Drop the “Latino” and Re-Adopt the Indigenous Label for Indigenous People: This is Our Idle No More Movement

Late last night, my father and I talked about how the ethnic term Latino mislabels Indigenous and mixed-Indigenous Mexicans, Ecuadorians, Puerto Rican, etc.. For a long time, he and I believed Latino and Hispanic correctly defined the Spanish-speaking mixed-Indigenous people of Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. His argument was, “We speak Spanish. We dance to Spanish music. We have Spanish names. We live in Spanish towns. That’s what makes us Latinos.”

As we crossed the George Washington Bridge, I looked at the Hudson River and wondered, Why is this so? Why would this make sense to us? I mean, it is true. We speak Spanish and practice Spanish culture fused with Indigenous and African elements. But my family is also Indigenous. We have Indigenous ties that should not be overlooked. I thought hard about how to politely counter argue his belief. His opinion. His Latino identity.

“So I guess that means Filipinos are Hispanics and Latinos, too?” I said. “Think about it, they have Spanish names. They speak Spanish. They probably dance to Spanish music, too.”

“They’re Asians, though. You can’t confuse their race with Spanish,” he says, laughing.

“Exactly, so what makes you think we’re Latino or Hispanic? Some of us are Indigenous, right? Think about our families, papa. We’re Guayakos and Manabítas. We come from Huancavilca and Manteno blood that stretch back to thousands of years.”

“No, well..” he stammers. “I would say we’re…Ecuadorians.”

That’s it hits me. Ecuador is a country named after the equator in South America. But it’s also a country with rich Indigenous history, culture, dances, language, and people. In other words, we’re an Indigenous Nation and we don’t even know it.

Latino or Hispanic is a term coined by the United States to identify Spanish-speaking people coming from south of Mexico. However, the reality is Spanish-speaking people from Latin America come from a variety of racial and cultural backgrounds.

Since 2011, more Latinos/Hispanics identify as Native American, census shows. Even the New York Times features their article on the cultural change and perspective of Indigenous identity among mestizos, mulattos, and Indigenous people. I also want to add that Indigenous people who migrated from South America to the United States do not have access to their identity in this cross-cultural migration process. Hence, they wrestle with the ethnic label “Mestizo” and “Latino.”

Latino comes from the root word Latin which corresponds to the nations that used to form the Roman Empire: Spain, Portugal, Romania, Italy, and France. According to El Boricua, ” The word Hispania thus refers to the people and culture of the Iberian peninsula, Spain in particular. The term Hispano (Hispanic) later was used in referring to Spain and its subsequent New World – New Spain, conquered territories which covers most of Latino America.” The white-mestizo society or descendants of Spanish relatives can claim these labels to themselves because they are Spanish or Latin-descendant for the matter.

But many of us do not come from the Roman origins of Europe. Some of us come from our very own land in the Americas while others came from Africa and Asia.

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Some of mixed-Indigenous and Indigenous people wrap our babies in shawls and braid our hairs in trensas. Some of us eat tamales, tacos, maize, beans, papas, tomatoes, and lentejas every day – the traditional meals of our Indigenous cultures. Some of us pray to Catholic Saints and a pantheon of ancestral Indigenous gods and goddesses that might have similar purposes to our Indigenous beliefs like La Virgen de Guadalupe – Tonantzin in Mexico. Some of us dance to cumbia – a fusion of Indigenous, Spanish, and African music elements, and in many places, we still dance to Indigenous music. Some of us wear ponchos, sombreros, and Indigenous skirts. Some of us believe in el cuco, talk to Grandmother Moon, walk on Pachamama, swim with mermaids, and fear the devil and tin tin. Some of us EVEN use words with Indigenous syntax and don’t even know the original meaning of it – like mexica (Mexico), guagua (baby, Ecuador), huracan, (hurricane, Puerto Rico) and tayta (father, Peru). Does this sound Latino to you?

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“We’re Ecuatorianos,” my father said last night. You see, Ecuador is not a country named after the Equatorial line. It’s a country founded by many Indigenous nations, tribes, clans, and families that lived in the region for thousands of years. It’s a country rooted in the Quitu-Shyri Empire (320 AD- 1465 AD) and influenced by the Tawantinsuyu culture (1465 AD-2014 AD). It’s a country surrounded by a wealth of natural resources in the Amazon rainforest and protected by totem poles, shamanism, and Andean spirituality in La Sierra. Recently, Spanish and African cultural elements influenced Ecuadorian society in the past 500 years. Ecuadorian mixed-Indigenous population acculturated some of these foreign elements into their Kichwa culture, roots, and language – but they still maintain their Indigenous identity alive.

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Ecuador is home to 30+ Indigenous nations and to 8 million descendants of the Quitu-Shyri Empire. It’s also home to 1 million Euro-Ecuadorians and 1.3 million Afro-Ecuadorians.  The 8 millions mestizos are the rainbow colors of the Indigenous race mixed with the Spanish and the African. In Ecuador, we say “tenemos la pinta ecuatoriana” (we have the Ecuadorian look) because we inherit the culture, the language, the ritual, and Kichwa traditions. Because we dance to merengue and reggaeton, but we blast to Indigenous music and do our round dance. We sing in Kichwa, pray in Kichwa, speak in Kichwa, and have Kichwa names or nicknames. (My last name, Quinde).

Is that what Latino means? Ecuadorians are mixed-Indigenous and Indigenous people who re-invent their identity with a fusion of foreign cultures, languages, and religions yet preserve their ethnicity, traditions, and roots. We have mixed-Indigenous soap opera, rappers, hip-hop artists, dancers, actors, and famous singers like Julio Jaramillo.

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We repeatly find ways to break negative stereotypes of Indigenous people in South America by inviting ourselves in cultural spaces where we’re usually excluded – especially in the media.

Los Nin – Otavalo Hip-Hop Artists rap in Quechua (Runa Simi, the language of the Tawantinsuyu Empire)

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Rosita La Taxista Soap Opera – Kayambe Indigenous Taxi Driver (This telenovela forever changed the antiquated perspective of Indigenous women as stay-at-home moms. Rosita is a Taxi Driver in Guayaquil City who encourages mixed-Indigenous Ecuadorians to embrace their original culture in a dominant white-mestizo space)

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Ecuadorian Indigenous Group perform in Times Square -EVERY DAY! People think of “Indians” in the past and as a vanishing culture, but then are shocked to see this group perform in the famous Times Square venues.

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Manta and Wankavilka communities re-claim traditional clothing on Columbus Day as a collective resistance to better inform the world that they are still here. In Ecuador, coastal Indigenous people are viewed as mestizos even though they are not. But the coastal Indigenous people are challenging the stereotype and redefining the national space.

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Since the 1980s, Ecuadorians migrated to the United States. The U.S. census does not provide an accurate label for Ecuadorian Indigenous people. The only option they have is: Latino/Hispanic to geographically place them in the map.

