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Latino vs Latinx vs Hispanic vs Latine? Which is right?

The most common terms to describe people of Latin American descent are Hispanic and Latino. They are the most known and used however the terms Latinx and Latine are less than a decade old but are becoming used more by GenZ and Millennials. Latinx got its origin in the mid-2000s. The word is believed to have come from Latin American feminist protests where they would X out words ending in ‘os’ and ‘o’ to further expand the gender-inclusive forms of words to replace the terms Latino and Latina in the Spanish language. Latinx and Latine can be used to refer to people who don’t identify as a man or woman. It can also be used to describe people who simply don’t want to be seen as Latino since it’s a masculine term and they prefer an alternative word to describe themselves.

History of Latino and Hispanic

To fully understand these new terms that are being used we first need to dive into their history. We’ll start off with the more familiar terms including Hispanic and Latino. As National Geographic details in an article titled, ‘Hispanic’? ‘Latino’? Here’s where the terms come from, “The word Hispanic comes from the word Hispanicus, which is a Latin word that was used by ancient Romans referring to the Iberian Peninsula Hispania. Later in the 19th century, the term Hispanic and Hispano became the new way to describe people who have ties with Spain. The term Latino was also introduced in the 19th century which was based on the words Latinoamericano and being of Latin American descent. 

The Statistics of The Terms

Now that history is out of the way, let’s look at the statistics. According to the PEW Research Center survey of approximately 3,000 panelists, only approximately one in four Hispanics know about “Latinx” and its origin. To compound this, the same survey topples the Latinx term in its analysis that only 3% of Hispanics in the U.S. use this term to describe themselves. The research goes on to show that Latinx is more acceptable to younger people and is primarily used by young Hispanic women. 14% of Hispanic women ages 18-29 use Latinx and are more likely to use the term Latinx than Hispanic men. 32% of U.S.-born Hispanics have heard of the term, which is double the 16% of foreign-born Hispanics responding to the same question. The term is used mostly by English-speaking and bilingual-speaking people in the United States whereas Spanish-speaking countries are more likely to use the term Latine. 

However, there are many people, especially among older generations, who are either against Latinx and Latine or feel uncomfortable using these terms to describe themselves. The most common reason why the older Latino generations are against these terms is that they feel it changes the Spanish language. In Spanish, there is no word that ends with the letter ‘X’ therefore it seems inappropriate in their eyes. As a recent upset Hispanic author writes in an editorial in USA Today, “That’s the irony of ‘Latinx’ It’s supposed to be inclusive but erases a crucial part of Latin American identity and language and replaces it with an English word.”

Marketing to U.S. Latinos / Latinx

The Latinx community has a massive impact on the U.S. economy and marketing to them would benefit any industry. The community that is most likely to self-identify as Latinx are made up of primarily Gen-Z and Millenials. These groups of people are on social media platforms daily such as Instagram, Youtube, Snapchat, and Tiktok to name a few. Latin Americans (those born in a Latin country) are more inclined to use Whatsapp the most and their usage is much higher than U.S.-born Hispanics. The same article cites a Nielsen statistic that 45% of Latinx consumer buy from brands that align with their social values and beliefs. This community is family oriented and wants a brand that represents that. 

However brands must be cautious when targeting an older Hispanic audience. Companies selling luxury travel, home insurance, and many other industries should steer clear of the terms Latine and Latinx which might offend their older target audience.

Countries That are Overlooked

We have to take into account that Spain is a part of the Hispanic community as they are also a Spanish-speaking country. Brazil is included in the Latino conversations because of its geographical location, however, they are not Hispanic because they speak Portuguese instead of Spanish. Equatorial Guinea can also be added to the equation because it is an African country that speaks Spanish as its national language. There remains controversy in whether or not these countries can be considered Latino/Hispanic or even Latinx and Latine despite sharing similar social norms and languages. 

The Future of Latinx and Latine

But what does the future of the terms Latinx and Latine look like? Well, as the younger generations are growing up today, they will be aware of these terms whether they choose to identify with them or not. These terms will likely be encouraged more and more as non-binary individuals will soon have children of their own. With every new generation, there will be people who will use their voices to say how they feel and identify. In the end, these people only want to create an identity built on respect and equality and be the role models that they wished they had growing up. There will still be controversy as there will be people who don’t agree with the terms and will still use the classic Latino or Hispanic terms. In the end, we can only hope there will be a mutual agreement on this topic for both sides to be accepting of each other. 

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