Latine Heritage Month is a good time to celebrate, but it can be used for reflection on how inclusive we really are.
The word Hispanic to describe people from Spanish-dominant countries was recognized by the U.S. Census for the first time in 1980. Since then, there have been countless interpretations about who fits into the term and who doesn’t.
First things first, we use the word “Latine” to describe ourselves when we speak in a non-gender-specific way. Think how the words fireman and congressman have evolved over the years to firefighter and congress person. It is important for us at Pueblo to be inclusive with our language. That also means in our Spanish translations we also use “Latine.”
That being said, you might have realized I wrote Hispanic in the first paragraph. That is to be accurate with how the government and the university track our race/ethnicity/nationality. It is important to me that people come to realize that putting Mexicans, Hondurans, Puerto Ricans and Venezuelans among many other Latine countries into a single category has never been an easy thing to accomplish, and there are valid reasons why they shouldn’t be put into one category, either.
Latinidad has been used to erase the experiences of Black and Indigenous Latines as much as it has been used to highlight the culture we are proud of. There is no easy way to say that without writing down the plain truth. My mind wanders back to an episode of Univision’s “Tu Cara Me Suena” showing a contestant of the singing show donning Black face makeup and an exaggerated nose to make the contestant look like Celia Cruz, or a bit further back when Univision had to fire a host for comparing Michelle Obama to a cast member of “Planet of the Apes.”
It is important that we get to celebrate our heritage, but also just as important to question why we all celebrate it in the same month. What inspired the descendants of Mexican farmers, Puerto Rican factory workers, Salvadoran refugees and many other nationalities to come to the United States and be counted as our own heritage group?
A better understanding of our past can help us decide what we were looking for and not looking for when Hispanic became a question on the census. Deciding on what the last letter in the word Latine should be is not a solution nor the bandaid for centuries of racism still practiced today, but I hope it can stick out just enough to make our readers and reporters question what we wrote and why we wrote it.
Header illustration by Madeline Smith