Reaching Latinos: Marry marketing psychographics to multidimensional demographics

by Andrés T. Tapia – medicalhomearticle.LatFamily-300x208

(This article was originally published on my LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/today/author/18562142)

In the last post, we finished talking about the second of three strategies corporations can use to seize the opportunities offered by the growing Latin talent pools. In this post, we’ll cover the third and final strategy.

Strategy 3: Marry marketing psychographics to multidimensional demographics

A telltale sign that there is lack of clarity about how to best reach Latino talent and consumers is that many are confused by just the most basic terminology: is it Hispanic or Latino?

The very fact that these terms are often used interchangeably in the media, but have meaningful although not-so-simple-to-explain differences in their origins and who uses them and how, is telling in itself.

But which term to use is only the tip of the iceberg. When we say Latino or Hispanic are we referring to the first-, second-, third-, or fourth generation Latino? The Boomer, Xer, or Millennial Latino? The English-, Spanish-, or Spanglish-dominant Hispanic? The Peruvian immigrant or the Honduran American born in Wichita? Or any of the other hyphenated Latinos coming from 27 different national heritages? This is the demographic part.

Then, as marketers well know, there is a psychographic part—the drivers that influence consumers’ purchasing decisions. Do they buy for comfort? For adventure? For status? For being on the cutting edge?

Latinos, like members of any other group, also have psychological drivers unique to the individual. Marketers have been able to group these individual psychological drivers to segment consumers. So even within the same demographic group they can go after segments such as hipsters, rebels, or security seekers. These are the psychographics.

The next step is to marry demographics with psychographics to create the most targeted approaches to attract talent and consumers. In other words, knowing the multidimensionality of demographic characteristics of Latinos is exceptionally important, but it is not enough without also layering in the various psychographic profiles.

This then gets us to the motivations of Latinos as it relates to cultural identity. How much do they or do they not want to identify with their ethnic roots versus how much do they want to embrace mainstream American culture as the core of who they are. Are they assimilationists? Are they Upwardly Mobile Aspirants? Are they Nationalistic in their ethnic country of origin pride?

The psychographic profiles that people will take are unpredictable to discern for individuals. But patterns do emerge. And now we can combine appealing to the demographic of the Millennial Puerto Rican to the psychographic or those who are Assimilationists or Nationalistic for example.

When the media zeros in on the undocumented (11 million) and the marketers on the Spanish speakers (34 million that is inclusive of the undocumented numbers), they are looking at important segments within the Latino umbrella but not the whole.

For example, they most often overlook the 26 million English-dominant Latino Millennials who paradoxically also tend to identify with the heritage of their parents’ country of origin (Colombian, Costa Rican, Argentinian, etc.) according to Pew Hispanic Research.

Marisela, my daughter, is a case in point. I think back just a few years ago, tiara perched on her jet-black hair, looking radiant and happy, surrounded by her friends and family. It was her quinceañera—her fifteenth birthday—a rite of passage in the Latino culture where a girl becomes a young woman. Mom, a European-American, and Papi, proud…and torn. Our daughter was coming of age and this joyous celebration with 200 people, a live salsa band, and a Peruvian food buffet, also marked one major milestone in Marisela’s passage toward independence and growing into her own identity.

So Marisela talks about being Peruvian American even though she was born and raised in the United States. She embraced becoming bilingual and multicultural as her friendships include young people who are Jewish, European-American, Black, and Latino. She spent extended time in Peru, where she found love and ended up marrying a Peruvian.

Adult choices

While Millennial Latinos are shaping their own Latino identities so are those in the older generations in the rapidly changing demographic landscape.

This was the lively topic of conversation at dinner in Boston’s North End, at the outdoor patio of Ristorante Fiore, an Italian restaurant on Hanover Street, after a successful diversity conference. A group of us Latinos sat, sipping our wine or espressos, began debating the role of accented English as it related to Latino identity in the workplace. Why is it that having a French or British accent is seen as a plus, but having a Spanish accent a drawback? And because of this, should Latinos who speak English with a Spanish accent work at reducing their accent? As the alcohol and caffeine took its effect, the conversation around how we sound dipped into a discussion about identity and success when one is in the minority.

