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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

Latinas Use of Social Media

By Mari D. González

Brazilian market research firm Sophia Mind reports some preliminary differences in social-network sites use between American and U.S. Latinas -women from Latin America including women of Brazilian descent.

Sophia Mind summarizes, “while American women use social networks mostly to connect with friends and family, [Latina women in the U.S., Brazil, Argentina and Mexico] use social nets to find information on products and services” (Malykhina, 2010, ¶ 4).  The study notes the lack of culturally relevant content for Latina women in the U.S., and concludes that only 21% U.S. Latinas/Hispanic women feel social networks meet their needs.

Facebook vs. Face-to-Face

By Mari D. González

It is not uncommon for older generations  to  hold a differing perception on the use of social-network sites from that of  “the young and the digital.”

Many of us assume that social-network communication or the use of social media will eventually displace the need and/or desire for in-person interactions.

Media Associate Professor, S. Craig Watkins asserts differently. He observes that young people use social-network sites as an extension of their face-to-face interactions not as a replacement and that they mostly interact in Facebook with their already-made friends and school peers. For them, social media is what for older generations the phone was.

I shall expand on this topic soon.

Invitation to Participate in a Social Media Study

You are invited to participate in a research study which will ask you about your social-network use and preferences, and the cultural characteristics you perceive in social media. My name is Mari D. González, and I am a student in the Masters in Intercultural Relations Program at the University of the Pacific, School of International Studies. You were selected as a possible participant in this study because of your interest in social-network sites.

This study will compare second-generation Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S or native-born (born in the U.S.) with at least one foreign-born parent (parent born in Latin America: Mexico, Central America and South America) vs. dominant culture (people who predominately identify as U.S.-white and do not identify with a particular U.S. ethnic minority).

You will receive a Peet’s Coffee & Tea gift card  of $5.00 as a thank you for your participation. Social-network users who identify with either cultural group are encouraged to participate.

If interested, please go to Social Media Study include your email at the end of survey to contact you and set up a 45 min. phone interview. Please email me at maridgonzalez@yahoo.com for more information.

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

Social Media is Collectivist

By Mari D. González

Whenever I hear advice on the best use of social media to attract users, I go back to my introduction to cross-cultural communication graduate course.

In collectivist (Latin America, Arab countries, Southern Europe) as opposed to individualist (U.S., Northern Europe) cultural groups, social media is intuitive. People in collective cultures are group-oriented. Their self-identity is directly related to their group or groups of reference. They thrive by being sensitive to the group’s harmony. For members of collectivist societies, communication with one another is frequent and spontaneous. Because language is a reflection of culture, one might say that Spanish-speakers tend to be more social. Collectivist cultures as opposed to task-oriented or individualist cultures understand that in social media:

  • Broadcasting is not conversation.
  • Two-way communication is conversation.
  • People can tell who is not being genuine.
  • Unless you are a broadcaster, social media is about the quality not the quantity.
  • Conversations require three steps – listening, processing information, and responding.
  • Conversations and meaningful engagement are time consuming.
  • Time is not necessarily money and relationships take you further than money.

As an interculturalist or intercultural communications professional, my focus is on what happens when people from two different cultural groups or different enculturation, i.e., staff at U.S. companies, whose values are dominant, and Latinos communicate, assuming they are using the same language–English and/or Spanish. In essence, my interest is in studying how the speaker’s message is received and interpreted by the listener according to contextual meanings that are intrinsic to her or his early socialization.

Edited by Connie Cobb

Being Latino on Facebook

An Interview with Lance Rios

By Mari D. González

In preparation for my independent study research proposal on Social Media and cultural indicators, I interviewed Lance Rios, creator and administrator of Facebook’s Being Latino.

I became fascinated by Lance’s ability to attract a wealth of followers –“31,576 People Like This” as of today, to keep them engaged, and to maintain consistent and personalized contact with them. All of his posts are culturally relevant and promote individual opinions and collective discussion. Thirteen percent or 18 out of my 138 Facebook friends joined Being Latino after I suggested it.

How Does He Manage It?

Lance is a young English-speaking and bicultural blogger and social media addict –as he describes himself. He is of Puerto Rican descent and both his Latino cultural background and American values are alive and communicated throughout his posts.

He resonates with acculturated English-speaking Latinos across the board –Mexican, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Central American and South American. His posts range from informational and serious activism to entertaining on American popular culture, national news from Latin America, politics, statistics, biographies and other socio-cultural topics.

When I asked him about the role of Being Latino, he humbly replied, “It is something I created [which has] attracted a lot of people via word of mouth and it is bigger than I anticipated.”

Being Latino vs. Lance Rios

Lance recognizes that it is more effective to tone down individual views and reserve those for his personal page, “I’m more balanced, neutral, and less biased on Being Latino. I wanted to separate [myself from it]. It is not about me.”

Concurrently, he wants people to know that although Being Latino is an “open platform” he is behind the page by personally approaching people “who had their own agenda.”

Cultural Relevance – What Makes Being Latino, Latino

Being Latino has filled a huge gap in mass media communications with a conventional social media platform. There isn’t media that communicates to bicultural and acculturated Latinos. “Most media outlets use Spanish language” which doesn’t echo with American-born Latinos. Being Latino caters to “second- and third-generation Latinos” not only in the U.S. but also in Europe, South Africa and Latin America.

American-born Latinos have been raised in an English-speaking world surrounded by American media which unfortunately neither represents nor includes them. They are the majority, as compared to foreign-born, and prefer speaking English; yet, they also choose to unassimilate by continually sharing and communicating certain cultural values on- and off-line.

Lance recognizes that “[his] audience is more comfortable with Spanglish and English,” which speaks of their upbringing. Culturally relevant elements are communicated in the language that is more fitting. Spanglish is used for what cannot be translated without losing connotation, “I never spoke [Spanish] growing up; everything was in English, [except] certain words with meanings that cannot be transferred, [such as] words used in normal conversations [and] those words are identifiers and connectors.”

I do not consider myself another social media addict, however I am becoming addicted to Being Latino.

Why Facebook?

[To be continued].

Targeting Latino Youth in the Digital Age

My academic research paper “Interactive Food & Beverage Marketing: Targeting Latino Youth in the Digital Age” has been published on the first issue of the Journal of Internationalisation and Localisation (JIAL).

You can access it with six more articles as a PDF or, you can purchase the journal from the publishing university at http://www.lessius.eu/jial/order.aspx