But this is not what the U.S. wants to deal with. Because it’s easier to label them Hispanic or Latino instead of recognizing them as one of the original people of Ecuador. Because it’s convenient to make them think they’re the immigrants, terrorists, invaders,  thieves, criminals, and idiots instead of treating them with proper respect and solidarity. Because it’s okay to fool them into thinking they’re “free” and they’re chasing the “American dream” instead of disrupting US colonial institutions that aim to steal more land and more resources abroad in Ecuador.

As long as church authority figures force their knees to the floor and media convince us into thinking we’re Spanish with white actors on soap opera, South American and Central American Indigenous and mixed-Indigenous people will not rise as a people with a political voice to protect their lands.

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But if North American and South American Indigenous people in the United States work together to raise awareness, all Indigenous people of the Americas will have a stronger political voice as one Indigenous race. The mixed-Indigenous people will have a chance to learn from their mixed-Indigenous culture as well. For example, my parents and their generation learned to speak, write, and read Kichwa (language of the Inca empire) as young kids in schools. It was tradition to learn the language, the history, and the dance. This tradition did not exclude mixed-Indigenous Ecuadorians because as a nation, they recognized the importance of including both cultures (Spanish and Indigenous) in their mixed Identity.

Recently, Ecuador changed the policy and limited Kichwa to certain regions to encourage assimilation of Indigenous people to the Mestizaje and re-invite the learning of international languages such as French, English, and Italian in schools. Although there is nothing wrong learning European languages, there is something wrong with limiting the original language of our ancestors. There is a potential danger in losing our tradition to both mixed-Indigenous and Indigenous Ecuadorians.

The Idle No More Movement is an excellent example of how Indigenous people in North America unite to stand up and fight for their culture, land, and identity against people who think it’s okay to walk over Indigenous people with mascot names, Halloween Indian costumes, and trespass violations. I also think the Idle No More Movement should include the Indigenous people and mixed-Indigenous people from Spanish-speaking nations as an effort to collaborate, unite, and support one Indigenous people across both continents.

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I mean, do we call an African-American a Britannic because he or she speaks English? Do we call an Arab an Amish  because he or she looks white? Do we call white people mestizos or mixed because they make up also are mixed with the Irish, German, African, Native, Asian heritage even though they physically look white? There is no debate about our differences. We come from different nations, backgrounds, religions, cultures, and so forth. But the key point is to co-exist in peace and respect each other. The principle is to not step on people’s sacred space without asking their permission. The Indigenous space has been repeatedly trespassed and disrespected in the Americas.

I can only speak of what I‘ve seen in Ecuador. I make the comparison from what my people in Santa Elena are going through to what Latinos are going through in the United States. In Ecuador, the label Mestizo provides an opportunity for Indigenous people to “climb” the social ladder. In order for them to NOT be hated, insulted, harmed, put down, ashamed, physically assaulted, and to some extent, massacred in genocides, it’s so much more convenient to make the switch to “Mestizo” to avoid these social complications.

But Indigenous people should not feel obliged to make the switch because of the shame. Their culture is as beautiful as the African-American’s, European-American’s, and Asian-American’s. Their culture is the only one that has a solid foundation on these lands for millennia. In Ecuador, the mestizaje percentage jumped from 40% in the 80s to 78% in 2010. It’s not because Indigenous people mysteriously “vanished” but because they are forcibly pressured to assimilate to dominant white-mestizo society. In some communities, they do not have access to their ethnic label in the Ecuadorian census. My comuna in Santa Elena is a perfect example. We all identify as Indigenous. We go by cholos comuneros, and some, more than others, Wankavilka, but we have ancestral ties to these lands for 12,000 years.

 In the 2010 census, the classifications available for self-classication were: Mestizo, Montubio, Afrodescendiente, Indigena, & Blanco in the Ecuadorian census. However, sometimes the census does not arrive in the hands of Indigenous people in certain locations in Ecuador, and if they do, does the census include all ethnic labels or provide another opportunity for cultural assimilation?

In Santa Elena, comuneros identify as Cholos because it closely describes their existence as an ethnic group that acculturates from one era to the other -pulling a rich history of 12,000 year-old-Indigenous culture and including new cultural elements to their Comunero identity, like Spanish and African. “Indigenous” to them means a group of people who maintain their traditional clothing, roots, language, and land intact since the beginning of time. Cholos live in the same land and maintain their Indigenous culture, but they consistently adapt to new clothing and language depending on the era in order to keep up with the global technology and better use of their communal economy.  I’m a Comunero from my mother’s side. I speak English fluently and acculturated to American society. But I also pull Spanish, Kichwa, Huancavilca, and Sumpa culture with me.

The ethnic label “Cholo” is not in the Ecuadorian census – which means they have two options: Mestizos or Indigenous. They oblige-voluntary identify as Mestizo – a blanket term that covers up discrimination and encourages assimilation of all ethnic groups regardless of their historical origins, colonial trauma, and ethnic traditions. Also, the mestizo concept does not equally glorify two cultures. The dominant Euro-centric culture overpowers the Indigenous one – providing an opportunity for discrimination with words like “cholo” and “longo,” expropriation, and much more. In this case, the ethnic Comuneros are still an invisible presence in their region – a total of 200,000 or mre people. Consequently, Comuneros are viewed as mestizos and larger corporations expropriate them from their ancestral land due to the mislabeling since 1982.

There is no need for Indo-mestizo or Indigenous people from Latin America to leave their culture behind and adopt the Latino label. Without their identity, they are very close to losing their own culture, language, and tradition — the ones they brought over from Latin America.

Appropriating a local tribe that is not yours is also NOT the respectful manner to go around this. However, US census should provide an ethnic label that speaks for Mexican, Central, and South American Indigenous people -or the very least, make specific classifications that distinguishes them from the Indigenous people in North America. This provides an opportunity for mixed-Indigenous people from Spanish-speaking nations to learn from their culture and respect the Indigenous cultures in North America. This provides an opportunity to start a conversation of, “What does it mean to be Indigenous from North and South America and how we can work together?” Our culture does not start in 1492; it started millennia before 1492 and not many “Latinos” know that. We glorify our past ancestors but we never acknowledge the present Indigenous culture and people in our respective nations.

Imagine what would happen if mixed-Indigenous or Indigenous Ecuadorians, Mexicans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans, Peruvians, Bolivians, among other Spanish-speaking nations re-identify as Indigenous, how would that cause a chain reaction in South America and how would that redefine our culture, our history, and our thought process? Would we stop hating each other and point fingers to others when we ourselves are also Indigenous?

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56 Responses to Drop the “Latino” and Re-Adopt the Indigenous Label for Indigenous People: This is Our Idle No More Movement

  1. roberto says:

    Good writing… been studying census since 1970…. we are up against latino white bureaucrats. …

  2. I am Metis from Canada. My culture stems from Native American ( Mine is Mi’kmaw) and early French settlers. We too have made our own culture, language and beliefs made of both ancestries. Metis have French names our language is a mix of French and Native American. We consider ourselves Indios, although the Canadian government is fighting our identity to distinguish any rights we hold or have owed to our lands. I know your struggle with Identity, We are Indigenous to these lands, we are all Indios from the top of North America to the bottom of south America. Either way, We have title to these lands, we are the stewards of the land. Idle No More!

