Latinx American Identity

Identity Development

The following framework has been adapted from the research of Aureliano Sandoval Ruiz and describes stages common to many Latinx Americans, particularly Chicanxs.

Note that Latinx refers to people of Latin American descent, while Chicanx refers to Americans specifically of Mexican descent.

Causal Stage

  • During this period messages or injunctions from the environment or significant others either affirm, ignore, negate or denigrate the ethnic heritage of the person.
  • Affirmation about one’s ethnic identity is lacking, and the person may experience traumatic or humiliating experiences related to ethnicity.
  • There is a failure to identify with Chicanx/Latinx culture.

Cognitive Stage

  • As a result of negative/distorted messages, three erroneous belief systems about Chicanx/Latinx heritage become incorporated into mental sets:
    • Ethnic group membership is associated with poverty and prejudice;
    • Assimilation to White society is the only means of escape; and
    • Assimilation is the only possible road to success.

Consequence Stage

  • Fragmentation of ethnic identity becomes very noticeable and evident.
  • The person feels ashamed and is embarrassed by ethnic markers such as name, accent, skin color, cultural customs, and so on.
  • The unwanted self-image leads to estrangement and rejection of Chicanx/Latinx heritage.

Working Through Stage

  • Two major dynamics distinguish this stage:
    • First, the person becomes increasingly unable to cope with the psychological distress of ethnic identity conflict.
    • Second, the person can no longer be a “pretender” by identifying with an alien ethnic identity.
  • The person is propelled to reclaim and reintegrate disowned ethnic identity fragments.
  • Ethnic consciousness increases.

Successful Resolution Stage

  • This last stage is exemplified by greater acceptance of one’s culture and ethnicity.
  • There is an improvement in self-esteem and a sense that ethnic identity represents a positive and success-promoting resource.

Racial Equity Tools posts an alternate explanation of the Ruis model here. 

Dr. Chap, in Recording and Resources: Understanding Racial-Ethnic Identity Development, also explains the Ruis model and shares a newer model here:

“This more recent model for Latino/a/x American identity model [Ferdman & Gallegos, 2001] is notable because it is not a staged model like many of the other ones. Instead, it talks about Latino/a American identity as an orientation.

There is also this one, created by Ruiz, which is a staged model. Ruiz’s model starts with a questioning, casual, what am I? It moves on to, “Wait, there’s white people and then there’s my group? Who am I? Where do I belong? Maybe I should assimilate, maybe my skin color is light enough that I could assimilate into white society and culture and values?”

Then there’s a sense of shame, “I’m shouldn’t be using Spanish language. I don’t want to be caught speaking Spanish.” Then there’s the realization, “Wait a minute. I do have a particular group of people that I belong to. I’m actually not white. I have to make sense of what it means to be Latino.” Until one reaches the empowered sense, Ruiz’s staged model is distinctly different from the Latino identity as orientation model.

Do I find myself in a Latino-integrated stage? I’m just a complex person and I’m interconnected with other groups but I’m also understanding who I am. Or perhaps I’m a Latino-identified my particular group is Latino and that’s how I identify and that’s the group to which I belong. Or perhaps one is proudly a Dominican/ Puerto Rican as I used to say when I was in high school. When I talk about myself in high school I was just a Puerto Rican/Dominican. I’d never even use the concept of Latino. It wasn’t until I got into college and I started to see the relationship between my Dominican/ Puerto Rican background and then some of the South American friends I had and other people from other Caribbean islands that I associated myself then with other Latinos and I became Latino identified.

And I go back and forth between being my subgroup identified and Latino identified. But then there are these other orientations, perhaps skin color has an impact on one’s being white-identified. Perhaps there is a sense of I’m just other because the narrative that I grew up with is either black or white. And so I’m just other, I’m of a different category.

So I just wanted to point out the distinct differences between this model [which describes common orientations to Latino identity which people can have and move between]. The orientation model asks, where do you find yourself? Whereas Ruiz’s Latino Identity Development model is an actual staged model, similar to William Cross’s.”



A Conversation With Latinos on Race, from The New York Times

Dear Latinx, Lets Check Our Privilege, from Thee Katz Meoww

Honest Government Advert – Visit Puerto Rico, from The Juice Media

What’s the difference between Hispanic, Latino, and Spanish?, from Bustle

Article and Episodes

9 Things Latinxs Are Tired of Explaining to Everyone Else, from Everyday Feminism

Here’s Why The Census Started Counting Latinos, And How That Could Change In 2020, from NPR’s Code Switch

Websites and Pages

The Chicana and Chicano Civil Rights Movement lesson plans, created by Pedro Navarro Jr., Santa Ana, and Sandra Ruiz

Latino Rebels: Latino Rebels uses comedy, commentary, analysis, satire to explore the world of US Latino issues.

Latino USA: NPR’s Latino USA with Maria Hinojosa, produced by the Futuro Media Group, is the longest running Latino-focused program on U.S. public media.

Remezcla: Remezcla started as a grassroots project among writers and creatives. We shared one common point of view: there were so many great stories about new Latin music, culture, and events that no one was covering. Traditional Latin media was not for us. We were called “alternative,” but to us, what we were covering was our new mainstream. Along the way we met so many like-minded friends in other cities and countries that it sparked a movement. Answering “What is Remezcla?” is difficult for me because what started in living rooms and coffee shops among friends has grown to be so much more; today we reach millions of readers and have built a brand that goes beyond our publication.

We Are Mitú: mitú is a channel with a Latino point of view. We reach a massive, cross-cultural audience through music, food, sex, fashion and all things that matter.


Return to 11-Step Guide to Understanding Race, Racism, and White Privilege.


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