Updated: Dec 4, 2021
For those of you that know me personally or have been following me for some time you know that I am a diehard, proud to be Boricua, born on the island of Manhattan, who loves my enchanted island, Puerto Rico.
So you may be wondering why I haven’t been toting the flag of what many refer to as “Hispanic” Heritage Month, which officially started last week.
It’s because I cannot stand the word Hispanic. It literally grates my nerves and always has. Long before the more friendly terms of Latino/Latina came into play and now Latinx, I found the word Hispanic problematic.
And while, of course, I get why we need to highlight and commemorate the varying cultural heritages that comprise this country, I also want to recognize the contributions, achievements, and stories of Latinx people every day. I want a country and a world that no longer requires mere month-long recognition of entire groups of people but instead honors all of our contributions on a continuous and truthful basis.
Here’s my other beef with the term Hispanic. It's imposed on a diverse collective of people with complex and varying identities. It clumps millions of people together, whose main commonality is based on speaking Spanish, a shared colonizers' language.
Don't get me wrong! I think Spanish is a beautiful lyrical language and the sound of it can muster up feelings of cultural connections. One of my favorite experiences when I go to Puerto Rico is to hear the cantaito “singsongy” sound of Spanish.
But, I also have to speak truth. Many people who identify as “Hispanic” or Latinx are completely and entirely different in how they embrace their identity. Their self-identification, some of whom don’t even speak Spanish, has a complicated history.
This was a language that was imposed on millions by the Spanish colonizers, just like the term Hispanic is imposed on millions.
These are intricate issues that grow even more convoluted when we add racial identity into the discussion.
Honestly, I even struggle with Latinx as a term to define myself, and yet it's probably the closest we've come to find a way to define our collective commonalities while also making an attempt to honor our differences and create a sense of inclusivity.
It's all quite complex and steeped in a history that still requires examination and reconciliation on a large scale.
This really makes for a rich discussion about identity and what determines that identity. How do you identify? And what is your perspective about these terms?
For me, I have found the greatest joy in learning about my African and Arawak Ancestors, their ways of life, and the strength and contributions that they brought to our world.