    • Thank you Angela Dawn for your thoughtful comment! This exists all over the Americas. As I once heard in a powwow, our ancestors never traced imaginary lines to stop mobilization. Our ancestors walked back and forth, from North to South America, as long as they asked permission to cross. Our ancestors saw this as a way of life. Today, the very same lands we walk on our invisibly marked by imaginary boundaries that create more division in the continents. The Mayas, from what I’ve learned, moved all over the Americas after their “disappearance” in Mesoamerica, but that really means is they created new civilizations, merging with others, to continue the existence of our people. Thank you for your comment, once again.

      • America Unite says:

        Very informative but here’s a question/suggestion: If White people, regardless of what country they originate from, are called Europeans, Africans from Africa and Asians from Asia; why don’t we use OUR land and label ourselves as Americans? There should be no need for the word “native” or indian. If your roots are from any one of our beautiful indigenous cultures then YOU are AMERICAN. A black person born in China is Chinese NOT Asian. So why then, do these “immigrants” label themselves as African American or Asian American? It’s not like they’re mixed with American, right? They are citizens of an American country, maybe but not magically change race so therefore they are NOT American.

  3. Tim says:

    The author incorrectly stated that the word “Hispanic” comes from the word Hispaniola? Hispaniola is the name for the island which comprises Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. Hispania was the old Roman name for what is now España or Spain.

  4. Diana says:

    I love this! I have been saying this all along. I am Mexican-American and it grates my ears to hear people calling us Latinos. I don’t have a problem with Latin cultures, as I believe all cultures have their positives and negatives, but I don’t like to be mislabeled. About 30% of Mexicans are Native American, 60% are mostly Native American (they may have had one or two European ancestors), and 10% are of European descent. WHen I say Native American, I mean native to the Americas. The borders the people of European descent did not exist for us. We traded freely with many of the what they call today, the First Nation tribes. The Cheyenne language, for example, has Nahuatl words (which is the language of the Mexica people, who the Europeans wrongfully referred to as Aztec). We Mexicans were invaded, and half of our country was taken from us. Now they want to take our blood too. We are mostly a native nation. Calling us Latinos is just another way to disenfranchise us. To detach us as much as possible from this land, because if we are native, and some central Mexican tribes came from Cahokia, Illinois as some people speculate, then how can they justify splitting up families and deporting people when we are doing nothing but repeating migration patterns that could have occurred over the last 14,000 years?

    • Hi Diana, thanks so much for this wonderful comment. I also do believe Latino is another way to disenfranchise us. The Maya people migrated to Ecuador in 320 AD and created the powerful Shyri-Quitu Empire that existed for 1000 of year and is still existing in the making. I also read about the Mexican tribes moving back and forth and the reality is they “never jumped the border” as many outsiders would say. The border jumped on them, and this border is an imaginary line that stall the natural mobilization of Indigenous People in the Americas. In Lakota language, there is no such word as to own land. Many Indigenous culture and tribes believed in the principle of sharing and connecting the land with other living beings, not just human beings. When I hear Natives say, the Tree People, the Sky Nation, the Insect People, The Pebble Nation, that really means a lot to me in that everything else around is deserves a right to live just like we do. But labels like Latino is also another way to expropriate our people from their land in Latin America. As of this moment, the fact that Latino is such a grand label in the United States confuses the people of mixed-Indigenous heritage their identity. It distances them just as the mestizo label does. The more it creates the distance, the better for powerful nations to dispossess our people from our home countries of their lands. That’s what’s happening to my people in Santa Elena, Ecuador, and to hundreds of Tribal nations in the Amazon and other parts of the Americas. Thank you once again for your thoughts!

    • Aurora says:

      As a Chicana who is part of the Idle No More Movement, I agree with most of what you are saying. However the Mexican population is more like 80 to 90% Indigenous. If you travel throughout the country, everyone is brown. And if you read most census reports about Mexico, they show that most people are of Native descent. The problem is they might not think of themselves as Native. But they are.

  5. elk says:

    Ironically, Indian is also a problematic term. Although I like it very much and my family has always used it to mean Native American, it is of course a term imposed upon us by outsiders who were greedy and lost and thought they were in India. So Indios, like Latino or Hispanic, is not a great option going forward. This is what happens when people are treated as possessions!

    • Thanks for your comment elk! You also provide an insightful thought. The term Latino, to some extent, also imposes a term by outsiders of what they think we call ourselves. Even Indio is not the right term for the people who originally come from these continents. The more divide, the worse. Raising awareness in Mexico, Central, and South America, including the Caribbean is the first step towards taking action. Thanks for you thoughts!

  6. How could the US coin a term that was being used in Latinoamerica for the longest time? “Latino America” does not exist, it’s either America Latina, or Latinoamerica.
    As much native blood as I have, I identify as mestizo, I still do consider myself latinoamericano, which actually stands to describe people from this continent that speak languages derived from the Latin, a language, not an empire, now a dead tongue. It has more of a connection with religions than with empires, and is actually the root language that Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French, and other languages come from.
    As a greater whole, latinoamericano is much more inclusive, as brazilians would also be counted. Yes, some of us are mestizos, mulatos, or criollos, but it is up to each to identify as they would, this is not for someone else to argue. Not all of us use shawls, eat tortillas, or have the slightest idea of what the Aztec or Mayan deities are. Inn fact, in some parts of central and South America, things are quite different, and the identity that one has, tends to be different from the native ways.Exceptions do exist, in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Guatemala, Mexico, etc, but not all of us identify the same way, nor should we. Knowing where you come from is good knowledge to gain, but that doesn’t mean one has to go running changing one’s identity either.
    Nobody has the right to tell anyone what to identify as, and changing one’s “label” to follow a trend just makes one a hipster.
    By all means, if you’ve always identified as indio, continue to do so, and make your voice heard, but don’t try to appropriate another’s identity like you grew-up with your native culture if you didn’t, if not even your parents did. Learn about it, embrace it, but don’t force it either.

    • Thank you Roney for your comment. You make a good point in that demanding a group of people to change labels in the immediate demand does create either more of a social division or a misunderstanding of some sorts. The word Latino is parallel to the Mestizo label in Ecuador, to say the least. The compassion I’m making is a thought, an opinion, and also, a statement for the voices not heard in our Native, mixed-Native, and urban Natives in our very Latin America.

