“I call myself a Chicana writer. Not a Mexican-American writer, not an Hispanic writer, not a half-breed writer. To be a Chicana is not merely to name one’s racial/cultural identity, but also to name a politic, a politic that refuses assimilation into the U.S. mainstream. It acknowledges our mestizaje — Indian, Spanish, and Africano. After a decade of ‘hispanicization’ (a term superimposed upon us by Reagan-era bureaucrats), the term Chicano assumes even greater radicalism. With the misnomer ‘Hispanic,’ Anglo America prefers the Spanish-surnamed the illusion of blending into the ‘melting pot’ like any other white immigrant group. But the Latino is neither wholly immigrant nor wholly white; and here in this country, ‘Indian’ and ‘dark’ don’t melt.”

— Cherríe Moraga

Terms—these are my definitions and definitions will vary from person to person, group to group.

AfroLatino: Someone who is Latino with African ancestry. We have had much erasure of our African identity. Rosa Clemente addresses this beautifully in her article “Who is Black?“: I am so tired of having to prove to others that I am Black, that my peoples are from the Motherland, that Puerto Rico, along with Cuba, Panama and the Dominican Republic, are part of the African Diaspora. Do we forget that the slave ships dropped off our people all over the world, hence the word Diaspora?

American: Anyone from the Americas, this includes both North & South America. Ask a Mexican if they are American they will say yes. Ask a Canadian if they are American they will say yes. (FYI Mexico’s complete name is The United States of Mexico–and they consider themselves Americans).

Brown: This is an inclusive communal term, as in, if you don’t identify with this term, don’t use it to describe others.  The term is a way to create unity among POC.

Chicanx, Chicano, Chicana, Chican@, Chicanos, Chicanas, Chican@s (also see Xicano below): Someone of Mexican-American background, usually born and/or raised in the United States. It is used politically by Mexican-Americans to identify themselves and was/is very much a term of brown pride This term has an ugly connotation to it in Mexico. My mother never wanted me to be called Chicana and would remind me that I wasn’t (by her definition) and would say things like “You cant be a Chicana because only one of your parents is Mexican”.  This is most likely because as a Mexican she had a derogatory connotation, as many Mexicans do with the term Chicano.

Hispanic: Someone of Spanish descent living in the United States. A term used by the government and often by people of Latin American descent who vote republican. This term is problematic in that it focuses on a colonizer (Spain) and ignores African, Asian, American Indian, and other European ethnicities. Additionally, not all people who are from Latin America speak Spanish, nor may they have any Spanish background. The term picked up steam with the use of it on the US Census in the 80s.

Hispano, Hispana: Someone of Spanish descent. You will see this term often used by people in New Mexico. They believe themselves to be descendants of the first Spanish (people from Spain) immigrants, in what is today the Southwestern United States.

Latin: The language of the Roman empire, not a group of people. Don’t use this.

Latin American: Someone from Latin America. Problematic as a term for people in the USA because many people of Latin American descent have never been to Latin America and may have very little cultural ties to it.

Latinx, Latino, Latina, Latin@, Latinx, Latinos, Latinas: Includes anyone in the United Status who is from or has an ethnic background from Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. Sometimes also includes Filipinos who were at one time occupied people of Spain. Latinos/as can speak Spanish, Portuguese, English, French or Indigenous languages. These are people who usually share a historical background of being occupied by countries where a romance language is spoken. This term is problematic in that no one can decide what falls under it, some would include Jamaica (formerly Santiago) or Haiti or the Philippines, some would not.

Mestizo, Mestiza: Mix of Native American and European.

Mexican, Mexicana, Mexicano: Someone from Mexico, usually born and/or raised in Mexico.

Mirish: A term to describe someone of Mexican and Irish ethnicity. I first read this term in regards to article about a group of Mirish in a Detroit neighborhood.

Ni de aquí, ni de allá:  Litteral translation to the English as “From neither here nor there”.   A common idiom used to describe those who belong to no country or place.  A phrase made even more popular by the actress La India María and her film of the name Ni de Aquí Ni de Allá, about an undocumented Mexican migrant woman in Los Angeles, California.

Pocho, Pocha, Pocha@, Pochos, Pochas, Poch@s: Formerly, an insult term for a Latino (usually a Mexican-American) who does not speak Spanish, does not know the language of their ancestry, or participate in the cultural aspects of their ethnic background. Someone who has attempted to completely assimilate to U.S. mainstream dominant culture.  A term that has been reclaimed be many, as a Mexican-American term of identity.  Also, wonderfully reclaimed at http://www.pocho.com/

Raza: Often mis-translated in English as “race”. Raza does not have the same meaning as the English word “race”. Raza is a community. Can be used to refer to your family, a close-knit group of friends, a community organization, people with a common interest or background. Common nationality, skin tone, ethnic background, etc. are not needed for a group of people to be raza. However, when using the term raza there is an implied understanding of struggle by the person being included.

Spanish: Someone from Spain is Spanish.  There is a language called Spanish.  However it is incorrect when used to define people from Latin America or of Latin American descent. Calling people Spanish is as useful as calling all Brits, Australians, Indians & Canadians, English. Furthermore, not all people of Latin America or of Latin American descent speak Spanish.

Xicanx, Xicano, Xicana, Xican@, Xicanos, Xicanas, Xican@s: Very similar to Chicano(pronounced the same) but with much more emphasis on the political nature of the term. It is a radical term by using the ‘X’ seen in Nahutal (Indigenous language of Mexico) or others say by inspiration of the black power movement.

Term suffixes:
As in Latinx (pronounced Latin-ex) is a way to make a pronoun gender inclusive.  Unlike the suffix _@ which was seen as binary inclusive the suffix _x does not restrict itself to a gender binary (see below suffix _@)

An __o is used to refer to the male sex and the __a to the female sex.
Ending of a pronoun with __os refers to the male sex however it can also include female, but not necessarily. For example if there is room full of 25 Latinos the room could have 25 Latino males, or 24 Latina females and 1 Latino Male. However, in a room full of 25 Latinas there are no men in the room, as soon as there is 1 male in the room then you would refer to the room has having 25 Latinos.
Sometimes you will now see the symbol __@ used in place of saying Latino/a or Pocho/a you might write Latin@ or Poch@ this is used to include both the __os and the __as at the same time.

6 thoughts on “Terminology

  1. “Over the course of 10 years, nosotros the editors of Pocho Magazine and this disaster zone known as pocho.com have forcefully turned pocho into a term of pride, a rallying cry for the tacky, uncultured Mexican-American and Chicano, whose lack of proper Spanish skills, and somewhat weakened ability to eat some hot spicy food items makes him a pariah, an outcastÊ both in the US and in Mexico.”


  2. Pingback: Elenamary - de aquí y de allá » Blog Archive » “You don’t look Spanish”

  3. Pingback: Elenamary - de aquí y de allá » Blog Archive » Latino does not equal undocumented

  4. Muchas gracias! This is a wonderful post and I regret that I missed it originally. I knew most of these, but it’s nice to see that the meanings I’ve garnered from interpretation have been correct, or almost correct. This gringa in Chicago appreciates this very much.

  5. Hello! Great post! I wonder if “Spanish” should be defined as “someone from Spain” instead of “someone who speaks Spanish”?

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