Hola! Last night I had the honor of attending an event on the University of Iowa’s campus discussing Latinx identity. Panelists were a mix of students and faculty and were asked a series of questions pertaining to their own struggles coming to terms with what it means to be Latinx.
Latinx is relatively new term so lets dive in a little bit about what it means before we go any further. It’s a gender neutral term used for those who identity with their Latin American heritage. It denotes the “o” and “a” traditionally used at the end of “Latina” and “Latino” to signify a persons gender in an effort to be more inclusive to those outside of the gender binary.
In 2017, NBC News did a report on the term and showed that there is mixed feelings among the Hispanic community whether or not to use the term. Quoted in the article, Roy Pérez, an associate professor of English and American Ethnic Studies at Willamette University said that the resistance to inclusivity is what turns people off from using LATINX.
“‘The underlying gender critique is what fuels hatred towards Latinx,” he said. “But why should we only have one word to describe ourselves? Latinx is just one solution to the complexity and slipperiness of labelling Latinos. And it doesn’t have to supplant other words.”
Make sure to check out the NBC article mentioned above – they do a great job of explaining the new term and getting the full scope of mixed feelings among the Hispanic community.
Now, back to the panel I attended last night. As a woman who identifies as Latina, it really opened my eyes to the diversity and mix of identities within the Hispanic community. There are so many ways to be apart of this community and not one way is the “right” way. A panelist, Danielle Martinez, used the term “imposter syndrome” to describe how she feels about her Latinx identity because she isn’t a fluent spanish speaker and said that there is a shame and guilt associated with trying to fit into a mold of what traditionally is considered Latina/o.
“There is a shame and guilt that comes with who is and isn’t Latinx,”
When she used the term “imposter syndrome” a lightbulb went off above my head. It was the perfect term to what I had been struggling with my whole life. I identify as a Latina woman but I don’t have dark skin, my father is white so I took his last name and I don’t speak Spanish. I always felt the need to prove myself or give people a whole monologue about my Hispanic roots when the topic was brought up. I even felt embarrassed saying I was a Latina in front of people I perceived as more Hispanic than I am.
But the truth is I grew up in a very strong maternal Mexican household with the values, culture and history being passed down to me from my Mom and Grandma. My cousins may have a different experience than my sister and I because we were the only ones who lived near Grandma and Great Aunts growing up (still do) in a city with a rich Hispanic population and were exposed to our Hispanic roots more.
I can’t even begin to tell you all the parties we went to with mariachi bands or the amount of times people would tell me how proud I should be to come from the Rocha family who did so much for the Hispanic community where I grew up. I wrote a bit about my grandpa being one of the founding members of the League of Latin American Citizens in a post awhile ago which gives you more insight to where my advocacy roots come from.
What I’m trying to say is I carry my Latinx identity with me everywhere I go and this panel gave me the strength to me embrace my identity and not have to feel as if I have to prove anything to anyone.
I am a Latina woman – nobody can take that away from me.
If you want to check out some highlights from the panel – I was live instagramming it so here are some of the best moments.