Latinx? Latino/a? Hispanic?
What’s the difference between Hispanic, Latino, Latinx and Latine?
People often want to know which term — Hispanic, Latino or Latinx — is the most respectful. But it really depends on the person and context.
“Hispanic” refers to any of the peoples in the Americas and Spain who speak Spanish or are descended from Spanish-speaking communities. It was coined in the 1970s by the U.S. Census Bureau to offer a pan-ethnic name for peoples such as Puerto Ricans, Mexican Americans, Cuban Americans and others, whose social, economic and political needs were often ignored.
According to UC Berkeley's Cristina Mora, before the term “Hispanic” was adopted, the census enumerators would often check off people such as Mexican Americans as “White” on the census forms.
In contrast to Hispanic, the term Latino describes any person with ancestry in Latin America, a politically defined region usually unified by the predominance of Romance languages. This definition usually includes Portuguese-speaking Brazil and French-speaking Haiti, but excludes Spain.
But what about Latinx??
For some, the pronunciation of the word is cryptic: la-TEENGKS? LA-tin-EX? For others, it represents a kind of language imperialism by imposing a new English word onto a Spanish word and rendering it unpronounceable.
Latinx is essentially a non-binary form of Latino or Latina. The suffix “-x” replaces the “-o” or “-a” corresponding to masculine or feminine, allowing the word to resist the gender binary. (In Spanish-speaking countries, the term Latine with the suffix “-e” is circulating as an alternative to the -o/a binary.)
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On “Dead” Cultures and Closed Spiritual Practices: Why Colonialism Is Still A Problem.
Let me start this by saying that, as far as my knowledge of Paganism and Polytheism as a whole goes, I’m what the internet witch community calls a “Baby Witch”. I’m stating this out of the gate because I know there will be lots of people, including witches who have more experience on the craft than me, who might decide to ignore what I have to say based on that fact alone, stating that I’m not knowledgeable enough to give my opinion about this.
Here’s the kicker: I’m a ‘baby witch’, yes, but I’m also a twenty-six year old Venezuelan woman. I’m an adult. I’m Latina. I’m a Christian-raised Pagan,but I’m also a Latinoamerican woman over all other things including that. I grew up on this culture, these are my roots. It is because of this background than I’m writing this post today.
Looking through the “Paganism” and “Witchcraft” tags of this website, I’ve seen a few posts throwing indigenous deities and spirits’ names around on lists alongside deties of open cultures. Yes, you can know better by doing your own research and not going by what just a random Tumblr user wrote on one post (as I hope its the case with everyone on this website), but the fact that pagan beginners are still getting fed misinformation is still worrisome to me.
There’s nothing like reading a so-called expert putting Ixchen (Maya), Xolotl (Nahuatl) and Papa Legba (Vodou) on the same damn list as Norse, Hellenic and Kemetic deities and tagging it on the tags aimed at beginners who might not know better to truly ruin your morning. I’m not mentioning user names here: If you know then you know.
To quote @the-illuminated-witch on her very good post about Cultural Appropriation:
“Cultural appropriation is a huge issue in modern witchcraft. When you have witches using white sage to “smudge” their altars, doing meditations to balance their chakras, and calling on Santa Muerte in spells, all without making any effort to understand the cultural roots of those practices, you have a serious problem.
When trying to understand cultural appropriation in witchcraft, it’s important to understand the difference between open and closed magic systems. An open system is one that is open to exchange with outsiders — both sharing ideas/practices and taking in new ones. In terms of religion, spirituality, and witchcraft, a completely open system has no restrictions on who can practice its teachings. A closed system is one that is isolated from outside influences — usually, there is some kind of restriction on who can practice within these systems.”
A counter-argument I’ve seen towards this when someone wants to appropiate indigenous deities and spirits is to use the “dead culture” argument: Extinct cultures are more eligible for use by modern people of all stirpes. It is a dead culture and dead religion. It would be one thing if some part of the culture or religion was still alive, being used by modern descendants, but the culture died out in its entirety and was replaced, right? They were all killed by colonization, they are ancient history now, right?
Example: “If white people are worshipping Egyptian deities now, then why can’t I worship [Insert Aborigen Deity Here]?”
To which I have two things to say:
Ancient Egypt’s culture was open and imperialistic, meaning they wanted their religion to be spread. This is why Kemetism is not Cultural Appropriation, despite what some misinformed people might tell you. Similar arguments can also be made for the Hellenic and the Norse branches of Paganism, both practiced by people who aren’t Greek/Norse.
Who are you to say which cultures are “dead” and which are not?
