September is Hispanic heritage month, celebrating the stories and identities of individuals of Latin or Spanish descent from numerous countries. some of our latinx staff SHARED their experiences.
NOTE: Individuals who fall under the historically used “Hispanic” term have varying experiences and may choose to identify with several different labels, including but not limited to; Latino, Hispanic, Latinx, Latine, or terms specific to the country of origin. For more comprehensive definitions of these terms, see the bottom of this post.
How do you self-identify? (Latino/Hispanic/Latinx/Nationality)
Emily: Mexican or Latina
Guadalupe: Jarocha (from Veracruz, Mexico) or Mexicana
Gabrielle: Latina or Chicana
How has your experience differed from your parents or family who came before you, and how has that affected your identity?
Emily: My dad is Mexican and my mom is White. I mostly grew up with my mom and “White culture,” which is tremendously different than how my father grew up. However, I lived most of my life in Pike township of Indianapolis, so I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by a wide variety of cultures. It empowered me to learn more about my Mexican culture and make friends with other members of the Latinx community. I loved going over to the Fava house and being surrounded by the language, food, and family dynamic of another family from Mexico. They embraced me and allowed me to attend huge fiestas at their house over the years and I am so grateful for the time I spent with them. It affected my identity by encouraging me to study Spanish in high school and going on to minor in it during my undergrad.
Guadalupe: My parents were born and raised in Veracruz and even though I was born in Veracruz, I grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. My parents made the decision to come to the U.S. to provide my brother and me with different opportunities. This has impacted my identity in many different ways would require a book for me to properly answer this question. I have struggled with my identity a lot, but ultimately I have come to a place where I am proud of my background and those sacrifices made by my parents and those that came before me. I am also very aware that White supremacy pushes non-White individuals to try to assimilate and therefore it is an everyday choice/battle to not assimilate and remain true to myself and my values.
Hector: I believe I am one of the lucky and privileged few that is thriving. I always go back to the quote “If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” I have definitely had it “easier” by knowing how to talk my way into a system that is not created for us.
Gabrielle: My mother is Mexican and my father is White, and I identify with the term biracial. My mother and I look shockingly alike, but with very different skin tones. I know that I have been treated differently than my mother as a result of this, and even more so than my grandmother, who is an immigrant with English as a second language. I am able to operate in White spaces because I am often perceived as White. Because of the hard work of my family, I am able to access education and opportunities previously inaccessible to my family. I am so grateful, and it is important to me to use this access into educated White spaces to be an advocate for people like my family—immigrants and women of color specifically.
“I am proud of the resilience and joy we carry despite systemic barriers in place to oppress us. I want others to know that there is more to our community than the hardships.”
What about your cultural identity are you most proud of? What would you like others to know about your experience?
Emily: I am most proud to be a Latina with an advanced degree. It is a huge milestone for members of the Latinx community to get a post-secondary degree, with many being the first of their families to receive those degrees, let alone a master’s or doctorate. I want others to know that immigrants, children, and grandchildren of immigrants are just as capable as anyone in wanting an education and being able to obtain it.
Guadalupe: I am proud of the resilience and joy we carry despite systemic barriers in place to oppress us. I want others to know that there is more to our community than the hardships. I think it is important to know that the Latin@ community is not a monolith and my experience is different from those that identify as Latin@ and therefore I would encourage individuals to get to know our community on an authentic level versus assuming. Therefore, if anyone wants to learn about my particular experience feel free to email me at GuadalupePS@cicf.org.
Hector: I am most proud to be Mexican because it is a part of our culture to be happy and willing to help. I will go the extra mile to help an individual or/and community, and that is what my culture taught me.
Gabrielle: I am most proud to be Latina because we exemplify what it means to be both resilient and kind. It is the nature of our culture to work hard and help others.
What social issues are important to you? What change would you like to see?
Emily: Legislation surrounding DACA and protecting children of immigrants is extremely important to me. Many people come to America from a number of Spanish-speaking countries for a variety of reasons, just like the founding fathers did, and deserve the opportunity to have a different life if it’s what they want. I would like to see more protection and higher wages for migrant workers and immigrants who are doing the tough labor that many Americans don’t want to do anyway. Many people come to this country and must navigate a country where people look down on them for not being able to speak the language, yet make no effort in trying to communicate with them in their native tongue. Knowing multiple languages is a gift and beautiful; more people should be willing to communicate with the people in our communities.
Guadalupe: Immigrant rights is something that directly impacts me, my family and my community and therefore I am passionate about this. I would like to see a pathway to citizenship for my family and loved ones. I believe Black Lives Matter. The change I would like to see is for the world to come to a place where we stop dehumanizing Black lives in a way where society is able to murder Black people without repercussion. I hope that undocumented individuals, the Black community and other marginalized communities are one day soon treated with dignity and respect. And that one day, we are able to understand and acknowledge that if the Black community wins, we all win.
