To Latinx or Not to Latinx?

I have never doubted how incredibly engaging our Latino USA online community has always been (and we can’t thank you enough), but this past weekend LUSA listeners took it to another level.

It all started when we went live with “Latinx: The Ungendering of the Spanish Language,” the opening story in our latest episode.

As of tonight, the Latinx piece has already cracked LatinoUSA.org‘s Top 5 posts since 2014, and we just posted it last Friday afternoon. I won’t be surprised if it becomes our top post ever in just a few more days.

Latinx has indeed struck a chord, both for those who think that the ungendering of Spanish is a positive step and those who feel it is the the silliest idea ever. I took some time today to read the countless comments we received about the story. Here is a sample from our Facebook, Twitter, emails and LatinoUSA.org:

To Latinx?

“Excellent discussion on the un/gendering of the Spanish language. I also wanted to bring to your attention the use of “e” as gender neutral that is taking momentum in some circles because unlike the x, the /e/ is easier to pronounce and already exists in some nouns and adjectives: inteligente, presidente — so it would be les presidentes”

“So you two care more about ‘proper language’ than the millions of people around the world who do not fit into a ridiculous binary of male and female? Got it.”

“Language is everything. I mean that figuratively and literally, since our conception of the world and means of relating to the world happens through language. Language does matter!”

“As someone who struggles in English to use gender neutral words whenever possible, i.e. Parent, child, sibling, spouse, it seems a good idea to think about language, it’s use and misuse. Is the ignorance wanting equality between genders? Is the ignorance wanting to include people who are not cis gender and heterosexual in daily language? If Spanish was used today as it was “thousands” of years ago, you would be speaking Latin.”

“This is interesting and those folks who poo poo this need only take a class in linguistics or philology. Language is always shifting and transforming. Spanish has changed considerably over the past centuries. We have no prescience to know where it will be in 50 years. Moreover, Spanish is so varied already in Latin America. Anyone who has traveled Latin America will tell you that words used in one region don’t have the same signification. There is a funny YouTube video about this. Qué difícil es el español. In the end, the speakers of the language get to decide. Offering an negative opinion when not a Spanish speaker is energy that could be used elsewhere. Preferably for good.”

Or Not to Latinx?

“You will have a hard time changing an entire language to suit your ignorant political views. It will be interesting to see this futile attempt to reverse a development dating back thousands of years get underway. It’s quite sad to see people confused about their identities seeking to corrupt an entire language.”

“When did proper language become an issue? Wow.”

“The bit on “gender” usage on Latino USA on 1/31/2016 was based on a false premise, namely that gender has everything to do with sex. WRONG. gender means kind, and sex is only one type of gender. Other types of gender include race, color, genotype and so on. Your bit was on Spanish and the gender of nouns, which only resembles sex. That’s why you have ‘la mano’ and ‘el agua’ and ‘el poeta’ as exceptions to the usual rule.”

“X at the end is dumb. How do you pronounce that in Spanish.”

“Oh brother… My eyes cannot roll high enough.”

“Gender politics are popular right now but I doubt it will have the staying power to change the structure of an entire language.”

Then there is this comment in Spanish from a Facebook fan, who replaced every gendered vowel with an “x:”

Yo uso la “x” constantemente en mi página de Facebook, para mi es sumamente importante que lxs compañerxs se sientan identificadxs y valuadxs individualmente. Es sumamente importante para mí hacer un contacto directo con cada unx de ellxs, pues al estar en este país y con los ataques constantes anti-inmigrante, el reafirmar su valor como individuos es de extrema importancia. La evolución lingüística continúa.

This is a quick translation (without the “x”):

I constantly use the “x” on my Facebook page because for me it is really important that my friends can self-identify and feel valued. It is really important for me to be in direct contact with them, because having been in this country and with all the constant anti-immigrant attacks, the reaffirmation of someone’s value as individuals is of extreme importance. The evolution of language continues.

So do you Latinx or do you not Latinx? Tweet me @julito77.

Fi2W Commentary: Campaigns Blitz Latino Voters with Ads, But Will it Change the Race?

Both President Obama and Mitt Romney are stepping up efforts to reach Latino voters ahead of the November 6th election. Last week Obama and a strangely tanned Governor Romney appeared on Univision to answer questions in a town hall-type forum. Their campaigns are also churning out ads directed at Latinos.

In this post I’ll explore what’s different about these ads and whether they can make a difference in the race.

Romney is concentrating on key battleground states like Florida and Nevada where the Latino vote could swing the election. In a recent Florida ad, produced in both Spanish and English, Romney’s favorite Latino poster-boy Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) talks about how Romney has promised to save Medicare. This is a tactical change for a campaign that until now has mainly talked to Latinos abut the economy, the issue that regularly tops polls of Latino concerns.