      I can only speak of what I see and what I’ve gone through in Ecuador. Not for other nations, and by Ecuador, only the experiences I’ve encounter and the experiences of my family clan and family friend clan. Mestizo provides an opportunity for Indigenous people to “climb” the social ladder. In order for them not to be hated, insulted, harmed, put down, ashamed, physically assaulted, and to some extent, experience the genocides, it’s so much more convenient to make the switch to “Mestizo” to avoid all these complications. But the Indigenous people should not feel the need to do a switch like that. It’s mental manipulation and social pressure to them. Their culture is as beautiful as the African-American, the European-American, and the Asian-American. Their culture is the only one that has been founded on these lands for millennia. In Ecuador, the mestizaje percentage jumped from 40% in the 80s to 78% in 2010. It’s not because “Indigenous people” are mysteriously vanishing, but because they are forcibly pressured to assimilate to the dominant white-mestizo society, and some, do not even have access to their appropriate label. My comuna in Santa Elena is one that is going through this. We all identify as Indigenous People. We make up about 200,000-300,000 people in our homelands. When the Ecuadorian government sends us the census, the only three options we have is: White, Black, and Mestizo.

      The mestizo label in my country is a phenomenal problem that is happening to 30 Indigenous nations who are forced to mislabel themselves as mestizos. In a parallel comparison, there are Latinos in the United States who do not want to identify as Latinos and neither Mestizos for a variety of reasons. But these labels force us to assimilate into Euro-American culture and make us feel ashamed of where we come from, embarrassed of our brown skin or our difference compared to white beauty standards, hate ourselves or each other, get insults from the outsider why we don’t speak English, get hurt for being brown, get jumped by Policeman and, to some extent, also go through our very own genocide. There is no need for the Indo-mestizo or Indigenous people who come from Latin America to leave their culture behind and adopt the Latino label. And like the Indigenous movement happening in my community in Ecuador, many Spanish-speaking Indigenous people are participating in these movements to change the label for them. the New York Times write the 400,000 people in NYC who identify as Native Americans from Latino origins.

      Once again, thank you for your insightful comment. I will definitely keep this in mind as I continue to write future articles with the intend to not force others (Non-natives) to become Indigenous themselves, but to the Indigenous and mixed-Indigenous population who wish to identity as Indigenous people in the United States.

      • tsehgahnoh says:

        I agree with Rooney, there. I also have some points. First; don’t claim that your people and those around you were forced to give up their tribal traditions when all around you there are tribes who, retain their ways, their language and their Nation’s name. Just be honest and don’t sugar coat it, be like the Tsalagi Nation in the USA who don’t sugar coat this fact they say it up front, as you should, their were factions within the Tsalagi Nation, whole families and clans who attempted assimilation, it was not forced on them, this Nation does not call it climbing the social ladder or anything to cover it up; they attempted to assimilate into English European social norms and ways of living. They found out though that it didn’t work to their benefit and kept their Tribal Nation name, their traditions, and language. If you’ve forgotten what your people called themselves as a Nation, you cannot just make it up. 2) Go ahead and claim you are indigenous to South America or Ecuador or whatever state or country your people are from. You cannot however claim Native “American” because firstly American is a made up word based on a man’s name and secondly Native “American” is short hand for Native of the United States of “America”. No other country uses th silly name America in their name except the USA. Everybody knows Native “American” is the term our Indigenous Nations of the United States of “America” use to group and lump our hundreds and hundreds of Nations here into one term; together we are Native “American”, Native or First Peoples, on a Tribal Nation level we are our perspective tribes. The Natives in Canada use First Nations to lump themselves; on the boarder of Canada and the US the term First Nations and Native “American” are used interchangeably because they share Tribal Identity. The border of Mexico and the US only Native “American” is used as lump term but there are only a few tribes who live on both sides, generally they use only their tribal identity; it’s correct to claim Native American if your Tribal Nation has always been on both sides. Not a lot of tribes went south, but a lot of tribes tried to come north and we did have our own “borders” you could not just meander willy nilly onto other tribal lands without permission or consequences just as down in the Amazon one tribe cannot cross certain parts of a territory without the other tribes okay. Lastly and probably most importantly none of us are Indian! lol it is not a matter of a term being forced on us rather this name, Indian, is the name of an actual people in India, it is their name not ours. This name is the name they’ve used to lump their many many diverse cultures into one name of unity since before Columbus was even born. So to the Natives down in South “America” who are Nationless and have no tribal name please seek a term that you can all agree on without depriving other peoples and Nations of their term and ame. Respect yourselves enough to do this and I ask the same of the Natives here in the north to please stop using Indian or NDN as if it is theirs to do with as they please and depriving the actual Indian people of their own name.
        One more point: if you’re living here in the US and trying to fill out a census or some other form, check other and write in Indigenous of South America. Easy peasy. If there is no check box labeled ‘other’ then do as our family does, if the gov wants a lump term check ‘American Indian’ cross out the words and write ‘Native American’ or in your case ‘Native South American’ or ‘South American Indigeni’ lol the whole thing is absurd and inaccurate anyway. But come up with a term a majority of you agree on first. Not Native “American” and not Indian.

  7. velez says:

    This is really interesting but I would love to get your thoughts on some further points. I agree that in terms of indigeneity, the borders that divide so-called “North America” and Latin America are colonial constructs that reify this idea of North America being “white” and erase the North-South relationships that indigenous people had before El Hombre Blanco came to the Americas.
    However, I think there is a lot to be said about the myths of Mestizaje and the continued dominance of white supremacy in Latin America. I agree with you completley that the language of “Latino/Hispanic” is rooted in certain political interests with respect to US immigration policy. Nevertheless, I think it’s extremely problematic if all so-called Latin Americans start adopting indigeneity uncritically. First of all, culturally, mestizaje is actually a process of intentional whitening; and white supremacy is alive and well in Latin America as you mention with the example of TV. Mestizaje, like the myth of multiculturalism, assumes that the Afro, indigenous and Spanish/Portuguese were all mixed together evenly- but in reality, mestizaje is about white supremacy/the Spanish and the Portuguese aspects are dominant. Therefore, how are Spanish-descendent, or mainly white ‘Latinos’ to claim indigeneity? In Canada, some scholars have talked about how settler Canadians need to re-define their relationship to land and themselves, but I think one needs to be very tentative to how cultural appropriation has been used by Latin American states for cultural/nation-building projects – for example, countries like Mexico identify with indigenismo officially, and after ‘independence’ from Spain many countries started to identify with the indigenous peoples of the land in order to distance themselves from Spain, but in material terms indigenous peoples remained (and remain) extremely marginalized.
    Mestizaje in Latin America and notions of mixedness have also at times been mobilized to mask racism; I know that in some instances if you ask some white/mestizo Latin Americans about racism, they will say that “we are all mestizos” and the real social cleavage in classism; however in countries like Colombia and Brazil and Venezuela this invisiblizes the blatant racism against Afro-descendent and Black peoples to say nothing of the anti-indigenous racism in countries like Peru, Bolivia and Guatemala etc.
    Additionally, becuase of mixing, many families in Latin America are phenotypically very diverse, so then you have the question of the privilege of “passing as white”. I agree with you that Latin Americans should shed foreign-imposed labels such as “Hispanic” that only recognize white ancestry, but I would also caution with respect to white/mestizo Latin Americans to adopt ‘indigeneity’, particularly when within Latin America there are strong privileges attached to identifying or passing as white or light-skinned mestizo (or White/mestizo) and marginalization attached to identifying or being read as indigenous or Black. Then there is also the question of how white is “white” and how brown is “indigenous”; but I guess the larger point I am making is that someone with indigenous roots can easily have white-skin privilege, and live in a culture that only glorifies or socializes the Spanish/Hispanic side of things, so that really complicates things.
    I guess what I am saying is – when we know that Latin American societies are internally quite racist, what would it mean for someone with the white privilege of Christina Aguilera to identify as indigena?
    Would love your thoughts……

    • velez says:

      I would just add that your idea of pan-indigeneity over “North American” and “Latino” makes complete sense for those who identify as indigenous and not mestizo; many indigenous nations have been artificially divided by the US-Canada and US-Mexico borders for example.

