Hispanic Heritage Month is for Connecting, Not Empty Translations

September 19, 2014 | By: Joe.Ray | 2 min read

latin heritageFor those of you that may not know its history, Hispanic Heritage Month kicks off with El Grito on el 16 de Septiembre. It’s based on Mexico’s revolt and eventual independence from Spain. Here in the U.S., September 15th – October 15th is celebrated as Hispanic Heritage Month, and is not just limited to those of Mexican descent, but recognizes and celebrates Latino cultures from other Latin American countries as well.

I’m happy and proud that our heritage is honored for the month. But it’s important to stop and remind ourselves (and others) that this is a celebration of a very rich and rapidly growing culture. It’s not Cinco de Mayo (against the French in the Battle of Puebla), which has become little more than a St. Patty’s Day-style beer brands celebration. It’s a time that we should be proudly celebrating and advancing our future as both a people and as individuals.

According to the U.S. Census, there are over 54 million Latinos/Hispanics living in the U.S. today. As America continues to grow as a multicultural nation, we are not a monochromatic country, and Latinos are definitely not a monolithic culture. When addressing this diverse audience, keep in mind that not all U.S. Latinos speak, understand, or read Spanish. However, Spanish continues to be important in our lives, and allows us the opportunity to live in both languages. In addition to Spanish being a necessity for many, it’s also an acknowledgement to the bilingual population. It’s part of our identity.

The majority of U.S. Latino growth is coming from those born in the U.S., as immigration has slowed considerably. Plus the steady and rapid growth in the number of Latino births, continue to position Latinos as the nation’s largest minority, as well as one of the fastest growing populations. Keep that in mind when figuring out your messaging and media; focus on specific content and cultural interest. This is probably a good time to take a step back and assess your cultural literacy and how it relates. Or doesn’t.

Looking ahead to 2015, U.S. Latinos represent $1.5 Trillion purchasing power. The biggest opportunities for growing business with this population segment involve all things digital, especially mobile. We love gadgets and we love staying connected. We buy a lot of stuff, and we research and purchase online, usually via smartphones. According to Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project, fully 86% of Latinos say they own a cellphone, similar to whites (who are at 84%).

A couple of years ago I noticed the abundance of cellphone usage while waiting for a meeting at the Mexican Consulate in Phoenix. Especially evident was the high use of smartphones by everyone in the lobby area. While this may not necessarily seem like something out of the ordinary, think of what their search and interests were. Some were passing time (entertainment opportunity) and some were browsing as consumers. All in español.

Hopefully, for the corporate sector that’s reaching out to Latinos during Hispanic Heritage Month, this means more than just doing the annually mandated gesture of tokenism and checking off a box.

I wonder how many feel-good sponsorship ads we’ll see where employees stand in front of the building smiling and doing little golf clap gestures, with a headline stating “We Applaud Hispanic Heritage Month”. That and a few other clichés tossed in for good measure. Maybe with dry translated copy in the text.

Is this genuine or is it just more nonsense?

Connecting with Latino consumers during Hispanic Heritage Month is much more than simply showing up with your handy dandy translations and logoed garbage cans at events. It’s an opportunity to connect for the long term.

So, what’s your cultural literacy?

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