- Should we accept him?
- Does he accept us?
- Does he fit?
- Or is he a misfit? misfit. misfit…
Comments : 5 Comments »
Tags: acceptance, bicultural, culture, Demographics, diversity, Identity, ideology, multicultural, race, racism
Categories : January 2013
About six years ago, I was at the U.S. headquarters of a major international corporation, located in the southeast. I was there as part of a pitch team. The advertising agency I was with was attempting to earn this corporation’s portion of their marketing business targeted to the U.S. Hispanic consumer. The executives we were presenting to were generally warm and friendly, except one guy. Let’s call him Bill.
Bill was annoyed by his corporation’s decision to invest in minority markets. Bill made it clear by his inattentiveness that he was disinterested in, if not outright offended by our presentation. We were well into an impassioned and nuanced explanation of the Hispanic experience in the United States. While we attempted to explain the many dimensions of Hispanic culture, from the colors, foods and flavors to the asymmetrical use of language and media, Bill suddenly slammed down his Blackberry on the conference room table and yelled out in his southern accent, “When do ya just become a freakin’ American?!”
(Insert long awkward silence here).
Since that fateful day, I can’t help but wonder, “What is an American and when do you become one?” Bill had clearly defined parameters in his mind as to what an American is and he was pretty adamant that Hispanics, and I suspect any minority group, are not it. Perhaps more importantly, who choses who we are? It’s a question of identity, power and control.
And as I widen the lens and witness the demographic shifts impacting politics and business I ask you, are marketers and politicians tasked with understanding who we are or out to ensure we become what they want us to be?
By the way, we won the business, despite Bill.
Comments : 4 Comments »
Tags: acculturation, assimilation, bicultural, bilingual, culture, Demographics, diversity, Hispanic, Hispano, Identity, ideology, Language, Latino, marketing, media, multicultural, Poltics, race, racism
Categories : December 2012
A political strategist, a Chief Marketing Officer and a Hispanic marketing expert walk into a bar. The strategist and the CMO belly up to the bar, then look at each other and say, “We gotta figure out this Hispanic thing.” The Hispanic marketing expert looks over to them both and declares, “I told you so!”
Okay, so I won’t quit my day job for a career at The Improv. But hear me out.
The more I examine “Hispanics,” the more I sigh in exhaustion.
Following last month’s election, some political talking heads are saying, almost regrettably, “America is browning.” Like it or not, those that wish to win the Hispanic vote must develop a Hispanic strategy, they say, with the same enthusiasm adults express when they realize grandma was right; we should eat our vegetables.
Over on Wall Street, we know the Titans of Industry are a smart, opportunistic bunch. The CMO’s understand that the recent election is a proxy for the trends shaping society – or, as they would call it, markets or segments. If there’s a Hispanic dollar to be had, these are the folks who are incentivized to go get it. However, they are also incentivized to get that dollar while investing as few dollars as possible.
Now enters the Hispanic Marketing Industry, chock-full of research screaming to the world that Hispanics represent the largest and fastest growing minority group in the United States. They tell us Hispanics overuse every form of conceivable media when compared to non-Hispanics. If that’s not enough to convince the CMO’s to increase their Hispanic marketing budgets, the Hispanic marketing industry continuously reminds us that Hispanic buying powering dwarfs that of many developing nations (According to the November 12th article in Forbes Magazine titled, “America’s Corporations Can No Longer Ignore Hispanic Marketing Like Mitt Romney Did,” they claim “Hispanics will represent $1.5T in purchasing power by 2015.”). I don’t love the inflammatory title, but I’ll save my political exploitation and divisiveness rant for another blog on another day. The point remains: Hispanics have political and economic clout.
So again, who are these Hispanics that politicians, CMOs and Hispanic marketing experts alike keep referring to?
To get an answer, I recently went to where just about every major political candidate since I can recall goes to when attempting to connect with these so-called Hispanics in South Florida: El Versailles Cuban Restaurant in the heart of Little Havana, in the southwest section of Miami, FL.
I sat there with family members. Some were born in Cuba; some were the children of immigrants while others the grandchildren of immigrants. Some lived in Caribbean culture-dominated Miami, others in multicultural North Jersey while the balance resides in central Florida, many literal and cultural miles removed from the Latino food, sights and sounds we were experiencing at El Versailles.