    • Thank you Velez, you make a good point in what you just said. Also, the comments I receive in this particular article is similar and important to address. I am very glad you point out that after the independence, many countries claimed their Indigenismo in order to distance themselves from Spain and Portugal. Valid point. But then again, not everybody who migrated to these lands are Indigenous themselves and do not and should not feel the need to identify as Indigenous either.

      I can only speak of what ‘ve seen in Ecuador. I make the comparison from what my people in Santa Elena are going through to what Latinos are going through in the United States. This is intended only for Indigenous and mixed-Indigenous people.
      Mestizo provides an opportunity for Indigenous people to “climb” the social ladder. In order for them not to be hated, insulted, harmed, put down, ashamed, physically assaulted, and to some extent, massacred in genocides, it’s so much more convenient to make the switch to “Mestizo” to avoid all these complications. But Indigenous people should not feel obliged to make the switch because of their identity, culture, and history. Their culture is as beautiful as the African-American’s, European-American’s, and Asian-American’s. Their culture is the only one that has a solid foundation on these lands for millennia. In Ecuador, the mestizaje percentage jumped from 40% in the 80s to 78% in 2010. It’s not because Indigenous people are mysteriously “vanishing”, but because they are forcibly pressured to assimilate to dominant white-mestizo society, and in some communities, they do not even have access to their ethnic label in the census. My comuna in Santa Elena is a perfect example. We all identify as Indigenous People. We make up about 200,000-300,000 people in our province Santa Elena. When the Ecuadorian government sends us the census, the only three options we have is: White, Black, and Mestizo. We are forced to put mestizo even though in our hearts we know we are Indigenous, but this mislabeling affect our new generation who are starting to distance themselves from their Indigenous culture and outsiders who are expropriating our lands because we do not “voluntarily” identify as Indigenous. Big time problem. So to some extent, the mestizo concept reversed compared to the 1800s. It serves to disenfranchise Indigenous people in Latin America.

      In a parallel comparison, there are Latinos in the United States who do not want to identify as Latinos and neither Mestizos for a variety of reasons. But these labels force them to assimilate to Euro-American culture and make them feel ashamed of where they come from, embarrassed of they brown/olive/black/Moreno skin compared to white beauty standards, make them internally hate themselves or each other, get insulted by outsider of why we don’t speak English, get hurt for being brown, get jumped by the police and, to some extent, go through our very own cultural genocide. There is no need for the Indo-mestizo or Indigenous people who come from Latin America to leave their culture behind and adopt the Latino label. And like the Indigenous movement happening in my community in Ecuador, many Spanish-speaking Indigenous people are participating in these movements to change the label to correctly identify them. Without their identity, they are very closed to losing their culture, their language, and their tradition — the ones they brought over from Latin America. the New York Times write the 400,000 people in NYC identify as Native Americans from Latino origins.

      I might have not made it clear in the article, which I shall edit to include this commentary, but this is where Indo-mestizo and Indigenous people feel the need to re-adopt the label. It is not to forcibly change ALL of Latin American to Indigenous people, but to provide the amicable option for the millions of Indigenous and mixed-Indigenous people who want to identify as such because they have a right to. Maybe not Cristina Aguilera if she didn’t want to. Thanks again for you comment!

  8. Alex says:

    Horrible, divisive, racial-centrist idea. Yes Hispanic and Latin is wrong but I’d rather see the emergence of a new more inclusive label that emraces our common historical experience of the last 500 years, rather than the balkanization of “la raza cosmica” that your suggestion would lead to. If you make no room for us of European, African, and Asian desent (we exist!) all you do is plant the seeds of division.

    • Thank you Alex, your point of view makes sense when it comes to the experience of the last 500 years. Because we all do exist in this continent. Even the Indigenous and Indo-mestizos that live in their ancestral lands, too. Creating more division will definitely lead to a repeat of the casta system or perpetuate the system in place. As we explore this topic, it’s also important to see where we can go as a group of people who want their voices to be heard as well, especially the original people of the continent. Their voices are the ones not being heard. Once again, you provide an insightful thought! 🙂

  9. Esteban says:

    As much truth is in this article, I take very big issue with the idea/concept of someone telling me to stop identifying as “latino”. Yes, we are mulattos, mestizos, indigenous, afro-caribbean etc. We as a people are a mix of many things, but to denouncing/dropping the “latino” identity is just as bad as denouncing/dropping the other ones. Being a latino is a part of who I am, yes it may have been placed on me by oppressors but we have taken that label and molded it into a wonderful culture. So let’s not DROP the Latino label but instead PICK UP the other ones we have forgotten.
    Just my thoughts, what do you all think?

  10. Bani Amor says:

    I agree with a lot of these comments. The term “Indian” is as problematic as “Latino” or “Hispanic” and while this essay is encouraging us to identify as indigenous rather than mestizx or whatnot, fact is, many of us are just not indigenous/not that indigenous/are mixed with Spanish. No shame, I just think some of us shouldn’t be “reclaiming” sonething we are not. It seems fetishistic and appropriative of indigenous folks at worst. Like white people who be saying they’re 1/8th cherokee and shit.
    Though I am part indigena, I’m also part Spanish, and many, many other Ecuatorianxs are too.

  11. Olin Ki Tamashii says:

    Latino America is a colonial term imposed on the region by Napoleon III during the French Intervention in Mexico (1862-1867) as he wanted to include the Americas (languages he believed derived from Latin) into a French Empire and he believed Mexico was the key. The U.S. govt adopts this definition after 1867.

  12. Wendell says:

    I am always amazed that in these discussions, little or no discussion is included about the African presence in all of the Central, South American and Caribbean cultures. Their presence is not new and in fact, in some of these places their numbers were greater than that of the Spanish colonizers. Thanks to Henry Gates, the public did get some surface ideas regarding their presence.

    • Alejandro Hernandez says:

      Certainly. Even when Black populations do exist from Mexico to South America and the Caribbean. The invisibilization process of Blackness seems that is still operating since colonial times. Spanish conquerors elaborated a “colour” scale where Black people were at the bottom of not necessarily a ladder, but a fixed racialized space. Indigenous people were better positioned (from the outside) due to the Catholic thought that indigenous populations could convert to Christianity, whereas Black people were irredeemable “lost.”

