Latinx in the USA shouldn’t be considered Latinx. Because this is a privileged country (well, maybe that’s debatable these days…). And when talking about privilege, let’s clarify – there is a lot of it in Latin America too. Many of my fellow Latin American friends grew up with 3 maids, a nanny, chauffeur, chefs…whereas I grew up in a middle class family in a country that was recovering from a harsh dictatorship.
So what exactly makes you Latino/a or Latinx? It’s not the color of your skin. It’s not the language you speak (a lot of second generation Latinos in the USA don’t speak an ounce of Spanish). It’s not the culture of your country, because Latinos come from many different ones, and it’s not your social status either.
So what is it? I’d love to hear from you on our Facebook or Instagram. In the meantime, I’ll identify myself as a Citizen of the Universe. You can’t go wrong with that one.