Terminology like “Hispanic” or “Latinois problematic for many Spanish-speaking members of the Global South for its erasure of our respective cultures. It is, however, how we are identified in the United States for social and political reasons. Despite that, Hispanic Heritage Month gives us a chance to clarify the record, define who we are based on our heritage, and emphasize the diversity of our communities across racial and ethnic boundaries.

Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15 to highlight the anniversary of the liberation of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua from Spanish colonial rule. Mexico commemorates its independence on Sep. 16. Chile on Sep. 18. And we can’t forget how Columbus Day falls within the month in what feels like an effort to rub it in a little.

Regardless, the vast majority of us celebrate our culture and heritage beyond colonial rule and prefer to focus on the original stories of our people every day. Because what’s true in Colombia won’t be true in Mexico or the Caribbean and certainly not Spain. Neither is it true for us in the U.S. based on our family’s histories.

As Latinos, or Hispanics in this case, we are far from a monolith exposing how creating groups and labeling them in a way that is often considered “alien” to many in the U.S. can be extremely detrimental to our well-being. Truth is, in a white-dominated society like the United States – known for its exceptional efforts to “other” non-white groups – it’s expected. How to deal with it, however, is the subject of much discussion that has been happening for more than a century.

This brings up the contentious issue of race and how it’s determined in the U.S. compared to much of Latin America and the Caribbean. The “one-drop rule” – how we are considered “mixed” and therefore, not white – and how the U.S. defines what “white” is using Anglo-Saxon Protestantism is how they declared that we’re not good enough for what they call “America”.

It is in that sense that we have begun disallowing white society to define us. As Cubans, our history and connections to the enslaved from Africa are deep. In Cuba, it’s discussed openly and in the Cuban American immigrant community, it’s broadly accepted – although not as widely thanks to generations-old thinking. Many Cuban Americans were raised by the same people who have a disdain for the civil rights obtained by non-white Cubans after the revolution in 1959 under Fidel Castro. Like the U.S., not all Latin American countries celebrate the cultural importance of their connections to Africa.

Yes, racism in Latin America and the Caribbean is a big problem.

Latin America has experienced some horrifying things throughout history thanks not only to colonial European rule but under the boot of U.S. foreign policy in the region. From coups installing dictators all over Latin America to letting others like Fidel Castro just walk in and take over, the motivations of Western powers are always corporate interests. For Castro, had the U.S. not turned its back on Cuba, both countries would likely be partners right now.

Today, the United States still intervenes in Latin America and the Caribbean. However, the U.S. has another weapon of oppression to use as a tool to erase our cultures: immigration. For the last century, the U.S. has demonized “Mexicans” in an effort to demonize us all. When that didn’t work, we were labeled Hispanic and then Latino. Even today, most bigots refer to all migrants from the Global South who come through the U.S.-Mexico border as “Mexicans”.
Remember when former president Donald Trump talked about the “bad hombres” and kept referring to Mexico? He was talking about all of us. As do many hate groups. The situation in the U.S. as it stands today has gone backward for all of our respective communities which fall under the Hispanic or Latino monikers. Hate against us is growing every day on social media, in news media, and in the real world largely because white people are freaking out about going extinct.

We are the scapegoats for the racist “white replacement” conspiracy theory. When the media discusses the “browning of America” while allowing propaganda to be spread through national news outlets, this is who they are targeting. They’re providing fuel for the racist fire that’s driving some of the worst Latinophobia ever seen in the United States. And they are unbothered.

Mass shootings (lynchings) are happening with greater frequency. And while Latinos aren’t the only groups being targeted by domestic terrorists, we are the only community being ostracized as “invaders”. Racist white people are recruiting Latinos in higher numbers than ever to promote and instill a form of ethnonationalism across the country and it is working. Self-hating Latinos and Latinas are finding more and more support for their anti-Blackness, anti-Semitism, misogyny, misogynoir, homophobia, transphobia, and yes, Latinophobia.

Until we address the bigotry within, we will never move forward in a country that already refuses to accept us as its own because we speak Spanish or celebrate our respective cultures. Let us not forget that as a non-white group, we owe a debt to Black and Indigenous communities in the United States for the freedoms we do have. If not for those civil rights legends that came before us, we’d be much further behind than we are.

The Antagonist Magazine is a project made up of journalists, activists, and writers focused on amplifying the stories of marginalized communities. The goal is to educate the public by sharing narratives focused on independent voices. Born of an online community in 2019, our platform operates independently; free of corporate influence. Please consider supporting the work of dozens of writers from various communities.

Arturo Dominguez

Arturo is an anti-racist political nerd. He is an upcoming author, journalist, advocate for social justice, and a married father of three. He is a top writer on Medium and a regular contributor to several news media outlets. He writes educational and informative material about systemic racism, white supremacy, and racial injustice.

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