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BECOMING LATIN: How we see ourselves in history & relation to how others see us

9/6/2016 0 Comments

BECOMING LATIN: How we see ourselves in history & relation to how others see us 

BECOMING LATIN: How we see ourselves in history & relation to how others see us

The term Hispanic – Latino/a - La Raza – Chicano/a – Xicano/a – Boriqua - Puerto-Rican – Brown – Mestizo/a - Country-hyphenated-American, etc. Latinx is the latest term but a concept that began in 1492 and has continued to evolve ever since the birth of the first child in the Americas among the fusion of Europeans, Africans, Asians, Native peoples. There is so much pride and astounding contributions from the people who identify with these names. Yet, this concept is also a direct result of the brutal pillage of our indigenous communities, rape of our mother’s mother, torture of our father’s father.

Instead of focusing on solely the historical trauma, my goal is to embrace this history by realizing that each of us is trying to resolve this by becoming more humane. Life is about regaining our humanity in the journey that it takes us on in order to become our fullest selves. The human spirit outweighs any oppressive system and the energy of love heals any wound. I encourage us to embrace the journey of creating a sustainable & equitable environment. We protest both covert & silent as well as overt & loud while creating a collective voice. As humans, we all try to connect which is why we look for diversity because we want to know if we are really there for each other as humans. This is solidarity, this is what we are searching for, this is what love is all about, seeking profound intimate human connection.

The word “Latin@” is spelled using the ampersand to replace the letter “a” or “o.”  Pizarro, Montoya, Nañez, Chavez, & Bermudez (2002) are Latin@ educators who formed Maestr@s, a group which contended that the Spanish language is imbedded with a male-gendered perspective and coined the use of the ampersand in response:

We deliberately created this term Maestr@s to name our group because it is a visual intervention and a re-coding of information. We seek to augment the visual cues to the reader to illustrate that we are moving between different linguistic, epistemological and ideological systems. (p. 290)


Latinx is a term being used in 2016 to create a more gender inclusive concept. X is also symbolic to the belief of Nation of Islam that it sheds the slave master's name since those from African origin lost their tribal name due to the Atlantic Slave Trade. I propose that the X in Latinx expands the notion of gender inclusiveness and lost African origins such that the X is symbolic the term Latin@s because of the additional acknowledgement that our personal history is interconnected to our collective history. One cannot have educational excellence without equity. While oppression manifests uniquely in each community, do not mistaken that oppression is interconnected globally. This means that our liberation is in the global connections. What if we could co-create language for our liberation?


Identity development is not restricted to adolescence, but is a lifelong process of construction and transformation (Phelan & Davidson, 1993). According to Phelan and Davidson (1993), young people must cross real and imagined borders as they define their own identity. However, individuals of color are often impacted by the social domination of race, class and gender (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995). In addition, as the Suarez-Orozco team (2001) noted, immigrant children are especially affected by what society mirrors back to them regardless of their own established identity.

One of the most problematic issues of racial identity is with the level of rigidity of contemporary racial classifications (Cross, 1991; Wijeyesinghe & Jackson, 1996; Phinney, 1996). As Omi & Winant (1986) point out, “race is often treated as an objective fact: one simply is one’s race; in the contemporary U.S. if we discard euphemisms, we have five color-based racial categories: black, white, brown, yellow, and red” (p. 6). As racial identity has expanded globally, many people do not fit in these categories such as Arabs, Brazilians, Southeast Asians (Davis, 1991; Harris, 1964). Hence, traditional racial categorization is problematic on several levels in the construction of race. 

Among all the multiple racial identity development theories, perhaps none are as complex as the theories addressing Latin@ identity formation (Alba; 1990; Anzaldúa, 1987; Ferdman & Gallegos 2001; Quinones-Rosado, 1998). Ferdman & Gallegos (2001) declared “much of the thinking on race in the United States stems from the history of Blacks and Whites and their relationship” (p.33). Latin@s’ sense of identity development is based upon a complexity of issues including, one’s skin phenotype, citizenship, and class (Rosaldo & Flores, 1993). Latin@s who do not fit any racial category, but are racialized, often belong to several racial categories (Bejarano, 2005; Quinones-Rosado, 1998).  Utilizing current racial categories, being a Latin@ in the United States is a complex identification that transcends many traditional boundaries. Ferdman & Gallegos (2001) argued the complexity in the identity of Latin@s challenge the established racial order in the United States.

Becoming Latin@”

I propose that the concept Latin@ is a evolutionary process that is very broad based on the culmination of all these experiences mentioned above transcending race, language, country, etc. where the illusive bond is our critical consciousness awareness. This means for the first time in human civilization and since 1492 those of us who resides in the American continent is “becoming Latin@”. This concept includes all of our diversity, and fortifies our solidarity with one another because we acknowledge the healing process from our collective historical trauma of colonization. We all look for this connection and diversity is the fuel that makes the journey continue. The balance is being aware of one’s fear of the unknown and engaging in the belief that we are all trying to connect.