Now, who among us were the actual Hispanics that politicians, CMOs and Hispanic marketing experts are talking about? Is it the sister-in-law who spoke the best Spanish? Is it the bilingual cousin who lives in the mostly densely populated Hispanic neighborhood? Is it the family member who was actually born in a Spanish-speaking country but immigrated as a child and prefers English? Is it the older patrons at El Versailles who grew up in a Spanish speaking country but has now spent most of their lives in the United States? Or is it yet another group that can be organized in seemingly endless ways?
All this got me wondering – did Obama earn the Hispanic vote because he specifically addressed something of universal interest to Hispanics OR did he simply earn most of the vote based on a platform that appealed to the majority of the country of which a growing number happen to be Hispanic? The market research and exit polling that the politicians, CMOs and Hispanic marketing experts study don’t always distinguish among these differences. To some of them, I’m just a Hispanic, as are all those folks at El Versailles, the Hispanic voter and the Hispanic consumer; we’re all lumped together in this singular category called Hispanics. However, understanding the differences may just hold the key insights in how to win over “Hispanics” both in politics as well as business.
Comments : 2 Comments »
Tags: acculturation, bicultural, bilingual, Cuba, culture, diversity, Hispanic, Hispano, Identity, Language, Latino, marketing, media, multicultural
Categories : November 2012
Returning from a business trip to the Midwest on Monday, I had one thing on my mind: Getting back home to my uber-Spanglish bicultural existence in Miami. While at the Detroit airport, I stop into a shop to grab a bottle of water and a pack of gum when out of the corner of my eye I see the current edition of Forbes Magazine, with Sofia Vergara on the cover. I’m not ready to confess if it was Forbes powerful brand appeal that caught my attention or Sofia. In either case, I picked up the magazine and thought, “Ha. That’s cool. I didn’t realize Forbes had launched a Latino offering.” A closer look revealed that this was no Latino offering. This was Forbes general market magazine. They decided to not just focus on Sofia, because that would be too easy and a cheap way to sell magazines, right? So they widened the focus to address the Hispanic economic opportunity largely unrealized by U.S. Advertisers and general market media companies. The headline reads: “The Next Media Jackpot: Murdoch, Comcast and Disney Battle for Control of the $1 Trillion Hispanic Market”
On the one hand, it felt validating. It made me feel visible in a larger context. I had a positive reaction to the evidence in my hand that the powerhouses of general market media: Fox, Comcast and Disney, are trying to figure out how to capture my attention, figuratively speaking. No sooner did I have that ego-stroking reaction, another wave of more cynical reactions emerged. Thoughts like:
“Oh, now that Murdoch and Mickey are trying to get in, now I’m supposed to feel important?!”
“My momma told me I was special from the first time that baby doctor slapped my brown backside as a newborn. Are you tryin’ to say that Murdoch and Mickey have greater validating power than my momma?!”
“Forget you, Forbes, and Fox, and the rest of you phonies that are trying to get at us now. Hispanics have been a force for a while. What took you soo long?”
Then I took a deep breath, and realized that my conflicting reactions could be classified as clinically insane. “Easy, Alberto,” I whispered to myself. I was mixing smart business strategies by media companies with some pent up personal demons I thought I’d exercised. So I settled down, looked at Sofia on the cover of Forbes and everything felt just fine again.
Comments : 4 Comments »
Tags: acculturation, bicultural, bilingual, diversity, economy, Hispanic, Hispano, Identity, Latino, marketing, media, multicultural
Categories : July 2012
When I was asked to speak to an audience of small business owners at Miami Dade College this past week, my boss knew I would jump at the shot. Ya see, I fancy myself a student of public speaking and I’m a bleeding-heart that relishes the opportunity to help anyone, anytime. This was a no-brainer, except for one thing. I had to deliver my presentation in Spanish. Sure, I speak conversational Spanish, with an ill-defined accent. I can yap about music, movies and cuisine all day long, but a professional speech about growing a business? That elevated the challenge. I sorta dug that aspect of it. I was drawn to the fact that I had to stretch outside of my comfort zone if I wanted to provide useful info to this appreciative audience of business owners. So off I went, and discovered that I would learn more about the American Dream than I could ever teach about growing a business.
The audience was compromised of mostly middle-aged Hispanic immigrants with deep accents, humble but hungry to achieve in this foreign land, with its foreign language and laws. Businesses spanned the spectrum from Child Care Services, to Import/Export, to Landscaping — there were over 30 business owners present. In their eyes, I saw fear and hope, struggle but determination. I was inspired by their bravery, not just to leave their land to start anew on our land, but the extra risk they were all willing to endure to fight for their piece of the American Dream.
