Learning the differences

How to differentiate Spanish culture identifiers

When speaking to someone who is apart of the Spanish culture, have you ever wondered whether to use Hispanic, Latina/o or Latinx? Have you ever wondered what the significance is to these words and what makes them different? Here’s what you should know.

According to Pew Research, it was shown in a 2019 survey that 47% of Hispanics described themselves by the family’s country of origin. It was found in a 2022 survey that “53% of Hispanics prefer to describe themselves as “Hispanic,” 26% prefer “Latino,” 2% prefer “Latinx” and 18% have no preference.”

Whether someone identifies as Latina/Latino or Hispanic can be based on two things, where one is from or what they personally choose to identify with. By technical terms, people that are native to Latin American countries are Latina or Latino depending on what gender they identify with, and people who are from Spanish-speaking countries would be referred to as Hispanic.

Some natives would debate that it depends on what the person identifies with. Director of the Center for Latin@ Studies Sonia Trevino explains that the terms Latina/Latino or Hispanic are up to the person and what their culture uses to identify themselves.

“For me, I identify as Hispanic,” Trevino said. “In my culture it was just the term that we used. Now there are some people on the East Coast or the West Coast that would identify as Latino or Latina. It is a cultural thing and how the person chooses to identify.”

According to Trevino, there isn’t a huge difference between being Latina/o or being Hispanic, and sometimes it can also just depend on what part of America you are in.

“When I came here to the North, I heard the words Latina and Latino tossed around a lot,” Trevino said. “I had never heard that term in the South. In Texas, we always used the term Hispanic.”

For a short time the term LatinX was used as a way to describe Spanish natives who didn’t associate with a gender. According to Trevino, it was rejected by the older generations and embraced by younger generations. Along with this, Latin@ is used to be inclusive for Latina/o but the term is “outdated.”

According to TV station KTLA, 40% of Hispanics and Latina/o’s found the term Latinx as offensive. However, the term Latine was seen as less controversial but still not widely excepted by the Spanish culture.

“It was a very mixed reception,” Trevino said. “The term LatinX really isn’t used anymore, it had too much negative connotation to it.”

Nursing and Spanish senior, Elizabeth Huerta, encourages everyone to learn and understand the difference out of respect to the Spanish communities.

“It’s important to know the difference because different individuals within the Hispanic and Latin@community identity closely to one term over the other,” Huerta said. “By understanding the distinctions or even asking, you are being respectful to their preferences and identities. Furthermore, people within the Hispanic/Latina/o community come from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds, and their identity doesn’t solely revolve around their language or even their place of origin.”

Just like Huerta, mathematics education junior Alondra Reyna also believes it is important for not only non Hispanic or Latina/o people to understand the difference, but also those who are of Spanish dissent.

“We are also trying to understand what we are,” Reyna said. “Some of us are second or first generation and we also don’t know what we are. It really is just a learning opportunity for everybody.”

As an education major, Reyna enjoys being able to teach people about not only the difference between being a Latina/o or being Hispanic, but also teaching people about Spanish culture.

“I do particularly enjoy teaching others,” Reyna said. “I just love talking about the differences and similarity’s throughout my community. I try not to blame anyone for not knowing the difference because it really is just a learning opportunity, every time I see the opportunity to teach I take it.”

Since the term Latin@ is not often used and unfamiliar to some,  CLS is in the process of changing their name. Look to future Torch editions for their new name.