The answers are not easy, the implications uncomfortable. Here we are a table of Latinos from different countries, different migration stories, different choices. What path should each of us take? I described facing ridicule and teasing at best, discrimination at worst due to my heavily-accented English during visits to the United States when I was young. This experience motivated me to work on my accent when I came to back to the United States to attend college.

As I did, the change in responses to my words clearly shifted toward more positive reactions as I calibrated my inflections, pitches, and tones. From that point on, it was as clear as the Peruvian brandy pisco that many English-dominant European-Americans heavily weighed their assessment of the value of words by the density of the accent of Spanish-dominant speakers.

But others around the table at Ristorante Fiore have made a different choice, equally valid. For them, how they sound, including their accented English, is part of their Latino identity. It is a marker of who they are culturally in the same way that Martinez, Ochoa, Jimenez, and Castillo are name markers of a Latino identity that is so paramount that even when offered a choice through different circumstances of a more Anglicized name, they don’t take it up. While others do.

We pick our cultural identity spots. ‘Este es quien soy’. ‘This is who I am’. Increasingly, for more Latinos, particularly Latino Millennials, the assimilation survival tactics of their parents are not as necessary or desirable.

Instead, our choices of how to let our Latino selves show up in American society are as diverse as the various peoples that make up the Latino/Hispanic fabric “en los United States de America.”

Promising future For Latinos—and the companies who hire them

I hope you have enjoyed and taken some good takeaways from this series. It takes two to tango. If Latinopalooza and corporate America can learn to dance together, the benefits of the reverberations of this multicultural choreography will be felt in the workforce and marketplace for a long time to come.

Reaching Latinos: Become self-aware of how corporate cultures are and are not attractive to Latino talent

 

By Andrés T. Tapia –

(This article was originally published on my LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/today/author/18562142)

In the last post, we started talking about the second of three strategies corporations can use to seize the opportunities offered by the growing Latin talent pools. In this post we’ll cover two more points that support this strategy. If you missed any of the previous posts in this series, click here.

How cultural assumptions get embedded in talent systems

So what is actually happening in today’s businesses? Let’s look at just one current talent management philosophy commonly adopted among highly successful and knowledgeable human resources professionals that may inadvertently have an exclusionary impact on Latino talent: “Everyone owns their career progression.”

This talent development philosophy gets operationalized through mechanisms such as career maps, online universities with “developmental maps” that employees can read, follow, and fill out as they chart their own course. Then there are conversations for them to initiate: How did I do? How will I be rewarded? What do I need to do next? It all then gets codified in the performance and development review.

This has worked quite well for many and this is not inherently a bad or good thing. It’s actually a good thing—if your workforce is homogeneously reflective of this particular worldview.

But too many have been left behind through this approach, which via unconscious bias gets codified right into the talent system and for different cultural preference reasons. Latinos are among the groups that are negatively affected disproportionately by this approach. The problem emerges with a lack of awareness of the cultural bias in this seemingly “fair” approach to development and advancement. It is premised on an individualistic, internal control, sequential, task-oriented worldview.

Latinos face additional differences with corporate America’s (European-American) archetypical worldview. When choosing between employers, many Latinos prefer companies that show cultural competency and sensitivity toward people like themselves. They value opportunities to network, grow professionally, give back to the community, and achieve work life balance. Interculturalist, Brenda Machado Koller, describes a Latino sensitive workplace as one that promotes “familia and simpatía,” one that is family-like and warm and friendly. Such an environment can be leveraged to promote greater loyalty, trust, and engagement.

With such disparate views of how to get things done, it should come as no surprise that Latinos have made very few inroads into leadership positions in corporate America.

Navigating a new worldview

When companies wake up to these differences and obstacles in their current efforts to attract Latinos, it can quickly become an exercise in futility. Conversely, organizations with the courage to truly assess where culture change is necessary and then make the changes will be well-positioned to win the Talent War by attracting their unfair greater share of Latino talent.

Yet, even as I plant a cultural flag of difference for the sake of Latino identity where corporate America needs our differences, I also plant another flag regarding European American and other cultures within the corporation: we need theirs.

With this stance, those of us who share archetypical Latino worldview also need to choose to learn the skills and ways of a linear, sequential, task-oriented, European-American-dominant culture—not only to better understand, and by that get along better, but also to add more tools to our professional toolkits.