  13. Barbara Renick says:

    The African Continent being a stone’s throw from Spain were a presence throughout Europe, then in the Western Hemisphere. We get a lot of cultural benefits from the African heritage, yet before the 1960′s revolution of thought, bearers of African features, and Indios from Spanish-speaking countries were often insulted to be associated with their Native roots, all due to racism. ‘The times they are a changing.’

  14. Alejandro Hernandez says:

    There are some historical inaccuracies on the ideas portrayed in this essay. Perhaps the biggest one is that the term “Latino” was coined in the United States. In this sense, Roney Miranda makes a point when stating that the term is older than the current appropriation of the term by the United States. It is so because it were the French, not the US, who coined the term Amérique Latine as a political strategy (identity politics), while trying to expand the French empire in 1864. Moreover, the French immigrants that stayed in Mexico after the failed French invasion (celebrated the 5th of May in Mexico; no! it’s not the Mexican Independence day! A common US mistake) also helped to generate a sense of Latiness.
    Some Mexican intellectuals of the epoch, identified with the values of the French people, fully supported not only the possible reign of France over Mexico, but also disseminated traditions, art, customs, values, and intellectual French works in Mexico and in other countries of Latin America. Many of them did actually studied superior studies in France. One of the ways in which these intellectuals ideologically and politically supported France and, at the same time, the rejection of the other powerful countries that were trying to re-conquest Mexico and other territories (specifically the US who had invaded Mexico since 2 decades ago), was done through the creation of the term Latino. In this sense, Latinos would be distanced themselves from the US and the gringos. The term “gringo”, widely used today to describe a white person in Latin America, in reality was crafted in this epoch as well. It derives for the green uniforms of the US military personal, and Mexicans would yell at them at the streets: Green Go! (Grin go).
    I disagree with Diana (“Calling us Latinos is just another way to disenfranchise us”) and coincide with Vélez. The re-appropriation of the term “Latino” by the US government, but also by common people on the streets to populate such term of derogatory connotations (lazy, donkey, beanner, etc.) does correspond to broader social processes related to poitico-economic, racist, and colonial processes (among others) that re-create specific social contexts in which the term is used in binary terms. For instance, Latinas can be hot, but can be at the same time “sluts.” Latinos are “gangsters” but also hard-working men on the fields. Etc. In this sense, looking at the context in which the term is used, it can gives us a sense of the elements populating the term (denotation).
    I myself, was born in Mexico (I consider myself Mexican), but at the same time I have many values not associated with Mexicans in general by Mexicans from the centre of Mexico. I am mestizo and cannot fully say I am indigenous, as our indigenous peoples of the South. However, since I am mestizo, and have indigenous blood, I do feel connected to indigenous populations. More importantly, I am Latino and I do identify as such, even when people from the Latin America continent is so diverse, and even when we speak many different Spanish(es), not to mention the local, autochtonous, indigenous languages. I do not find problematic that the US uses the term Latino or Hispanic (both terms do refer to different human groups). I also conscious that Mayan people, for instance, neither self-identify as Mexicans or Guatemalans nor Latinos, but as Mayans. All of these possibilities are fine, as Vélez insists in the previous comment.
    In the same sense, I do reject the notion of “Indian” to address aboriginal or indigenous populations. Spanish conquerors thought they had discovered an easy access to India, and called locals as “Indians.” For me, using the term Indian (irrespectively that “indio” in Latin America is sometimes used as an offensive noun; you can see here the racism and traces of colonialism among Latinas/os as well) is equal to ignorance. However, at the same time, I have seen that aboriginal groups in Canada and the US self-identify with this term, as Angle expresses. In this sense, I am closer to Elk when saying that this is a problematic term.
    At the end of the day, labels do reflect relations of power (for example, those of colonial times [“nigga” expressed by the “master”], but also subversions of such power (a Black person saying to a friend “nigga;” a woman protesting on the streets under the “slut” label in the slut walk; etc.). One of the most important things in relation to identities (and identity politics) is to understand who defines what (who), and under which conditions (of power, economic, race, ethnicity, social class, sexual orientation, gender, etc.).
    I am a proud Latino because it says to me that I share so many cultural traits with people from a full continent in comparison to white non-Latino people in Canada, for example. And I fully dislike being named as “Spanish” by Canadians because those who use this word equal the speaking of the Spanish language with ethnicity. Following one of the author’s example, and my favourite example to enlighten Canadians I met and name me as “Spanish,” is to tell them that they are not English only because they speak English. So, stop telling us we are Spanish people (the conquerors who massacred thousands and thousand through fire, sword and bible), and call us Latinas/os. As you can see, there is always this underlying issue of power and dominance in the discourse and on identities.

  15. Linde Knighton says:

    I LOVE this article and totally agree. I am descended from Muskogee, Seminole, and Cherokee, but also Germans, Celts and others. That does not make me White. No matter what the BIA wishes was true, I am Native. We are a big group united, and I have stopped calling your people Latino. I now call you, “Reinforcements.”

  16. ST says:

    Great article,

    I dont believe in the meztizaje. I dont think there was enough “mixing” to create a whole new population. Historically its impossible if you knew anthropology. Despite what is written in books from the time of the arrival (by those who came over) or what the mexican govt officials (spaniards) wanted europe to think about the “reformed” mexico and is ‘new’ population which wasnt recognized by native people anyways. Blood quantum is also a non indigenous concept. Dont believe the hype.

    Not hispanic, not latino, not meztizo… Im Mexica.

  17. anemias1972@hotmail.com says:

    Why use a label at all? If we get technical am more “Caucasian, Hispanic, or European” then “Indigenous” even though my family lived in Mexico for many generations. We’re from the northern part of Mexico where a lot of Europeans settled. There was mestizaje, thats for sure! But I have very light skin, brown hair and color eyes, same as my dad. So, what’s my label?
    What about Argentinians who didn’t have nearly as much mestizaje with Indigenous people and resemble Europeans or the black people of Colombia who descend from the African slaves that were brought to the Americas?
    Also “We pray to Catholic Saints because they are reflectors of the pantheon of ancestral Indigenous gods and goddesses in the past.” this is incorrect. Not only because Indigenous were forced to adopt Christianity, but because most if not all Saints come from Europe so there’s nothing to reflect with.
    There’s a lot of wrong information in this essay that only people who don’t truly know their culture and background would believe its content. So, all I can say is that I AM HISPANIC/LATINO!

  18. Virginiai says:

    I get what you’re saying and I want to second Olin Ki Tamashii’s comment about “Latino” origins. I do think that this is a common issue with more left leaning groups, that we look for ways to divide ourselves as opposed to coming together. I think you should be proud of your roots, whatever they are, are carry that with you. But I think we also have to think about all the challenges we the “other” face. Uniting under Latino or Hispano brings us together and lets us accomplish more. We should definitely educate ourselves and others about just how different we can be and that we don’t come in one flavor.

