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date: 12 July 2024

Latinx Assimilationlocked

Latinx Assimilationlocked

  • Catherine S. RamírezCatherine S. RamírezDepartment of Latin American and Latino Studies University of California, Santa Cruz


Latinx is a gender-neutral, gender non-binary, gender non-conforming, and gender-inclusive label that refers to Latin American–origin groups in the United States. Since there are, by some counts, roughly thirty of these groups, Latinx, like Asian Pacific American, is a pan-ethnic label.

Assimilation generally refers to a sociocultural process of absorption, of becoming more alike, and of boundary crossing (e.g., from margin to mainstream). When assimilation happens, the mainstream or the host society absorbs the minority or the newcomer, or the minority or the newcomer comes to resemble the majority or the host. In some instances, the majority or host takes on some of the minority’s or newcomer’s traits.

Assimilation is widely seen as an outcome of immigration to the United States. However, before it was associated with immigration, assimilation was linked to efforts to “civilize” Native Americans and African Americans. Assimilation is sometimes used synonymously with acculturation, Americanization, incorporation, and integration. In the master narrative of immigration and assimilation, immigrants arrive and never look back. They change their names, learn English, acquire capital, and participate in mainstream institutions and culture. Within a couple of generations, their descendants blend in.

Above all, assimilation is connected to ideas about who belongs in the United States. A pillar of the US nation-making project, it is a tool for distinguishing outsiders from insiders. More than a process of absorption, becoming more alike, and boundary crossing, assimilation is a relation of power. In some instances, groups are assimilated not as homologous peers but as distinct, subordinate, and even excluded others. These groups are, paradoxically, outsiders on the inside.

Because Latinxs are a heterogeneous group and not all Latinxs are immigrants, there is no and has never been a single or homogeneous Latinx experience of assimilation. Some Latinxs assimilate in ways in which assimilation is generally understood: they move from margin to mainstream and blend in with the majority. Others are folded into a community made up of people from the same country of origin and have relatively little interaction with the dominant society. Others are assimilated as outsiders on the inside. Latinx assimilation is frequently studied in the context of language (specifically, English and Spanish), bilingualism, citizenship, naturalization, upward mobility, labor, entrepreneurship, education, conflicts and alliances between immigrants and US-born Latinxs, gender relations, and generational differences (especially between immigrant parents and their US-born children). In short, there are many ways Latinxs have or have not assimilated. Likewise, there are many ways to narrate the histories of Latinx assimilation. There is no single or definitive history of Latinx assimilation.


  • Latino History

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