The perils and powers of the term Latino.
Photo I took in the Moquegua (Peru), the city my family and I were born in.
I never thought about the fact that I was Latina until I moved to London, where I was constantly being labelled as one. Before, I was simply Peruvian. Being Latina could mean being stereotyped or asked about customs that weren’t from my culture. But it could also mean finding other Latinxs that I could relate to, getting to speak in my first language and feeling at home in a country that wasn’t my own. I could talk to other Latinxs about experiences —good and bad— we had mutually been through. Most importantly, there was an instant unspoken agreement between us of offering unconditional support and an authentic friendship.
The word ‘Latino’ however, can also be problematic as it can aid in the erasure or invisibility of certain groups within the wide array of cultures included in the term. It could also be considered an acceptance of stereotypes reinforced by colonialist ideas. Everyone who is not part of the community has a clear concept of how a Latino or Latina should act and what we should look like, which is often narrow-minded and mistaken. The word Latino fails to recognise that not all Latinos or Latinas experience life the same way, as the life experience of a white Latino is dramatically different to that of an Afro-Latino. The term becomes dangerous if we don’t acknowledge all of this.
But it is also true that there is strength in our unity. There is power in being united by some similarities and accepting that although we have not all lived through the same experiences, we can find support in one another. I believe this is what the term Latinx encapsulates: that we are an extremely diverse group — and we respect and acknowledge this — but that we can also work together to dismantle the stereotypes our community is often reduced to. This is what I want VOZ to embody.
When creating VOZ, I often asked myself: whose voices am I highlighting? Whose voices am I representing? Whose voices within the Latinx community am I forgetting? There are still countless voices yet to be heard in VOZ, but I believe this first issue is a testament to the multifaceted nature of the Latinx community.
VOZ is that feeling of pride you experience when you see that a Latinx has made it. VOZ is that warmth that fills your chest when you hear someone speaking in your first language (whichever it may be). VOZ is by and for Latinxs – those who stayed in their country, those who have travelled far from it and those who are part of its diaspora. VOZ serves to connect Latinx from different cultures and backgrounds. VOZ is about making our Latinx voices heard and telling our own stories. VOZ is a space that highlights and celebrates Latinx talent, without ignoring the challenges faced by the community. VOZ does not merge all Latinx but instead applauds our differences and helps us learn from one another. VOZ aims to break the mould we as Latinxs have been ignorantly believed to all fit into.
Welcome to VOZ, an authentic representation of the Latinx community.
Valeria Ghersi Valdivia
Founder and Editor-in Chief of VOZ