Later in the week, I was at work. The founder of Zubi Advertising is being inducted, posthumously, into the Advertising Hall of Fame on Tuesday in New York. The children of the founder, and current leaders of the agency, shared with us a tribute video they will unveil at the induction ceremony. It captures the essence of their mother, a Cuban immigrant, with an accent, who founded what has become one of the leading Hispanic advertising agencies in the country. Over 30 years ago, that could have been her sitting at Miami Dade College, listening to a local professional like myself. Wow.
This reminds me that we are all connected to humble and hungry immigrants, who may have been scared, but remained hopeful, may have struggled but were determined to get their piece of the American Dream, and they all had an accent, beautiful accents, from all around the world.
Comments : 4 Comments »
Tags: acculturation, bilingual, competitiveness, culture, diversity, economy, education, Language, Latino, marketing, multicultural, race, racism
Categories : March 2012, Topics - Current
How different would I be if I were born in a Cuba that was free?
I grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, surrounded by displaced Cubans who always spoke of their pre-Castro Cuba with a high degree of reverence, respect, and regard. Not surprisingly, that pro-Cuba narrative held when my family moved to Miami during my teens. I believe that if it were not for Fidel Castro’s Revolution, my family would have remained in Cuba.
My entire life, there have been encounters that prompted that question: Who would I be if I were born and raised in Cuba? Would I still be me? At the core, would I still have the same beliefs? Yeah, my Spanish would be better – and I suppose my English would be worse – but what else would be different?
On the one hand, I could conclude that everything would’ve been different. After all, many of the people, places, and experiences that shaped my values and beliefs, they would have all been different. Would those differences have produced a better or worse version of the me I am today?
On the other hand, I can rationalize that with the exception of the culture-influenced preferences, such as food, music, language, etc., fundamentally, I’d be the same. Ultimately, I’d have the same family members who would have instilled the same set of rules and dispensed their same set of values, no matter our geographic location, right?
In the end, I’m happy being me… I mean, when all is said and done, I’m the only me I know. Yet still, when I run into a Cuban who was born and raised in Cuba, and is of similar demographic profile (age, gender, etc.) but talks, walks and thinks a little differently, I can’t help but to wonder, “Could that have been me?”
Comments : 4 Comments »
Tags: bicultural, bilingual, Cuba, culture, diversity, Hispanic, Hispano, Identity, Latino, multicultural
Categories : November 2011
First, I HEART Latinas, and moms, and Latina Moms.
Second, the subject of this post is not the second-generation+, modern day Latina Mom…those of you who are much more my peers in terms of age and world view. The subjects of this post are moms from my mother’s generation…moms approximately 60+ in age who immigrated to the U.S. from a Latin country.
Third, I recognize that I may be better served leaving this topic alone because authoring any post that makes everyone satisfied is like walking a tight rope…doing so when the subject of your narrative is Latina Moms, well, it’s like walking a tight rope blindfolded 10,000 feet above a lake of fire.
My observations are just that, my observations…not facts applicable to all, nor attempts to impose my view on anyone else.
Ok, enough with the disclaimers. Here goes nothing…
Mamá Sagrada (Sacred Mom)
Who will love ya more than a Latina mom? No one. She will express her love to you with everything at her disposal. She will hug you tighter than anyone will ever hug you. She will compliment you as if you were the most special person on earth. She will feed you like you never had a meal and insist you consume every last bite. There are countless other examples of this blind and intense Latina mom love. And what does she ask for in return? Attention which she equates to love. She wants your devoted, undivided, all-consuming, omnipresent attention as affirmation of your love.
Mamá Complicada (Complicated mom)
When you’re a child, the implied agreement of love and attention between mamá sagrada and her child is easy and natural and mutually enjoyable. The complications tend to emerge later, when adulthood and all of its demands are inescapable factors of maturation. For the former child, there’s pressure to keep pace with mamá’s demands. For mamá sagrada, there’s the perceived distance felt as the consequence that their “hijito” (young son) is now an adult, with adult-sized responsibilities. Perhaps it’s unfair to characterize mamá as complicada, instead, it may be the situation that is complicated. When a Latina mom feels distance, she’s been known to say (or yell) things such as:
- “Ya tú no me quieres” (You don’t love me anymore) – Latina Mom guilt? Anyone? Anyone?
