“Latino” Preferred in California

By Mari D. González

The term Latino/a is preferred in California because it is associated with a sense of self-power, “for more educated Californians, ‘Latino’ is the new Chicano in that it evokes their indigenous roots, a shared history of struggle and the colonization of the people in Latin American countries.” Alcoff, L. M. (2005). Latino vs. Hispanic: The politics of ethnic names. Philosophy & Social Criticism, 31(4), 395-407.

Latinos in the U.S.

By Mari D. González

This is a comment I shared on the Hispanic Professionals LinkedIn Group discussion titled, “Bilingualism Key to Breach the Gap.”

“The hope for the advancement of Latinos in the U.S. lies among young educated and aware Latinos/Hispanics who are the product of bilingualism for they did not grow up during the time when speaking Spanish was prohibited.

Unfortunately, before the 1970′s  Latinos or Mexican Americans were either forced to identify  with the general, macro, dominant culture–white–or to be secluded in cluster communities up to the explosion of the Chicano Movement which proclaimed the recognition of the indigenous roots of Mexican culture and empowered Mexican Americans to advance politically.  As radical as it was, the painful conscientious movement was indeed needed.

As a result, young Latinos and Latinas are enjoying one of the greatest legacies from it–bilingualism. We are also more knowledgeable of the two cultures that makes us up. We are integrated. We are expanding our awareness of our culture of origin–Latin America–by socializing online, by traveling and by being more exposed to different cultures and places.

Young Latinos and Latinas are currently graduating from college in record numbers. This can be attributed to our collectivist values, or group efforts to mentor and tutor, to expand culturally appropriate program in colleges and high schools such as Puente and above all to having a willingness of being role models to upcoming students.

That is what differentiates Latinos from whites and blacks. Latinos have a strong commitment to improve their communities. Even when succeeding Latinos might leave their neighborhoods to study or work, most return to uplift others.

Who needs JLo, Jessica de Alba, Ted Cruz, or any of those washed out Latinos. While they might be popular, they have no true influence. Influence is acquired by taking responsibility for and by making an impact on others’ lives and by uplifting human values.

Being Latino is not a label. Being Latino is a strong community commitment to help Latinos in need. Yet, we need to move away from history to create a clear vision of the future as one cultural group. We must ask ourselves, What is it that we want as a group?  Where are we moving toward? What our direction should be?”

Super Bowl and American Ethos

By Mari D. González

If one wonders what the U.S. American ethos is, one can see it fully represented in the Super Bowl ads–the dreams, the myths, the wishes, the ideal values, the perceived beauty, the wishful thinking, and what should or could be.

It is great to witness that finally, those ideal values have been updated to be more inclusive and to reflect what most of us observe daily in the U.S. –an obvious ethnic diversity–made up of continuous waves of immigrants that keep moving this country forward.

Mexicans: The More Segregation, the Less Assimilation.

By Mari D. González

The less segregation, the more assimilation. It is a give and take situation.

~Altar de Muertos~

~Altar de Muertos~ (Photo credit: uteart)

The highest level of education a Latin American immigrant has, the more willing he/she is to assimilate. Yet, he/she gives up his cultural origins. In terms of their level of integration in the U.S., there are implications for both the Mexicans and the more assimilated Latin American groups in the U.S. While the later might enjoy greater economical benefits than Mexicans, Mexicans is the only ethnic group that has kept its cultural roots generation after generation at the expense of not enjoying such economical benefits.

While Mexicans have refused to assimilate, they have influenced the U.S. culture in every way. A couple hundred years from now, the only culture alive in the U.S. will be the Mexican (Dia de los Muertos, piñatas, mariachi, tacos, etc.). The rest will be passing technology, brands, and disposable things. Mexicans have the ability to layer several cultures without renouncing their own. I’m very proud of every single bilingual and bicultural Mexican-American in the U.S.

Accents Are in the Ear of the Beholder

Joven chino-mexicano en la Alameda Central

Image via Wikipedia

By Mari D. González

Personally, I love accents. They tell me that the speaker is non-native, definitely bilingual and thus, intriguing. Accents define a person socioculturally and correlate to the individual’s upbringing and ethnic, national, or group identity. Some accents are more difficult to understand, some are less melodious, and some might annoy us. Some simply take time to get used to. Yet, our evaluations are subjective and relative to our individual context or opinion.

