How Much Do We Really Know About Mexico?

The grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence. As true is that, when we see grass on the other side of the fence that is less green, we tend to think that side is the poorer for it.

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:

  • Handsome colonial mansions, jacaranda-lined neighborhoods with art deco edifices, avant-garde architecture, sprawling urban parks dotted with world-class museums, European-style quarters overlooking roundabouts decorated with monumental statues, and Rodeo Drive-like high end shopping streets.
  • Quaint corners with bookstore cafés that feel like permanent fixtures of the street furniture, commuters moving swiftly in the city's subway housed in a design vocabulary of massive concrete. Street-side food vendors churning out hand-made tacos and salsas that would put to shame any North American eatery claiming to serve high-end Mexican cuisine.
  • Smart-looking businessmen in power suits and chic ladies doing brunch in an outdoor café, their bullet-proof American SUVs parked outside in plain view, while private security guards try to blend in.
  • And street entertainment that "decorates" intersections, with colorful performers showing off their juggling skills and magic tricks. And vendors that come to your window peddling everything from newspapers and candy to cheap plastic toys. Neighborhoods with the sights and sounds you can only imagine coming out of a National Geographic TV show, hard working plain folk who tend their little tienditas, and old men playing chess on park benches.



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.

8 comments about "How Much Do We Really Know About Mexico? ".
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  1. Armando Carrillo Jr, March 18, 2010 at 1:42 p.m.

    I applaud the passion evident in your article, especially how you focused on the culture and history of the city and its people. Your observations helped paint a positive picture of Mexico, countering the tainted images too often exaggerated by American media and politicians. Where are the pictures, though? That would've made your article all the more enjoyable.

    The research also helped stress the importance of not taking our purchasing power, and quick adoption of online technologies, for granted. We are indeed young, vibrant, and unafraid to spend a little money, regardless of current economic conditions. De nuevo...aplaudo tu pasiĆ³n.

  2. Thorsten Rhode from marqueteer, March 18, 2010 at 1:44 p.m.

    Like the article -- and agree wholeheartedly that we need to check our 'assumptions' at the door.

    One word of caution: The article goes from talking about Mexico to making observations about Mexico City (different beast!) to discussing Hispanics. This happens in different sections, but as a reader you may not 'notice.' Be careful NOT TO lump Mexicans & Hispanics together and get to one general conclusion. This would be your first (and last) mistake...

    Canadians are different from US Americans, right?

  3. Jackie Bird from Redbean Society, LLC, March 18, 2010 at 2:43 p.m.

    While your stats on US Hispanic population & buying power growth are accurate, let's not mislead opinion leaders on Media Post to assume that Mexicans in Mexico are a similar target to Mexican Americans. For one, Mexicans live in one homogeneous culture while MexAms are living daily in two cultures. Latino immigrants begin their acculturation process very shortly upon arrival in the U.S. Even then, we retain those cultural values that are meaningful and relevant to us, like identity, language, spiritual orientation and family/gender roles. For marketers, it is hugely important to understand these cultural nuances to ensure brand relevance in context and message. Follow us on

  4. Armando Carrillo Jr, March 18, 2010 at 7:02 p.m.

    Good points Thorsten and Jackie. The term "Hispanic" would offend many Mexicans, in addition to a number of people from other Latin cultures that the term encompasses. And it is important not to mirror marketing approaches to people residing in Latin countries the same as to those living in the States. That should be a given by now.

    It does appear that both of you may have over-analyzed the context of this article. Dian's observations of Mexico as a whole appear to be based entirely on his visit to Mexico City, which he nicely leveraged to address and raise awareness within Corporate America. It would be no different had he lead into his argument by reflecting on observations made out of a trip to Chiapas down South, or my home state of Chihuahua, or Brazil or Argentina, for that matter.

    "Hispanic" is not inter-mingled with native Mexicans whatsoever in this article. Dian built up a mood, raised a key topic of discussion, and hammered it home with some raw insights. Great, creative execution.

  5. Dian Hasan from MindCode, March 26, 2010 at 1:55 p.m.

    Saludos Armando, Jackie y Thorsten,
    Thank you for your constructive feedback. I would have loved to include pics, but was unsure that was allowed. Is it?
    ciao, dian

  6. Lucia Matthews, March 26, 2010 at 1:58 p.m.

    Hello Dian,

    Great work.


  7. Thorsten Rhode from marqueteer, March 26, 2010 at 5:42 p.m.

    Dian -
    not sure what sort of pics you are talking about.
    At any rate, I just returned from a business development trip Mexico City on Wednesday and saw a diverse, 'upwardly mobile' city -- with some (more) affluent neighborhoods surrounded by many areas where a leisurely stroll at night was not a good idea (gringo or not). The gap between the rich and the not so rich is definitely palpable, making for an interesting and adventurous vibe.
    More to the point: This had nothing to do with East LA -- supporting the point Dian made very vividly.

  8. Jerry Foster from Energraphics, March 29, 2010 at 8:53 a.m.

    I highly recommend for young Americans to learn Spanish and expatriate themselves to some of these countries to find life, love and help the economies of all.

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