But what do you lose when you join a category this big?
That’s after the break.
(The music plays for a long moment, winds down, and then the break.)
(Vintage space-age music plays again out of the break.)
Mora: So I’m originally from L.A., and I’m from a part of L.A. that’s called Pacoima.
Longoria: Professor Cristina Mora is Mexican American. I am Cuban American. That makes us both Latinx … Latinas … Hispanic … all of the above?
Longoria: The term I grew up with is Hispanic over Latino. [Stutters] What was your—was … ? [Mora laughs.] Did you grow up with Latino over Hispanic?
Mora: I grew up in Pacoima, which was pretty much, at a time, 99 percent Mexican. So I grew up with, like, what part of Mexico I was from.
Longoria: Right, yeah.
Longoria: Yeah, right. I mean … exactly!
Mora: Or not even that I’m from! I’m from L.A. Where my parents were from. I didn’t think about Latinidad until, um, really, when I moved across the country.
Longoria: I didn’t either. I’m from Miami, a place where people speak to you in Spanish before English, and people ask you what part of Cuba or Venezuela or Puerto Rico your family is from.
Mora: In fact, in the 1990s, one of the most popular bumper stickers in Miami was Don’t call me Hispanic. I’m Cuban. (Longoria laughs.)
(Funky synth music plays.)
Longoria: The first time I heard Latino or Hispanic, it was when other people used it to describe me. It was a bit weird—kind of uncomfortable at first. For Cristina too.
Mora: Folks push back against this in part because national identities are strong. There’s a country I can point to. There’s a history. There are political figures.
There’s no Hispanic or Latino country. There’s no figures that I can point to. No landmass that I can really properly define.
Longoria: Even so, when I left home, I met other people who identified as Latinx—second- and third- and fourth- and fifth-generation Mexican Americans, for instance, who identify more as Latino than they do as Mexicans.
Even though Latinos have roots in many many different countries, the flag of Latinos is American. Our country is the United States.
Mora: For decades—decades, decades, decades—Latino advocacy groups have been trying to cement this idea that Latinos aren’t sort of this picture of just foreigners, that Latinos are part and parcel of this country, that there are groups of Latinos that have been here for generations, and that Spanish is not necessarily a foreign language, that it was actually found in some of the nation’s founding documents and institutional procedures.
So, for decades, Latinos have been saying this, and, you know, for centuries now Latinos have consistently, as a category, never been seen as fully American.
Longoria: What do you think is the mainstream idea of what a Latino is?
Mora: Certainly someone that’s not from here or whose parents are not from here. And then however stereotypical you want to get it: um, eats spicy foods, speaks Spanish, dances salsa, sometimes votes—and if they are going to vote, they’ll vote Democrat. [Longoria chuckles.] I mean, it’s just how badly stereotypical you want to get it.