I can thank both my Latino worldview and the exposure I’ve had to the European-American worldview through colleagues, with their individualistic task-oriented, internal-control approaches. As I adapted it has made me a better and more effective professional because I have diversified my skills toolkit.

Conversely, many colleagues have told me that they have come to more greatly value the times when a more improvisational, communal, and holistic approach has led to different and, at times, better results than had we followed the directives of a more structured worldview.

But note the phrase “adapted to it.” The line in the sand for many multicultural Latinos is right here. One can adapt without losing one’s cultural identity. “Assimilation,” on the other hand, is where the loss happens—which is to give up those things that have made us unique, to bury them alive, and to only operate within the confines, rules, and expectations of the majority culture we are in.

But what has to stop is the expectation that the full responsibility of adaption is on Latinos. We must have reciprocal adaptation or else, game over.

Ya! The Time Has Come for Latinos to Claim Our Place in American Society

by Andrés T. Tapia

(This article was originally published on LatinPost.com http://www.latinpost.com/articles/21389/20140915/ya-time-come-latinos-claim-place-american-society.htm)

U.S. Capitol Dome

U.S. Capitol Dome

It’s up to us to have our power match our numbers

Power-cito, my Spanglish word for power-with-a-lowercase-p, is the Achilles heel of the surging Latino narrative. Despite our supersized growth, we have too much evidence that our power in many areas of society does not match our numbers.

As we joyfully celebrate and share our Latino roots during this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s also challenge ourselves to step it up and make our presence known and felt. Because when it comes to executive and senior leadership positions, political representation, and a marketplace that knows and meets our needs, we are not yet fully accounted for.

In leadership, according to the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, among the 1,200 executive and director positions available in its 2009 Corporate Inclusion Index, Hispanics held only 61 of those positions. That’s 7.9 percent. In 2013, it went down to 7.3 percent. Additionally, only 18 percent of Latinos work in management, professional, or similarly related positions.

Politically, we Latinos do not vote in numbers that the size of our population would suggest. In Arizona, for example, Latinos make up about 31 percent of the state’s population. Two-thirds (67 percent) of this population is native born, with a median age of 25 and a 57 percent home-ownership rate. These are the indicators of a potentially influential, voting-eligible population. Yet, many Latinos believe recent Arizona immigration legislation is detrimental to their community.

In the marketplace, there are still too few choices for products and services that cater to the needs, wants, and aspirations of the broad diversity within the Latino community — from the Spanish-dominant first generation Latino immigrant to the fourth generation Spanglish professional to the affluent MBA on the executive track.

The headwinds are both external as well as within ourselves. We must be vigilant about any discrimination and rally our allies in squelching it. A 2013 Harris Interactive poll found that over 75 percent of Latinos feel people with their background are discriminated against in the form of not being hired or promoted for a job and being called names or insulted.

But we ourselves also get in our own way as we seek to rise to the top. For example, many of the highly energized Latino advocacy organizations have a reputation for not being collaborative, and instead being highly competitive with one another. National origins and territoriality get in the way. A zero-sum game mindset feeds this.

We therefore have a splintering of advocacy groups — many doing insightful, passionate, committed work, but not in a coordinated, scalable way. But this splintering is what contributes to Latinos not displaying strength commensurate with our numbers.

It’s Up To Us

But it’s time we stop looking to others to hand us the power. We need to, and can, rise up to meet it. For us as individuals, it depends on our own ability and willingness to speak up for ourselves and being able to take the more calculated risks required of leaders. And collectively it’s about finding ways to minimize the differences within our own Latino ranks and being able to leverage the many things we have in common to advocate more effectively for what we need and want.

Here’s what we can stand on. Fifty-five million Latinos, and growing, are out there shopping, traveling, banking, studying, and raising families. The Latino purchasing power of $1.4 trillion in 2014, the fastest growing in the United States, is greater than the economies of 11 nations, including Mexico, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, and Indonesia.

And as companies struggle with growth, Latinos offer a marketer’s dream target audience — young, growing, and underserved. With one-third under the age of 18 and 25 percent in their 20s and 30s, the majority of Latinos are near the peak of their spending years.

