In Reflection: More than a Category

Looking back at my article almost one year later, I can confidently say I’ve seen firsthand how being Latinx is not just about the geographical location or the language, but about deeper cultural connections. After joining the board of Alianza Latina and learning from other Latinx people at Andover through different clubs and classes, I’ve realized how much we have in common despite coming from very different places and how we, as a community, have reinvented the term, Latin America, that was created for oppressive purposes.

At the beginning of this year, after the attack on the Capitol, many Latinx students at the school felt fear, sadness, and frustration with the way the attackers felt entitled to storm the building and were not stopped. This was a direct offense to immigrants that have come to this country with hopes of living in a free democracy. The attackers defied the values that are so important to many immigrants with little resistance. The events of January 6th made it clear that white privilege allows people to challenge American democracy largely unimpeded. Beyond resisting the legitimate result of the election, the attackers also supported a president that openly oppressed the Latinx community, most especially immigrants.

In Brazil, I felt the same way when I saw the president’s complete negligence during the pandemic. I felt like the country’s democracy was slipping away. I was angry, frustrated, and helpless, feeling like I was living in a dystopian reality where both science is ignored and authoritarian leaders are blindly supported. Despite openly denying scientific facts and being responsible for the death of thousands of Brazilians, Bolsonaro had and still has enough supporters; a president that openly praises the dictatorship gained votes because he promised order, an order that the country was desperate for and that walks a blurry line between democracy and authoritarianism. These experiences took me back to the struggles that Latinx people have had for centuries in the fight for democracy, which are yet another connection that we share as Latinx people at Andover. 

When we share the joys of being Latinx in Alianza meetings, we often talk about common foods, music, and dance, and how they remind us of our families and our homes. When planning Latinx Legacy Month events, we focus on what connects us: culture, not geographical similarities. Thinking back to Brazil, I realize how diverse the country is and how in some regions, the specific cultural aspects that are part of Latinx heritage are not present. 

The term Latinoamérica changed from being used to simply categorize the region and serve the colonial purposes of European nations, which it was created for in the 1860s by Napoleon, to signify something much more meaningful and subjective. We have changed and are changing what being Latinx means through our legacy; we are reclaiming the word and refusing to let others define it. So, it cannot be used to generally classify two thirds of America and silence Latinx culture itself and the diversities within the countries that are permeated by it.