Américas Digital Monthly Review Introduction and Nuestra América: Our Guiding Pan-National Identity
I extend to you a warm welcome to the inaugural issue of our online monthly publication, the Américas Digital Monthly Review.
In this and future editions, we will present articles and guest commentaries covering a wide range of topics related to communities of Latin American and Caribbean origin both in the United States and heritage countries of the Américas. We invite you to comment on these articles as well as to submit your own writing for possible inclusion in future
editions. Although this edition is principally in the English language; in the future, we will publish both Spanish and English language material.
At Américas we believe in a number of fundamental commonalities among our communities, but we are also mindful of important differences among individuals and communities of Latin American and Caribbean origins in the United States. We recognize that a pan-Latino label has very limited explanatory utility for any kind of social, political, demographic, or economic analysis of the daily realities of our communities. At the same time, I think we can
think and speak of ourselves as constituting part of reality called “Our America” or Nuestra América to the degree that we can aspire to share, as a political and cultural commitment.
Cuban independence fighter, author, and thinker José Martí, who challenged the US concept of Pan Americanism of the time, advanced the concept Nuestra América in a July 1891 article. The US broadcast network Univisión used to use a form of this concept when they referred to “lo nuestro” during the 1990s and beyond as defining their programming.
I do not believe that it’s our job as authors, scholars, teachers, activists, informed analysts, and some of us who are even now “elders” to dictate whether particular group identifiers are correct or incorrect. However, I do think that we can help contextualize the meanings and origins of identity for populations of Latin American and Caribbean origins in the United States. For example, the significance and context of the emergence of the term Chicano and Chicana in the 1960s are not the same as those for “Latinx” today.
Chicano represented a political identity that emerged primarily in the US Southwest to identify a radicalized group of individuals of Mexican national origin, while Latinx is a different kind of pan-ethnic or national origin term that in part addresses gender inclusion, but also it is now also becoming a mainstream US term to refer to all groups of Latin American and Caribbean national origins.
For the pan-ethnic or national origin “Latinidad,” I again refer back to the shared community of Nuestra América advanced by José Martí. Its essence is that those of Iberian American and Caribbean origins are part of a shared history and lived experience. It is Our America, not defined by our European origins per se but by the identities we have created in the Américas of indigenous, African, and European (mainly Iberian) heritages.
I recognize that most Latinas and Latinos identify with their specific national origin groups such as Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Salvadoran, Guatemalan, Colombian, Venezuelan, Peruvian, Nicaraguan, etc. Indeed, a number of people also identify with the sub-national regions of their origin nation and within the United States. Indigenous people may identify with their communities and language groups. Political and pan-ethnic identities are subject to change given the ongoing transformation and evolution of political and cultural identities as well as group affinities.
Indeed there are a number of facets to the ways in which we fashion identities for our communities: 1) National origin; 2) Pan-national identities of a political, ethnic, or cultural nature; and 3) Voluntary affinities. Notice that I do not use the term “race” because that category has been imposed upon our thinking by the European colonial invaders and settlers in the Américas and today’s white supremacists. Ethnicity is also a vague term as it can be defined as a consequence of national origin, religious belief, regional culture, and a number of other external influences such as daily economic activity and political environment.
I welcome the forthcoming discussions and conversations as we together seek to explore and better understand the dynamics of identity for those of Latin American and Caribbean origins living in today’s United States.
Andrés E. Jiménez Montoya, President and CEO, Américas