Mexican X Part X: What the Hex a ‘Latinx’?

David Bowles
9 min readDec 24, 2018

“Why do people keep writing ‘Latinx’? And yikes, how do you pronounce it?”

Alright, deep breath. Here comes the 10th and final edition of my Mexican X series for 2018. It’s a long one.

Let’s start with the land we all live on in the Western Hemisphere. There aren’t any perfect indigenous words to use. “Turtle Island” has been proposed as a term some members of First Nations in “North America” feel comfortable with for their continent, as it ties into their beliefs. But not all of them agree. As it’s a term from the Iroquois people, many feel it would be appropriation to use it in a “pan-Indian” sort of way.

Turtle Island? Cemanahuac?

The Anahuacah (also Nahuatlacah or “Aztecs”) thought of the world as being surrounded by a great cosmic sea. They called that contiguous land mass “Cemanahuac” (seh mah NAH wahk), literally “all [the land] beside the waters.” Some folk suggest it as an alternate term for the “Americas.”

The Guna people of Panama and Colombia call this hemisphere “Abya Yala”: “land in its full maturity” or “land of vital blood.”

I’m guessing none of these names is going to replace “the Americas,” however.

You probably have heard the origin of the word “America.” Amerigo Vespucci, a naturalized Castilian, was the first European to realize (through a couple of journeys along the coast) that these two connected continents weren’t part of Asia. In Latin his name is Americus. The female version is America. German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller added the name to his 1507 map of the world. Spain liked that.

However, though the continent(s) might be America, a good chunk of them, after Conquest, were simply part of the Spanish Empire, known historically as la Monarquía Hispánica or The Hispanic Monarchy. Why “Hispanic”? Because the Latin word for “Iberia” was “Hispania.” Spain liked that, too.

It was a big empire. To manage it, the monarchs set up divisions, like the Viceroyalty of New Spain, which included what is now Mexico, plus the current U.S. Southwest and Louisiana, part of British Columbia, Central America, the Caribbean, the Philippines, and Guam. A ton of territory to control, divided up further into “captaincies.”

--

--

David Bowles

A Mexican American author & translator from South Texas. Teaches literature & Nahuatl at UTRGV. VP of the Texas Institute of Letters.