Latinitas - A Strong Voice for Latina Youth

Depending on where you live, you may or may not have been faced with the question, "Am I Latina or Hispanic?"
It wasn't until I started college that I wondered this myself. Coming from a predominantly hispanic (or latino, whatever you prefer) neighborhood, I never really cared or thought about it. However, when I got to college, there were always discussions about what is more politically correct - hispanic or latino. The majority of the people I've encountered deem "hispanic" as offensive seeing as how it is a term coined by President Nixon's administration that referred to anyone who comes from a Spanish speaking culture. However, I on the other hand, reject the term "Latin@". To me a Latin@, is someone from Latin/South America and dances Salsa. I am neither. I am a first generation Mexican-American, Spanish is my first language, and if you know anything about Mexico it is that Salsa is not from there! So now I'm faced with the question, "Soy Mexicana? Soy Latina? o Soy Hispana?".
Well, under all legal papers, I'm hispanic. I dont' mind calling myself hispanic. I also don't mind calling myself Mexican or Mexican-American. However, there is something about the term Latin@ that does irk me. I think its possibly the fact that when you hear the word "Latin@", very stereotypical images come to mind. Sexy women, people who can dance, people who scream "Ay Mami!" in the street, and Rosie Perez (unrelated, but she was in a documentary named "Soy Boriqua Pa' Que Tu Lo Sepas!"). I kind of went into a tangent... but anyway, point being, I don't consider myself Latina.
Now, I'm not saying all this as a personal attack on anyone. I just want everyone to see that there is a difference between all of these terms and it is up to you to decide what you think/believe you are, not the media's and not the government's.

While pondering all of this, I did do some research and found this to be quite helpful:

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Comment by Carolina Madrid on February 10, 2010 at 6:14pm
I can't tell you how many times my sister and I have had conversations on how we don't consider ourselves 'latinas' and how it totally reminds us of sexy Puerto Rican women salsa dancing with a bright yellow flower in their hair. As far as 'chicano' goes, I picture a Californian who doesn't know how to speak Spanish or English and wears a mustache, which is COMPLETELY unrealistic -- but it just adds to my point that it's all about perspectives and different opinions. I understand where you're coming from in your blog post but also understand that a lot of us Mexican-American women have differing opinions. My sister and I like to call ourselves 'Hispanic' or just plain 'Mexicans.'

Props on this post, I loved it.
Comment by cloud.eah on December 18, 2009 at 12:34pm
Denisse, Word.

Comment by essined on December 18, 2009 at 11:12am
I cannot help but be somewhat offended by your blog and your response to the commentator. Being "Latin@" helps to umbrella all of Latin Americans. It not only includes salsa, it includes rumba, quebradita, bachata, etc., etc... I understand that you’re uncomfortable with this particular term, but when I’ve traveled around to different parts of the U.S. particularly the nation’s capitol “Latin@” is what every Mexican-American, Puerto Rican, Salvadorean, Ecuadorean, etc. use. Organizations there use Hispanic in their name (see also: Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI), Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU)), but its members use Latin@ to identify themselves.
It’s really a draw and we’re funny that way, but we’re also lucky. I am proud to be an American-born daughter of two parents born and with deep roots in Mexico.
Being categorized under Hispanic makes me cringe.
Hispanic refers to those of Spanish descent and in my experience this term carries a tone of supremacy. There are a lot of people that use the term to hide their Mexican heritage as though it is something to be ashamed of (see also: New Mexico 'Hispanics'). Hispanic pays homage to the Spanish conquistadores who came into Mexico and introduced disease, plague, a new religion, etc., etc. It was an easy term for our American government to write us off. We are better than this and I hope you will soon realize that.
It is up to us to change the definition of Chicano/a for the next generations. Just because I refer to myself as Chicana does not make me ill-mannered or uneducated. When I've traveled outside of El Paso and used the term Chicana, people embrace it and understand it. My mom felt the same way as yours, but once she realized that the term has changed and that even in the 60s the Chicanismo movement had major players that were educated and hard-working young people (see also: Ruben Salazar and Dolores Huerta), she understood why I am so adamant and passionate about the labels others have created for us. Calling myself Chicana tells how strongly I feel about the equal rights of all, NOT that I'm a chola looking to continue the negative connotations given to all Latin cultures. I pride myself in my education and the work that I’ve accomplished as a Chicana/Latina/Mexicana-Americana. Having the ability to interchange these three terms, to me, presents just how diverse we are. We’re so culturally rich and our ancestry and heritage dates back so long that not one word can define us.
I credit my Chicano Studies courses in college, as well as many professors I have come into contact with during the course of my undergrad and grade school years for giving me the voice and materials to make sense of it all.
Can you imagine if we were to keep up those misconceptions about our culture? You and I would be afraid to speak Spanish in public and would be afraid to be out in public in general. To that I say: NO GRACIAS.
Comment by Brooke M on December 17, 2009 at 6:26pm
Well said ladies. I've struggled with defining my race for as long as I can remember. I have always called myself Hispanic because I've never had any negative connotations with the word. It wasn't until recently that I started hearing/using the term Latina to replace Hispanic. I'm a 5th generation Texican (Texas born, Mexican heritage) with ancestors from Spain, France, and Mexico and zero family in Mexico. No one in my family ever talks about "what are we." It's pretty strange and I wish my grandparents were more in touch with their heritage. Now that I'm older I am reclaiming my heritage for myself because it's a culture that I feel connected with and a community that I want to contribute to. I think I just don't care anymore about all the labels out there because their meanings are interpreted differently by everyone.
Comment by Taty Salazar on December 17, 2009 at 4:24pm
Actually, I was talking to my mom about this yesterday. According to Mexican-born immigrants, Chican@ is a negative term. Under their definition, a Chican@ is someone who's parents are Mexican and lives in the U.S., but has no education or any kind of manners and usually someone who doesn't want to better their lives. Under that definition, I would not want to identify myself as a Chicana. However, to us, U.S.-born Mexican-Americans, "el Chicanismo" is related to the civil-rights movement during the 1960s. It was this movement that aimed making the term "Chican@" have a positive connotation. If the term had a positive connotation to everyone, I would proudly tell anyone and everyone that I am a Chicana. I'm sure if Latinitas was called Chicanitas, we'd have a lot of parents calling and asking why we're calling their daughters such a derrogatory term when they're clearly very educated young girls (at least I know my mother would!).
I could go on about this forever! But in the end, I will end up making my mind up on the term Mexican-American. Its the least confusing. :P
Comment by cloud.eah on December 17, 2009 at 3:25pm
I can see where you are coming from. Thinking about it when I think about Latinos I think about Puerto Ricans and Cubans dancing. That is true about the salsa dance, it's not from Mexico but the Salsa that you eat is :) I personally dislike being considered Hispanic and I am too a First Generation Mexican, but how do you feel with the term Chicana? I grew up thinking it was bad being considered this "pocha" from LA but I am more comfortable with Chicana that Latina or Hispanic. I guess Latinitas can't be called Chicanitas because not everyone on here comes from Mexico but we need something that bring us together, our Latin culture. It's way more than the spanish language, in my humble opinion! :D




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