Romney has largely stayed away from the immigration question when speaking to Latinos, since his anti-immigration rhetoric during the primaries turned off many Latino voters. During the Univision town hall, moderator Jorge Ramos repeatedly pressed Romney on immigration, but Romney remained vague about what he would actually do as president regarding unauthorized immigration.

Another theme that Romney is using to woo Latino voters is disillusionment. The Romney camp knows that about 70 percent of Latinos currently support the president. However, many Latinos feel let down by Obama because he didn’t keep his 2008 promises to create an easier path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants through comprehensive immigration reform.  In a Romney ad airing in Colorado and Nevada called “Ya No Mas” sad-faced Latinos talk about how Obama makes a lot of promises with his pretty words, but doesn’t follow through with results. Their disillusionment is why they are going to vote for Mitt Romney.

Why the change in focus? It could be because Romney’s support among Latino voters is actually shrinking. Only 24 percent of Latinos say they will definitely vote for the GOP candidate, down from 30 percent a few weeks ago. One of the reasons for this decline may be Romney’s now famous “47 percent “ talk in which he said that 47 percent of Americans are freeloaders that live off government. The Obama camp has seized on this in their new campaign ads.

In an ad from the SEIU/Cope Super-PAC, Romney is shown during the GOP primaries saying that most Latino immigrants just want to sneak across the border and get a free government handout,  a comment that is reminiscent of his “47 percent” remark. The ad is airing in states throughout the West that have large Latino populations like Nevada and Colorado. Obama’s supporters want to underscore the problem Romney has with Latinos, that they don’t believe he represents their values and interests. Democrats also want to remind Latinos about some of the anti-immigration statements Romney made during the primaries.

The Obama camp is also attempting to shore up their support among Latina women. In an ad produced by the campaign, Mexican-American actress Eva Longoria urges women to get active in the campaign because, she says, women stand to lose many of their reproductive rights if Romney is elected. In the spot, Longoria also mentions that Obama appointed two women to the U.S. Supreme Court. In another ad, also produced by the campaign, a Latina lawyer named Nydia Mendez talks about how Romney opposed Sonya Sotomayor’s Supreme Court nomination. Another Democratic ad features popular Spanish-language talk show host Cristina Saralegui saying that Romney only wants to continue Bush’s failed policies.

In addition to the issues, both campaigns are subtly attempting to appeal to Latino voters on racial and socio-economic grounds. Watch Romney’s “Ya No Mas” ad above. Notice anything? The Latinos in the ad are almost all of European origin. The Romney camp probably believes that the segment of the Latino population that is more likely to vote for him, besides the disillusioned, are those that are better off financially.

One legacy of Spanish colonial rule is that the upper classes in Latin America are overwhelmingly white. Take for example the Cuban exiles that came over in the ’60s. Though Cuba’s population is roughly half European and half Afro-Cuban, the first few waves of Cuban exiles were almost entirely white because they were largely from the upper classes. You see this in many other Latin American societies as well. Look at the telenovelas on Univision or Telemundo. The majority of the main characters, usually rich, are light skinned and light eyed while the servants are darker skinned.

By comparison, the Obama ads feature many darker skinned Mexican-Americans. These ads are running in the West where the majority of Latinos are Mexicans who, the assumption goes, are from the working class and middle class.

Will these tactics and changes in strategy work? Are Romney’s attempts to reach out to Latinos going to increase his popularity among this key group of voters? It’s possible, but unlikely. Obama’s massive lead will be hard to overcome. Even though the Romney campaign has spent more money on their Latino outreach than any other Republican candidate in history, it hasn’t done him much good. Though they spent less money on outreach, George W. Bush won 44 percent of the Latino vote in 2004, and in 2008 John McCain won the votes of 31 percent of Latinos. It just goes to show that in the end it comes down to the candidate. And in the case of Mitt Romney, many Latinos just don’t like him.

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund.

Jack Tomas is a writer, filmmaker, and editor working in New York. He’s originally from Houston, TX where he earned a BA in Theater and Communication from The University of St. Thomas. Later, he received an MA in Media Studies at The New School. Jack has worked several years as a professional filmmaker and his films have appeared in several film festivals including the Cannes Film Festival, The LA Comedy Shorts Festival, and The New York Independent Film Festival. He has also worked as a professional blogger since 2009 writing for Guanabee.com, Tuvez.com, Egotastic.com, and Directorslive.com. He lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn with his wife Marybec and two cats.