  19. sbsf2011 says:

    My concern is that you’re creating a new narrative that encompasses the indigenous identities within Latin America, which do exist, but might be offensive if appropriated without respecting the local cultures. For instance, I am from the tierra caliente of the Michoacan highlands where the Sierra Madre occidental meets the Sierra Madre del Sur. We do not listen or dance to cumbia…. we listen to banda and norteno. While it is important to acknowledge that the mestizo community features a lot of indigenous overlap, we do not appropriate the indigenous culture in my village because nearby are the Purepechas who have a distinct indigenous culture that they maintain. On the coast just north of Lazaro Cardenas we have nahuatl speaking communities. Although, I am currently living in the United States I do not make the mistake of claiming my indigenous ancestry because A.) I am mestizo B.) I respect the indigenous cultures nearby that are struggling to maintain their cultures C.) I do not appropriate native cultures.

    I use the term latino because I believe in the idea of a common and unified Latin American continent and the people’s of this continent being united in a shared historical culture of colonization. I know that the origins stem from something I may feel inadequate or doesn’t accurately represent my culture or me but I use this term because functionally speaking it is a term that unites the various populations that share a common historical trajectory of colonization and underdevelopment. Many of my friends are maya and they hate nothing more than when a U.S. born chicano identifies as native… they find it to be disrespectful and a form of cultural appropriation that robs them of their identity and ignores the indigenous struggle for self determination being waged by their communities.

  20. Alvaro says:

    Interesting read. I would like to point out a few things and would love to hear your response as an Ecuadorian living in the States. I am Peruvian, I live in Peru and I feel that using a term such as latin american, or latino which is the term used in the states, might not be so bad. Most people are not aware that Latin America is incredibly multi-cultural, the way the US is. They think we’re all brown skinned, and it simply is not true. Yes, we are a majority, but just look at Argentina, where most of the population is white. I think it would be unfair to classify all central and south american nations as indigenous, because it simply isn’t true. Just because one is brown skinned doesn’t mean that culturally we are indigenous. In the article you mention words like tayta, and you make it sound like it’s a word everyone uses, and i feel that isn’t the case.

    I feel the one thing that unites all latin americans is the language, and not necessarily our indigenous heritage. The Incas were different from the mapuches, different from the mayas, etc. It is spanish that connects us and is something we all share, and it is something we are extremely proud of. We always say that we’re the only continent where you can pretty much go anywhere and be understood if you speak spanish (brazilians understand us most of the time).

    I’m sure that it’s easy and convenient for people in the US to call everyone a latino, and people as yourself are not happy about it, but i feel that is a problem specific to US culture and not to central and south american culture. As a Peruvian of mestizo and japanese descent, I am very proud of my Peruvian heritage, all of it, and am proud to call all south and central american nations my brothers. Language is an incredibly big part of culture, and therefore it is culture that we share. As long as people are aware that there are many differences between our countries, i’m ok with being called latin american. As far as i can tell, most US citizens are ok with being called american even though they’re from different backgrounds right?

    Lastly, if there were a label that is more appropriate for everyone, then we should all be called american. I’m sure most of you know this, but at least in south america, we consider north and south america to be one continent. That is why we get angry when people from the US say they are american, because we peruvians are american too. So, maybe you can get all americans to get off their high horse and call themselves something else because they’re excluding us from a label that belongs to everyone living in america. 😀

    • Yes, American it is. Because it’s not the United States, all of the countries are Americans. This is so problematic when we leave the country and they ask where we from and we say American, then they are like. No, really? If this were the label we would all adopt, the ethnicity might fall under the umbrella of American that covers both continents and the Caribbean. Thanks for your wonderful thoughts.

      • Barbara Renick says:

        I have heard tell that when “Americans” of any color travel abroad, we are still perceived by whatever country’s citizens as “American.” What gives us away even if we see ourselves as distinctly different within the USA?

  21. Gi-Ni-Ti- Harcum-El: Bey says:

    Yes lets keep calling us the names they make up for us. Common speech is not legal speech. What one word means in street talk has whole other meaning in the courts of Your-a-peons. American in their books use to refer to original inhabitants but now applies to only those of Your-a-peon descent.
    Latin
    Indigena, indigenæ = native, indigenous
    Indigentia, indigentæ = need
    Indigeo, indigui, indigere = need
    Indiges, indigis = needy
    Indigestus = confused
    Indignans, indignatis = indignant
    Indigne = undeservedly
    indignitas, indignatis = unworthiness
    Indignor, indignatus, indignsum, indignari = be indignant, disdain
    Indigus = needy, desirous

    • Wow even the term Indigenous, this is very insightful and always a new experience to learn. Thanks for sharing this information. There will be more research based on this.

      • Gee Gurr says:

        I watch FNX & they go back & forth between Native & Aboriginal. Indigenous is sometimes used. Maybe we need to speak to Native-Americans to see how they would label us lol

      • Barbara Renick says:

        Native Americans in the USA whose language has survived the govt’s intent to destroy it, still refer to themselves, and others in their indigenous language, so, call us what you may, we are still who we say we are. Few US citizens have even heard a Native language spoken although they live on Indian land; we know ours, . . . and theirs. I guess it means that we Natives are just smarter. No offense intended.

    • Alejandro Hernandez says:

      The underlying assumption that an “imposed” Latin name (coming from the Roman empire) is related to “bad” characteristics because they share the same root is unsustainable. To prove the contrary, see below how the same Latin root is used for “good” characteristics that also may relate to an identity. Ergo, the implicit causation established between nouns is non sequitor.
      indicium -i n. (1) [information , evidence; leave to give evidence; a reward for giving evidence]. (2) [any mark, sign, token].
      indico (1) -are [to make known , show, indicate]; esp. [to inform against, give evidence about; to put a price on, value].
      indictus (1) -a -um [not said , unsaid]; ‘indicta causa’, [without a hearing].
      indissolutus -a -um [undissolved].
      indistinctus -a -um [not separated; indistinct , obscure; unpretentious].
      individuus -a -um [indivisible , inseparable]; n. as subst. [an atom].

  22. Gee Gurr says:

    I don’t think Mestizo is the proper term to use. When I took Latin-American studies, I learned that I am a castiza (2 mestizo’s having children). I honestly don’t think labels of any sort help anyone identify anymore, as most people have no clue as to what gene pools they came from. In our family, we had orphaned relatives who ranged from green-eyed relatives with curly blonde hair & freckles to mongolian-faced to mulattoes. For now, I simply Identify as Mexican-American. If I need a scholarship & they offer it only to aboriginal people,I do not qualify because I know I’m mixed but if it is offered to a European, I have Spanish blood. Without proof of anything, how can anyone really label?! It’s rather ignorant.

