People living in the United States and around the world with family roots in Mexico, Central America, and South America have varied and complex experiences and identities. However, the shared historical context of these groups has created a common basis for understanding and analysis. The impulse to analyze social and cultural conditions is the grounding principle of Chicanx and Latinx Studies. This chapter will explore how Chicanx and Latinx Studies have formed and developed. There are shared histories with a broader movement for Ethnic Studies, and particular dynamics that characterize this area of study and create opportunities for students and scholars to use the analytical tools of Chicanx and Latinx Studies.
In this chapter, the term Chicanx is used to refer to all people who identify as Chicana, Chicano, or Chicanx. These terms refer to communities whose family and lineage are rooted in Mexico and that live in the United States. The term Chicana refers to women and girls, while Chicano refers to boys and men. Chicanx is a gender-inclusive term that can refer to people who identify as non-binary and also inclusive to people of all genders. When placed in the plural, Chicanxs refers to multiple Chicanx individuals.
Similarly, the term Latinx denotes people whose lineage is rooted in Latin America, which includes Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, and South America. Some groups, including the U.S. Census, social science researchers, and journalists, primarily use the term Hispanic. This term literally refers to individuals who speak Spanish or are from a country where Spanish is the primary language, which includes Mexico, Central America, and most of the Caribbean and South America, as well as Spain. It notably excludes Brazil, where Portuguese is the dominant language, and erases the prevalence of Indigenous languages and groups throughout these regions. In this chapter, Hispanic is used only when referring to data sources that explicitly use this term.
In the next section, you will have the opportunity to explore the formation and development of Chicanx and Latinx Studies as a historically rooted academic field of study and area of activist practice. This helps to establish some of the key concepts that are the subject of debate and contention among scholars and practitioners of Chicanx and Latinx Studies. This leads to the next two sections, which detail multiple complexities and nuances when understanding identity, community, and culture through a Chicanx and Latinx Studies lens. Finally, the remaining two sections delve more fully into the topics of immigration, health, and political representation.