Shifting Identities:

Hispanic vs. Latino vs. Latinx

By Gabriela Sosa,  Social Media Coordinator

 We’re launching the “New Latino Identity” series, in which Dieste takes on the transformational shift in how Latinos define themselves. Through the lens of factors like geography, language, gender and social norms; we will aim to uncover the points of tension that are forcing Latinos to shed their labels and opt for fluid expressions of their identity.

While the rest of the world was slowly coming to the realization that Hispanic and Latino are in-fact not the same thing, it seems more nuances in the way people from Latin America (or with ties to a Latin American country) self-identify cropped up. Identity is a complex subject, and bringing immigration, languages, racial and cultural differences into the mix makes it even more so.

Many “Latinos” identify with country of origin and many first, and even second, generation people do too. But like all things in life, it gets complicated. Personally, I have never understood what to identify with: American born to immigrant parents from Mexico and El Salvador with no idea what to check on the race/ethnicity boxes. My English can be perfect and people will still ask “where are you from?” not meaning where in the great city of Dallas I am blessed to be from (for the record, Irving, home of the world’s largest equestrian sculpture; Former home of the Dallas Cowboys). For some first-gens like myself, finding the right ways to identify has been a journey in self-exploration, understanding and cultural learning.

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 3.32.23 PMOrganizations and publications Huff Post Latino Voices and Voto Latino use this language commonly in their social media


Breaking The Binary

Intersectionality, a theory that has roots in Black feminism, is the idea that the issues that accompany race, class, sexuality and gender do not exist in a vacuum, but instead intersect and shape an individual’s life experiences. The use of x in the place of a, o or @ is meant to be inclusive of all forms of gender identity. Latinx is meant to challenge what many believe is a masculine language. Intersectionality is why many people choose identifiers like Latinx that are more inclusive in nature.


“… Identifying as Latinx is embracing the intersection between cultural identity and gender. It’s about inclusiveness, making sure everyone is accounted for. Spanish, in particular, is a heavily gendered language; everything is male or female. I identify as Latinx to assure everyone’s voice is heard.” – Christina Licea


Tejanos, Xicanos Y Más

My parents’ brought with them a myriad of identity crises for their daughters when they crossed the border. Undeniably, part of my personal identity is shaped by their immigrant narrative. However, for some people that fall under the Hispanic umbrella, cultural heritage is deeply rooted right here in this country. The Chicano Movement of the 1960’s aimed to empower Mexican-Americans in a time of racial tension. Words like Chicano/Xicano carry different meanings for many people; for some it means recognition of indigenous roots, and for some it is viewed as having negative connotations. Similarly, identifiers like “Tejano” refer to the distinct culture and heritage of Mexican-Americans in Texas, a state shaped by a unique Mexican colonial and southwestern history. Identities such as “Chicano” and “Tejano” help to fight even the generalization that Latinos are defined heavily by immigration. For some, identities like Xicanx also challenge the notion that “Latinidad” is rooted in language; whether it’d be third generation individual who grew up South Texas, or Mayan immigrants that speak Ki’tche.

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 3.48.30 PMTwitter user @strwwberry discussing her own identity


Why Is Self-Identification So Important?

Some people may be quick to scoff at these emerging “labels” and dismiss them as political correctness nonsense, but an important thing to note is their origin. Hispanic and Latino have roots in the U.S. Census trying to understand and group Spanish-speaking populations. While to some, it may seem like splitting hairs, taking control of labels is an integral part of forming an identity. The first step to understanding how people self-identify is to not box people in. Navigating a diverse country such as the U.S. where so many cultures, nations and peoples meet is an exercise in finding out how we all fit into the equation. Identifying as Hispanic is perfect for some, while some individuals may align themselves with an identity that exists in the diverse environment of the U.S. For example, the Afro-Latino movement in the U.S. has evolved in part from a desire to uplift and recognize the African roots of many Latin American countries, while challenging the mainstream norms of what it means to look and be “Hispanic/Latino” in the U.S. The effects of the movement have even diffused into such countries like Mexico, which in 2015 officially recognized “Afrodescendiente” as choice in their national census.

What in your life has helped shape your multiple and perhaps transforming identities? Follow and join the conversation using #FluidLatinos. As we aim to rely less on demographics, Dieste continues to discover the underlying attitudes and drivers of the new Latino identity, to help you reach this important audience effectively.

Dieste Inc