As a Colombian who’s lived in the DC area for over 15 years, I still feel very Colombian. However, I also feel American. My family in Colombia tells me that I’ve become a “gringa” and at times don’t act like a Colombian. It’s as if I’m stuck in between two countries. I’m sure there are hundreds of thousands of other immigrants who feel the same way.
I’m lucky to live in D.C. It’s such a vibrant and changing city that it feels like no one is from here originally. There is no pressure to fit into a “D.C.” way of being. But I also don’t fit into the stereotype that everyone has about Hispanics/Latinos. I don’t eat chimichangas or dance bachata or watch Univision. There is nothing wrong with any of that, but it’s just not a part of my culture.
About six years ago, I had the epiphany that I was a Latina. I had never thought about it before! Believe me, when you live in a country where everyone speaks like you, you are just Colombian or Venezuelan or from whichever country you are from. You are not limited to a label, a box you need to check off every time you need to fill out a form. But six years ago, I was in D.C. working for a PR agency that focused on multicultural social marketing, and I realized that “multicultural” applied to me. I thought to myself that I could work to help my community.
So, I started doing some research about Hispanic Market Segmentation and happened upon this explanation written by Havi Goffan, CEO of Target Latino.
“The United States has historically been a major destination for immigrants. However, in the 1900s, European immigrants would force their children to forget about the customs of the ‘old world’ and ‘just be Americans’—this was a process of assimilation.”
But I also learned that “Hispanics/Latinos do not assimilate—they acculturate or incorporate or acquire a new culture without foregoing another one.” We don’t let go of our customs or language, which is exactly what has happened to me!
When marketing to U.S. Hispanics/Latinos, you need to know your target audience very well. Depending on their level of acculturation, what they do, where they go, and what they watch, your strategy will vary drastically. According to Target Latino, back in 2008 there were three segments by acculturation levels:
- “Non-acculturated: People who navigate only within the Hispanic/Latino culture. Most have recently immigrated to the U.S. and prefer to speak Spanish.”
- “Semi-acculturated: People that can navigate in both cultures.”
- “Acculturated: People of Hispanic/Latino descent born in the U.S. They prefer to speak English and can navigate into the Latino culture.”
I am a semi-acculturated Latina who prefers to watch English-speaking media, will listen to Marc Anthony and Dave Matthews, and who has mostly Spanish-speaking friends (Latinos are a magnet for other Latinos) but has become “Americanized” by adapting to this new culture and country I now call home. That would be mean that if you were marketing to me, a semi-acculturated Latina in her 30s with a higher education, you could reach me via these channels (to name a few): The Washington Post, WAMU 88.5, Instagram, and Hulu.
With over 50 million Hispanics/Latinos in the U.S., we are not a one-size-fits-all consumer base. Just because we are of Hispanic descent, it doesn’t mean that you must communicate with us in Spanish. It means much more than that—communicate in our culture.
P.S. If you are not sure whether you should call your friend or colleague a Latino or a Hispanic, here is your answer: “Hispanic” focuses on people of Spanish-speaking origin, including Spain. “Latino” refers to people of Latin American origin. This includes Brazil but excludes Spain.