As we become homeowners, we are driving growth in the household goods industry at a time when other groups are cutting back on these purchases. The familia focus leads to purchasing for the here and now. Latinos over-index compared to other groups in the purchase of toys, BBQ grills, furniture, and eating out. This is consumerism driven by a worldview of many Latinos that what matters most is hoy (today), for who knows what mañana (tomorrow) will bring.

Even with the high unemployment tied to the Great Recession, Latinos account for 13 percent of the workforce and have a participation rate of roughly 68 percent. This is a higher workforce participation rate than among whites, African-Americans or Asians. From a numbers perspective, companies unsuccessful at sourcing, attracting, and engaging this talent pool will see their talent pipeline shrivel up.

Hispanics are tasting the fruits of entrepreneurship as well. According to a 2013 Geoscape study, Hispanic-owned business have grown to over 3 million, a 40 percent increase between 2007 and 2013, outpacing the growth rate for any other demographic group. They generated over $468 billion in revenues.

In addition, Latinos made a key difference in how the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections went. And with now both major parties deeply disappointing Latinos in one way or another, we are in a position to be more demanding about what it will take to win our votes.

So here we are. According to Pew Hispanic Research, Latinos are twenty-one percent of the millennial population. This is the precursor to all Latinos expected to be one-third of the U.S. by 2050. Latino is not a niche market; it is the market. Twenty-five million eligible voters nationwide, and over 6 million in places like California is not a side constituency, it is the margin of victory. Sixty-nine percent of Latinos going to college, the largest percentage of any ethnic group including whites, is not just a student body ratio, it is the future workforce.

We have the numbers behind us, as well as our optimism, our energy, and our ambitions. But we have to stop waiting for others to make the way for us. Se hace el camino al andar, you make your path as you walk it. Let’s stop playing it safe and instead take the necessary steps to be seen as the future power brokers of how things are going to be.

We have a the rest of this month to reflect on this. From there, time to take action.

Ace Hardware Launches “Hispanic-centric” Marketing Campaign

When it comes to reaching the 50 million Hispanics in the U.S., Ace Hardware found that it takes more than simply translating existing ads into Spanish. It takes marketing built on genuine inclusion.

Ahorre Hispanic Internet Marketing Services reports that Ace is launching a marketing campaign that is “Hispanic-centric”–based on core values in Hispanic culture. Jose Gonzalez of the Hispanic marketing agency Revolucion says that for Hispanic consumers, this means conceptualizing the hardware store not as a bargain warehouse, but as a place in the community where you can get personal service. It also means showing Hispanic families bonding while working on home improvements together, rather than representing family time as a reward for getting work done. For more on Ace’s campaign, click here.

Schoolchildren More Segregated Today than at Time of MLK’s Death

A national tragedy: African-American and Latino schoolchildren are more segregated today than they were at the time of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s  death in 1968 says the UCLA’s Civil Rights Project in their January 2010 report.

As a shifting demographics continue to transform many sectors of U.S. society, the country is falling far behind in building faculties that reflect the diversity of its students–44% of whom are now nonwhite–and failing to prepare teachers who can communicate effectively with the 20% of homes where another language is spoken. Millions of nonwhite students are locked into “dropout factory” high schools, where huge percentages do not graduate and have little prospect of contributing to the economy. Often failing US schools are shared by two or more highly disadvantaged minority groups; most schools are not working on creating positive relationships between them and their teachers, who are often white and untrained in techniques that might lower tension and increase school success, the report says.

In states such as California and Texas where nonwhite students are already the majority, these failures are straining local economies and social systems. On an even larger scale, this reversion to segregation threatens the U.S.’s economic and social position in the world. In a global economy where success is dependent on knowledge, average U.S. educational levels decline as the proportion of children attending inferior segregated schools continues to rise.

The findings are the results of a decades-long systematic neglect of civil rights policy and related educational and community reforms. Its findings echo a damning statement made in 1983 in a report commissioned by the Reagan Administration that looked at the state of education back then. In the “A Nation at Risk” report there was this phrase: “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

And for students of color the results are worse than mediocre.

They are devastating.

