Spanish is Already Colonialist

Ronnie Ovando-Gomez

Sharing articles or posts on Facebook is definitely something done by me all the time. A few weeks ago, however, I noticed a certain article making rounds, especially with my hispanic friends. 

Titled “Progressives, Hispanics are not ‘Latinx.’ Stop trying to Anglicize our Spanish language,” author Giancarlo Sopo argues against using “Latinx” in place of “Latino,” because “[liberals] could be unwittingly contributing to racial division by dumbing down their language.”

 He ends the article, stating “Gender-nonconforming Americans should be treated with compassion and respect. If someone wants to be called Latinx, that is fine, but the label should not be forced upon all Latinos. Hispanic Americans face plenty of challenges. The last thing we need are progressives ‘wokesplaining’ how to speak Spanish.”

Well, I have a Latina, progressive perspective and I do not agree with Sopo at all. 

Let’s address the most important point; Sopo is coming from the conservative perspective. He has written for right-wing websites such as the National Review and The Blaze. While this does not invalidate his opinion as a whole, it does mean that he does not come from a place of liberal politics, even if it sounds like it does.

That’s essentially why I had so many of my Facebook friends share it, the title implied that Latinx people were being further oppressed by the term. 

Personally, I’ve never liked how gendered Spanish as a language was. Literally every noun has a ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’ connotation, and they are not treated equally.  

For example, “niño” can mean both “child” and “male child,” while “niña” only means “female child.” The masculine form is prioritized, it is principal, while the feminine comes second, it’s minor, it’s auxiliary. If women and men simply aren’t equal in our language, can we be equal anywhere else in our world?

Change need not be grand either. Every term that is a non-person noun does not need to end in -x. Rather the goal would be to get rid of the gendered connotations itself. If the term “mesa,” meaning table ends in “a” and uses the form of the “la,” it would not be labeled as feminine, but another term altogether. The gender in non-person nouns is already meaningless, so why have it at all?

Sopo is fine using “Latinx” to only refer to non binary people, but makes the case that the term should not apply elsewhere. That to me sounds suspicious, because what’s wrong with using a (truly) gender neutral term for everyone? 

I am a woman, but I’m not opposed to calling myself a person either, because that is what I am. I am Latinx just as much as I am Latina. I am a human being as much as I am a woman. Gender neutral terms are inherently inclusive, so why be so divisive with them?

Sopo implies the progressives, white progressives, are trying to impose anglo forms of language onto Spanish, and that is a form of racism. He cites many Latinx people believing it so, quoting Hector Luis Alamo saying “[Latinix is] the bulldozing of Spanish.” 

However, I do not see how a new form of ending nouns, that also does not erase the other two forms, completely ruins the Spanish language. The grammar is still the same, the way sentences are formed has not changed. Sexism and the binary view of gender does not have to be inherent to Spanish.

Furthermore, this “racism” argument is rendered moot because the reason why I speak Spanish in the first place is because of racism, specifically colonialism. 

I do not speak Kʼicheʼ or Nahuatl, indgienous languages coming from present day Guatemala and Mexico respectively, because of the Spanish enforcing their language and culture through violence.

If Latinx people want to claim Spanish collectively, that also means we have the right to fix and change the language as we please. 

Many of us already have, considering how different Spanish can be throughout Latin America. If Spanish can have three different terms for “car,” there’s no excuse to deny women and non-binary people equality in our language.