Do you know the difference between Hispanic and Latino?

We know that Hispanic Heritage Month kicks off tomorrow, so we thought we would talk about the experiences of those who are recognized during this month. We talk language, institutional experiences, and how to combat anti-Hispanic/Latinx/Chicanx/etc. bias. Don’t forget to check out La Casa’s website for information on campus programming and services dedicated to Latinx students and culture!

Reflect: Do you know the difference between Hispanic and Latino?

The delineation between the terms Hispanic and Latino is a complex conversation about culture and heritage. Yara Simón defined Hispanic as a federal term used to identify people with language and culture specifically heralding from Spain. Latino/a recognizes heritage from Latin America and some parts of the Caribbean, excluding Spain and its colonial history in the region. Others, such as Leo Guerra Tezcatlipoca, use terms like Chicano/a to resist the homogenization of the cultural diversity in Latin America. An important variation that one might see is when an –x replaces the end letter, which is meant to be more inclusive of genders beyond the linguistic binary (e.g., Latinx). It's important to remember that we should respect how one chooses to identify themselves. Listen and follow the lead of how someone identifies themselves when referring to them.

Learn: Latina Experiences in Higher Education

Latina faculty and staff contribute to their institutions in a variety of ways, such as supporting Latinx students by serving as examples of success (Gomez, 2020; Kanagala & Oliver, 2019); however, they are not always given the resources to be successful (Vargas et al., 2019). Tenure can be like a “moving target” for Latina faculty (Urrieta et al., 2015), where they feel they must be twice as productive as white faculty - per vague, subjective standards of success (Harris & González, 2012). Latina faculty are more likely to engage a supervivencia to buffer isolating environments (Urrieta et al., 2015), developing collaborative relationships that keep them connected to their cultural values (Ek et al., 2010). Latina faculty and staff are often also tokenized by their institution to externally promote diversity without providing resources to offset exclusionary experiences and structures (Settles et al., 2019).

Change: Supporting Hispanic/Latinx Voices

  • Listen to their stories: As we talked about earlier, the diversity in Latin America is immense and cannot be encapsulated by a single term. People with Latin American heritage can feel tension with assimilating to the predominantly white culture and perspective of America. Understanding these complex struggles with identity and culture through the stories, such as in this video from the New York Times, will help you identify when Latinx people are targeted by bias in your life.
  • Affirm the legitimacy of Latinx academics: Research shows that academics who center their marginalized identities rather than conform to dominant perspectives are frequently perceived as less legitimate scholars by their peers with privileged identities (Settles et al., 2019; Stolzenberg et al., 2019). This bias is highlighted by cases like Dr. Lorgia García Peña’s, a Latina ethnic studies professor who was denied tenure at Harvard in part because some were concerned her work was “not research, but activism.” Vocally support the importance of Latinx academics, particularly Latina academics, to your community, learn more about Latinx academics in your field, and questioning those who try to devalue Latinx work.
  • Promote Culturally-Competent Mentorship: Mentorship, particularly that which is grounded in cultural recognition, is one of the strongest factors in Latinx students’ long-term career success (Gámez et al., 2017; Kamimura-Jimenez & Gonzalez, 2018). Latinx faculty also benefit from such mentorship, wherein they can acclimate institutionally and professionally (e.g., Irby et al., 2015). Reinvigorate/reexamine your mentorship practices to include cultural competency both in content and structure, such as suggested by Drs. Figureoa and Rodriguez (2015). An example that considers the gendered and racial experiences of Latinas/Chicanas in higher education is Mujerista mentoring (Villasenor et al., 2013), which focuses on honoring Latinas/Chicanas’ multiplicative experience.