Understanding terminology as a way to welcome communities
Latino, Latinx and Hispanic: What does each term mean?
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The presence of Latinos in higher education institutions is a phenomenon that has been increasing over the years. Although with many similarities, the diversity among this community is great and valuing it is essential to embracing and welcoming the Latinos who choose to further their education.
Since the pandemic began in 2020, Latinos have shown the largest increase in college enrollment when compared to other underrepresented groups. An increase of 13.3% in Latino freshman enrolling at four-year higher education institutions represented the fastest growing group in 2022. Predictions for upcoming years also expect these numbers to keep growing.
Excelencia in Education, a D.C.-based nonprofit working towards higher-education institutions that serve Hispanic and Latino students, projects a 15% increase in Hispanic enrollment from 2020 to 2029.
A great way to start making this community feel that they truly belong in college and universities is by understanding the terminology regarding the group.
Starting with the basics, 'Latino' refers to anyone with a Latin American origin or descent, encompassing the territories that extend from Mexico to the Southern parts of Argentina and Chile. Some grammatical variations also include the words Latina(s), when referring to women, and Latinos, when referring to a group of people.
'Latinx' is also a term gaining popularity in recent years. Although also used to describe people from Latin America, it addresses them in a gender-neutral or non-binary way. The use of this language has been increasing, especially among academics and political activists. Some even consider Latinx a feminist term, as it was created in order to avoid the usage of 'he' or 'she' when talking about a group or an unknown person.
Besides the Latino/Latinx discussion, there is also the difference between the meaning of these words and the concept of being 'Hispanic.' Different from Latino/Latinx, Hispanic refers to Spanish-speaking people often from Latin America.
In this context, Brazilians, for example, are Latinos but not Hispanic, as they are from Latin America but don’t speak Spanish. Spaniard territories in the Caribbean are Hispanic but not Latino. Argentinians and Hondurans are both Latino and Hispanic.
Although simple, these terms aren’t perfectly defined and encompass how each person identifies, which is why people usually just say the specific country they are from.
By understanding and correctly using these terms, colleges and universities can help this community identify themselves on campuses throughout the country. Individualizing each person's story can also promote better communication and conditions for the learning experience of its students.
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