• Valentina Morales Meneses

The Silent Minority: Being Latinx In Britain

The UK is home to around 300,000 Latin Americans.

Yes, around.

Our lack of representation in the census makes it impossible to establish that with any kind of certainty.

It also creates way for a whole lot of socioeconomic invisibility, which we'll get on to...

But first, before trying to navigate this, we need to understand the relationship between race, ethnicity and being Latinx.


Due to a turbulent history of upheaval and colonialism, Latin America has a unique and complicated relationship with race. The tragedies of our history have made us one of the most diverse continents in the world - which I'm sure we've all seen reflected in conversations about Latinidad and what it actually means in terms of race.


Latin America is home to 130 million Afro-Latinos - Black Latinos who are descendants of African peoples enslaved by Spanish and Portuguese colonisers. We also have large populations of white Latinos, mainly and predominantly from Argentina and Uruguay, who are direct descendants of European colonisers. The largest group of Latin Americans are tri-racial or mestizo - and we are the product of hundreds of years of colonisation and racial mixing.


When colonisers 'settled' in Latin America, they subjected Native American and African women to years of sexual violence, genocide and abuse. The children that resulted from the 'mixing' of these three races are the people who historically have been considered representative of the 'standard Latino'.

While it's important to recognise and understand Latin tri-racial heritage in order to navigate effective conversations surrounding Latinidad and racial identity, it's also key that we move away from mestizaje as the 'main form' of Latin identity - this has contributed to the erasure of Afro-Latino populations for way too long.

For better understanding it may be helpful to refer to this map.

Now that we understand a little more about Latinidad...

Let's talk about what it means to be Latinx in Britain.


I've lived in this country for the greater part of my life - and for all those years, I've been ticking 'Other' in every single form I've ever filled out. This seems small - but it's a much bigger issue than it appears to be...

When your ethnic/racial identity is recognised and represented, you have access to data about how social issues affect your community. You know what proportion of, for example, Afro-Caribbeans or White Brits, live in social housing, go to university or work middle class jobs.When this data is nonexistent, there is no way to address the social issues that are detrimental to your community. Policymakers simply do not care. Because you don't exist in their facts and figures. And this permeates every space you exist in - from university to the workplace. You're invisible.

The CLAUK found that 1 in 5 Latin Americans are not registered with a GP because it is not a representative space; there are both cultural and language barriers that limit Latinx access to healthcare in the UK. Additionally, large proportions of the Latin American UK population work in the cleaning industry, where they are subject to exploitation due to minimal understanding of Labour Rights - 40% have experienced abuse in the workplace and 11% are paid under the minimum wage.


70% of first and second generation Latinxs perceive discrimination and erasure as major barriers to improving their quality of life in Britain.

Thankfully, as the Latin American population in the UK grows, things are changing for the better. In the London Boroughs of Southwark, Lambeth, Islington, and Hackney - Latinos are recognised and counted. This is also true of a few cities scattered throughout the country.


We must campaign for change - there is a new generation of Latinx children growing up that deserve more than what has been handed to them thus far.

So let's do better...

Below you will find a few useful links! The first step is to recognise the issue; as such a small minority in the UK, it's extremely difficult to get our voices heard. So please help us!

Sign the petition to halt the gentrification and pushing out of Latinx traders from one of the few cultural hubs in the UK - and follow the instagram for updates, events and protest information!:

https://www.change.org/p/save-uk-s-only-latin-village-pueblito-paisa-in-seven-sisters-indoor-market-wards-corner

instagram: @savelatinvillage

Want to understand the issue a little better?

https://www.huckmag.com/perspectives/reportage-2/the-fight-to-save-latin-village-is-the-fight-for-londons-soul/


Stay on top of the CLAUK's political and research activity as they campaign for Latin American recognition, investigate and address community issues:

http://www.clauk.org.uk/#


Further reading on the invisibility of UK Latinxs:

https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2019/12/latin-americans-are-one-uks-fastest-growing-groups-so-why-arent-they-recognised

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