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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.

Key Findings on the 52 Million Hispanics

Percentage of Hispanic or Latino residents by ...

By Mari D. González

The Pew Hispanic Center has published a new report on the Latino/Hispanic population based on the U.S. Census 2011.

Some of the key findings are:

1. Hispanics today make up 17% of the U.S. population, up from 13% in 2000.

2. The share of the nation’s Hispanics who are U.S. born has been on the rise since 2000.

3. 65% of the U.S. Hispanic population is of Mexican origin.

4. Two-thirds of Hispanics live in Illinois, Texas, California, Florida and New York.

5. Minnesota, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Arkansas have seen the fastest growth since 2000.

6. The Hispanic population is the nation’s youngest major racial or ethnic group: Hispanics, 27; Blacks, 33; Asians, 36, and Whites 42.

7. The majority speak English “very well/only English at home.”

8. College attainment and enrollment have also been on the rise for Hispanics: 10% in 2000 and 13% in 2011 graduated from college; and 20% in 2000 and 33% in 2011 were enrolled as undergraduate, graduate or professional student.

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.

UPDATE: In 2018, we are seen a fairly good integration by the majority of Latinos/Hispanics–the millennials–into the US society. This demonstrates two facts, 1) Hispanic Marketing is facing out because the general market is becoming more Hispanic/multicultural, 2) younger Latinos/Hispanics have integrated into a society that is less white and more ethnic and multicultural.

Univision Network No. 1 last week

Mari D. González

Does Univision, the largest U.S. Spanish-language TV network, understand that the largest Latino/Hispanic segment -young and bilingual- want relevance and quality in media?

The emerging young Latinos/Hispanics have been complaining about the lack of quality of programming at Spanish-language TV networks and that the English-language networks neither represents them nor includes them.

With the news that Univision has taken the No. 1 spot on viewership not only among Latinos/Hispanics but across the board, perhaps Univision is finally listening to this powerful market subgroup.

Ethnifying Class Part II: A Personal Experience

By Mari D González

Last summer, I presented at the Localization Industry Standards Association (LISA) conference held at UC Berkeley and one of the participants asked me at the end, “How do you feel about presenting when most of your fellow Mexicans are labor workers?”

I wishfully thought he had come across post-colonial studies given that he was a university professor abroad. I had overheard him talking about teaching a graduate course in Thailand. My assumptions resulted from a positive stereotype that is just as insidious.

I did not care to answer his question because it was not one I would have ever asked myself. Instead, I wondered if he, in the effort of protecting his ego, avoided asking: “How do I feel by listening to a Mexican given the unquestioned perception I have chosen to hold about her?”

My “Mexicaness” experience has been shaped by a series of life events. I did not grow up in the U.S. and thus was devoid of its color-classification through enculturation. Growing up in Mexico, I mingled and felt equally comfortable with my well-off relatives from Mexico City as with my father’s students at his materially-poor-but-dignifying-rich rural school where I attended first and second grades before entering the only private school in my hometown. I certainly could not have any sympathy for this professor’s views or feelings.

Yet, through his inquiry, he had informed me of his narrow individually-held perception and how he declined to challenge it by diffusing it toward me. He refused to expand his stereotype when he had the opportunity to. Unfortunately, he chose to see the little and tiny side of the broader whole despite of his long-traveled and -lived life.

Ethnifying Class Part I: Classifying Obsession

By Mari D. González

Our Legacy from Colonialism

Because our most forceful legacy from colonialism —color obsession— is widely represented in media and pop culture and supported during children’s enculturative years, our tendencies are rather simplistic. We wish we could accurately match someone’s ethnicity and/or skin color with a socioeconomic class.

The effort to classify what a person looks like, her skin color, her ethnicity and culture, and/or her country of origin as her socioeconomic status leads more than often to wrong assumptions, sad stories, and violent acts.

When one’s nationality or looks mismatches what the perceiver expects in her character or behavior, a need for logical explanation never delays. The work of the “I” is to rely on our reasoning when our old-held perceptions are challenged. Yet, verbally expressed inaccurate and overstated generalizations are always obvious to the receiver but usually dismissed by the messenger.

“But, you don’t look Mexican

Phrases such as, “But, you don’t look Mexican” informs us where the speaker comes from —a solid and steadily held ignorance. That comfortable internal bubble gets burst as the messenger desires to be, but is not, asserted. His wish-it-was-iron-made fizz is held. He does not have to look inside to begin to accept that he does also carry that human-shared misery of pain.

