Latinx Heritage Month & How to Report on it
Latinx Heritage Month
This week, I’d like to focus on Latinx Heritage Month. More specifically, the differences between terms like Latino/a, Latinx, Hispanic, etc. It’s a lot and each word comes with its own baggage and history. The term “Hispanic” refers to someone relating to Spain or to Spanish-speaking countries. The term “Latinx/o/a” refers to someone of Latin American origin or descent.
The federal government first used the term “Hispanic” in the 1980 census. The term was pushed in the 1960s by The National Council of La Raza, now known as UnidosUS, to change the way they categorized Latinos and help them prove their communities needed resources. As for Hispanic Heritage Month, the official celebration began in 1968 when President Lyndon Johnson signed a bill to recognize it (however it was initially Hispanic Heritage Week). Around that time, the term “Hispanic” was widely used. It wasn’t until more recently as younger generations pushed for the term “Latino,” “Latina” and “Latinx” that was later included in the 2000 Census.
The term “Hispanic” refers to someone relating to Spain or to Spanish-speaking countries. The term “Latinx/o/a” refers to someone of Latin American origin or descent.
The term addressed issues with the term “Hispanic” that Paul Ortiz addressed best in an NPR article:
“That immediately erases all of the centuries of pre-Columbian history, culture, and civilizations that existed before the European conquest and colonization of the Americas … and that’s understandably upsetting to people who are not white.” It alienates indigenous and Afro-Latino communities whose history includes deep resistance to the Spanish invasion and is not necessarily tied to Spain, Ortiz says.
However, to completely disapprove of the term would also be disrespectful to those who identify with it. This is especially true for older generations who grew up with the term.
Use of Terms for Annenberg Media
Here at USC, we are using the term Latinx Heritage Month, as displayed on the events page. The term “Latinx” also comes with its controversies. The term developed out of a need to branch out from the gendered “Latino” and “Latina” terms. Although it offered space for many English speakers to make the term more inclusive, it doesn’t translate well in Spanish.
According to a recent Pew Research study, a quarter of U.S. Hispanics and Latinos have heard of the word “Latinx” and only 3% use it. A better gender-neutral replacement for the term that would be usable in the Spanish language is “Latine.”
We at Annenberg Media still use the term Latinx in our reporting. It’s still a common word used in younger audiences and helps identify some of our sources. If it is necessary to label your source’s identity in your stories (i.e. is relevant), I typically recommend using the term the source prefers. It may come up naturally in the conversation or it may be something you need to ask. Be as specific as possible when reporting on identity, as everyone’s experience under the Latinx umbrella is vastly different.
For more information on the discussion, here are a few articles to check out:
- Hispanic, Latino, and Latinx: ‘Complicated, but it’s evolving’ (features our very own Amara Aguilar!):
- Latinos own and disown ‘Hispanic’ in the journey to harness identity
- Does Hispanic Heritage Month Need a Rebrand?
As always, more details on race and ethnicity can be found in the Style Guide for Equitable Reporting and Newsroom Style: http://bit.ly/AnnMediaEquitableReportingGuide
Until next time!