When It Comes to 21st Century Families, Individualistic American Worldview Bending Toward Communal: Multi-Generational Homes Make a Comeback

by Susan Welch, Hewitt Research

multigenerational_EuropeanAmThe “traditional” nuclear family may seem like an American ideal. Indeed, starting just after World War II and continuing to its peak in the 1980s, the nuclear family was the norm. But an early 1940s trend that faded, yet started a slow resurgence in the late 1990s, is gaining steam: multi-generational families.

Increasingly, two generations of adult family members are sharing a roof. Some of you may say this reflects an increase in elderly parents moving in with their adult children, where they are poised to help raise grandchildren and even contribute financially to the household. Some of you will attribute the trend to an increase in young, unwed mothers whose parents are willing and able to help raise their grandchildren as part of their household. Others will point to “Boomerang” Millennials, who return to their parents’ home to take up residence, often due to economic struggles particularly during this Great Recession. And still others of you will note that rising rates of immigration—particularly among Latinos and Asians, who highly value families and respect their elders—are responsible for this trend.

All of you are correct.

multi-generational-family_AfAmThe trend toward multi-generational households is multi-faceted, and shows several social trends converging. A difficult economy, increased immigration, greater longevity, delayed marriage, and even work-life struggles (working moms seeking reliable care may prefer a parent to a day care center) are all factors in the rise of many-generation families.

According to this Pew Research Center report, Boomerang adults are most responsible for the rapid increase in multi-generational households. In 1980, 11 percent of young adults (between the ages of 24 to 35) returned home to live with their parents. By 2008, 20 percent of young adults returned home. Interestingly, this age group is the only one in which men make up the greater share. Among the elderly, the reverse is true: Women are a larger portion of those in multi-generational homes. Overall among the elderly, the same percentage as young adults (20 percent) enjoy a multi-generational home, up from 17 percent in the 1980s.

Multi-generational_LatinoCulture and ethnicity contribute to the trend. According to Pew, “Hispanics (22%), blacks (23%), and Asians (25%) are all significantly more likely than whites (13%) to live in a multi-generational household.” This is a natural behavioral interpretation of the communal worldview of these racial/ethnic groups. Even so, multi-generational households increased across all populationsbetween 2006 and 2008. Why may this be for European Americans? As we indicate in our Hewitt crosscultural training, worldviews are significantly influenced by what is required for a community to survive and thrive. And changing conditions for European Americans plus the influence of a greater number of communal diverse groups in American society, are leading to new interpretations of family that bend somewhat away from an exceptionally strong individualistic bent to a more communal one.

The lifestyle implications of multi-generational households are abundant, ranging from increased grandchild/grandparent interaction to increased strife among in-laws. But these lifestyle changes also make themselves felt in the workforce, where they are less likely to be acknowledged or addressed. For example:

  •  Women—and men—who are sandwiched between caring for their children and their older, in-residence parent, often struggle with work-life balance.
  • According to this PBS article, they also may need health care emphasizing stress relief.
  •  Older, but still working-age, women—and men–who are rearing their grandchildren may need increased health care for themselves, and also may struggle to secure health care for those grandkids (particularly when the parent is unemployed).
  • These same grandparents may require legal support to ensure guardianship of their grandchildren if needed.

Multigenerational_AsianThe benefits of multi-generational households can greatly outweigh its challenges. Employers savvy about this trend can look for creative ways to support members of multi-generational households, thus helping preserve a strong and growing kind of family unit.

As Español-Language Media Grows, ¿Qué Me Dices about Spanglish? Oye! Tell me, Should There Be Limites a la Inclusión Linguistica?

familialatinaIn reflecting on the growing use of Spanglish, “I feel that it’s only organic to combine the two popular languages to casually express myself,” writes Lily Mikulski in rbb Public Relations’ Digital Park blog. She quotes Ilan Stavans, professor of Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College and author of Spanglish: The Making of a New Language, as telling NPR that Spanglish is a creative way also of saying, “I am an American and I have my own style, my own taste, my own tongue.”

Mikulski’s comments were triggered by a Miami Herald report that Spanish-language broadcasters are not only growing and developing programming to attract new audiences, but they’re also becoming involved in all aspects of social media and even gaming to secure more viewers.  Mikulski, a Nicaraguan-born U.S. Hispanic, wonders aloud how inclusive these new ventures will be. Will those like Mikulski who feel caught between two languages hear the Spanglish they use in casual conversation? Mira her blog and join la conversación about how far la inclusión linguística should go.

