Latino Studies Pan-Latinidad
by
Marion Rohrleitner
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 19 March 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0064

Introduction

“Pan-latinidad” is a complex term whose meaning changes, depending on historical, geopolitical, and ideological context. In Latin America, pan-latinidad is historically associated with 19th-century independence movements, specifically the decolonizing process, as formulated by Simón Bolívar during the Congreso Anfictiónico de Panamá in 1826. Initially conceived as an ideology aimed at uniting all the colonies in the New World against European imperial rule, pan-latinidad was increasingly invoked to juxtapose an idealist Latin America, which derives its cultural identity from the romance nations of Western Europe, with a utilitarian and pragmatic Anglo-Saxon United States in the mid-19th to early 20th centuries. As a political ideology, pan-latinidad originates in the work of the French economist Michel Chevalier, who argued for a natural cultural affinity between Latin America, France, Italy, Portugal, and Spain in an effort to counter the Monroe Doctrine. José Martí, Rubén Darío, José Enrique Rodó, and José Vasconcelos also argued this position, privileging Latin American cultures over that of the United States, which they perceived as a new imperial force in the Americas. In the 1960s and 1970s the term began to gain currency in the United States, in the wake of the civil rights movement; the Immigration Act of 1965; and the rise of dictatorial regimes in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina. Pan-latinidad emerged with renewed force during the civil wars in Central America in the 1980s in order to facilitate solidarity among groups that might otherwise be separated along national, racial, ethnic, class, linguistic, and religious lines. As Latino/Latina groups in the United States grew in number and purchasing power, pan-latinidad underwent yet another shift and became a category created to describe consumers of diverse Latin American origins in that country. Given this rich and conflicted history, the purpose and usefulness of the term remain contested. To some, pan-latinidad is a powerful tool for mobilizing a varied and historically disenfranchised population in the United States; to others, the term is a cynical corporate invention created by those who capitalize on commodified ethnicity. Still others consider the term redundant, as latinidad is itself an umbrella term. To them, “pan-latinidad” dissolves important historical differences and therefore poses a threat to the hard-earned victories won by social movements based on national origins. Regardless of these disagreements, pan-latinidad continues to gain currency and will become only more significant with the continuously growing Latino/Latina population in the United States.

General Overviews, Encyclopedias, and Readers

Padilla 1985 is generally considered one of the groundbreaking studies of pan-latinidad in the United States, known for coining the panethnic term latinismo and for its attention to the tension between self-identification and state-ordained labeling. Stavans 1995 is another critical stepping stone in the definition and historical contextualization of the complex lives of Latinos and Latinas in the United States, based on shared language, religious affiliation, and cultural values, an approach continued by Gracia 2000. Delgado and Stefancic 2011 knowingly engages Stavans’s terminology and offers critical additions. Suárez-Orozco and Páez 2009 and Gonzalez 2011 focus on the evolution and multiple applications of the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino”/“Latina” and, by extension, “pan-latinidad.” Oboler and Gonzalez 2005 provides the most comprehensive study of the history, activism, and changing legal and economic situation of the diverse Latino/Latina populations in the United States. Finally, Stavans 2011 is a groundbreaking anthology of Latino literature that spans four centuries and that covers more than 200 Latino/Latina authors of diverse national and ethnic origins.

  • Delgado, Richard, and Jean Stefancic, eds. The Latino/a Condition: A Critical Reader. 2d ed. New York: New York University Press, 2011.

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    The updated second edition of this reader offers a useful introduction to key terms and major debates in Latino/Latina studies, including “pan-latinidad” as well as transnational and panethnic activism in response to anti-immigrant rhetoric and legislation.

  • Gonzalez, Juan. Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America. Rev. ed. New York: Penguin, 2011.

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    Very accessible introduction to the complex histories and cultures of Americans of Latin American descent. Emphasizes diversity and divergent histories of immigration and citizenship status among Latinos and Latinas.

  • Gracia, Jorge J. E. Hispanic/Latino Identity: A Philosophical Perspective. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2000.

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    This reader addresses latinidad as a panethnic, transnational term situated among evolving categories of inquiry—ethnicity, race, and racial ethnicity.

  • Oboler, Suzanne, and Deena J. González, eds. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States. 4 vols. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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    The most comprehensive text, looking at the complexity of Latinos and Latinas in the United States in terms of racial and ethnic diversity, class and educational background, and historical presence.

  • Padilla, Felix M. Latino Ethnic Consciousness: The Case of Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans in Chicago. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1985.

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    The author coins the term “Latinismo” as a way for Americans of Latin American descent to identify shared concerns strategically and take action as a group. The study focuses on Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans, but Padilla’s insights can be productively applied to more recent immigrant groups.

  • Stavans, Ilan. The Hispanic Condition: Reflections on Culture and Identity in America. New York: HarperCollins, 1995.

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    This effective and often controversial study links Vasconcelos’s notion of a “fifth race” (see Vasconcelos 1997, cited under Primary Texts) to changing demographics in the United States. Even though attentive to the specificity of national origins, especially among Cuban Americans and Mexican Americans, Stavans suggests that by becoming a majority minority in the United States, Latinos/Latinas will forge a unified identity based predominantly on a shared language and religious preference.

  • Stavans, Ilan, ed. The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature. New York: Norton, 2011.

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    Structured around six chronologically organized sections (“Colonization,” “Annexation,” “Acculturation,” “Upheaval,” “Into the Mainstream,” “and “Popular Traditions”), this innovative anthology features an impressive range of interdisciplinary texts by more than two hundred Latino/Latina authors of diverse national, ethnic, and class backgrounds, from the 16th to the early 21st century.

  • Suárez-Orozco, Marcelo M., and Mariela M. Páez, eds. Latinos: Remaking America. Rev. ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009.

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    While recognizing and discussing in detail the significant differences in national origin, ethnicity, language usage, class, and immigration states among Latinos and Latinas, this collection of essays also successfully delineates the possibility of an emerging panethnic identity for Latinos and Latinas in the United States, especially in areas with a greater diversity within a Latino/Latina majority/minority.

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