As a medical interpreter, I am accustomed to accents others might wish to avoid. In California, there are immigrants in many different professions. From time to time, I interpret for doctors from China and India who are not understood clearly by patients with good English fluency. I have concluded that such difficulty is due to the patients’ lack of familiarity with people from China or India. Or, perhaps they are not as intrigued as I am by different accents.

Why was I prompted to write about accents? I just read a white paper on Hispanic marketing written by a South American author who speaks to the need to “diminish [one’s] accent” because “having a Spanish accent [is seen as] a minus.”

My Mexican colleagues do not discuss “accent reduction,” though they may promote better pronunciation as the way to be better understood. As a Peruvian, the white paper’s author is speaking for Peruvians and to Peruvians, not necessarily for or to other Latinos/Hispanics or for that matter to the ones who make up the majority among them, Mexicans.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center country of origin profiles (2009), Mexicans make up 65.5% of Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S. and Peruvians 1.2%. The latter are not a significant presence in any large U.S. metro area unlike Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Salvadorians, and Cubans. Thus, this isolated “accent” perspective is too limited to consider as an overall Latino/Hispanic concern.

Based on personal observations, Peruvians demonstrate a greater desire to assimilate than Mexicans. As a Mexican myself, I find offensive to even bring it up because it indicates a desire to fit in instead of integrate. Mexicans have a different perception of assimilation and actually oppose it. This opposition might be the response to the never-ending socioeconomic friction that began with the clashing of the two cultures when the U.S. – Mexican border was in dispute and, following a war, was re-defined.

The background of the current state of Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S. is the Chicano Movement, whether we agree with it or not. The Chicano Movement is a point in history that precedes where we are as a cultural group now. It marks the second developmental stage of group identity formation, which is conflict.

The first stage is identification with the dominant culture. In other words, a desire to eliminate what makes one different from members of the dominant culture or assimilation. The author is implying being at the first developmental stage of group identity formation or having a preference for an Anglo Orientation according to the research by Vasti Torres.

I suggest that the author of the white paper become familiar with the writings of historian Rodolfo Acuña and philosopher Gloria Anzaldua, researchers such as Hayes-Bautista or Amado Padilla, and the more contemporary journalist, Gregory Rodriguez—not  because they relate to Peru’s history but because they relate to the history of Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S. and because such history left a huge mark in the consciousness of our predecessors moving them into the second stage of identity formation.

I’d love to see more research-based versus opinion-based information on the topic of assimilation, ethnic identity and the relevance of accents. We can certainly produce it. We need more new and fresh facts about these topics instead of recycling what goes viral online.

Edited by Connie Cobb

Identity and Endearing Names

By Mari D. González

Our view of ourselves continues to change as the context changes, as we grow in market potential, in political power, and become more educated. No ethnic group named by an out-group has ever been monolithic. The grouping and the naming is usually in the context of a dominant vs. minority group in which the “namer” assumes control. I’m reading about the emergence of a new public identity of Moslems in Germany where they are seen as having a religious identity even when they no longer practice Islam.

Different historical factors influence the relationship between Americans of African vs. Anglo descent and Americans of Latino/Hispanic vs. Anglo descent. The first has been anchored in color alone (which I’m glad is changing) whereas Latinos/Hispanics come from a reverse view of color influenced by Catholic humanistic values where any amount of European blood moved them away from their indigenous or African roots and thus closer to the dominant social group.

I’d say that because I am “blanquita” or “guerita,” and enjoy the unearned privileges that unfortunately come with it, I have even more responsibility to advocate for an educated view of Latinos/Hispanics, immigrants, and any minority for that matter. By the way, “blanquita” and “guerita,” aren’t used as endearments but are common terms in families where one sibling is blonde with light eyes and the other is dark skinned such as in my own family.

I was born and raised in Mexico and moved to the U.S. I have college degrees from both countries, which has definitely shaped my views. And contrary to what the media portrays, the majority of people Latin America are not poor but working class (not much different from the U.S. now in terms of unemployment and job security). Here are Senator Chris Dodd’s words that support my view:

“… the Latin American economy, long defined as “emerging,” has finally emerged. In the five years leading up to the 2008 global financial crisis, Latin American economies experienced growth rates of 5.5 percent, while keeping inflation in single digits. And when the crisis did hit, Latin America stood strong, weathering the crisis better than any other region in the world. While income inequality remains a significant issue (as it does in the United States, I might add), 40 million Latin Americans were lifted out of poverty between 2002 and 2008.”

