Accidental Hipsters, or How Trends Fit Hispanic Traditions

In fashion, certain trends fit certain body types better than others (think shoulder pads, and crop tops). In culture, certain trends bring forward some subcultural orientations better than others. Some trends may allow more specific views and practices to flourish and be validated in the mainstream. It is old news, for example, that social media has propelled Hispanics’ natural predisposition for connectivity — they now over-index on social media use. Here are some other areas where recent cultural trends make a good match with traditional Hispanic practices and values.

Farm-to-Table Food. A lot of eating trends in the general market have to do with growing our own food and cooking it in our own kitchen. We see more and more restaurants with their own gardens and chicken farms. For Hispanics, this is not news. Cliché but true, in the Hispanic culture cooking fresh food is a symbol of love. Even if they now live in urban areas in the U.S., many Hispanics have childhood memories evoking connections to the sources of food: spending time at farms in the countryside, drinking fresh milk from a neighbor’s cow.



Yet, despite this “fresh food” background, Hispanics have a high obesity rate (42%). Aside from improving their own health — and marketers may help them in this — Hispanics can rediscover what they traditionally did right and become leaders in today’s movement towards fresh and healthy food.

Homemade Personal Care Products.  Today’s general market glorifies natural ingredients also in personal care products. “Old school” is becoming cool again, as young adults experiment using apple cider vinegar instead of shampoo. But, as with food, natural products have been around for generations among Hispanics. Regardless of the socioeconomic level, Hispanics have a deep connection with nature and strongly believe in its medicinal and beautifying powers. This trend may present an opportunity for many Latinas to become the next beauty gurus with products inspired bylos secretos de la abuela), such as the avocado hair treatment (BTW, it works).

DIY Craze. Sewing your own clothes, building a bookshelf, knowing how to make repairs — all this has gained strong social currency. For some in the general population this trend is rooted in the desire to be creative, entrepreneurial or environmentally conscious. But for Hispanics, DIY has been around for a long time. They too have the universal need to express creativity or care for the planet, but their push for DIY often comes from having limited means or living in a less consumerist culture. Even you can afford things, DIY activities among Hispanics help define traditional gender roles: i.e., women should know basic sewing; men should know how to change car oil.

Platforms such as Angie’s List and Etsy are natural ecosystems for Hispanics DIYers. Marketers may play up the “cool” factor to nudge young Hispanics to revitalize their DIY traditions. This may result in more Hispanics opening new small businesses and, in return, strengthening the general DIY culture.   

Crowdfunding, Crowdanything. For the general market, this model allows individuals to support projects they care about and make a difference in the world. For Hispanics, however, whose very DNA is collectivist and who tend to get things done as a group, the idea of “crowd-anything” comes naturally. Hispanic “crowdfunding” happens in everyday life as it is common to hacer una vaquita (to pitch in) to achieve a common goal — a kind of off-line Kickstarter.

There are other models that are also popular among Hispanics: multi-level sales, direct-selling parties with demonstrations or informal saving and lending systems (i.e., tandas de ahorro). Capitalizing on these models through apps may become the next big thing.

We know that among Millennials ethnic consumers are trendsetters. It may be a stretch to say Hispanics started these trends. But what we can see a virtuous circle in which trends may be accelerated and strengthened by Hispanics, when they naturally fit cultural proclivities. Knowing that Hispanics are 20% of all Millennials, marketers and cultural agents have the opportunity to give more force to the role they play in this circle.

Paradoxically, as what seemed old-fashioned yesterday is in vogue again, la abuela now turns into an accidental hipster.

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