Race and Diversity: In California More Latinos and African Americans Value Higher Education

The New America Media reports that a higher percentage of Latinos and African Americans in California value college education as a necessary path to success in today’s work world, compared to their Asian and white counterparts, according to a recent survey.

In early November 2009 the Public Policy Institute of California released its latest report, “Californians & Higher Education,” which reflects a spectrum of perspectives on California’s higher education among different ethnic groups. PPIC polled 2,502 adults in five languages – English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.

Eighty-one percent of Latinos and 76 percent of African Americans believe that college education is necessary for a person to become successful, the report found. Only 57 percent of whites and 66 percent of Asians share the same perspective. Click here for more on the study on the views of different racial groups of higher education.

Latino Talent Coming to a Workplace Near You — Take Five with Author Robert Rodriguez

robert_rodriguezThis week I introduce a new blog feature, Take Five With where I  ask five questions of a diversity thought leader whose answers take about five minutes to read.

My first guest is Dr.  Robert Rodriguez, the author of Latino Talent: Effective Strategies to Recruit, Retain and Develop Hispanic Professionals (www.latinotalentbook.com). During Hispanic Heritage Month he gave a keynote at Hewitt that still has people talking weeks after he made it plain about how the burgeoning Latino population has already changed the U.S. and will continue to do so. We recently took five with Dr. Rodriguez and here’s is what he had to say.

Take One: What does it look like that Latinos are the largest minority in the U.S. at 15% and what will it look like in 2020 when they are one-fourth of the U.S?

What this means for employers is that the workplace of the future will have an increasingly Latino identity. With a significant portion of the workforce being Latino, those organizations that have established effective Latino talent management strategies will have a competitive advantage not only in the workplace, but also in the marketplace.

Take Two: What are some common mistakes employers make when trying to attract and retain Latino talent?

One of the most common mistakes that employers make is that they do not possess a textured understanding of, and appreciation for, Latino diversity. This means they don’t know about Latino demographic trends, Latino terminology and also do not know about Latino cultural tendencies. For example, most employers do not know about the difference between the terms Latino and Hispanic, which is a key element to tapping into the Latino talent pool.

Also, employers often fail to understand that due to cultural differences, Latinos may interview differently than their Anglo counterparts and without this insight, employers could be overlooking well qualified Latino professionals because they interpret these cultural differences as mistakes — such as avoiding eye contact or not using “I” in talking about past achivements — and falsely determine that the Latino candidate “did not interview well.” What hiring managers need to realize is that they need to take into account cultural differences and look at the substance of the candidate and not just the interview style when making hiring decisions. Unfortunately, most employers are not this sophisticated – yet.

Take Three: The inclusion paradox is about constructively calling out our differences. What are some unique contributions Latinos can make to the workforce given their culture and worldview?

Latinos tend to be collectivist in nature, meaning that they often put the needs of their teams and others before their own needs. These tendencies often support team and group initiatives because Latinos tend to promote cooperation and collaboration and place a high sense of importance on achieving group goals.

Additionally, Latinos often display “Personalismo” in the workplace which simply promotes a work environment that is warm, friendly and one where co-workers take an active interest in each other. The Latino sense of  Personalismo can thus be leveraged by corporations that wish to promote more loyalty, a higher degree of trust and a sense of family in the workplace.

Take Four: What would you tell Latino professionals about what it takes to be successful in corporate America?

The most important thing I tell Latino professionals is to be absolutely comfortable with their sense of Latino identity in the workplace. By this I mean not just being proud of their Hispanic heritage, but to leverage their ethnicity as a source of strength. Too often Latinos feel that they have to downplay their ethnicity in the workplace or feel that they need to be more “Anglo” and assimilate in order to move ahead. Unfortunately, when Latinos try to be and act like others, as opposed to being authentic to their true selves, that is when they often begin to struggle in the workplace.

Take Five: What are the cultural implications for Latinos of Barack Obama’s election as president and his appointing Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court?

