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LUZ MARÍA COSTILLA: ‘I just learned about [Latinx] last summer, on Twitter’

LUZ MARÍA COSTILLA is a 21-year-old, bilingual, first-generation college student who is attending Columbia College Chicago. She is studying music, keyboards more specifically, and she hopes to travel with a band after she graduates.

Costilla is also a first-generation American. Her parents are from Mexico and her mother’s side of the family still lives there so she gets the opportunity to visit. “The air in Mexico is a lot more fresh than here in Chicago,” she says.

Both her parents came to the United States crossing “la frontera” —the border. She said they haven’t really gone into much depth about how they arrived, other that they had to pass through “garbage.” Now, her father is a United States citizen, and her mother is a resident. 

Costilla is passionate about immigration issues. “There’s so many Hispanics that come from the other side to get a job and to hopefully have a better life compared to where they come from. That topic it’s a bit personal for me because my parents came through the same way as a lot of these immigrants are going through right now. I feel like it’s only fair to support people like them.” 

Costilla feels it’s important to debunk certain prejudiced comments and misinformation that has been spread by politicians in America. “Not everyone is a criminal. Not everyone comes here with bad intentions. Not everyone here is going to make your country look bad, or anything like that. People just want to have a better job and more opportunities.” Overall, Costilla and her parent’s story is one in thousands of immigrants who have ventured to the United States, and it just shows how giving people a chance can help better our country.

How do you feel about the term Latinx?

I just learned about it last summer on Twitter. I was writing something and I addressed the whole community as Latino/Latina. I use pronouns. Somebody on Twitter corrected me and they’re like, “Oh, you shouldn’t be using that because somebody like you don’t know who is going to read your tweet and you shouldn’t be addressing people or everyone as in a certain masculinity or femininity. If anything, just use Latinx, like put Latin and then put the X at the end.” 

At first, I was quite confused because I was like, what? What is that? I’ve never heard of that before. And for me, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to use it because it’s not something that I was used to. I educated myself for the past month. I started to use it more.

Have you been discriminated against?

Directly? No, no, I haven’t. I haven’t really experienced much, but I’ve heard other relatives experienced that. 

What’s your goal for after you graduate?

Hopefully I get hired by a band and I get to tour. Because there will be people that would have keyboard players or people that play drums, bass guitar, and have them tour with them. And I’m hoping to do that, and I get to write songs for other people. 

“At first, I was quite confused because I was like, what? what is that? I’ve never heard of [Latinx] before.”

How do you feel about cultural appropriation?

Well, in terms of stuff like dreadlocks and all that, I feel like since I am not Black I don’t have a say, because, that’s not my crew. That’s not my culture that they’re appropriating. But, um, I don’t know much about non-Hispanic people appropriating Mexican culture. I obviously can’t speak for all Mexicans or Hispanics in general. But for me, as long as they’re not offending my culture in some sort of way, making fun of it, or being hypocrites profiting off of our culture, or hating the actual people in that culture, as long as they’re not doing any of that stuff [that’s OK.] 

I feel like it’s fine to make songs using samples or rhythms that artists would use in their music that is Hispanic-based or Mexican-based, as long as they’re not doing anything bad with that stuff. 

If you want to incorporate a culture into your art, I feel like you should be a bit more careful. People will appreciate it more if your art comes off as being appreciative of that culture and not just profiting off of it. That is why I think it’s good to incorporate people of that race into your art. It’s like making hip hop music and incorporating Black people into your art into your craft, collaborating with Black artists, hiring backup dancers that are Black, stuff like that.

What are some traditions that you and your family celebrate?

There’s Day of the Dead, where you technically will celebrate Nov. 1, and Nov. 2, in a way. They have altars for people and their loved ones that passed away, and they will decorate the tables with bread and also put stuff that their loved ones liked. 

For example, if there’s an altar of a person that liked video games or drinking soda a lot, then they would like put that in the altar, [as] a way of honoring them. 

There’s this legend saying that that’s the day where they come alive, visit their family on Earth in a way. I mean, I don’t believe that since I’m Catholic.

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