Asking Expert: Cristobal Salinas Jr., Ph.D.


Cristobal Salinas, Jr., Ph.D., is an associate professor in the department of educational leadership and research methodology in FAU College of Education. His research promotes access and equality in higher education and explores the social and political context of education opportunities for historically marginalized communities.

Defining ‘Latinx’

National Media Taps FAU Researcher for Expertise on Newer Gender-Neutral Term

Cristobal Salinas Jr., Ph.D., an associate professor in the FAU College of Education, was recently contacted by Cable News Network (CNN) to talk about his research on the term “Latinx,” a gender-neutral term for a person whose ancestors were from a Spanish-speaking land or culture or from Latin America.

Salinas’ research is the first published peer-reviewed article that analyzes how the term “Latinx” is used among college students. His qualitative study, titled, “The Complexity of the ‘x’ in Latinx: How Latinx/a/o Students Relate to, Identify With, and Understand the Term Latinx” looked at with 34 self-identified Latinx/a/o undergraduate and graduate students in the United States.

The participants defined “Latinx” as, “a term for people who do not identify along the European settler-colonial gender binary and inclusive for all people of Latin American origin and descent,” Salinas said. “Yet, it is a term mostly used in the United States.”

“Over the past years, I have heard multiple opinions, feelings and beliefs towards the term 'Latinx,'” Salinas said. “I have engaged with family and friends that live in Mexico, inquiring whether they know about the term 'Latinx,' and if so, how do they use it. All of them have expressed to me that they are not familiar with the term. While in the U.S. there have been various standpoints with regards the term 'Latinx,' it was clear that the term had been mostly used via social media, online news and blogs.”

Salinas explains that in his study only 13 out of the 34 participants learned the term “Latinx” in a higher education setting, while others learned it via social media. He also said that the term “Latinx” is “an attempt to be inclusive of all Latin American people, yet the term is also exclusive.” He discovered that most Latino men do not care if they are referred to as “Latinx.” However, most Latina women stated that they prefer to be referred to as Latina instead of “Latinx,” as they did not want to lose their sociopolitical movement in the United States as Latina and women of color.

Salinas defines “Latinx” as, “a term that disrupts binary notions of gender and is a noun for individuals who do not identify with the man/woman binary.”

Given the variation of terms used among Latin American people to self-identify, Salinas proposed the term “Latin*” (pronounced Latin). “The asterisk in Latin* broadens a computer search by finding words that start with Latin[-] prefix,” Salinas said. “In other words, Latin* can consider Latinx, Latiné, Latinu, Latino, Latina, Latina/o, Latin@, Latin, or Latin American.”

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