The election of President Obama and the appointment of Sotomayor has re-ignited a sense of optimism within the Latino community. After all of the negative rhetoric and backlash against “illegal immigrants,” Obama and Sotomayor have changed the discourse in the U.S. when it comes Latinos. Now when you speak about Latinos in America, the conversation has more to do about the community as a catalyst for economic growth and about being the next great source of intellectual capital in the United States. This more positive image of Latinos has elevated Latino pride in the country and has inspired many Latinos to strive for greater heights and to make even larger contributions to our society.

Featured Post: Not All Latinos Eat Tacos

by Andrés Tapia

The Latin American is an amalgam of bloodlines: Spanish, Arabic, Native American, African, and northern European. Out of this combination of cultures emerged one culture – the Latino, also referred to as the Hispanic in the U.S. However among the 27 different Latin American nationalities, all of which have established a presence in El Norte, there are significant differences in food, slang, values, and immigration history.

Though tacos and guacamole are part of the Mexican culinary experience, a Puerto Rican would rather have arroz con gandules (black-eyed beans with yellow rice) and a Cuban ropa vieja, a meat preparation whose literal translation is “old clothes.” That sounds as strange to Colombians as it does to Anglo Americans. And a Peruvian in need of money seeks plata, while a Mexican chases lana.

The following is a brief description of some ways Latino/Hispanic groups in the U.S. are different from one another.

Los Mexicanos
It is historically inaccurate to speak of Mexicans as immigrants. This largest Hispanic group mostly lives in California and Texas, territory that belonged to Mexico until the Mexican–American War in 1848 when it lost half of its territory to the U.S. Many other Mexicans immigrated in this century because of labor needs in both the agricultural and industrial sectors. The majority of the one to two million legal and undocumented immigrants into the U.S. each year come across the Rio Grande.

Los Puertorriqueños
The second largest group of Hispanics resides mostly in New York, New Jersey, and Chicago. Because of Puerto Ricans’ commonwealth status as a result of the Spanish-American War, its people are U.S. citizens by birth. There is a perpetual debate on what the status of  Puerto Rico should be: independent, a state of the Union, or remain a Commonwealth with some modifications.

Most Puerto Ricans came to the mainline as the results of the harsh economic conditions on the island between 1950 and 1970 at a rate comparable to 50 million people leaving the U.S.

Los Cubanos
Concentrated mostly in Florida, middle class professionals began landing in great numbers on the shores of Miami when Fidel Castro’s Marxist revolution overthrew dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1950. In contrast to most other Hispanic immigrants, Cubans were considered political refugees. Because of their age, education levels, and business experience, Cubans quickly set up shop to bide their time for what they thought would be a temporary situation. Today they are the wealthiest Hispanic group in the U.S. A second immigration wave of the marielitos occurred in 1980 when Fidel Castro emptied his prisons and allowed inmates unhindered passage to the U.S.

Los Centroamericanos
Many Central Americans began arriving in the Seventies as they fled war-torn areas such as El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Scores of the over one million who fled from El Salvador were helped by the Overground Railroad, a network of churches helping refugees find sanctuary in the U.S. and Canada. Many feared being killed either by the guerrillas or government forces if they returned. Though the wars are over, many of these refugees have already planted their roots in the U.S.

Los Sudamericanos
Because of the resources required to travel the long distance between South and North America most South Americans – such as Ecuadorians, Bolivians, Chileans – making the journey tend to be middle class. Political and economic instability has also forced these immigrants to seek better opportunities. In Peru, for example, inflation hit 15,000% in the 80s.

_______________________________________

Without the understanding of these major and subtle differences, professionals in corporations will be prone to making mistakes like the following: In a corporate video produced in the U.S. and intended for a Puerto Rican audience to sway them from voting in favor of having a union, one company featured a moving interview with an employee who had gone through great sacrifice crossing the Rio Grande to seek new life in the U.S. In the video, the subject talked emotionally about his dream of one day becoming a U.S. citizen. For Puerto Ricans, who are already U.S. citizens and do not see themselves as having to aspire to immigrate illegally, this was a serious insult. As a result, several people walked out of the screening. And the vote went in favor of unionizing.

While it is a start to be knowlegeable about Latinos being one of the largest racial/ethnic groups in the U.S. , it pays to be aware of the diversity within the Latino community itself.

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