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.

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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.

What I Learned from Practicing Yoga

After my first yoga blog I was almost certain the next one was going to be about the asanas I had “mastered”, but contrary to my self-assurance the practice taught me something else. I can proudly say I have completed four weeks of yoga, and the lessons learned in this brief period of time go beyond the yoga mat or the yoga studio. Here is my testimony after a month of practice.

Yoga Group

1. You are not alone: In a room full of strangers and being a “freshman” you might think it is your practice, and it is only your responsibility to find balance and endurance on high planks and downward facing dogs. The first half of my first day I was feeling that way. It felt too complicated and gruesome to go through a Hot Vinyasa class mainly because I saw the others as my antagonists. I felt pity for myself because the others seemed flexible, agile, balanced, and all of them had a pretty nice posture. I could see through the mirror how they drew perfect lines with every asana while I struggled trying to hide my curvy behind to look like a “real” warrior. Internal criticism kills you. Fortunately it didn’t take me too long to feel connected with the group energy. My first instructor, Kyle Conti, was telling stories about himself and life, and by doing so he was making us part of his reality. I still remember his words, You are the boss of your mat. These seven words took me from self-pity to action. It is not about showing others what you are capable of doing, but “to get deeper understanding of yourself through the asana practice” as Kyle said the day I met him. The group supports your sincere efforts as we support sincere efforts in our daily life. The same happened when I arrived to this country. It was the entire community who pulled me through.

2. You are stronger than you think: I can’t count how many times I have wanted to go into a child’s pose for the rest of the class, but haven’t. Again, one of the first thoughts that comes to mind is “I can’t do this,” to realize not only that I can but I have been able to endure. The point is you’ll never know until you try, and you’ll never get better if you don’t push yourself a little everyday. That little can be staying in an asana for two more seconds or lifting your hips a little higher when doing the bridge. In relationships (especially the close ones) you might have to endure tension, an illness, or something worse. You are strong, you can do it, it will be over soon, and you will be stronger afterwards.Bridge

3. Changes happen one step (or day) at a time: Do not rush. It’s not a competition. On my first  blog I had talked about how I had improved so much in just three days. It was true, but muscles need to readjust, get comfortable with the new movements and weight shifting. A week after I wrote that I felt like the first day. I couldn’t accept it, I wanted to go forward, always. But I am changing inside and out and if I decide to continue, this is a process I cannot accelerate.  Listen to your body, it needs time the same way as you need time when you enter a new situation. I am moving forward even if I think I’m stepping backwards sometimes. Lying or standing on my mat I’m becoming a warrior one asana at a time.

4. You are never too old to try something new, you will be surprised: Think about it. When was the last time you did something for the first time? There is a wide range of ages in these classes. Myself, being 45, might have felt that I didn’t have the flexibility, the strength, or even the time to do something like this. However, my body is becoming more flexible and stronger through the practice. And it has extra benefits. I have met new people who have been so kind and encouraging I feel that I could do anything! The brain feels the difference. There is definitely more oxygenation, and I celebrate my little triumphs as I start finding a sense of self-awareness.

5. It’s okay to take a break (child pose): Because of my competitive spirit a few times I have felt the urgency to catch up with the others (refer to point 3, this is not a competition). Like in other aspects of my life I have rushed to show others that I am better. Bottom line is sometimes you need to stop, close your eyes, and breathe. What could be more perfect than the child pose (or balasana). Here you can only look into yourself, nowhere else. Here your body is in contact with your inner emotions and frustrations. Here you slowdown to a full stop. You can even fall asleep. Strenuous circumstances sometimes call for a nap, and that’s okay. The world will continue spinning, take care of yourself first.

Child poseChild pose side

6. Breathe: In my first class I found it difficult to attend Kyle’s call, “Deep Breath.” In my naiveté I was going from one asana to the next (the best as I could) the way I knew how to, forcing my body into movements without giving it the time or the oxygen to be able to perform. We do exactly the same in our daily routines. We go through the motions in hopes that we can survive the days or the new circumstances without giving our mind, body, and spirit the tools to keep going, and only by the grace of God we actually “survive” those situations sometimes causing some collateral damage. Breathe before making important decisions. Breathe before talking to your loved ones. Simply breathe, you will feel better and your body and the people around you will thank you.

7. Life will shake you, it’s your choice to stay: My mother died unexpectedly in 2012 from an asthma attack. This event could have carried cataclysmic consequences due to the strong ties we had developed during the last few years of her existence. I withdrew from life, friends, and Zumba class not comprehending why this earthquake had started and the ground was still shaking. Likewise though in much lower proportion, when you are doing a half-moon, a standing split, or a reverse plank, depending on the length of the asana you will probably start shaking. It is this soft movement what is allowing change. Embrace it. Endure. Be transformed.

8. Namaste (namas: bowing, te: to you): At the end of each practice everyone turns to the center to bow to the teacher and to every other individual saying “namaste”. Here we regard our neighbor as important or even more than ourselves. This demands humility and respect.  Be humble in all circumstances. Respect your surroundings and the people who cohabitate the planet. So many battles and wars could have been prevented if we Namaste from our heart. The same way, at home, treat your children with kindness, they are just starting to understand life through your actions. Respect the animals, they have the same right to be here as you. Do everything out of love.

Peaceful and humble warriors out there. It has been an honor to meet you. May God guide you and give you strength.

Namaste ♥