Hector: Legislation surrounding out-of-state tuition for our undocuhoosiers who live in Indiana for more than nine months. People don’t know, but some people who live in Indiana with tax-paying parents can’t pay in-state tuition because of an old bill. Statistically speaking, the Hispanic community is one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups, and Indiana is making it difficult for undocuhoosiers to get a good education. Keep in mind that they don’t need your money, they just want to access state tuition because they pay taxes too.
Gabrielle: I feel strongly about the abolition of ICE (immigration and customs enforcement agency). Immigration reform is long overdue, as it can take years or even a lifetime to access citizenship. ICE is responsible for separating families at the border and keeping human beings in cages. Undocumented immigrants have few choices as they are typically seeking asylum, fleeing poverty or violence. The United States immigration process drastically changed following 9/11 out of fear of the “other”, and the same government agency that operates Homeland Security also operates ICE. Immigrants are not people to be afraid of, and I am tired of policy in our country being created out of fear rather than humanity.
What does representation achieve in the workplace, specifically within not-for-profits?
Emily: Representation is huge because it gives hope to young people to see people who look like them succeed and make a difference. Especially in nonprofits, where money is given to organizations that help people, having representation from many communities and cultures ensures resources and money are being distributed to the people who truly need it the most.
Guadalupe: Representation in the workplace is important because in order to serve the community you must be representative of the community. I believe we are past the point of representation and need to start having discussions about shared power. We need organizations and entities to be representative of the community, but also power needs to shift to those individuals representing the community
Hector: Representation is definitely a big priority. We need to make sure that our work represents the population that they serve.
Gabrielle: Representation means comprehensive efforts to try to understand one another’s identity. More than just having a diverse staff, nonprofits and other organizations must uplift the voices and find commonality in the human experience. These relationships will lead to a strong united force working towards efforts that benefit many kinds of people, and serve increasingly diverse communities.
How does CICF contribute to the goals you have for your community? How can we continue to make progress?
Emily: CICF contributes to my goals by having community ambassadors from around the city. I love that we are listening to people who are living in the communities we are serving. I hope to see more work and grants awarded to organizations that help the Latinx community going forward.
Guadalupe: CICF made a bold statement in 2019. CICF contributes to the goals I have because I also want to help in dismantling systemic racism so the generations that come after us don’t have to go through the trauma and face these oppressive systems. We all can continue to make progress by declaring to be antiracist and making the daily decision to be antiracist. A quote from Ijeoma Oluo has been instrumental to me: “The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.”
Hector: I appreciate the work that CICF is doing for our community. However, I would like to see more Hispanic organizations applying for our grants.
Gabrielle: I am happy to see the number of Latinx staff double since I joined the team, and am glad we have Latinx individuals working in various areas of our organization; grants, community leadership, and communication. I would like to see—and am working towards—more comprehensive equity work that both includes specific racial communities and intentionally avoids seeing racial groups as monolithic. I see the term “people of color” as very similar to “Hispanic”, it is not comprehensive enough to encompass the experiences and needs of so many people.
Glossary of terms
There are many labels an individual may identify with, this is not a comprehensive list.
A term used by people of mixed cultural/racial heritage from both African and Latin descent.
A specific term popularized in the 1960s and 1970s refers to Mexican individuals living within the United States. This word also has political connotations, as it has been historically used in anti-assimilation movements, celebrating indigenous roots and rejecting colonial influence.
A term historically used to refer to those of Spanish descent. Some individuals consider this term to be outdated and inappropriate as it centers the identity of the colonizers over the people who have lived in that region for generations.
A term that refers to people from Latin, Central, or South America that are currently living in the United States. This term is not widely used outside of the United States.
The feminine version of the term “Latino”, referring to a group or individual.
Several versions of the term “Latino”, with an effort to remove the gendered aspect of the word. In Spanish, words fall into the feminine, masculine, or neutral category, and can usually be identified as such by the letter the word ends in. The letter “O” typically categorizes the word as masculine, “A” as feminine, and “E” as neutral. When referring to a group of people in Spanish, the identifier defaults to the masculine “Latino”. All three of these terms are gender-neutral. Latinx, the newest of these terms, can also refer to an individual or group of people of Latin descent who do not identify as man or woman, such as the nonbinary and trans communities.
Many individuals prefer to center the specific country from which they or their family come from instead of a larger region. Similarily, there are few people who self-identify as ‘European’ but instead as German, Irish, French, etc.
If you have questions about these terms or would like more resources to understand these identities, please email GabrielleS@cicf.org.