Since 1988, the United States has celebrated National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15-October 15. During this month, we honor the countless cultural and societal contributions of more than 60 million Hispanic Americans. Also of mention, Hispanics are the largest minority group in the U.S. and account for roughly 18% of the nation’s total population.

Aside from current events, what makes 2020’s Hispanic Heritage Month significant is the current debate on how U.S. Hispanics want to be identified: “Hispanic,” “Latino/a” or “Latinx.”

I was recently asked to put together a multicultural event for a PR organization. At the time, a committee member and I disagreed on the title. She thought that we should use “Latinx” and I wanted to use “Hispanic.” After some back-and-forth, we settled on “Latinx” based on data she shared. This situation led me to thinking, “How do U.S. Hispanics prefer to be identified?” and “How do I want to be identified?”

The term Hispanic was first used by the U.S. government in the 1970s to collect population data. At the time, it was used primarily by Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Central Americans, South Americans and others with origins in Spanish-speaking countries.

In the 1990s, there was resistance to using the term Hispanic because it embraced a strong connection with Spain and Spanish-speaking countries. Because of this, the term Latino came about. Since then, the two terms have been used interchangeably and appeared on the U.S. census in 2000.

Over the past few years, the term Latinx has emerged as an alternative to Hispanic and Latino. Latinx first came about as a gender- and LGBTQ-inclusive term, reflecting a broader movement within the U.S. around gender identity. There is even a new debate to rename “Hispanic Heritage Month” to “Latinx Heritage Month.” While “Latinx” has seen a rise in online popularity since 2016, its search ranking is still below “Latina,” “Latino,” and “Hispanic.”

According to Pew Research Center Hispanic Trends, about one-in-four U.S. Hispanics have heard of “Latinx” but just 3% use it. Also, young Hispanic women are among the most likely to use the term.

Iván Adaime, CEO of Impremedia, offers a broader explanation about the adoption of the term: “If you ask me why that is, I would say that the term was created by anglophones to label, in a new way, an ethnic group. But this creation is foreign to the ethnic group that it is supposed to represent so probably it will not gain much traction besides its usage by certain anglophone groups. Another reason for its low adoption by U.S. Hispanics is very simplehow are you supposed to pronounce this word in Spanish?”

I asked a group of Hispanic journalists and PR colleagues about how they would prefer to be identified. After some discussion, most agreed that it’s best to use all three terms and include everyone in our community: Hispanic, Latino/a and Latinx.

The big takeaway isn’t about which term we use to identify ourselves. Above everything, we’re still one community that now more than ever needs to come together and celebrate what makes us unique. Our culture, traditions, and legacies will last during and beyond the dedicated heritage month.

Business Wire provides the capability to target the U.S. Hispanic, Latino/a, Latinx markets through our LatinoWire distribution, issuing your news in Spanish and English to leading news organizations.

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