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Cross-Culturally Made In Manhattan

By Mari D. González

I have recently started watching Telemundo’s “Una Maid en Manhattan”  soap opera during my gym visits. For all the bad rap it got by Latina activists when it first came out, its plot, content, and characters are not as bad as I expected.

Manhattan

Manhattan (Photo credit: griangrafanna)

First, the main character, a maid, Marisa Lujan, is not the stereotypical uneducated and unsophisticated type represented in Latin American dramas where Power Distance by social class is more important than ethnicity.

Second, the maid is not being class ethnified or classed down because of her ethnicity, that is, where a Latina must be from a lower social class than her white middle class boss. Marisa Lujan’s supervisor is a Latino, her middle class peers are Latinos, and the father of her suitor, a U.S. Senator, is also a Latino. In other words, this is a less stereotypical scenario of Latinos in the U.S. The characters are not “caged” in the historically negative label where Latinas are cast as maids or servants of whites in Hollywood movies. “Una Maid en Manhattan” characters have been freed from that category.

Third, the “Una Maid en Manhattan” cast includes Hispanic/Latino diversity, namely black, blonde, and in-between. Although I am still waiting to see a more indigenous, dark face a la Mario Lopez in male roles, Marisa Lujan doesn’t fit the typical protagonist role of Mexican and Venezuelan telenovelas whose producers tend to prefer actresses who are blonde, European-looking, and heavily made-up by el bisturi , or a surgical instrument.

Lastly, Marisa Lujan is not half-dressed as are Univision’s telenovela actresses–and even most of their newscasters. The half-dressed image is more representative of white-American network executives’ obsession with the “hot-as-a-pepper” stereotype they have formed than with real Latina women in the U.S. and abroad. In fact, in general Latin American countries have warmer weather but only a small proportion of the population live by the beach and actually dress that informally.

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

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.

Reaching out Latinos: Conversing with an Hispanic Marketer

By Mari D. González

We Marketers and Latinos who study intergenerational and broad-based Latinos/Hispanics can be both intrigued and frustrated by their complexities. Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S. keep growing not only in numbers but in intricacy. Thus, over-simplifying them as a group simply does not cut it. Early demographic predictions indicate that “the final figure could surpass 55 million, or 17% of the U.S. population.” (Ruben Navarrette, March 2011, CNN Opinion). Complete U.S. Census data has not been released as of today.

We need both hard data and a continuous dose of culture to speak as up-to-date and savvy professionals. We need to be informed by statistics but also through collaboration, conversations, self-observation and self-directed research.

Below is my short exchange on Facebook’s Hispanic and Online Marketing group with one of its members and a Hispanic Marketing Consultant.

Mari: Because Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S form a very large and culturally heterogeneous group, one of the complexities relate to “what language marketers should use” when targeting them –Spanish, English, both, and/or the hybrid Spanglish. As you indicate, segmentation is also generational; 18-25 year-olds prefer “bilingual/Spanglish.” I recommend that you check what Univision radio has done, at least in the Bay Area. They have 2 very popular radio stations, La Kalle (bilingual/Spanglish with a good mix of English and Spanish pop music) and Radio Romántica (boleros, groups, rancheras in Spanish only). What Univision may have concluded is that the Spanish-dominants are from an older generation and/or hold onto their country-of-origin values.

HM: Hi Mari and thank you! I will check out your blog and look into your suggestions. Generationally speaking, I’m wondering how the 35-50 year old Hispanics like their content as well, since they make up the largest growing segment of online users. For me, radio is a slightly different animal. It seems I also need to get a current assessment of our main market, Miami, and break down the current profile of online users who live in or travel to this diverse city. And judging from Facebook’s research, their top Hispanic users come from Spain, Mexico, Colombia and Chile. So I’ve got to overlay this somehow since these countries also represent a growing portion of the local Hispanic market. I believe the Colombians are now the second largest socioeconomic group behind the Cubans [in Miami, FL].

Mari: How do 35-50 year-old users prefer content? It all depends on the platform. Is it more professionally-oriented? Then it will be English. Is it more social? Then, it will be a combination of English and Spanish, and of their culture of origin and their culture of residence con un toque Colombiano, Cubano y/o Mexicano [with a Colombian, Cuban and/or Mexican touch]. However, there is this “Latino” encompassing layer that gives us a group identity. So spice it up “con un toque Latino” as well.

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

Most Popular Ixmati Posts

Cross-Cultural vs. Intercultural

Being Latino on Facebook

Latino or Hispanic -A Note on Terminology

The George Lopez Phenomenon

Second Generation Novela or “Webnovela”

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].

