How to navigate the nuances of Hispanic & Latino labels.

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Dec 15, 2022 | Culture

Latino VS Latina VS Latine VS Latinx

The terms Latino, Latine, Latinx, and Hispanic refer to people living in the United States who trace their ancestry to Latin America and Spain. There is an ongoing debate about which of these terms is most appropriate and inclusive. As a marketer, being aware of this nuanced discussion can help avoid cultural insensitivity when reaching these diverse audiences.

Because Spanish is a patriachical language, it is gendered to the masculine suffix being the standard.

Latino refers to a person of Latin American origin or descent; referring specifically to males of Latin American background. The feminine form is Latina.

Latine has recently emerged as a gender-neutral alternative to Latino/Latina. By replacing the masculine “o” ending with an “e,” it aims to include non-binary individuals. Proponents argue Latine is more inclusive than Latino/Latina. Critics counter that its unfamiliarity marginalizes Spanish speakers, specifically the older demographic (older millennials+).

A lesser known grammatical alternative outside of the community is to write Latin@ which allows the reader to interpret the term they wish to associate the context with.

Latinx

Latinx is another recent gender-neutral form gaining traction. It replaces the gendered ending “o/a” with an “x.”

Supporters applaud its aim to be inclusive of all genders. Detractors contend the “x” feels Anglicized and unpronounceable in Spanish.

Hispanic broadly refers to people descended from Spanish-speaking cultures. It encompasses Spaniards, Latin Americans, and sometimes Brazilians. It emphasizes Spanish influence rather than indigenous roots. Some view it as overly broad or even offensive, while others prefer its pan-ethnic scope.

Usage varies regionally, generationally, and individually. In the Western U.S., Latino remains common. In East Coast cities like New York, Hispanic persists. Latinx has greater popularity among younger generations and English-dominant speakers. Surveys show only 23% of U.S. Latinos have heard of Latinx, and just 3% use it.

There are arguments around colonialism and empowerment. Terms like Hispanic and Latino reference Europe and colonizers over indigenous civilizations. Conversely, the newer terms Latinx and Latine were created within the community to better represent its diversity.

Marketers aiming to resonate authentically should consider their target demographic’s geography, age, language preference, and self-identification. Using inclusive forms like Latinx without context risks alienating Spanish-dominant consumers.

Consult Spanish-language media and influencers for terminology commonly used by the local community. Let members self-identify rather than making assumptions.

Provide language options like Latino/Latina/Latinx on surveys.

Avoid pan-ethnic stereotypes. Not all Hispanic/Latino individuals eat spicy food, dance salsa, etc. Reflect nuanced experiences like varied immigrant generations and countries of origin. Ensure diverse representation in images and casting.

Strike a balance between recognition and overgeneralization. Those who more narrowly identify can feel overlooked by broad terms like Hispanic or Latino. But generically addressing distinct cultures like Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, etc. ignores their shared elements and complexities.

The debate continues evolving around these terms for Latin American/Spanish-origin populations in the U.S. By learning their nuances, marketers can thoughtfully represent and connect with one of America’s fastest growing demographics. The most inclusive approach invites Latinx communities to share how they self-identify and want to be addressed.

And if there is ANYTHING to take away from this insight is to remember that all Latinos are NOT Hispanic, and all Hispanics  are NOT Latino, i.e. Brazilians are Latino because they are Latin Americans, but their native tongue is Portuguese, not Spanish. And Spaniards are Hispanic, but not Latin Americans.

What has your team’s experience been in addressing the Hispanic community?

 

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