UR professors on the meaning and evolution of Latinx

October 8, 2021

UNIVERSITY NEWS

As Latinx Heritage Month wraps up Oct. 15, two faculty recently explained how the term came to be — and the importance of celebrating the history and accomplishments of the Latinx community.

Patricia Herrera and Mariela Méndez, experts on Latinx culture, research the term in academia and create programming on campus studying the community around the world.

The term Latino came about in the 1970s, Herrera explained, as an all-encompassing term for people living in the United States with ancestral roots from Latin America. Since then, the term has taken on new meaning with feminist (Latina/o and Latin@) and non-binary (Latinx) communities.

 

The x acknowledges that your identity is being crossed by borders of many kinds: linguistics, geopolitical, gender, race. You need to respect where people are at in that journey.
headshot of Mariela Méndez
Mariela Méndez

Associate Professor of Latin American, Latino, and Iberian Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Latin-American-Iberian-Studies, the University of Richmond

“It’s a personal choice to identify as Latinx,” Méndez said. “The x acknowledges that your identity is being crossed by borders of many kinds: linguistics, geopolitical, gender, race. You need to respect where people are at in that journey.”

Méndez shared her experience of moving to the United States after growing up in Argentina.

“I came to the U.S. as an adult,” she said. “I lived in Argentina for 30 years. “I called myself Argentinian originally, and it’s been a journey. It was a very intentional decision to now call myself Latina. Students are working through these labels, it’s a struggle, it’s a process, it’s not straightforward, it has detours and contradictions and tension, and you work through it.”

Herrera and Méndez supported the Student Center for Equity and Inclusion in hosting multiple events on campus for Latinx Heritage Month. They participated in a panel discussing the movie “In the Heights.” The Center for Civic Engagement also hosted a brown bag lunch discussion on “juntxs,” meaning togetherness, and how Latinx communities remain culturally connected during the pandemic.

Many in the Latinx community hold multiple cultures close, including Herrera.  

“As you are navigating between cultures it’s very clear that there is a holding on to the cultural roots, you begin to fuse cultures depending on the time, place, and who you’re with,” Herrera said. “This month is about honoring our culture, but also our contribution in the Americas as a whole.”