- “Te haz Americanizado” (You’ve become Americanized) – This comes from a place of insecurity and gross cultural misunderstanding – we’ll have to revisit this on a separate post
- “Yo soy tu madre!” (I am your mother!) – As to imply everything else must be knocked down a few notches to preserve her “rightful place” perched atop your life’s highest pedestal, alone.
For many of my Hispanic male buddies, they’re able to maintain their role as mamá’s “hijito” (young son) for the balance of their adult lives seamlessly. Some do it because they enjoy being coddled; others do it out of a sense of obligation to mamá sagrada.
Over the years, I’ve reduced the degree of complexity from the Latina Mom/Son equation. Quite simply, I am a grown man with grown man responsibilities. The stakeholders I prioritize are many, and my Latina mom is among them. She may not sit alone perched atop that pedestal because I have kids to raise, a wife to tend to, bosses and clients to respond to, mortgages to pay, etc…and mamá will be sagrada, but once you’re grown, she’s not alone (in the “sagrada” category). Just ask your significant other.
Juana Peña, we love ya, but Joe can’t be your baby forever.
Comments : 5 Comments »
Tags: acculturation, bicultural, culture, diversity, Hispanic, Hispano, Latina, Latina Moms, Latino, marketing, Moms, multicultural
Categories : July 2011
When my family moved from North Jersey to South Florida in the late 80’s, I was a teenager. We had a new, rich, Afro-Cuban neighbor who became good friends with my Afro-Cuban mom. I recall that neighbor often saying to my mom, “Los negros somos la raza sufrida.” Translation: “Blacks are the suffered race.”
That phrase confused me. First of all, are we black? And if we are, where’s this suffering our new neighbor was referring to? I mean we both resided in this affluent, security-protected high-rise condo on the beach.
Over time, I kept thinking about that phrase as I observed the world around me. Regarding the “suffering” component of that comment, I observed that yes, no matter the part of the world being discussed; there exists a correlation between depressed socio-economic standing and the black race. The reasons for this marriage between these two factors are subject of much debate and focused study. I won’t attempt to delve deeply into it now other than to declare I find the correlation to be valid.
As for the question, “are we black?” for me, the answer is yes, at least in part (I expand on this notion in a prior post titled, “I’m Not Black, I’m Hispanic.”
Interestingly, it appears that the identification and meaning of one’s blackness is country-specific. In the United States, one-drop of black blood and you’re black by most accounts. However, throughout the world, the answer is not so “black and white.”
Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. tackles the subject of black identity in his current PBS series “Black in Latin America.” So far, he’s released video features on the Dominican Republic & Haiti, Cuba and Brazil. Here’s my simplified interpretation of how this documentary explains how blacks in these countries reconcile their racial identity:
- Dominican Republic – Due, in part, to their legacy of strife with their proudly black island neighbors, Haiti, Dominican’s generally resist the black label
- Cuba – Afro-Cubans embrace their black race, but are Cubans first and foremost
- Brazil – They proudly account for a multitude of color shades. Brazilians aspire for a color blind democracy but it eludes them.
The next two countries Professor Gates will address are Mexico and Peru (episode premieres on Tuesday, May 10th at 8 PM EST on PBS). It should be interesting to see how the narrative changes when the story of black identify is told from the prism of these Caribbean-centric nations to Central America (I realize that Brazil is non-Caribbean, but I view their cultural nuances to be more aligned with the Dominican Republic and Cuba than Mexico and Peru…I may be wrong).
Growing up in the United States, where the question of race and identity is simply boiled down to the “one-drop rule,” by studying Latin America, it is interesting to see how the story of race is characterized by such a broad spectrum of country-specific experiences. I’m intrigued to know how the story changes, or not, when we explore the history of race and identity in non-Latin America countries.
If I were to run into my mom’s old Afro-Cuban neighbor today, I’d tell her that her notion that “los negros somos la raza sufrida” is interesting, perhaps somewhat true but definitely incomplete.
Comments : 1 Comment »
Tags: bicultural, biracial, Black, Brazil, Cuba, culture, diversity, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Hispanic, Hispano, Latino, multicultural, race, racism
Categories : May 2011
Billy Joel. “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” 1989.
In this song, Billy Joel sets out to remind us that every generation faults the last for its current day’s troubles. This vicious cycle of blaming the prior generation is alive and well as much today as when that song climbed the charts over 20 years ago…but there’s something different now, I think.
In the past, this “blame game” sought to make sense of the present day woes by assigning responsibility for those troubles on the generation of yesteryear. Now, it seems the rhetoric of blame has a new target: Hispanics.
