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Why saying "Hispanic" isn't appropriate

What can I say? I guess there’s something about this day every year that gets me writing (last year I wrote about the "gift of immigration").

Viva Mexico, land that has welcomed us with open arms.

Viva Mexico, friends that we've chosen to be family.

Viva Mexico, you've warmed our hearts and opened our minds in so many ways.

I never would have known what a gift it is to live abroad in a country that welcomes us had I not moved here 15 years ago.

I find it shocking that so many people never leave the US, never set foot in another country beyond a touristy beach.

I also find it surprising that as vocal as people are about immigration laws, they in turn don’t actually understand how hard it is to immigrate to the US. (Just as an example, if we would ever want to move to the US....we’ve been married for nearly a decade, have US children, and still, it would take at least two years to process the paperwork for us to legally move to the US as a family.)

Nor do people often understand, or try to understand, the reasons people flee their homes in the first place and choose to do so “illegally”. When all the paperwork costs money, time and you’re literally fearing for your life or going hungry in a country that is corrupt and is not helping widows, orphans, or those in need, you really have zero options but to put your life on the line and run for it, oftentimes enduring violence, rape, hunger, and robbery along the way.

I find that many times, as people, we try to shield ourselves and our emotions by pretending something doesn’t exist. By looking at law or beliefs as black and white instead of looking another human in the eye and understanding the complexity and depth of need. It’s as if “out of sight, out of mind” becomes a permanent state of existence if you don’t have the opportunity or take a chance to leave what you know, perhaps live elsewhere and ultimately put yourself in someone’s shoes or show empathy for what others are enduring.

20 years ago, I thought so many things were black and white. I was taught that we were right and others were wrong.

What I didn't know then but I see glaringly now, is that I was in such a place of privilege.

20 years from now, I’m sure there will be even more things I see that I have wrong right now.

Each and every day is an opportunity to unlearn what we were taught and learn the truth about what actually happened in history and why things are the way they are.

What I know now is looking back at Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1810, just how horrid Spain was to Mexico and many other countries across Central and South America. Celebrating Columbus Day is an insult to so many people, which is why finally over 200 years later many cities in the US and Latin America are tearing down statues of Christopher Columbus, who came and enslaved and killed thousands of indigenous people. He didn’t “discover” the Americas, people were already living here.

I know now that calling people “Hispanic” when they are from Mexico or from Peru (my husband’s country) or other countries, is an insult in so many ways. Yet, past presidents of the US continued to lump all people of Latinx ethnicity as “Hispanic” which is actually a misrepresentation and insult as Spain (who represented Columbus and funded his journeys) actually came and destroyed entire communities, raped women, killed men, enslaved entire populations, destroyed places of worship, forced indigenous and native people to serve a different god and used “religion” as an excuse for inhumane treatment of other humans.

The irony is not lost on me, that 200 years later, religion is still being used in so many ways as an excuse for the inhumane treatment of other humans.

Religion in so many ways has been built up as yet another system to whitelist the privileged and keep wealthy and white in safe systems that evade taxes, look away instead of help, make laws to protect the borders, inhibit the rights of certain people (such as women), and ultimately look to take care of what is convenient rather than hard. To look within instead of around to help others.

Unlearning what we were taught or held so dear or even “innocently” at times as some may say is part of evolving in life. It’s part of letting go, learning, and showing empathy. Unlearning in so many ways goes hand in hand with learning.

So this is my attempt at unlearning a bit more about what I previously thought. It’s my attempt at understanding language and verbiage that has implicit bias as we speak.

Latinx is gender neutral and the preferred term right now, as it takes into account the history of Latin language backgrounds. Especially as the term “Hispanic” often gets put on anybody from South America, which geographically speaking is incorrect in many ways as Brazil, the largest country in South America does not have any history with Spain, rather with Portugal and the country language is Portuguese, not Spanish.

All of this points back to our tendency to need a label for people rather than saying specific countries as Mexican, Peruvian, Colombian, Ecuadorian, etc. We don’t group Anglo-Saxons or anglophones the same way. We say someone is Australian or British or American, not that everyone is “English”, yet so often people say “Hispanic” without understanding the implications of that terminology.

So that’s where I’m at, learning and unlearning and hoping that in sharing from our little and beautiful corner of the world in Guadalajara, Mexico that we can encourage, inspire and make an impact one day at a time.

Viva Mexico, Me has dado la bienvenida, me has cambiado y me has abierto la mente.

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