by Lindsay Lev, MusicWorx Intern
Even though all my music therapy education took place in Texas and I am now interning in San Diego, I often find myself being the only Spanish speaking staff member in the room. This comes as a surprise to many people, given that the 2017 Census showed that Hispanic/Latino people make up approximately 39% of the population of both California and Texas. This statistic shows us just how likely it is for music therapists in these states to encounter Spanish speaking clients in their clinical work. If you’re a MusicWorx intern like me, working with Spanish speaking clients is basically a given; approximately 35% of Resounding Joy’s clients are Hispanic/Latino. However, even if you don’t live in a border state, the Hispanic/Latino population is “the nation’s second-fastest-growing racial or ethnic group” according to the Pew Research Center, and as such, music therapists across the country are likely to encounter Spanish speaking clients at some point in their careers.
So what are music therapists to do if they don’t know any Spanish? Have you ever walked into a room with a client from a Spanish speaking culture and not known how to approach the situation from a culturally competent perspective? There is, of course, no substitute for actually learning how to speak Spanish and studying cultural considerations relevant to Spanish speaking cultures in depth. However, in my humble opinion as a bilingual and bicultural person, these are the things you should prioritize on getting right in order to make a good first impression and build better rapport with Hispanic/Latino clients.
1. WHAT DO I EVEN CALL YOU PEOPLE?
It has come to my attention that there may be some confusion surrounding terms like Hispanic and Latino. And what is up with this whole “Latinx” thing you see nowadays? Let’s clear up some of that vocabulary and the reasons why we have so many different terms. I should add that I have had many a conversation with people back home (Costa Rica) about this, as well as with people from Latin America living in the United States, and even we can get confused about these terms. Roughly, though, here is the gist of it:
- Hispanic: someone who comes (or whose heritage is that of) a country that speaks Spanish. This includes Spain and Equatorial Guinea (the only country in Africa with Spanish as an official language!), meaning a person from either of these countries could identify as Hispanic.
- Latino/Latina: someone who comes from (or whose heritage is that of) a country below the USA, including countries in the Caribbean. Note: this includes places like Brazil or Belize, where Spanish is not the official language! So someone could be Latino and not Hispanic, or Hispanic and not Latino.
- Latinx: you may have noticed that Spanish is a very gendered language, especially as compared to English. Latino refers to men, Latina refers to women. Recently, in an effort to make written Spanish more gender neutral, people have taken to placing an “x” in words you would normally place an “a” or “o” to denote a gendered word. This isn’t only for the word “Latinx”. For instance, I have seen friends invite their “amigxs” to things, when they want to include both female and male friends in their invitations. To be honest, though, this really only works in written language. I have yet to actually hear someone speak the word “Latinx”, so I don’t know how you would go about pronouncing it.
- SOMETHING TO REMEMBER: People from the Spanish speaking world have a variety of different racial backgrounds. These terms have nothing to do with the color of a person’s skin.