No Need To Feel Intimidated By Market's Supposed Complexity

Some pundits make the case that the Hispanic community is more of a construct, fabricated by marketers rather than an existing cultural cohort. It may be true that outside the U.S., Latin Americans do not necessarily feel an affinity and cultural connection to other Latin Americans, perhaps in the same way Australians might not feel affinity for New Zealanders or the British despite some cultural commonalities. Still, Latin Americans (in Latin America) do share a lot, culturally, even while having distinct and diverse practices, traditions and even behavior. They share affinity for the same sports, the same language (though dialects are varied), the same religions, a shared colonial heritage, shared history at times, a shared pop cultural environment, even a shared media environment in many cases. There is also a lot they don’t share, most importantly, the national identities, nationalism and patriotism which precludes all those other similarities.

However, when Latin Americans immigrate to this country, they are thrust into an environment alien to their countries of origin so suddenly that they are more likely to find comfort in the language, religion, customs and traditions of other Latin Americans that, in another context, would be considered completely foreign. The number of Argentine-Mexican couples I have met in Los Angeles proves to me that even two very disparate Latin American cultures share enough to make a lasting marital bond. This, of course, is not the rule. Still, pan-Latin friendships and relationships are very common among U.S. Latinos largely because there is a shared experience (as immigrants, children of immigrants or Latin Americans).



Still, the oft-quoted “experts” often ignore or downplay some very key facts about the nature of this “wildly diverse” group. Namely, that more than two-thirds of the Hispanic population is of Mexican descent and so there is a degree of homogeneity that the pundits tend to ignore in their zeal to declare the Hispanic community fractured and, therefore, a fabricated construct. The other third tends to be concentrated in areas where they are among their own cultural cohorts, e.g. Cubans in Miami, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans in New York, Cubans in Union City, Salvadorians in D.C., etc. Despite that, we are seeing increasing diversity in the Hispanic population such as in Miami where Colombians, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans and other nationalities are just as prominent as Cubans and mingle and interact (and even relate) with each other on a cultural level. Even in California, we are seeing more diversity, though Mexicans are still the dominant demographic.

In the many ethnographic sessions we have conducted over the years, we have seen more and more subjects refer to themselves as Latino or Hispano rather than simply being from the country of their origin. Younger Latinos, U.S.-born Latinos and the bicultural Latinos are increasingly seeing themselves as part of a distinct culture within the U.S. mainstream, something they are proud of and are empowered by. And, the reality is, it is a distinct, evolving culture within the mainstream.

It can be argued that even across the U.S., there is also a similar diversity of cultures even among native-born, white Americans. You can’t tell me that someone from Bangor, Maine, has more in common with a Houstonian than a Peruvian has with a Chileno. Aside from their nationality, there might be very little they see eye to eye on. The same can be said of Mexicans from different regions of Mexico. The tapatios from Guadalajara don’t necessarily relate to those from a small pueblo in Oaxaca.

It is so de rigeur to say that the Hispanic market is fractured and diverse, that marketers feel intimidated by the supposed complexity of the market. It is no more complex or diverse than the rest of the country. The term Hispanic / Latino is an appropriate substitute for the underlying complexity of the market just as the term “Baby Boomers” is a vast over-generalization of a hugely diverse group of people. You can do targeted efforts on a local or niche basis, and you can also do nationwide efforts that target a wider group. But yes, like all targets, Hispanics are not monolithic.

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