Latinx? I am a Latina, LA-TI-NA

America is a country I love so much. However, at times its “political correctness” gets to the point in which you cannot express your opinion freely without offending somebody. So they keep trying to reinvent the wheel by changing the names of races, physical conditions, and even communities. That is the case of Latinx, the “new” word to refer to us, Latinos. However, who asked us Latinos what are our pronouns or what we would like to be called? Latinx seems a term from outer space. Imagine this conversation:

-Which planet are you from?

-I’m Latinx. How about you? Are you Americanx?

The fact that so many words have been adapted into making everyone feel accepted can result in confusing terms not only for foreigners, but also for Americans. A few years ago, for example, I entered a women’s store and left frustrated because I couldn’t find anything my size even though the store was stocked with the latest fashions. When I saw the words “curvy”, and “women sizes” I got excited I was finally going to find pants and skirts to fit my very rounded behind. I later realized “women” and “curvy” are the “new” words to describe heavy set females.

Likewise, the first time I saw the word Latinx in a document, I emailed my boss to tell her there was a typo; then she revealed “the truth”. Latinx is a new term so one part of the population doesn’t feel excluded. More excluded? How? The United States is closing its borders, our president calls us all “Mexicans”, rapists, and thieves. I think that train already left the station, so calling us Latinx doesn’t make us feel any more welcomed or rejected.

We Latinos do have a way of including everybody though. In written form we use the @ symbol to refer to males and females; as in Latin@s, amig@s (friends), or compañer@s (partners), since the @ looks like an o and an a at the same time. We do this only in informal settings though. Nevertheless, in spoken form we still use the terms Latinos, Latinas, Latino, and Latina. And these are the words I have been hearing from my Latin American friends living in the United States as well.

Part of my job requires to make surveys and when I have asked a Latin@ if they identify themselves as Latinx, invariably, they have hesitated. They’ve stopped to ask, “What is Latinx?” After a brief explanation, they chuckle pointing out at the ridiculousness of that word.

My college professors always emphasized, Go to the source. So I did. La Real Academia Española, Diccionario de Americanismos. I typed Latinx. The result: La palabra latinx no está registrada en este diccionario (The word latinx is not registered in this dictionary). Same result for the Spanish Dictionary.

Then I went to the other source. Oxford Dictionary:

La·tin·x

/ˌlaˈtēˌneks/

noun

1.a person of Latin American origin or descent (used as a gender-neutral or nonbinary alternative to Latino or Latina): “The books share stories of the civil rights struggle for African Americans, Latinxs, and LGBTQ people.”

In the example above, I saw another leg of the word. It can be plural! I’m going to need to hear the pronunciation of this one soon.

In my opinion, we don’t need a gender-neutral nonbinary word to refer to us. America, first, fix the chart of races in which a Latino can’t be Black and vice versa. Also, delete the words Latino and Hispanic from race since these words refer to origin and language, and there is a variety of races in the Latin American countries.

received_574724883335399225346634.jpeg

Countries of origin from left to right: Mexico, Guatemala, Venezuela, Colombia, Argentina, Mexico. (Photo by José G. Vázquez)

Latinos come in a variety of colors. We have been colonized by the Germans, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. During the Atlantic slave trade, Latin America was the main destination of millions of African people transported from Africa to French, Portuguese, and Spanish colonies. Slavery’s legacy is the presence of large Afro-Latino populations. After the gradual emancipation of most black slaves, slavery continued along the Pacific coast of South America throughout the 19th century.

If you ask me, I will say I am a Latina, and I am also Black. One category doesn’t exclude the other, and both are correct terms to refer to my origin and my race. I am proudly part of the traveling exhibition NUEVOlution: Latinos and the New South that started at the Levine Museum in Charlotte, NC, and has traveled to Birmingham, AL, and is now in Atlanta, GA.

The word Latinx just comes to complicate the already complicated definitions and categories that have been assigned to us. Although eventually, this is a term we will have to accept since surely it will be part not only of surveys, but job and college applications, and daily conversations. However, in the meantime, and while we still can say it, WE ARE LATINOS! Period.