The George Lopez Phenomenon

By Mari D. González

As a Mexican household name who has made it into the English-language media, George Lopez is mainstreaming Latinos for which he is considered by many a hero. He uses the most recognizable and marketable Latino symbol —Spanish language— just enough to remind you that he is one from the hood. He is not political correct. He can dispose of cursing republicans publicly and yet, he has a large following across blacks, whites, Asians, and Latinos alike.

So, What Is His Formula?

His Lopez Tonight Show is multicultural. He brings in and interviews white- and black-American celebrities. His diverse band plays diverse music and more importantly, he gets into issues that are close to Latinos and working-class Americans openly.

He brings in the urban flair popular among younger generations which has given way to fashionable music including regaetton, rap, and hip pop. He invites regular people to his show and make them feel at home, showing them respect and consideration.

He dresses elegantly. His shows around the country are sold-out, “even in a down economy” as he put it. His state-of-the-art studio is filled up with young people of all shades who will certainly come out with additional Spanish-language words that they did not or would not learn from their Spanish high school teacher.

Exploiting Culture and Humor

He brings racial issues into the open and even asks his guests for their opinion on them. He can certainly poke at Latinos and for that matter, working-class blacks and whites alike, because he is one of them. He grew up with those experiences; he is an insider and cannot be guilty of prejudice. He can be forgiven by those he represents for he talks about what he lived and endured. He is one of them thus, he can laugh at them.

There is a free flow at his shows. He converses with his audience and feels equally comfortable interviewing Clint Eastwood or the black pregnant dancer in a Corona bikini. He swiftly shifts between social classes and across ethnicities and that is a real skill.

He is attempting to demystify the difference between one’s ethnic label in the U.S. and one’s DNA. And, whether or not he is accurate, it is not the issue. The issue is that he is starting up these conversations in English-language national media.

De or Re-politicizing Chicanos

He is depoliticizing the term “Chicano” by calling himself “Tall, Dark and Chicano” among his fans who are beyond Latinos. Yet, he makes you feel that the Low Rider is still cool while he angrily gets into the political debate as to why some republicans did not vote for Sotomayor.

He might no be the funniest of all or even funny at all but, he has what a great majority of the U.S., so called, minorities have been waiting for –a charming, dark-skinned guy from a poor upbringing who is still in touch with his parent’s culture and has been able to secure a spot not in ethnic but in regular mainstream media where many with more influence have not made it.

Forget about his humor, which I can only stand for a few minutes, that ranges from off-color, vulgar, and borders black comedy. Even for those who find his jokes offensive, he is still looked up to and respected for he can definitely arouse multicultural crowds.

Marketing to Second-generation Latinos

Mari D. González

According to the Pew Hispanic Research Center 11 percent of the nation’s 16 million Hispanic children are first generation or foreign-born; 52 percent are second generation or U.S.-born “sons or daughters of at least one foreign-born parent;” 37 percent are third generation or higher “meaning they’re U.S.-born children of U.S.-born parents. 1

What does this mean for Spanish-language vs. English-language media and advertising?

That none of the two are reaching the largest bulk of Latinos/Hispanics -second-generation, bilingual ones.

Who is addressing this trend best?

Spanglish music-themed programming such as MTV3s and Mund2 and Hispanic/Latino oriented magazines are targeting this emerging group; not Univision or Telemundo and definitely not CNN, FOX, Target, or Amazon who have lately alienated Latinos with racially charged programming and/or products.

How?

By infusing Latin elements -words, phrases, music, colors- into to their English-language content and including content that is relevant to this socio-cultural group such as positive news about Latinos/Hispanics and against-the-common-negative-stereotype stories (Gonzalez, M.D., 2009) companies, marketers, and even politicians, have won and will continue to win over Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S.

Let’s begin to feature Juan Martin del Potro, number-one tennis player; Lhasa de Sela, Mexican-American signer of Spanish, French and English; Alondra de la Parra, 27 year-old classical maestra; Lorena Ochoa, number-one female golfer; or the all-American rock band from Texas, Girl in a Comma whose members are Latinos/Hispanics.

Why?

With 48 million Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S. and in states like California in the threshold of becoming more than 50 percent of their total population, and when “overall, Hispanics increased purchasing ‘deals’ by 16 percent, outpacing non-Hispanics shoppers,”2 news that Latino lives are about shooting, selling drugs, or school dropouts should be on the brink of getting too old.

1 Hispanic Magazine, 2009 October/November edition.

2 Hispanics and the New Economic Reality consumer report.