An Inside Look At Multiculturalism

  • by , Columnist, January 14, 2010
When hiring for Captura Group, I am always on the look-out for people who combine an innate understanding of the Hispanic culture and digital medium. When I met Jennifer Manriquez a couple of years ago, I realized that she possessed both qualities and something more. She and her family represent a new multicultural general market and are an example of why, by 2050, minorities will be the majority in the United States.

What does that mean for us marketers?

We need to proactively address the demographic shift that's occurring right now.

Jennifer was born in North Tonawanda, N.Y., a community of 32,000 people, out of which 97.9% are Anglo, and where Kimmelweck rolls are hugely popular. Jennifer remembers her father asking her if her friend Adrian from high school was Puerto Rican. Jennifer did not know what he meant. She asked Adrian if he was Puerto Rican and that was the beginning of a journey that has transformed her into being what America is becoming, more and more multicultural.



North Tonawanda meets Mexicali

Jennifer ended up moving to San Diego, where she met Arnulfo Manriquez, or "Nufi," an immigrant from Mexicali, Mexico, and got married. She then became Jennifer Manriquez, and the country became a little bit more diverse.

Jennifer distinctly remembers her first experiences trying to fit in to the Manriquez family. At a family wedding, Jennifer was with Nufi's multiple sisters and aunts who didn't realize she spoke Spanish.

"Ella esta muy flaquita, no es Latina para nada" ("She is too skinny, she is not a Latina"), they said in front of Jennifer, who played it cool. When her future cuñadas and tías realized she spoke Spanish, they were slightly embarrassed, but, more importantly, a bit more accepting of the skinny white girl from North Tonawanda.

It took a while for Nufi's mom to come around as well. At an early family dinner, la suegra cooked spicy chile rellenos for the family and a bland chicken dish just for Jennifer. Jennifer, who loves spicy food, immediately downed the chile rellenos, and her future mother-in-law said with a smile, "You really are a bit Mexican."

Tamales meet Kimmelweck Rolls

Today Jennifer and Nufi are happily married and have three kids. Although they mainly consume English media, they speak to their children only in Spanish at home. They celebrate Christmas on both Dec. 24 with tamales and salsa and the 25th with ham, scallop potatoes and Kimmelweck rolls.

When Judge Sonia Sotomayor was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court, Jennifer's oldest daughter asked her, "What is a Latina, Mom?" Without hesitation, Jennifer answered, "You are." Her inquisitive daughter then asked, "What are you mom?" and Jennifer said, "I am white."

Jennifer's advice to marketers is to inject multiculturalism into advertising and messaging. "Advertising that reflects my family's multicultural reality is what resonates with me."

2 comments about "An Inside Look At Multiculturalism".
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  1. Matt Cloud, January 14, 2010 at 2:57 p.m.

    Reading this article, what struck me was how significantly limited the "multicultural" label is. What does it mean to be multicultural? Does it mean you speak another language and like spicy food? Does it mean you acculturate? Does it mean you pick customs from several cultures and use that to demonstrate a new identification of self?

    It seems to me that instead of true multi-culture, this article is really about inclusion.

  2. Frank Strazzulla from Target Media Sales, January 14, 2010 at 3:14 p.m.

    I grew up Italian/Irish on Long Island and my wife is from a professional-class Mexican family from the gulf coast (Veracruz state) of Mexico...

    In her family Christmas looks a lot like Thanksgiving here, not with tamales and the like but with turkey, ham and other Thanksgivingish wife speaks Spanish to my 9 1/2 year old daughter, but media goes all over the map-from my wife's interest in Korean soap operas (!) to Fox News (definitely not what you'd expect in this house) to my soccer fetish, golf games, cigars and interest in all things electronic....

    Food does tend to be a mix of Mexican (with spicy salsas to boot) and old fashion gringo steaks, chops, chicken and the like...with frequent trips to the many authentic Asian eateries available in Orange County...I will eat just about anything my in-laws make but drew the line when my 82 year old father in law tired of American cooking during a visit and as a result I woke up and found that my breakfast one day was sesos (brains)! Boy, the Golden Arches looked real good that day! :)

    Moral of the story-beware of stereotypes!!!! No two Mexican family experiences are the same, nor are Hispanic cultures identical....

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