Instead of looking backwards to find the culprits for a failing economy, a weakening public education system, an overstressed healthcare system and the ongoing list of present day issues, some Americans are looking around and are uncomfortable with the amount of unfamiliar “foreigners” they see, particularly Latinos. So while many in the broader general market appreciate the influence of Hispanic culture on North America by way of cuisine, music, movies, sports and the like, I’ve observed a concern, even an instinct to blame Hispanics for our country’s challenges.
During the April 17thinstallment of NBC ’s “Meet the Press,” the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, expressed concern about America’s future competitiveness due to disturbing declines in U.S. academic performance indicators. I was struck by this concern because I know that U.S. Hispanics will make up a growing proportion of the U.S. population in the future.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports the Hispanic population has surpassed 50 million and accounted for more than half of the 27.3-million population increase in the last decade.
According to the Population Reference Bureau, by 2035, one-third of all American children and youth will be Latino, and it is projected that by 2050, one-third of the overall population will be Hispanic.
At the same time, a study by World Economic Forum reveals that U.S. competitiveness, as measured by 16 indicators, has 13 indicators on the decline when comparing 2009 to 2010.
So is there a correlation between the decline in American future competitiveness and the increase in the Hispanic population? As Hispanics continue to make up an increasing percentage of the U.S. population, how much of the burden should Latinos bear in influencing this country’s future direction? How much of this “fire” belongs to us?
Comments : Leave a Comment »
Tags: acculturation, bicultural, bilingual, competitiveness, culture, diversity, economy, education, Hispanic, Hispano, Latino, multicultural, race, racism, university
Categories : April 2011
Mama always said, “¡Hay que estudiar!” (You’ve got to study!) Perhaps you’ve heard similar chants from your Hispanic family members growing up. In my experience, our Latino parents appreciate the value of an education, even if they don’t possess a high degree of education themselves. This observation is validated by this USA Today headline that ran on July 30, 2010:
“87% of Hispanics value higher educations, 13% have college degree.”
The article goes on to say that, “Despite strong belief in the value of a college diploma, Hispanics more often than not fall short of that goal.” Some of the reasons cited to explain the gap between Hispanics’ intense value for higher education and the low level of college degree attainment include:
- The rising cost of higher education combined with a culture-based hesitation to borrow in order to finance their college aspirations
- Family obligations
- Lukewarm support from parents and teachers
Do you agree with these assertions? More importantly, what are the consequences to our long-term U.S. economy if the nation’s largest minority group – Hispanics – do not close the gap between their aspirations for a higher education and actually securing a college degree?
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that a “College Degree Nearly Doubles Annual Earnings.” Advertisers prefer to target market segments with buying power. Therefore, it stands to reason that advertisers marketing brands to Hispanics with buying power would benefit from partnering with institutions that are successfully producing Hispanic college graduates into our U.S. economy, right? So then why are there soo few major advertisers with a comprehensive Hispanic college graduate agenda incorporated into their national Hispanic marketing strategy? I’m not talking about a $25 iTunes coupon at graduation gimmick. I am suggesting that major advertisers invest in creating an omnipresent branding relationship with these Hispanic college graduate producing institutions that is meaningful from admissions to commencement. The college years are usually reflected on with admiration, particularly for Hispanic degree holders who are often first-generation graduates in their family (same can be said for many minority groups). It would be smart business to participate in the lives of these future Latino graduates who according to my marketing experience, tend to be unusually brand loyal relative to the general population. Here is an abridged list of the universities supplying our U.S. economy with the largest number of Hispanics with college degrees:
- Florida International University (FIU)
- University of Texas (UT) schools – UT-Pan American, UT-El Paso and UT-San Antonio
- California State University system schools Cal State Fullerton, San Diego State University, Cal State Northridge and Cal State Long Beach
- Arizona State University
- Barry University (FL)
- Penn State
- Texas Tech
- Cal State Poly in both San Luis Obispo and Pomona
- Florida International University
- DeVry University-Illinois
- Texas A&M University
- University of California-Berkeley
- Nova Southeastern University (FL)
- University of Southern California
- University of California-Berkeley
- University of California-Los Angeles
- University of Florida
Agree or disagree, we welcome your facts, figures and feelings on www.BornBiculturalUSA.com
Comments : 7 Comments »
Tags: acculturation, bicultural, college, diversity, education, Hispanic, marketing, multicultural, university
Categories : October 2010