The term Latinx has emerged as an inclusive, gender-neutral term that refers to people of Latin American decent living in the United States, and although it has been used by entertainment shows, government officials and community leaders, it’s still not widely accepted by the same people it is meant to describe
A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that only 3% of Latinos in the country have embraced Latinx, while a large majority say they have never heard of the term. “Hispanic” or “Latino” is still the preferred choice, according to the study.
“I think it’s used to unite us all, not separate us all,” said Stephanie Figueroa, a self-described Latinx Salvadoran American. “It’s inclusive for everybody.”
Her parents, however, were less quick to embrace “Latinx” as a term to identify with.
“We never know. It’s new for us,” Manuel and Sonia Figueroa said.
Stephanie Figueroa, who co-owns a popular Salvadoran restaurant, La Pupusa Urban Eatery in Los Angeles, believes the battle over the word Latinx to be a generational issue.
“It’s more of a term that is more for Millennials or Generation X,” Stephanie Figueroa told KTLA. “I do feel like when we talk to older generations that even come and order food, they’re like, ‘What is that? Oh, there’s another term that is made up for them.’”
According to Priscilla Leiva, a Chicano/Chicana Studies professor at Loyola Marymount University, umbrella terms will always have their limitations and benefits.
“The battle over this term, in a lot of ways, is highlighting the fact that we still have a lot of work to do in our communities,” Leiva said.
Living in Los Angeles, the Figueroa family often found themselves the targets of racial stereotypes.
“Sometimes people tell me that I’m Mexican. They say, ‘Hey, you Mexican. Are you from Mexico?’” Manuel Figueroa said. “I say, ‘I’m from El Salvador.’”
With the topic of identity being deeply personal, Stephanie Figueroa said she doesn’t fight it when she encounters someone unwilling to adopt the term.
“You don’t want to agree with it, you don’t want to be open, then it’s OK,” she said. “If you want to identify as Latino/a, then cool for you. Then also cool for me if I want to identify as Latinx.”