Family, faith and second culture all influence Hispanic market

Hispanic panel

Mercado Grande might well have been the most nuts-and-bolts informational workshop in the entire NFPW communications conference!

Whether the audience was looking for places to submit stories or ways to draw minority groups into their organizations, they came away with greater insight into the needs and impact of the growing Hispanic community and concrete ways to reach out to minority populations. Panelist Monica Pleiman founded Latino Suave magazine. Today's demographics drive the magazine's content, she said. Ongoing research shows that Hispanics are the largest minority group in the U.S. and have the fastest-growing purchasing power.

Upscale stores want to get their names out to these people and are advertising through Latino Suave. Articles cover fashion, entertainment, health, family, immigration, international interests and horses. Eighty percent of Hispanics are Catholics, so many articles reflect issues of faith. The magazine targets young adults because its research shows that the median age of Hispanics in Denver is 26, while the median age of the non-Hispanic population is about 10 years older. So far, it's the only bilingual magazine that caters to Spanish readers on one cover, but, tip it over, and it also targets English speakers.

Pleiman pointed out that the Hispanic culture is influenced primarily by family. Panelist and Avanza Business Group founder Elizabeth Suárez added that the family connection is important when trying to attract Latinos to activities and events.

A concrete example was to have a Spanish Family Celebration rather than a Spanish Language Celebration, because the word "family" is more soothing and many Hispanics don't even speak Spanish, she said. She also pointed out that 21 countries speak Spanish, but all a little differently.

On the board of Girls Inc., Suárez emphasized the importance of the first eight years of our lives in molding our needs and wants as adults. "The village around you implants your values," she said. In her own life, she found that in her 30s and 40s, her cultural awareness from childhood came back, and she yearned for the music, food and supportive values of her earliest memories.

"It's part of the difficulties of acquiring a second culture and trying to put behind the first culture," she said. "Latino kids live in two worlds. Their parents want them to live according to the culture they were raised in, and the kids want to live in their current culture." The suicide rate is especially high for Latino girls, she pointed out.

Suárez teaches cultural awareness. She, too, emphasized the need to know the issues of the Latino community. "What are the emotional needs of the Hispanics? Find it out and service those needs, and you will have their loyalty and trust forever," she said.

Alvina Vasquez, who provides outreach services for KZCO Azteca America Colorado, said we need to be aware that Latinos in the U.S. come from all economic levels.

Her station provides information and suggestions to Hispanic listeners. For instance, a guest might explain general tax requirements and tell the listeners how to file their taxes. A phone bank would be available to deal with individual questions.

An audience member asked for the distinction between Hispanic and Latino. Pleiman said that if you talk to the people individually, they will tell you exactly the place they are from, and, again, this reflects their first eight years of life. She said Latino is usually used in community/grass roots settings. Hispanic is widely heard in business and official/government contexts.

All three speakers stressed the importance of studying your audience and discovering its needs. "Draw the Latino people into a place, activity or organization by showing that Latinos are already there," Suárez said.

Elizabeth SuárezMonica PleimanAlvina Vasquez

"If you are trying to attract Hispanics, show Hispanics in the promotions." Pleiman pointed out that more advertisements are using Latino actors and endorsements.

— Carmen Julseth, Colorado Press Women