Film and TV

The N Word: Project Enye Puts the Focus on the 16 Million Young Latinos in the U.S.

Spanish has birthed one unique letter: ñ, pronounced "en-yay." The squiggly line above the n is called a tilde. Twelfth-century Spanish scribes used the tilde to shorthand the pairing of the same letter in a word: nn, aa, etc. Of all the Spanish letters that once carried a tilde, ñ is the sole survivor.

In the late 1990s, Denise Soler Cox, an energetic young graphic designer, was living in Miami when she heard a radio ad: "You know you're a part of Generation Ñ if you love Madonna and Celia Cruz, if you eat McDonald's and rice and beans." The ad was talking to up-and-coming young Latinos in the United States, whose parents' backgrounds straddled Spanish- and English-speaking countries. This new generation defied the stereotype that all Latinos are maids, line cooks, farmworkers and undocumented immigrants. Hip, technologically savvy and politically relevant, Generation Ñ was the future — and Soler Cox immediately embraced the Ñ identity, using it as a rallying point.

But now, more than fifteen years later, few have rallied. Generation Ñ (or Enye, as it's often stylized) which was created in Miami in 1996 by Latino publisher Bill Teck, has caught on in fits and starts. Newsweek used the term in a feature about prominent young Latinos in 1999, and an entrepreneurial group of bilingual Americans and Canadians have used the term to market to Latino youth, with mixed success.

But Soler Cox has not given up on Generation Ñ. She wants to use the term to untie the image of Latinos in the United States from the immigration debate. "Enyes are first-generation American children of parents from Spanish-speaking countries," she explains. "Not enough people know about it."

In fact, she speculates that fewer than 1 percent of the members of Generation Enye have even heard the term themselves. Now she's hoping that a documentary about the Enye experience will empower the next generation. Three years ago, Soler Cox joined forces with Emmy Award-winning documentary producer Henry Ansbacher. Together they formed Project Enye (Ñ), a multimedia documentary and community-organizing project designed to capture a group that Soler Cox estimates is 16 million strong.

Ansbacher is a third-generation American descendant of Heinze Ansbacher, a Jewish broker who fled Germany when he "saw the writing on the wall" as Adolf Hitler rose to power, his grandson says. Heinze came to the United States and became a prominent psychologist following in the footsteps of Alfred Adler. While Henry Ansbacher speaks a few phrases in Spanish, he is neither the son of an immigrant nor Latino. But he believes in the power of the Ñ word. See also: Ten Must-Watch Colorado Filmmakers Making Movies Now
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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris