Saturday, December 2, 2017


This Post Was Written By 
Vanessa Martinez 

“Latinx?” (pronounced la-teen-ex) I said, confused, as I scrolled through my social media. I first came across the term about a year ago, in a post someone had shared congratulating her sister for being one of the first in the family to graduate from college. I was aware that it was meant to replace the a or o at the end of Latina/o, but I didn’t put much attention to it until recently when I ran into the word again. Although this time, it caught my intention because of the other hashtags (words starting or ending with the letter x) that followed: #Latinx, #Xicana/o, #Xicanx, #Xingona, especially the term Xicanx which is meant to replace the ch- and -a/o in chicana/o. I was overwhelmed with use of the letter x in these terms that I’ve always known as just “latino/a, chicana/o, and chingona.”  So, I did a little research in regards to these labels and I came across articles talking about coming to terms with this word “latinx” and comments in the comment section of videos that weren’t so fond of the word at all or simply didn’t care.  

Latinx is a gender-neutral alternative to Latino and Latina. Latinx is widely used amongst professors, activist and journalist. It’s part of a “linguistic revolution” that aims to move beyond gender binaries and is inclusive of the intersecting identities of Latin American descendants. It’s an attempt to include people who are trans, queer, agender, non-binary, gender non-conforming or gender fluid, so the ‘x’ serves as a way to reject the gendering of words, especially since spanish is such a gendered language. The term first surfaced within queer communities in 2004 but didn’t gained popularity until late 2014 in social media outlets such as Twitter and Tumblr. But despite the growing popularity of the term, Latinx has been faced with criticism. 

Xicanx on the other hand, is a new term some Mexican-Americans have claimed that stems from the grassroots and working-class roots of the 1960s Chicano movement, but also incorporates indigenous consciousness, feminism, and queer theory in its politics. The Xs in this term is meant to replace the ch- and -a/o in chicana/o. Chicana/o is the English phonetic spelling of Xicana/o, which is the abbreviation of the word ‘Mexicana/o’ (a Nahuatl word, one of the most common indigenous languages spoken in Mexico). This  prompted Chicano activist to use “x” in place of “ch” to spell the adjective as to honor its semantics: “Xicano.” And now as we can see, this has influence changes in other words of the Spanish language to do the same, like “Xingona” and even this one. 

Photo is by Devyn Galindo from her book We Are Still Here, for those that might be interested to learn more about the Xicanx identity and movement

I can understand where it starts to get confusing, and even complicated (aside from how the way this new word “Latinx” feels on tongue) for some because for one, for those that are of latin descent and speak the Spanish language, just don’t think of gender when speaking it. For instance, when you say “un libro,” it doesn’t imply that the book is male. Or when a male walks into a room full of latina women, the wording now changes to a room full of latinos because there’s now multiple genders involved, that’s just how the language is structured. Another reason why it gets complicated is because how you say it in English sounds one way but in Spanish it would be said as “Latin-equis.” Same applies for all the other words of the Spanish language. For instance, granddaughter and grandson in Spanish is  “nieta” and “nieto”, would that now have to be “nietx (niet-equis)?” 

I think the main reason why the term has been so problematic for some is because it would mean that the entire language would have to change, taking gender out of it. Some have questioned if the word should still be used even when you’re definitively referring to a women. Why can’t that simply remain “Latina?” Will the change be sweeping across other romance languages, like French and Italian? After all they are gendered languages too. For others that oppose of the use of the term, feel that using an un-gendered noun like Latinx is disrespectful to the Spanish language and some have even called the term “a blatant form of linguistic imperialism.” 

However, the Spanish language itself is a form of linguistic imperialism for Latin Americans. Before the colonial rule from the conquistadores, there were a few thousand indigenous languages that existed in the Americas. Today only a few hundred continue to be spoken  (and even those are in danger of being extinct). Some of these indigenous languages that are still spoken throughout Latin America and the world, range from genderless to multi-gendered. 
Maybe the Spanish language can be flexible like the other languages that are genderless. Maybe we can keep some words like “libro” because it’s referring to an object and not a person. Sure it can get confusing and complicated, I personally identify myself as Latina and will continue to do so but I understand the what the terms mean to others that identify themselves as such, Latinx or Xicanx. Like others that find no issue with the term Latinx, I’ll try to use the term whenever I’m referring to a larger group. As for the term “Xicanx,”which is pronounced the same as if you were to say “Chicanx,” I love the idea behind it.  I personally have never identified myself as chicana, mainly because I didn’t grow up knowing the term - I’ve always identified myself as just Mexican or Mexican-American instead. 


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