Religious practices such as Vodou and Santería certainly aren’t dead, not that it keeps some Tumblr users from adding Erzuli as a “goddess” on their Baby Witch post, something that actual Vodou practitioners have warned against.
Indigenous cultures such as the Maya and the Mapuche aren’t dead, despite what the goverment of their countries might tell you. The Mapuche in particular have a rich culture and not one, but two witchcraft branches (The Machi and the Kalku/Calcu). Both are closed pagan practices that the local Catholic Church has continuously failed to assimilate and erase, though sadly not for lack of trying:
“The missionaries who followed the Spanish conquistadors to America incorrectly interpreted the Mapuche beliefs regarding both wekufes and gualichos. They used the word wekufe as a synonym for ideas of the devil, demons, and other evil or diabolical forces. This has caused misunderstanding of the original symbolism and has changed the idea of wekufe right up to the present day, even amongst the Mapuche people.”
For context, the Wefuke are the Calcu’s equivalent of the Familiar, as well as reportedly having more in common with the Fae than with demons anyway.
This and other indigenous religions are Closed because it is wrong for foreigners to just come and take elements from marginalized groups whom are still fighting to survive and that they weren’t born into. To just approppiate those things would be like spitting in their faces, treating them and their culture like a commodity, a shiny thing, a unique thing to be used like paint to spruce up your life or be special.
I know some of you are allergic to the word “Privilege”, but on this situation there really ain’t a better word to explain it. You weren’t born here, you don’t know what it is like, you are only able to see the struggle from an outsider’s point of view.
If a belief or practice is part of a closed system, outsiders should not take part in it. And with how many practices there are out there which are open for people of all races, there is really no excuse for you to do it.
Why Colonization Is Not “Ancient History”
If you have kept reading all this so far, you are probably wondering “Ok, but what does Colonization has to do with any of this?”
The answer? Everything.
With the general context of culture appropriation out of the way, let me tell you about why the whole “dead culture” argument rubs me the wrong way: Here in Venezuela, we have a goddess called Santa Maria de la Onza, or Maria Lionza for short, whom’s idol statue I have been using to illustrate this little rant. If you happen to know any Spanish, you might recognize the name as a derivative of Santa Maria, aka the Virgin Mary, and you are mostly correct: Her true indigenous name is theorized to have been Yara.
And I say “theorized” because it is a subject of hot debate whether she was really ever called that or not: Her original name, the name by which she was adored and worshipped by our ancestors, might have been forever lost to history.
That’s the legacy of colonization for you: Our cultures were stolen from us, and what they couldn’t erase they instead tried to assimilate. Our ancestors were enslaved, their lands and homes stolen, their artwork and literary works destroyed: The Maya and the Aztec Empire were rich in written works of all kinds, ranging from poetry to history records to medicine, and the Spaniards burned 99% of it, on what is probably one of the most tragic examples of book burning in history and one that people rarely ever talk about.
People couldn’t even worship their own gods or pass their knowledge of them to their children. That’s why Maria Lionza has such a Spanish Catholic-sounding name, and that’s why we can’t even be sure if Yara was her name or not: The Conquistadors couldn’t steal our goddess from us, so they stole her name instead. Catholics really have a thing with trying to assimilate indigenous goddesses with the Virgin Mary, as they tried to do the same with the Pachamama.
On witchy terms, I’d define Maria Lionza as both a deity and a land spirit: Most internet pages explaining her mention the Sorte mountain as her holy place, but it is more along the lines that she is the mountain.
You’d think that, with Venezuela and other Latinoamerican countries no longer being colonies, we’d be able to worship our own deities including her, right?
As far as a lot of Catholics seem to think and act, apparently we are not.
The Catholics here like to go out of their way to shame us, to call us “cultists”, to ostracize us, with a general call to “refrain from those pagan beliefs” because they go against the Catholic principles. Yes, the goddess with the Catholic-sounding name, a name she happens to share with a Catholic deity, apparently goes “against Catholic principles”. You really can’t make this shit up. (Linked article is in Spanish)
This is just an act of colonization out of many, of not wanting to stop until the culture they want to destroy is gone. Don’t believe for a second that this is really their God’s will or anything like that, they are just trying to finish what years of enslavement and murder couldn’t. They might not be actively killing us anymore, but they still want us dead.
So no, colonization is not some thing that has long passed and now only exist on history textbooks: It is still happening to this day. It is by treating it as old history that they can keep doing it, and it is by pushing the narrative that our indigenous cultures are “dead cultures” that they try to erase our heritage.
Because we are not dead. We are still here, we are alive, we have survived and we’ll keep on surviving, and our gods and goddesses are not yours to take.
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