Celebrating the Complexity of Identities Through Latinx Heritage Month
September 11, 2023
National Hispanic Heritage Month is a federally-recognized annual observance, from Sept. 15 – Oct. 15, that celebrates the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans to the history, culture and achievements of the United States.
At the University of Northern Colorado, however, the annual observance is celebrated as Latinx Heritage Month. According to Rodolfo Vargas, director of UNC’s César Chávez Cultural Center, the decision to call this celebration Latinx Heritage Month is so the students with cultural heritage from Latin American countries will feel a stronger sense of belonging.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates there were roughly 63.7 million Hispanics in the U.S. as of 2022, a new high. They made up 19% of the nation’s population.
“When discussing Latinx or Hispanic heritage, we allude to a rich tapestry of intricate and interwoven identities,” said Tobias Guzman, vice president of the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at UNC. “That invites us to a profound journey of comprehension and discovery, particularly for those unfamiliar with their nuances.”
What does it mean to be Hispanic? Are Latinx and Hispanic interchangeable? Why the “x” in Latinx? What are some cultural differences between Latin American countries? Are all Hispanics brown?” These are some of the questions that a person who identifies as Latinx can hear constantly from people who want to understand better.
“It is important to address the differences between some concepts in order not only to be more accurate in our ways of referring to certain identity groups, but also to understand that within a community, there are other communities with different sets of values, differentiated cultural backgrounds and shared identity elements.” said Vargas.
Hispanic refers to people who speak Spanish and/or are descended from Spanish-speaking populations, while Latinx refers to people who are from or a descendant of people from Latin America. Following that, a person from Brazil, Haiti or Guyana is Latinx since those countries are in Latin America, but not Hispanic since those are not Spanish-speaking countries. At the same time, a person from Spain in Europe, or Equatorial Guinea in Africa is Hispanic but not Latinx. And since most of the countries in Latin America speak Spanish, that is why in many cases the concepts get confused as if they meant the same.
Hispanic is a concept coined in 1980 by the U.S. government through the national census to refer to “a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.” It is important to note that the concept of Hispanic is only used in the U.S. However, people in Latin America use the concept Latinx to refer to themselves and other countries within that territory.
The letter “x” in Latinx refers to a gender-neutral noun. Spanish is a language where nouns are gendered, so in order to have a noun to refer not only to the masculine (Latino), or the feminine (Latina) but also to a gender-neutral population, the use of “x” has become more popular in recent years.
Currently, the Hispanic and Latinx identity is used interchangeably in official documentation as an ethnicity. According to the Pew Research Center, this pan-ethnic identity includes different races and origins. Afro-Latino identity is distinct from and can exist alongside a person’s Hispanic identity. And some people from Hispanic origin do not identify themselves as Hispanic.
“As a Latina student at UNC I feel honored by all the efforts that UNC has been doing in recent years, particularly towards becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution,” said Arely Patricio, a student from UNC’s School of Nursing. “For me, to celebrate the Latinx Heritage Month is about sharing who I am with the university community.”
Hispanic Heritage Month starts on Sept. 15 because several countries like Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua celebrate their independence on that date.
The official kickoff of the Latinx Heritage Month celebrations at UNC begins Friday, Sept. 15, at 1:30 p.m., at the César Chávez Cultural Center.
–written by Carlos José Pérez Sámano
Opportunities to Celebrate Latinx Heritage Month at UNC
Latinx Heritage Month Celebration Kickoff
Friday, Sept. 15, 1:30-3:30 p.m. at César Chávez Cultural Center
Meet new people and explore clubs and organizations. Free food, music, live entertainment and giveaways. Tour the César Chávez Cultural Center and meet the staff.
Dolores Huerta Smithsonian Exhibit
Opening: Saturday Sept. 16, 6 p.m., at the Greeley History Museum
A collaboration between the Greeley History Museum and the Mexican-American History Project, this exhibit by the Smithsonian features the struggles and work of Dolores Huerta, a civil rights movement activist. A section dedicated to the local struggles and contributions of migrant workers and other minoritized populations will be featured as well. The art exhibit runs through Dec. 2.
Wednesday, Sept. 20, 3-5 p.m., Campus Commons 2300
Dreamer Zone is an in-person workshop that builds awareness around the lived experiences of undocumented students on campus. Participants will engage in activities to increase knowledge on terminology and policy affecting national identity, privilege and advocacy. This training is part of UNITE, which gives the UNC community the opportunity to begin or continue conversations in relation to inclusion across a broad range of identities.
Student Clubs and Organizations Meet and Greet
Monday, Sept. 25, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Holmes Banquet Hall
Meet-and-greet with the student clubs and organizations that frequently collaborate with the César Chávez Cultural Center. The goal of this event is to present to incoming students the possibility of joining any of these groups where they can build community.
Sexual Assault and Harassment 101 Workshop
Thursday, Sept. 28, 4-6 p.m., at César Chávez Cultural Center
The ladies of Kappa Delta Chi Sorority Inc., the César Chávez Cultural Center and the Assault Survivors Advocacy Program collaborate on this.
Saturday, Sept. 30, 9:20-11:30 a.m.
¡Adelante! is an event designed to guide prospective students and their families through the exciting journey of applying for and financing college education. Join us for a dynamic and informative session, available in both Spanish and English.
Latinx Heritage Month Tailgate and Football Game
Saturday, Sept. 30, Nottingham Football Field — tailgate starts at 10 a.m., the football game starts at 1 p.m.
Join UNC’s Athletics, Alumni Relations and the César Chávez Cultural Center for a tailgate at the UNC vs. Weber State football game celebrating Latinx Heritage Month. There will be music, food, activities and more. Use the code LATINX to receive discounted tickets for family and friends. Mark yourself as attending on our Facebook page.
Keynote Speaker: Gloria Lucas
Monday, Oct. 18, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Campus Commons Multipurpose Room
An evening with Gloria Lucas — activist, public speaker and founder of Nalgona Positivity Pride (NPP). NPP exists to bring awareness to eating disorders and harm reduction. Lucas utilizes an intersectional approach to talk about body image, race and gender. This is a collaboration between the César Chávez Cultural Center, the Center for Women and Gender Equity, the College Opportunity Scholarship Initiative and the Office of Health Promotion.
Weld County Project Connect
Friday Oct. 20, noon-6:30 p.m., Island Grove Park
Join the César Chávez Cultural Center as a volunteer navigator for this Weld County Project Connect event. During this event, dozens of community organizations and other providers offer free services to members of the community. Navigators are needed to guide guests through the services provided at Weld Project Connect. Navigators are paired one-on-one with a guest to help them identify and find the right resources.
For those who want to participate as navigators, please send us an email to email@example.com
¡Celebremos! A Festival of Latinx Music and Culture
Friday, Oct. 13, 5-7:30 p.m., Campus Commons
Join members of the UNC and Greeley communities in celebrating the launch of the College of Performing and Visual Arts Bachelor of Arts in Latinx Music degree program and kick off UNC’s Homecoming weekend.
Sunday, Oct. 22, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., César Chávez Cultural Center
Join the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition and the César Chávez Cultural Center as they host legal experts to help with citizenship applications and other related questions.