OPINION: Here’s the difference between ‘Latinx’ and ‘Hispanic’


Easton Thompson

Kat Lazo speaks to a crowd about the discrimination and privilege of and within the Latinx community during the Take the Lead Reception on Sept. 19 at the CAC Theater. Lazou is most known for her work as a video producer for the digital platform mitú.

Since it’s Hispanic Heritage Month, I wanted to write a quick memo to my peers on the difference between the terms “Latinx” and “Hispanic,” and when to use them.

There has been much confusion from all sides about the term “Latinx” and how it differs from terms that people have been accustomed to for so long. In fact, some who fall in this category are still not sure what their race or ethnicity is when it comes to official forms. Youtuber Kat Lazo touched on this when she spoke at WSU last week.

“We may not be a race, but we are racialized,” Lazo said.

Because of this, colorism is prevalent in Latinx countries and communities. This, along with other factors, contributes to the lack of acknowledgement of privilege — factors such as classism, ableism, or education.

The United States Census even had to change their forms to clarify what the differences actually mean.

For starters, the terms have widely been used interchangeably, but they are not equal. To keep it short and sweet, Latinx is based on origin or ancestry to Latin America, and Hispanic is based on Spanish-speaking origin or ancestry. Latinx is essentially no different from the term “Latino” that has been used previously, but it removes the gendered expression at the end of the word.

For example, unlike Hispanic, Latinx would include Brazilians but excludes Spaniards. And to further explain, ‘Spanish’ is used to describe someone who comes from Spain. It is a nationality as well as a language. So, it is not used to describe most Latinx and Hispanic people.

Because so much of Latin America was colonized by Spain, many don’t want to use terms that identify them as belonging to Spain.

Christina Mora, a professor at UC Berkeley, broke it down into even simpler jargon. To be Hispanic is to have a sense of community through a connection to Spain. To be Latinx is to have a sense of community through a history of colonization from Spain.

And since you can’t actually tell if a person is Latinx or Hispanic just by looking at them, the best solution is to always ask and to make sure you use the label someone is most comfortable with.

Also, Mexican is not a derogatory term, but make sure a person is actually from Mexico before referring to them as such. Just as not every person from Asia is Chinese, not every person that who Latinx or Hispanic is Mexican.