Or, perhaps, he had wished that I wished to separate myself from my group of reference as much as he can comfortably separate himself from what he sees as “other.” And this other in his eyes is usually darker, indigenous-looking, lives on the other side of the tracks, has not appropriately learned the common fake politeness, was conditioned to obey, follows orders, rarely confronts authority, has less social status and in turn less political power.

According to those narrow “ethnicity-equals-class” standards, I must not, could not, and should not be Mexican. A fine gentleman, with the experience of being “of color,” told me once, “It is because according to them, you are too intelligent and good looking to be Mexican.”

I rather think that it is my lighter skin and middle-class demeanor what makes commentators like him feel unthreatened and almost sure that I want to climb their socially-imposed hierarchical ladder at the expense of my self-perceived identity and of the connection with the people I relate to culturally, historically, and ethnically.

Census 2010: A Historic Background South the Border

By Mari D. Gonzalez

1810-2010:  Identity of Blended People

The more blended people in the Southern Hemisphere of America began the tedious task of being named, boxed, and “other-ed” by their settlers five centuries ago. Mexican as a nationality came about exactly two centuries ago when “La Nueva España” gained independence in 1810 and it named itself Mexico after its indigenous roots.

There wasn’t neither a country named Mexico nor “Mexicans” before then. The process for Mexicans to develop their own cultural identity began with the Mexican Revolution and culminated with La Epoca de Oro, The Golden Era, of cinema in the 1950’s and with the amazing proliferation of world-class visual art by icons such as Khalo, Rivera, Siqueiros, and Orozco who exposed a rather dignifying Mexican working class and their popular culture.

Mexicans, as any other labeled people, do not represent a particular classification but “una amalgama” between the already ethnically diverse Spaniards whose background could have been Arabic, Jew, Celt, or other from that well-mixed Southern region; slaves from Africa; and the local indigenous peoples.

“Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds”

Latin Americans, as did Latin Europeans, continue to mix and blend. According to scholar and historian Gregory Rodriguez’ (2007) research reported on his book “Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds: Mexican Immigration and the Future of Race in America,” the majority of second- and third-generation Latinos marry outside their own ethnicity.

Latinos, people with origins in Latin America, have already gone through what this country is about to. This census year, the task of boxing people, who from the beginning of history have blended despite legal, religious, and social limitations, will be incommensurable.

Hopefully, this tediousness will prompt us to give up classifying people solely on physical appearance.

Nota en español sobre “Spanglish”

Page 51 of Book IX from the Florentine Codex. ...

Page 51 of Book IX from the Florentine Codex. The text is in Nahuatl written with a Latin script. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Escrito por Mari D. González

De acuerdo a mi último estudio, los jóvenes quienes aprenden español en su casa – ya sea porque sus padres se lo exigen o porque sus padres no hablan ingles- y que aprendieron ingles a temprana edad, prefieren, al hablar casualmente con sus amigos(as), usar las palabras y frases en español que aprendieron en casa y mezclarlas con términos o frases en ingles que aprendieron en la escuela.

Este proceso de “back and forth” de una lengua a otra no necesariamente incluye palabras comúnmente conocidas como Spanglish.

En mi opinión, las palabras en español inglesadas o anglicismos denotan conceptos nuevos o variaciones de conceptos ya conocidos que se añaden al vocabulario en el lenguaje que fueron aprendidas manteniendo el sonido español por la popularidad de su uso y la funcionalidad que ofrecen.

El use de Spanglish es más común en los mexicanos quienes nos aferramos a un español menos castellano y más Náhuatl y en personas para quienes no es práctico buscar en el diccionario español-ingles la traducción al español de palabras nuevas en ingles.

Hispanic Marketing and Culture

By Mari D. González

In the past four years, I have studied how effectively cultural research has been utilized by marketers to target ethnic groups, specifically Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S. On my most recent research, I focused on youth because they represent a demographic group that is bilingual and bicultural and because they are most susceptible to new trends and technology.

I investigated the type of cultural knowledge marketing researchers use to target Latino/Hispanic youth and the effectiveness of their interactive advertising campaigns. The study explored how the ever-growing access to digital media changed the way the food and beverage companies do business with Latino/Hispanic youth. The purpose of the study was to provide further understanding on marketing to U.S. Latinos particularly acculturated youth who shift back and forth between two cultures and that has shaped the focus of my academic research.

The study was presented at the LISA Forum Berkeleyand the academic paper was published at the Journal for Internationalisation and Localisation at Lessius Hogeschool in December, 2009.