Such unfortunate perception is afflicting Mexico today.
The media are full of negative publicity about the deteriorating security and the police force's struggle to maintain order against powerful drug lords that are increasingly wielding more power through their well-equipped and well-financed machine of destruction. Last year's swine flu and the global recession added further fuel to that fire.
I was pleasantly surprised when I visited Mexico City recently to discover a place that does not fit in with those images. I saw:
Such is the kaleidoscope of Mexico City, a city that is the world's largest metropolis (ranging in population between 18 and 25 million urban souls, depending on whose statistics are being used).
This is America's closest neighbor with a true foreign culture, providing an ideal lab to see how her mighty brands are being marketed, experienced, and in many cases, crushed by the local competition for lack of being in tune with the local culture.
The Spanish-speaking world is one big, fast-growing market. On our own home turf, the Hispanic market brims with potential. Data point to U.S. Hispanic purchasing power that is expected to surge to nearly $1 trillion this year -- nearly three times the overall national rate over the past decade.
Few realize that if the U.S. Hispanic market were a country, it would rank as the third-largest Latin American economy, behind Brazil and Mexico. And, according to U.S. Census data, there are more Hispanics living in the United States (50 million) than the entire population of Canada at 32.5 million.
By 2050, one out of every four people in the U.S. will be Hispanic.
So it comes as a surprise that corporate America is still not tapping into this promising market and engaging with it on all fronts of media, which is fast shifting from traditional into the digital age, where the social media of Facebook, blogs and Twitter is redefining our daily lives.
On a final note, recent research has also points out Hispanics as young, fervent brand loyalists, and the nation's fastest growing internet users. The perfect combination of a promising target market to for brand-builders to engage as potential consumers from an early age.