Below is the Hispanic Professionals LinkedIn group discussion thread that inspired me to write this post.

Member of LinknedIn’s Hispanic Professionals group: “What has happened in the US is that scholarly research and media attention has focused principally on the urban poor and then attributed what they learned about that particular world view to blacks in general.”

Mari: This is exactly what I call “Ethnifying Class,” a term I thought up based on personal experiences as I continue to move back and forth between whites and Latinos/Hispanics in different circles (social classes). I recommend that you read “The ‘Splintering’ of America’s Black Population” which talks about the now recognized socioeconomic diversity among Blacks in the U.S.

Member of LinknedIn’s Hispanic Professionals group: “This does not happen with white Americans … the attitudes and behavior of poor urban and rural whites are not attributed to whites in general.”

Mari: Because whites make up the dominant culture, they can afford to campaign for how they want us to see them. However, it must be a lot more difficult to be poor and white because poor whites are invisible in a way.

Edited by Connie Cobb

The Latino Movement: More about Integration than Differentiation

By Mari D. González

It is not uncommon to read outrageous statements in discussion forums and blog comments. The anonymity of users gives them more freedom to express their individual opinions without a second thought; this tendency is less common when people use their real names.

A few weeks ago, I read this comment on a well-liked Latino blog: “Mexicans have no clue, their Spanish it’s [is] the worst among the Central American people.”

I wrote the following response:

1) Mexico is part of North America not Central America, and NAFTA refers to the North America Free Trade Agreement between Mexico, Canada, and the U.S.

2) Mexican Spanish includes words from the 60 Indigenous languages officially recognized by the Mexican government. The extent of the Indigenous influence is due to Mesoamerica (Central Mexico southward through Central America) being the center of the first most developed pre-Hispanic civilizations in the Americas.

3) Most Mexicans are proud of their Indigenous background and cultural make up. As a Mexican, I speak Mexican Spanish because that is my mother tongue; I use Spanglish with my Latino(a) friends in the U.S.

While we acculturate and adapt to the United States by keeping up with the challenge of “straddling two cultures” that is a common topic among Latina bloggers, let us not forget where we come from and the values we learned there such as respect for language differences and the nuances of language use. Let us “preserve our unique cultural identities” and “continue defining ourselves” without shoving others out of the way.

Welcome to the sequel or Chicano movement Part II, which is now more about integration than differentiation, and should be termed the “Latino Movement.” The term Latino was officially established in 1997 by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. It indicated that the terms Hispanic and Latino were to be used interchangeably beginning January 1, 2001.

Edited by Connie Cobb

Being Latino on Facebook II

By Mari D. González

This is the second part of my interview with Lance Rios, founder and administrator of Being Latino, “a communication platform designed to educate, entertain and connect all peoples across the global Latino spectrum.” It is the largest Latino/Hispanic page on Facebook with 41,460 “People Like This” to date -an additional 9,884 followers since the date of my first post on May 27, 2010.

For Lance, Facebook provides an already established and flexible platform on which participants can “communicate back and forth in whatever language they want, Spanish or English.” Conveniently, there are plenty of Latino/Hispanic social-network users. According to him, there is no need to create any specific social-network website for them.

Mainstream vs. Latino

I wanted to know if there were any differences between “mainstream” and Latino Facebook users. Mainstream users are considered the general market or non-ethnic segment in marketing. In other words, mainstream users are by and large in-tune with the popular U.S. American culture.  Lance contends that Spanish-language phrases that are immediately recognized by Latinos/Hispanics such as, “Que pasa” and “Mi gente” are essential when communicating with Latinos on social-network sites and that using “English-language [only] is limiting.” Thus, Spanish as a language becomes a salient cultural indicator for Latinos even when only a few words are being used.