* This article reflects my opinion and the opinions of some people I know.

The Importance of a Name

First Days In China

I don’t know anything about China and its people. I am just a passerby who is trying to learn and understand their ancient culture… after barely a week of living among them. I have started teaching English as a Second Language at an international school just today. I was following my coordinator to be able to find my classrooms, but she also stayed with me to help me with the Chinese names. Nevertheless it wasn’t only that I couldn’t read nor pronounce any of their names, the issue was that I had to re baptize them.

Photo on 9-1-16 at 4.05 PM #2

Ningbo International School (China)

Introductions

We went to my first classroom, I greeted the students in English, told them my name and tried to write it down on a blackboard (it’s been a while since I’d seen one of those), the piece of chalk broke with my first attempt, they laughed, I looked at them offering a weak “Namaste” (I know, wrong culture), and tried again, successfully this time.
Elina, my coordinator, told me, “I’m going to call out their names, and if they don’t have an American name you give them one.” I looked at her with disbelief. I had to “give them an American name”, that is a lot of power.

What My Name Means

I had a little flashback. My name is Kurma, but my parents called me “Kerma” all my life. I never understood why they’d change the pronunciation of the first syllable  of my name when in Spanish the vowels are always pronounced the same. When I asked my mother, she said, “Your name is German”, and I went by this for years until my eighth grade teacher told me that in German as in Spanish the vowels are pronounced the way they are written. But my parents, friends, and relatives called me “Kerma’, and I was perfectly happy with that, getting aggravated every time some silly acquaintance dared to called me “Kurma” with a u. Only when I visited the United States for the first time I understood. They called me something very close to “Kerma” at immigration . It is because the vowel “u” changes to the phonetic sound [^] when between consonants. Understanding this was huge. Also, at the first school I had the privilege to work, I bumped into the definition of my name in a small book. It has to do with one of the reincarnations of Vishnu in the shape of a giant turtle in order to churn the ocean of milk and find the chalice of eternal youth. From then on it didn’t bother me to be called “Kurma” with a u because that is the phonetic sound in my mother tongue and in sanskrit too; then in English, they use the [^] which sounds very close to “Kerma” so I have allowed myself to be identify with these variations of my name. But I draw the line here. Do not call me “Karma” or “Kermit”… THAT-IS-NOT-MY-NAME!!

Kurma
Kurma deva.jpg

Incarnation of Vishnu as a Turtle
Devanagari कूर्म
Affiliation Turtle God and second Avatar of Vishnu
Weapon Chakra
Consort Lakshmi

Lord Vishnu Has ten Avatars, of which this is the second

Chinese Names

Going back to my Chinese pupils. I felt it was a big responsibility to have to choose a name for them. If I were them, I don’t think I’d give them permission to call me by a Chinese name because in my small opinion there is a sacredness, uniqueness, semantics, and blessing that come with  that word or set of words bestowed upon you sometimes even before the moment of your birth.

Learning Moment

Know your strengths and limitations, and open your boundaries to make your bother’s/sister’s life lighter. In the United States I had a handful of Chinese students who told me they had chosen an American name, but since that name was the one in their progress report I didn’t think so much of it until now. I am humbled by the gift my students offered with both hands open. They resign to their names so that I (or any other foreign teacher) have a lighter burden. I am unable to speak their language so they help me by giving me the power to name them the way that is easier for me.

American Names

It was a pretty interesting exercise. Some expressed they already had American names, and though a few times they didn’t seem appropriate, my gift to them was to let them keep their chosen name. As far as for the others, I looked at them briefly and asked myself “What American name do you look like?” And I came out with a name for each one of them, without repeating, even when the classes are as big as 42 students. Thomas, Kevin, Alan, Lily, Jenny, John, Charles, Emma, Elizabeth… They are respectful, they listen, they follow instructions, and most importantly, they are very excited about their learning!!

I have bestowed them with a name, and in return they allow me to give them my gift. The gift of teaching.

Blessings to China!! ❤