Latinx Communities in the United States

Syntia Santos Dietz, Ph.D., NCC

Latinx individuals comprise the largest and one of the fastest growing ethnic minority groups in the United States (Torres et al, 2012), yet the diversity within this vast group is often overlooked. Educators and helping professionals have the responsibility to educate themselves in regards to culture, identity, and diversity of the individuals that they work with to better serve them. As a member of these communities I am often expected to represent the entire group of people, even if I was born and raised in Honduras, and never called myself a “Latina” until I came to the United States. The first step in recognizing the diversity within this group of people is to understand the distinction between terms that encompass this population.

The terms Hispanic and Latino/a are often mistakenly used interchangeably. It is important to clarify that neither are racial categories. The term Hispanic was adopted by the U.S. Census Bureau in 1970 to refer to Spanish speakers. However, today the term carries with it a history of oppression and discrimination. The term Latina/o is used to describe a diverse cultural group referring to people from different countries and backgrounds including Indigenous backgrounds, Afro-descendants, and Spanish backgrounds. The term, however, does not include individuals from Spain. It is important to recognized that people may choose to identify with one over the other, or choose to identify themselves in terms of country of origin. For example, people from Spain may consider themselves Hispanic, but someone from Brazil, whose native language is Portuguese, may choose to use the term Latino/a instead. As an international, I would more likely choose the term Honduran as opposed to Latina or Hispanic (Hernandez & Curiel, 2012).

The term Latinx is also important to acknowledge. Latinx (pronounced Lateen-ex) is a gender-neutral identifier for people of Latin American descent in the U.S. that is gaining popularity among scholars, activists, journalist, and the general public. The term moves beyond gender binaries, offering an alternative to Latino, Latina and even Latin@. It is more inclusive in regards to sexual and gender identities (Ramirez & Blay, 2016; Scharrón del Río & Aja, 2015).

Syntia Santos Dietz, Ph.D., NCC
Assistant Professor
Department of Interdisciplinary Professions