Today marks the penultimate day of Latinx Heritage Month. Hopefully, those who identify as Latinx at USC were able to find community amongst those of us who celebrated, either together at one of LSA’s many events, or individually with yourselves. Aside from asking you, the reader, to continue this spirit of self-acceptance and love that Latinx Heritage Month calls for, I intend for this article to make us pause and examine the circumstances of our latinidad as we move forward.
I had originally intended for this article to be posted in the first few days of LHM. In the original draft, I discussed how conflicted I felt at the juncture of this month. In theory, having a month that honors and acknowledges the love, life, and history of the Latinx community in the United States is something to be celebrated. I should feel proud and happy to have a facet of my identity affirmed on a national level, a facet that for so long I had been conditioned to conceal.
That is, of course, supposing I respected the nation that’s affirming me in the first place.
As a student living in the 21st century, it’s become increasingly clear that the United States is nothing more than just a violent hegemon who couldn’t care less for the world and its inhabitants, let alone the Latinx folk within its borders.
In the last few months, the actions that have been taken by the U.S. government discredit and smear the spirit of LHM. For example, the US Supreme Court approved a sweeping asylum ban that targets Central American migrants, even as they continue to turn a blind eye towards the bestial treatment of migrants at the border.
How can the Latin American diaspora in the United States celebrate Latinx Heritage Month knowing that the country in which they currently reside holds them in such low regard, with a president who is profoundly ignorant at best, and recklessly destructive at worst?
For some, this might not be anything new. Most of us understand, at a certain level, the imperialism of the United States. Those directly living in Central and South American countries, as well as in the Caribbean, have felt acutely the hand of U.S. intervention.
But, how well do we understand the imperialism of the Latinx community?
It is here that another sword slashes through the legitimacy of LHM. There is a fundamental problem with latinidad that many choose to ignore, which is that it has been used before to exclude the identity of the young, black and indigenous individuals that should fall under latinidad’s umbrella. Instead, this identity was formulated only to benefit and affirm white and mestizo elites.
Rejecting latinidad invites those who have been traditionally silenced in the US and in their countries of birth to reclaim their identity. This includes all of the Afro-Latinx, Queer-Latinx and Trans-Latinx individuals that valiantly exist. We owe them to recognize and correct for all of the trauma they have faced within the Latinx culture, in regards to anti-blackness, queerphobia, and transphobia.
As we look back, we must acknowledge that this discussion regarding latinidad is one that needs to be had whenever we celebrate Latinidad on such a large scale. A month like this is meant to establish trust and openness amongst those who identify with the Latinx identity. It is this trust that should give us the security and safety to have these discussions and challenge these deep-rooted feelings of pride and nationalism.
By allowing terms like “Hispanic” and “Latinx” to exist without analyzing their origins or their integrity we allow colonialism to flourish. It was none other than the Spanish colonial machine that established the region’s language and became the foundation for its future identity.
I am by no means condemning all those who love their country of origin- not at all! As a child of two Colombian immigrants, being Colombian American is a very central tenet of my identity. Yet, I can love my country, but still recognize its egregious human rights record.
It is this love that allows me to make these criticisms, and it is this love that should give us all the right and autonomy to call out our family members, call out our country’s and most importantly, call out ourselves. That is the best way we can continue to celebrate Latinx Heritage Month even after October 15th.
Oh, and by eating platanos, of course.
Written by: Valeria Ortiz, USC LSA Director of News Media
For further reading, check out these articles:
When it Comes to Latinidad, Who Is Included and Who Isn’t? By Janel Martinez https://remezcla.com/features/culture/when-it-comes-to-latinidad-who-is-included-and-who-isnt/
The Problem With Latinidad By Miguel Salazar https://www.thenation.com/article/hispanic-heritage-month-latinidad/