The Many Meanings of Thanksgiving

Dia del Guajolote...
When you think of Thanksgiving, do you think of tamales and beer?

(Maybe the beer, since most of us want to blur out Aunt Edna's constant complaining about our posture, but the tamales?) Yes, tamales... and salsa on your turkey, and sometimes even some tripe to go with your gravy. What I am describing is the beautiful reality of cultural integration taking place across the U.S. as Hispanics make "American" traditions their own and vice versa.

Typically, when we think of Thanksgiving, we think of Pilgrims and American Indians. We think of turkey and stuffing, green bean casserole and cranberry sauce. We think one-day family reunion with a big feast and thanks and goodbyes. But to Hispanics, it means and is carried out a little differently.

Mainly, the appeal of Thanksgiving to Hispanics is that it results in a very positive cultural value: families getting together. Thanksgiving, like Christmas, offers Hispanics an opportunity to gather round and engage in celebrating the fact that family is alive, healthy and together. At its core, Thanksgiving is everything right with the world from a Hispanic point of view -a day of hope, blessing and communal rejoicing. It has come to be as celebrated by the U.S. Hispanic population as any 'cultural" event, like Dies y Seis, but for different reasons. During Thanksgiving, Hispanics are not celebrating their culture, but who they are as people and what they have to be thankful for, a request that is considered as valid as remembering independence.



So what?
The fact that America is becoming 'Latinized' should not distract us from the reality that Latinos are also "Americanized." So that means that you should consider Hispanic advertising as a continual effort, not relegate it to the cultural celebrations that happen a handful of times a year.

Thanksgiving season is a major shopping holiday between food and pre-Christmas sales. Advertisers spend millions of dollars trying to capture share of voice, share of market and share of wallet. And yet, we systematically forget that there are niche markets, some who speak different languages, that also seek the same invitation to spend money as the 'mainstream" population. By simply taking some of our media money and shifting it to augment some Spanish language media, for example, our clients could reach a larger audience at the same cost.

Grassroots efforts are also sorely confined to just 'Hispanic Holidays" when they can be used much more effectively throughout the year to develop brand loyalty and incremental sales. But we continue to relegate Spanish or Hispanic specific events and efforts to the outsold, overrated and, at times, unimaginative "cultural fiestas."

To be clear, these cultural celebrations have their place and advantages as they are specific to Hispanics, but as more and more advertisers seek ways to market to this group, we should be aware that traditional "American" celebrations are fair game. Take Fourth of July. There is the same sort of excitement among Hispanic Americans as there is for Cinco de Mayo among college students.

Thanksgiving is, in fact, an ideal 'Hispanic Holiday" in that it captures the entire family in one place at one time. In addition, these visits involve the weekend, when Hispanic families will go out together to shop and prepare for Christmas. This means you do not just have the opportunity to talk to one desired demographic, but potentially more (think grandmother, mother, daughter and grandkids). The environment of blessings and gratefulness is also an ideal setting to speak to Hispanics, who are generally more optimistic about the future than many other groups and are open to messages that inspire themselves and their children to move forward.

Turkey Tacos are Good
There are only 20 states in the U.S with less than four percent of their population of Hispanic origin. It is reasonable to assume that in decades to come many of the traditions which we think are exclusively Latino will be adopted by other ethnic groups and vice versa. It is also reasonable to assume that as the population grows, it will no longer make sense to just relegate efforts spent against it to four of five key time periods in the marketing calendar. So what are you waiting for? Pass the turkey!

Typical Thanksgiving Fare at my Mexican Grandma's House:

Turkey with bread stuffing (containing green onions, green pepper, celery, raisins, carrots and shredded turkey giblets)
White bread rolls and corn tortillas
Tamales, turkey of course
Mustard Potato Salad
Green bean casserole
Fruit salad with whipped cream
Mashed Potatoes
White rice with cream of mushroom soup
Pumpkin Pie
Champuro - hot drink that tastes like chocolate but is thin, like water.

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