Unfortunately, the reality of defining Latin@ is often based on the normative assumptions of White Supremacy that is a selection process of elimination of how this group is socially defined. Originally, this group was defined on birth location and racial classification that later blurred into country of origin. Eventually, the term transformed into a U.S.-centric perspective that is either the colonized term Hispanic or political term Latino/a. Unlike African-Americans whose primary criterion is skin tone or Native American whose proof is bloodline, being Hispanic/Latinos can be claimed by almost anyone. Yet, there seems to be a socially acceptable definition for fitting into this category that is as follows:

  1. This criterion is based on race; Does the person look “brown-mestizo? If the person doesn’t fit that narrative because the person is Afro-Cuban or Japanese Peruvian, etc., then we go to the next level.

  2. This selection criterion is language; Does the person have a “Spanish” accent or speaks Spanish? If the person does not fit that narrative because the person is a “brown-skinned” foreigner or speaks Portuguese, Arabic, French and from Latin America, etc., then we apply the third criterion.

  3. This third selection criterion is geography; Did the person immigrate from or have family ancestry from a Spanish speaking country? If the person does not fit that narrative because the person comes from Brasil, Haiti, Jamaica or Surinam, etc., then we apply the final criterion.

  4. The fourth selection criterion is then a question of what does it mean to be Latin@. If you are not brown, do not have a Spanish accent, speak Spanish or come from a Spanish speaking country how can you be Hispanic/Latino?Thus, we go from the political term Latino/a and start the inquiry of the concept Becoming Latin@. The concept is not stagnant, rather dynamic and inclusive.

Directions: Please rate 1- 5 from 1 being least agree with and 5 being most agree 

Context: Culture is dynamic and society has a tremendous influence on defining the parameters for cultural groups. At the same time, individuals are empowered when they claim their own identity. Hence, when individuals collectively define themselves as culture in a critical conscious manner and not allow labels to define them, they in term define the labels.

  1. How do you primarily self-identify (does not need to be ethnically):__________________________

  1. What language(s) do you speak?                                 ___________________________________________

  1. What term do you prefer for this group?

    1. Hispanic                         Chicano                  Latino/a                Latin@                   Latinx                      Other

  1. How strong do you identify based on Race? (White, Black, Indian, Chinese, etc.)?

1-(No & don’t allow others to)                    2 (No & it doesn’t matter if others do)              3 (Yes I do & it doesn’t 

matter if others do)     4 (Yes I do & I sometimes correct others)       5 (Yes I do & most identify me this way)

  1. How strong do you identify based on country/culture (Mexican, Puerto Rican, etc.)

    1. 1                        2                                 3                                 4                                 5


  1. How strong do you identify as hyphenated name? (Cuban-American, Mexican-American, etc.?)

    1. 1                        2                                 3                                 4                                 5


1 strongly disagree           2 disagree             3 neutral               4 agree                   5 strong agree

  1. How important is social construction of race to be considered part of this group?

  2. How important is language to be considered part of this group?

  3. How important is geographic location to be considered part of this group?

  4. How do you define if someone is Latin@: Based on the Spanish language, geographic location south of the U.S., social construction of race, colonialism social hierarchy, etc.

  5. How strong do you identify Latin@ness to encompass all of the above questions?


The hypothesis spectrum of Latin@ Identity based on Ferdman & Gallegos Model





Undifferentiated Denial

Latin@ as other

Subgroup identified

Latin@ identified

Latin@ integrated



Self-identify based on race

Self-identify as a group relative to the norm often Hispanic

Identify as Hispanic/Latino accepting what society has given

Self-identify as country of origin or hyphenated

Self-identify as Latin@

Self-identify as broad, dynamic, complex Latin@ness


Influenced by targets of oppression

Non-target of race, class but target of immigrant

Non-target of race, class, education, but target of immigrant

Target of geography, immigration Grew up in environment where obvious Latin@ pop.

Non-target of race, class if adult  immigrant target of Immigrant or 1st generation

Target of Immigrant to country or 1st generation & critically educated

Critically educated or Informed on Latin@ Critical Race Theory




White & norm ed.



Critical Pedagog

Critical Pedagog






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of Arizona Press.


Cross, W.E. Jr. (1991). Shades of Black: Diversity in African-American identity.  Philadelphia: Temple

University Press. 


Davis, F.J. (1991). Who is Black: One nation’s definition. University Park, Pennsylvania State. PA:

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