Singh, Baack, Kundu and Hurtado (2008) argue, “[Spanish language] tends to be the most visible manifestation of U.S. Hispanic identity.”  According to my my academic research on digital media, bilingual, second-generation Latinos/Hispanics prefer English websites that include phrases and words in Spanish because those speak to their cultural identity. Lance agrees, “You need to speak their language.” Language choices represent how young Latinos see themselves. Their language is as hybrid as their cultural identity.

Social Media Trends

When asked about Latino trends in social media, Lance first asserts that Latinos are a strong market, “Latinos are a young audience and the fastest growing.” He explains that Latinos have a great interest in connecting with other Latinos wherever they may be. For instance, “they want to know what is going on with Latinos in East L.A.,” which unlike with any other demographic it is consistent with Latinos/Hispanics. For Lance, “connecting among Latinos within the Latino community is to identify and to [identify is to] capitalize.”

Lance affirms that Latinos are less afraid of saying what they think and feel, “they are more expressive in social media and more willing to put it out there” adding that in Latin America people are encouraged to carry over [their culture] by expressing it.” According to him, Latinos in the U.S. are not different. He states, “they are expressive and passionate” about their culture.

I was very curious to know which topics get the most responses and keeps Latino/Hispanic fans engaged. Lance notes that it is difficult to capture the attention of social media users with topics that need more consideration. He advises keeping things straightforward and “not to use too much thought, simple [uncomplicated] stuff generates the most responses.” As for my appraisal, his topics are hardly ever simple; his spin is though.  For instance, Lance’s October 2, post with a link to the L.A. Times article, “CNN’s Rick Sanchez fired after statement about Jews in TV” reads on top, “CNN fires news anchor, Rick Sanchez, Thoughts?” On October 2, 2010, this post generated 103 comments within a day of posting.

Edited by Connie Cobb

Latinos Getting More Complex

By Mari D. González

I am very please to have an echo on the fact that the more the number of Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S. increases, the more they need to be segmented because their complexity as well increases.

Last July, I submitted a research paper for possible publication at the Journal of Internationalisation and Localisation (JIAL) titled “Interactive Food & Beverage Marketing: Targeting Latino Youth in the Digital Age.” The study covered:

“Recent interest in the Latino/Hispanic population and culture has lead to fruitful research and increased attention on U.S. Latinos/Hispanics…. Marketing that targets Latino/Hispanic youth, has become promising, specialized, and lucrative. [This study] investigates the type of cultural knowledge marketing researchers are using to target Latino/Hispanic youth…. It explores how the ever-growing access to digital media changes the way the food and beverage companies do business with Latino/Hispanic youth” (Gonzalez, M.D., 2009, p. 4).

My findings show that Latinos/Hispanics specifically youth are creating a new “hybrid” culture which marketers need to take into account. They cannot effectively be reached by Spanish-only media nor are they being attracted to mainstream mass media because they do not culturally identify with it.

Marketers are loosing the mark of this large and continuously growing population of bicultural and bilingual digital media savvy generation if they do no pay attention to what matters to them. For instance, while they listen to the whole spectrum of music in English, from rock to hip pop, they also listen to “rancheras” (Mexican country music) by Vicente Fernandez.

The following information posted by Louis Pagan makes an interesting comparison on how Latinos/Hispanics continue to use their cultural strengths such as “being personal” and “sociable” while using media to network and advertise:  http://louispagan.com/?p=453

Indegenous Population: Where Do They Fit?

By Mari D. González

It is becoming more and more common to encounter indigenous people from Latin America in the U.S. who speak their indigenous languages and do not speak Spanish, yet they are learning English. They are mostly young men from Southern Mexico or Central America.

Last month, I interpreted for two young men in their early twenties for a recorded statement related to a car accident. Both were from Guatemala. The youngest seemed very shy. Although he understood most of the questions I asked in Spanish, he needed further interpretation from his cousin who was fluent in Spanish and three other indigenous languages from Guatemala.

According to scholars (Elliot, Adams, & Sockalingam, 1999) indigenous people in the Americas should not be “counted” as Latinos. From their comprehensive study on cultural groups in the U.S. in the communications field, they conclude that,

Latino is used to refer to people with a lineage or cultural heritage related to Latin America, but should not be used to refer to the millions of Native Americans in the region. [Furthermore] members of indigenous groups in Mexico… object to being referred as ‘Mexicans’ (Multicultural Toolkit Summary, Hispanic American Communication Patterns,  3).