Maura Healey Embracing Term ‘Latinx’

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What’s the proper way to refer to people who come from Latin America?

Are they Hispanics or Latinos? Some people use the terms interchangeably, but Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey prefers a different term:  Latinx.

The Democratic candidate for governor has embraced the term used by progressives to describe Latinos.

In the Spanish language, there are two terms to describe people from Latin America or of Latin American descent:  Latino and Latina. Spanish uses gendered nouns, so Latino is the masculine version of the word. It’s used to describe a male or men and women together; the plural form, Latinos, would describe either a group of men or a group of men and women.

Latina is the feminine version to describe a female; Latinas is the plural version of the term. It’s different from Hispanic, which refers to people who come from Spanish-speaking countries — including those outside of Latin America.

However, the Spanish language does not include the term “Latinx.” In the Spanish language, nouns only have two genders:   masculine and feminine.

The term “Latinx” (usually pronounced “latin ex”) is unpopular among Latinos. About three-in-four Latino adults say they have never heard the term, according to Pew Research. Only 3 percent of them use the term “Latinx.” 

And yet, Healey uses it.

For example, Healey tweeted on July 1, 2021 that climate change poses a threat to ethnic minorities, including “Latinx” people.

“The climate crisis is here,” Healey wrote. “Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities are experiencing the most devastating harms of our increasingly hot planet. We need to act quickly to phase out dangerous super-pollutants like HFCs.”

(The term “HFCs” refers to hydrofluorocarbons, which are compounds commonly used in air conditioning and refrigeration.)

Healey also wanted “Latinx” people to be prioritized when it came to coronavirus vaccine distribution.

“Black and Latinx communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID, they need to be prioritized in vaccine distribution,” Healey tweeted on March 1, 2021. “The state has made good moves to focus more on equity, but we need to stay focused helping those hardest hit by the pandemic and measuring progress.”

And in October 2019, Healey celebrated “Latinx Heritage Month” with a tweet.

“This past month, we’ve been celebrating #LatinxHeritageMonth at our office,” Healey wrote on October 14, 2019. “Latinx staff at the AGO fight hard every day to advocate for consumers, protect workers, and stand up for civil rights. Get to know a few of them —”

Healey currently has one opponent in the race for the Democratic nomination for governor:  Sonia Chang-Diaz, a state senator who lives in Jamaica Plain.

While the web site for Chang-Diaz says that she is the first Latina elected to the Massachusetts Senate, she also uses the term “Latinx.”

Chang-Diaz’s first use of the term “Latinx” on Twitter occurred in September 2018. She tweeted “Excited @MA_BLLC is hosting a special event for #HispanicHeritageMonth honoring #Latinx leaders in our communities! Please join us for it here at the State House #mapoli.”

It’s one of 14 times she has tweeted the term.

She also used the term when endorsing U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-Malden) in the 2020 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts. In a press release issued by Markey’s campaign, Chang-Diaz said:  “I’m proud to support Senator Markey for re-election because he has never let the Massachusetts’ Latinx community fight alone.”

Healey’s campaign could not be reached for comment on Monday. Nor could Chang-Diaz’s.


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