Latinitas - A Strong Voice for Latina Youth

When someone asks about your background, what do you say? Chicana? Latina? Mexican-American? Puertorriqueña? LATINITA??? :)

Poll results just released from think tank Pew Research Center have a few interesting findings regarding how young Latinos define themselves.
It found that 52% of Latinos surveyed ages 16 to 25 refer to their family's home country first when identifying themselves.
20% use "American" first. and 24% use "Hispanic" or "Latino."
Additionally, 33% of second-generation Latinos use American first.

I use Mexican-American when I'm asked about my background. I've always used it, but now as I've grown into this loud, angry Latina, I am more sensitive to the way I refer to myself.
Once after a heated debate in my Media Effects on Minorities class, I went home and discussed the way us Latinos identify ourselves with my Mom. She seemed offended when I said I identified more with the term "Chicana" rather than "Hispanic." Even a good friend said "ewww" when I mentioned that I referred to myself as "Chicana."
There's a stigma attached to Chicanismo, a misconception that Chicanos wear zoot suits, speak using Spanglish, start bar brawls and break store shop windows in protest of the White Man. It's not! It's about human rights and understanding amongst the masses. I've heard of a professor at UTEP who refers to herself as a Chicana despite being Hindu with no Latin descent whatsoever. Chicanos and Chicanas want equality overall and this professor (whose name I don't know) is proof that people of other descents can be receptive to the needs of the Latino community.
She argued that "Hispanic" refers to all Spanish-speaking peoples of Latin America and Spain, completely the opposite of what I learned in all of my Chicano Studies-based classes.
To me Hispanic is offensive. It rapes my true culture of its wonder and richness. Hispanic is a generic term created by generic people to label and oppress this new population they feared (and to this day continue to fear).
I am, and always will be, a Mexican-American, a Latina, and a Chicana.
Mexican-American because both of my parents were born in Mexico.
Latina- because I refuse the term Hispana and Latina more appropriately describes the fact that my background is from Latin America and that I am a woman.
Chicana- because I feel strongly about the issues that affect the entire Latino community in the United States, and especially those in my community. My parents were undocumented immigrants and I have them to thank for the opportunity I have today to be an educated Latina/Chicana/Mexicana-Americana. haha

Besides I don't like how "American-Mexican" sounds-- no iambic pentameter or Latin flavor. Haha

Check out the Pew Centers findings : "Between Two Worlds: How Young Latinos Come of Age in America" here. There is more to the findings; muy interesante!

Now that i'm on the topic, what is up with my Puerto Rican counterparts? They don't like to be referred to as Americans, despite the fact that, unlike Mexico, Puerto Rico is part of the U.S.? They have the same rights as Americans, better opportunities than immigrants of any other nation into the U.S. have? What gives?

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Comment by Laurena Cassetta De Amaya Paz on February 16, 2010 at 9:12am
This is my understanding of it the difference between Latino and Hispanic.
Hispanic covers all of Latin America and Spain, Latino doesn’t cover Spain.. So like my husband can be considered Hispanic or Latino but my friend Gaby from Spain can only be considered Hispanic.. At least that’s like.. The technical way of looking at it..
My heritage is Spain-ish Brazilian and Sicilian on my fathers side and that’s what I say when people ask me... the whole thing is
Dad- Sicily, Spain and Brazil
Mom- Czechoslovakian, Irish, Austrian, Ukranian, Albanian and Romanian
So its just much easier to say "I'm a mutt" or to just use my dads background, or just say Spain-ish. I was born in The Bronx in NY where there was a lot of culture everywhere, the entire place was like europe and the Caribbean threw up culture life and beauty all over the place. I moved to Va and I immediately felt.. demolished. My family is well assimilated to the US, i was raised speaking English and i was strongly discouraged about listening to Hispanic music, which has always been my favorite. I was really morena when i was a kid and there wasn’t a lot of Hispanic people in my area... Poor me, i had hairy arms and legs and big eyebrows and my mom wouldn’t let me shave or pluck or anything so i was made fun of terribly, people asked my mom if she adopted me from a third world country, kids and teachers in school would ask me if i spoke English before talking to me, kids in class called me an illigal alien. To this day i see it.. when i worked in Walmart a girl that i have known since school was like "Puerto Rican! Puerto Rican" and just yelling it at me, im not puerto rican so obviously i didnt realize she was talking to me and then a customer says to me "i think she wants your attention" and i looked up n she goes "hey there puerto rican, finally! What is the code for avacados?" n i was like "uh first i am not puerto rican, i am spanish.. like from spain spanish! Thats an entire ocean away" and she goes "ohh well i wouldnt know I wouldnt have to swim across it to get here" So OBVIOUSLY a lot of discrimination in my area.. by high school though, we had quite a few of spanish kids and they totally accepted me but made fun of me constantly for not speaking spanish and a lot of them called me a "fake spic" or a "spic wanna be" but it was "all in fun". I dont know why of all my heritages i feel closes to my spanish roots but I do and I have been trying to totally learn my culture as if i was raised in it.. My husband is 100% hispanic, he is from Honduras. A lot of his friends girlfriends tease me that he married me for papers, i do my best to ignore it. I think any one with a pure background cant understand that it does actually hurt someone to joke about how little they know about themselves and their culture. I have, with out school and with many many learning disabilities, learned a lot of spanish. My husband doesnt speak english so he definately was my main reason/teacher.. He says im like 85% fluent its been great to learn and it makes me feel so much more connected to myself!! I definitely identify with my Spanish culture.. Although I’m part Brazilian I have never outwardly or fowardly refered to myself as Latina, I say that I am Hispanic but I just don’t feel like I know enough about my Brazilian roots to consider myself Latina… I don’t know why really.. I just really feel closest to my Spain roots.
Comment by cloud.eah on December 14, 2009 at 10:39am
Loved your blog! There's seems to be a lot of people with an identity crisis. For example, when I go to Mexico I am not Mexican enough, but when I go further inside the US I am considered Mexican. I was born in Mexico but raised here. I don't even remember stepping on Mexican land. Even if I was born in Mexico I consider myself Mexican-American, because all my life I have lived this American way, just eating different food and speaking another language. Before I used to hate the word Chicano just because Chicanos are typecasted as criminal, pocho, cholos from LA. I learned what a Chicano was until I took classes at the University and it opened my eyes. It was a powerful movement that now lets my generation get equal educational opportunities. Now I am proud and I consider myself a Chicana more than a Latina. Also I dislike the word Hispanic, the Census just didn't know how to count us and made up a word for "the spanish speakers" ugh!




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