  23. blackmetalvalkyrie says:

    Great article. I am not American but I have heard the term Latino and it seemed inaccurate and misleading. Rome was a big imperialist power in it’s day, conquered the Gauls and Germanics brutally and then assimilated them. They were considered stupid and their cultures “primitive”. Then in the middle ages these men who had been conquered went and did it to the natives of the Americas. Very despicable. I am of Gaulish descent and am trying to learn Gaulish but it’s mostly lost due to Roman imperialism. A folk metal band that I really like does a good impression of Gaulish though.

    You might already know this but the origin of the term “barbarian” is really interesting. It meant the sound of any language which was not Greek. http://www.altalang.com/beyond-words/2008/10/08/etymology-of-barbarian/
    Solidarity with all the indigenous people of the world! Diversity is beautiful!

  24. fabulous says:

    I liked your article. I also agree that we should be more aware of our indigenous background. I was born in Lima, but my whole family is from Cusco, Peru, so I feel that I’m also from Cusco. A lot of people in Lima do not like to identify with the indigenous people of Peru, which I can understand if they have never experienced indigenous culture closely. But, I dislike how indigenous people anywhere in Central or South America are looked down upon. A lot of people in Peru won’t even say they’re from Cusco and will say they’re from Lima, the capitol because they don’t want to identify with being indigenous. It is sad and I think that what makes us, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Mexicans, etc. isn’t that we speak Spanish – it’s that we came from indigenous backgrounds, even if they were mixed with Spanish blood. Although you mention the word “tayta”, which I haven’t heard before, most people in Peru use a lot of words in Quechua, like: choclo (corn), chompa (sweater), wawa (baby), jato (from hatuchay, meaning house), and much more.
    Anyway, I also worry that Quechua and other parts of the Incan culture will be lost if we do not embrace them and give them the importance they deserve. Thanks for writing this post.

  25. Cary Barnes says:

    Thank you for helping me become more conscious and aware of my human family. It is best that I respect every individual I know ,especially when I want to be respected and truly known about who I am. Much respect and totally grateful for helping me understand .

  26. Miryam Yataco says:

    You are on the right track, you are claiming an ancestry that is yours. No explanation … can describe what you feel inside you. Do not get derailed by people who tell you that the term was coined in Napoleon times … bla bla bla … do what you feel is right.. No one can understand and providing so much rationale thinking is not going to bring light into what you are trying to explain. You feel as I fell that the latino label does not describe your experience and your feelings. Yes many of us are not latinos. we are tied to our indigenous roots and we have forced to take another identity. Forget about history and etc. You know waht you feel go ahead and feel loyal to your ideas. You will find many of us feel that way too.

  27. As a person of very tiny Turtle Island descent (one great-times-7-native woman married to an English settler) who was raised in the U.S. but born in Brazil whose religion is a blend of European, African, and indigenous Tupi (Umbanda), it is hard to know exactly where I would fit in this spectrum. By some beliefs I am native to this land as my ancestors have been, on all sides, born in these lands for now at least 7 and sometimes 15 generations, with one known tribal woman. What is my culture, it is polyglot, I speak English and Portuguese, ASL and some Brazilian sign language. I dance to all kinds of music, minister to people of all sorts of beliefs who identify themselves as Santeria (Cubana), Voudoun (Haitian), Umbanda (Brasileiro) and Wiccan (Celtic). Some use statuary based on European saints, others use various tribal original figures. This conversation is wide-ranging and allows for people who see themselves with many ancestors, all of which tug on them. My skin is pale, as are most of my ancestors, but my Portuguese ancestors were so dark that they were considered African (they may have been). I am brasileiro by birth, US by most of my culture, polyethnic by religious choice. Finding a place to stand with all of my ancestors at any given time is a challenge.

  28. SC says:

    Except that Latino just indicates that you come from Latin America regardless of your ethnicity or race.

  29. Rolando Sanchez says:

    I’m Nicarao-American…

  30. Yanamayu says:

    I’m so happy to have found this article because for a long time, I have been struggling with this very issue. I was born in Ecuador but raised in the US. My family has always identified as mestizo and Ecuadorian but our customs and traditions are much more indigenous to me. I never connected to the side of my father (mestizo but with more European mixing) or the part of my mother’s Euro-centric way of thinking (and beliefs).
    Once we were legally allowed to visit Ecuador for the first time since immigrating, I quickly realized in a few trips that to be considered civilized was to emulate European/American standards way of life and customs. I saw how ill-spoken about and badly treated the indigenous people were. It hurt so much to witness this to the point of feeling like I was pierced with a dagger. My heart bled for them because I identified with them so much.
    That was how I knew that labeling myself mestizo was wrong for me. But I wasn’t raised in Ecuador (I’m very Americanized) so I was terrified of labeling myself indigenous. I still am because I feel like I can’t “prove” it. I have no tribe, no ancestor’s names, and no upbringing in the culture. All I have is a diluted bloodline, my mother’s pagan rituals and prayers, and poor Spanish and Quechua skills. I feel very disconnected and at a disadvantage but I still share the same thoughts written in this article. I know I identify as indigenous, I am just a very displaced one with no hopes of connecting.

    • Hi Yanamayu, that is exactly what the descendants of Ecuadorian and Ecuadorian-American descendants are going through right now. We have been raised to be European-like and ashamed of our Indigenous past. Even in the USA, I heard there are about 10,000 Ecuadorian Kichwa people in NYC alone – and they are an invisible crowd among “Latinos” yet they do not know how to navigate in this English world with no Spanish speaking skill background whatsoever. And they are the victims of many discrimination even to the point of hospitals closing them in mental institutions because Kichwa was categorized as a “disorder version of Spanish.” Your roots matter to you, and you, as well many Ecuadorians in general, have a sentiment to reconnect with their roots. Your example, wherever you are, will break the stereotype and create a bridge for the next generation of “mestizo” Indigenous people who will feel comfortable under their skin to be who they truly are. Kausachun Tawantinsuyu!!!

  31. All excellent comments and very interesting. Question, doesn’t anyone find it ironic however that as much as the indigenous people had rich cultures and traditions and were certainly affected by the Conquistadors – that all of us are communicating on devices, powered by electricity, that only the oppressor white man created? Be honest and not racist – why do you think the wheel was never invented among the north and south american native peoples? How long before any great Inca, Aztec or Mayan tribe would have built an airplane or harnessed electricity?
    Those of us who are mostly European wonder why this question is so off limits?

  32. Edwin says:

    I completely agree with this article.

  33. Great article. When I use the Term Native American, I am refering to all the Americas, where many people think the United States is the only America. In Canada, the Government refers to us as Aboriginals, Although this is a blanket term for all or us, and there is further breakdown for different groups of Aboriginals, we have our Arctic People(Inuit), Frist Nations People, and Metis People. I have friends from Peru and Chile that Are Native American, All can be broken down more specifically by tribe, etc.. I think all these different terms that various governments use to refer to us, has left us un-unified, on purpose, in order to laregly ignore us and issues in our communities. Like divide and Conquer. When Asked I tell them, Native American, when they start asking more specifically, I tell them Aborginal-Canadian, and if they know what they’re talking about I can tell them more, I am Cree

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