Growing up I had a father who most would just categorize as Latino, because of his Mexican background, but he chose to identify with his mother’s Mexican indigenous roots, and therefore self identified as Native American. You would find my dad reading Sherman Alexie, and not thumbing through a biography about Frida Kahlo.
As a child, it was hard for me to explain to people. They would ask me about my parents, I’d tell them about my mom, but when I explained my dad’s heritage, I got confused looks. People asked, “but how is he native, he’s Mexican!?” I grew tired of explaining myself, and grew tired of giving history lessons to grown adults.
For the thousandth time, native peoples are not just in the US and Canada, our people inhabit all of the Americas, including the Caribbean islands, and have done so for thousands of years. Those in Latin American countries, or who descend from those areas with native blood can identify as native, Latino, or a mix of both, it’s OUR decision.
I guess a part of the confusion for folks are the terms “Latino” and “Hispanic.” Latino indicates someone who descends from Latin America. Hispanic indicates someone who speaks Spanish or descends from a Spanish speaking country. Many think they can tack on a “race” to the term Latino, but you cannot. Race is really just categorizing someone into a phenotype. For example, if someone has lighter skin then they’re “white,” or if they have darker skin then they’re “black.” But race is just a social construct, it’s not real, and in my opinion we should stop using race as a category.
A person who is Latino can have many different ethnic backgrounds. They can descend from the native people of the Latin American country from which they come. They can descend from the colonists who explored the present day Latin American country. They could also descend from African slaves or other Africans who lived in Latin American countries. They could also have one or more of the above designations.
Now let’s add in the new term “Latinx.” Latinx would indicate a person who identifies as Latino/Latina, but Latinx is a gender neutral term. Many know about Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated during this time every year, but as we grow into a more inclusive society (or at least many of us are trying to) many have decided to change it to Latinx Heritage Month in order to create a more inclusive branding.
Latinx Heritage Month is celebrated September 15th – October 15th. In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed legislation that officially recognized Hispanic Heritage Week, and in 1988 it was extended to a 30 day period. The annual date was set as September 15th because five Latin American countries celebrate their independence day on that date (Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras), and in addition, Mexico, Chile and Belize celebrate their independence days during that 30 day time period.
In North Carolina, Latinx Heritage Month will be celebrated in many different locations
- September 15 – October 15, Raleigh, Latinx Heritage Month events (https://oied.ncsu.edu/divweb/MSA/latinx-heritage-month/) at North Carolina State University
- September 22, Greensboro, Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration https://www.facebook.com/events/2361343080791311/
- September 22, Raleigh, La Fiesta Del Pueblo https://www.facebook.com/events/811760772558050/
- October 6, Charlotte, Exploring Hispanic Heritage Month https://www.facebook.com/events/391569055102690/
- October 12th, Charlotte, 8th Annual Hola Charlotte Festival (https://holacharlottefestival.com)
Many folks in the Latinx and Native American communities have, in recent months, pointed out the similarities between them, mainly because of ICE raids that target the Latin American communities in the US. Many have pointed out that native peoples inhabit all of the Americas prior to colonization, and that the US/Mexican border is just a border. Native peoples inhabit both sides.
As we celebrate Latinx Heritage Month, we should never forget the richness of our blood and our bonds. We are all related.
Nicki Faircloth is also called “vegetable soup” by her father because of her mixed identity as a person of Native, Hungarian, Mexican and various other bloodlines. She is also part of Women AdvaNCe’s Leadership Team.