My mom recently (re-)retired from a position as board president for a charity that helps set up business loans for low-income communities. Everyone there used “Latinx,” including people of Central and South American ancestry. But that was an exceptionally “woke” environment, that was specifically working on issues related to racial justice. Still, it’s not just NPR.
The most frequent criticism of the term I’ve heard from Hispanic/Latin folks is that it ignores Spanish language rules and conventions, and therefore it just sounds wrong to them. IMO a general rule for etymology for groups that I’m not a part of is to call them what they want to be called. Latinx is not in common usage among folks of Latin American descent in my circle.
My impression is that it’s not exactly performative wokeness, but that it arose out of a fairly rarified academic environment attempting to come up with a non-gendered alternative to latino/latina, and those are the primary groups that use it.
I think it’s generally a bad term to use for two reasons:
It didn’t arise from the demographic group it refers to. Generally, I think “call people what they call themselves” is way more important than not using a gendered term.
As you mention, the pronunciation is neither obvious nor natural. Not sure why the x was added, because “latin” is already a non-gendered English term that could work for this purpose.
People in my mostly (75%+) Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago do use the term, both in English and Spanish. I wouldn’t say it’s the majority favorite, but it is used within the community, within both languages.
Everyone’s anecdotes about who in their neighborhood does or does not use the word are all well and good, but there is some actual data about whether or not the people who are being referred to by it actually use the term. A Pew Research poll from last year found that less than a quarter of U.S. Hispanics had even heard of the term “Latinx”, and only about 3% reported that they actually use it. Apparently, people actually in the group prefer to be referred to as “Hispanic” (by a 61% super-majority), with a substantial minority (29%) preferring “Latino” (or, I presume, “Latina”).
Those numbers could certainly change, of course. Language evolves. But it does not appear that the use of the word “Latinx” is being driven by any kind of broad use or desire for change by American Hispanics themselves.
Interesting. I’m not surprised it’s not favored, but I’m very surprised it’s that unknown and that little used overall. I wonder how much geography (which populations are being polled) has to do with it. Clearly age group does (and Pew does break it down by age and gender, with 18-29 year old women being most likely to use the term, at 14%).
Furthermore I would give more weight to language actually used in Latin America and by Latin Americans, including Latin American activists, than anything prescribed by anonymous “people of Middle or South American descent”. BTW to amplify your comment many languages spoken in non-North America are not Spanish, Portuguese, French or in that family at all: could also be English, Maya, …
The data is from a few years ago, but as of 2018 there were nearly 37,000,000 Mexican-Americans–easily the majority of all Hispanic-Americans, at over 60%–and only 814,000 Spanish-Americans (as in, Americans from Spain itself). Granted that language is an important part of a person’s culture and identity, it’s not really clear to me what precisely is gained by “lumping” someone from Spain and someone from Honduras. It seems to me their life experiences are going to be pretty drastically different, and personally I would consider a “Spaniard-American” to be a subset of “European-American” more than anything else. And of course Italian-Americans are “Latin” by one perfectly reasonable way of looking at it–the original Latinos and Latinas, in fact–but there seems little good reason to “lump” them in with people from Honduras or Venezuela (except of course as “Americans”, or “human beings”).
Even “lumping” Mexican-Americans and Cuban-Americans is kind of problematic, considering their different backgrounds, attitudes, and politics. And as to language, Hispanic-Americans don’t necessarily speak Spanish (or Quechua) once they’ve been in this country for more than a generation or two, any more than Italian-Americans necessarily still speak Italian (or Sicilian).
I took the OP to be mainly talking about people here in the United States. It seems to me we should call people by the term those people actually want to be called*, and I don’t really see what the relevance is of usage in other countries, that in some cases are thousands of miles away.
*Within reason, of course–I’m a Godless-Heathen-American, but like most Godless-Heathen-Americans I rolled my eyes pretty hard at the suggestion some years back that we should start calling ourselves “Brights”. And it was perfectly clear that even if us Godless-Heathen-Americans thought that was a good idea, good luck getting the “Dulls”(?) to go along with it.
That said, are there any facts as to what actual Latin Americans in Latin America think about the word “Latinx”?
I could see some situations where knowing their primary language is Spanish of some form would be very useful. What’s the equivalent term of “Anglosphere” but for Spanish?
I’ve met more than one Brazilian annoyed because someone doesn’t know that they speak Portuguese and not Spanish. Not sure if they’d be offended by “Latinx”, but then, if I know someone’s nationality that’s what I usually use. Unless they tell me differently.
There’s a parallel movement to use “Filipinx” to describe Americans (it’s always Americans) of Philippine descent. While the Fil-Ams (How’s that for gender neutral?) only used it to apply to themselves, no one in the Philippines paid it much mind. But when dictionary.com defined it as
a native or inhabitant of the Philippines
there was significant pushback on social media by said natives or inhabitants of the Philippines, as exemplified by this post on /r/Philippines:
Here’s the thing: the Filipino language is already gender-neutral. Everyone’s pronouns are siya/niya/kanya rather than he/him/his or she/her/hers. If we, the Filipino people, had wanted a gender-neutral term to describe ourselves we would have invented it ourselves. After all, we coined the honorific “mamser” to avoid having to call someone “ma’am” or “sir”. That Americans of Philippine descent wanted to apply “Filipinx” to actual Filipino citizens was seen as just another form of Western imperialism.
The good news is that dictionary.com at least changed its definition of “Filipinx”, and even describes it as “Sometimes offensive”:
It’s another example of the well-intentioned but misguided impulse of white wokies** to “do something” to fix a language or culture that doesn’t conform to their standards. Those are mostly the people who use it. Actual Latins tend to hate it because it sounds stupid in Spanish, but there are a few who have jumped on the bandwagon.
** Here I am disparaging a tendency that often annoys me on the left, and very richly earned in this case, but this is just me trying to police a group of people in the hopes that they’ll be more competitive against their (our) opponents. I love liberals, I hug one at least once a month.