At home, younger Latinos may speak with their parents or grandparents in Spanish. At school or work, the official language is English. But, among friends the language is often something called Spanglish. What? Don’t know Spanglish? You probably have heard it but may have mistaken it for Spanish.
Spanglish — and there is such a word — is a hybridization of Spanish and English; words and expressions that address gaps that may exist in English-Spanish communications. Some common Spanglish words include verbs like ‘watchale’ for to watch, and nouns like ‘panqueque’ for pancake, ‘lonchando’ for lunch and ‘troque’ for truck. Many of these words are more formally known as cognates, words that sound similar in both languages.
And while Spanglish may be new to many, it certainly is not new across the Southwest where Spanish and Mexican traditions have long been ingrained or in places like New York or Florida where large Spanish-speaking populations have lived for generations. It is even becoming more common in places like North Carolina, Georgia, even New Hampshire where pockets of Latinos have moved and grown over the last decade.
“The landscape has changed,” says Laura Sonderup, a public relations-marketing professional whose Denver-based agency specializes in reaching a Spanish-language/Latino consumer audience. “We saw the writing on the wall.” That epiphany nudged her agency, Heinrich Marketing, to become a full-fledged English-Spanish operation. For the last thirteen years it has represented companies like Macy’s, Humana, US Bank, Kroger and, locally, the Colorado Department of Transportation to rethink the way they did business.
Today, says the veteran public relations professional, if a company is not looking at serving this audience — the nation’s fastest growing segment of the population — as they have all others, they are playing a very dangerous game of survival.
The reason for companies and organizations looking more closely and more seriously at this growing population segment is simple: money. According to the Immigration Policy Center, Latino consumers — native born and immigrants — are a $1.5 trillion addition to the economy.
The 2000 and 2010 official census figures also sounded an alarm across the country. Companies woke up to the fact that there was legitimate potential in mining this new market — an estimated 50-plus million — just as they had successfully mined others before. As a result, soft drink makers, cosmetics companies, health care providers and every company with goods and services to sell rethought old business plans that did not include Latino consumers.
“If you look at Coke,” Sonderup says, “they are marketing to Hispanics in Spanish, English or Spanglish.” In fact, Coke has been a leader in tapping into a younger Latino audience with an approach called integrated multicultural marketing. Its 2010 Christmas-themed “unidos hacemos la magia realidad” commercial — featuring its iconic Santiclos — scored big. A number of other signature companies, including Anheuser-Busch — Budweiser — have also gone todo Spanglish with ads.
Another place where the Latino consumer — both American-born Latino and immigrant Latino — is now a major focus is in the sports arena. The days of being overlooked or taken for granted, are over. All three major sports have found a wealth of new fans among Latinos. Breaking precedent, the NFL recently showed a game score featuring ‘Los Osos de Chicago’ beating the Minnesota Vikings. Of course, for the uninitiated, Denver is the only NFL team whose mascot is the same in English, Spanish or Spanglish: Broncos.
Major League Baseball, long a favorite among Latinos because of its long tradition of Latino players, is bought into Hispanic marketing. The Milwaukee Brewers often wear uniforms with Los Ceverseros on the front. The Cincinnati Reds recently wore all red uniforms with Los Rojos replacing Reds. And, until a lawsuit got them taken from the hands of off-site vendors, Los Doyers tee shirts were popular outside Dodger Stadium, also known as Chavez Ravine.
The Colorado Rockies, whose season ended once again in disappointment, have found gold among Latino roster players including retired all-stars Vinny Castilla, Andres Gallaraga and current Rockie, Carlos Gonzalez. The Venezuelan-born Gonzalez is arguably among the top ten players in the National League and a certified marquis draw — and not only for what he does on the field.
“He is someone that Major League Baseball looks at as a premier ball player,” says Jay Alves, Rockies vice president of communications. Despite coming from Venezuela as a teenager to play baseball, Gonzalez has not only mastered the game but also carved out a niche as a legitimate ambassador in two languages. “His English is excellent. His Spanish is wonderful. He knows the nuance of English. He is an important part of what we do.” Alves also says despite having retired years earlier, Castillo remains a fan favorite and “the Babe Ruth of Mexico.”
The Rockies, like their major league counterparts, also broadcast in Spanish, but so far, only its home games. Alves hopes to expand as have other teams to include all 162 games on the schedule. The Broncos, Nuggets and Colorado Rapids also broadcast in Spanish-language. With one of every three persons in Denver being Latino it is not simply good public relations but good business sense, as well.
A growing Latino population and its commensurate appetite for news and information has also been a boon in other ways. In major markets, Spanish-language radio oftentimes ranks number one in listenership. The same impetus has also meant the hiring of Latino writers and reporters, some of whom have become community fabric, including Channel 7 personalities Anne Trujillo and Lance Hernandez, both of whom have been reporting for more than twenty years.
Partnerships between Spanish language news and network affiliates have also sprouted up. And the National Association of Hispanic Publications, of which La Voz Bilingüe is a member, celebrates its third decade later this month in Anaheim at its convention.
But it is not just wholesale commercial marketing in Spanish for Latinos that is taking place. The acknowledgment of a growing U.S. Latino population has also forced politicians and policy makers to look more closely at how they do business.
Prior to the last presidential election, the growing influence of Latinos was reflected when the White House selected Agencia EFE, Spain’s international news agency, and La Voz Bilingüe in Denver as the only news organizations for sit-down interviews with President Obama. “It’s important to note that the Obama campaign and President Obama found it necessary to reach out to Colorado’s #1 bilingual publication,” said La Voz publisher, Pauline Rivera.
While Democrats and progressive politicians have long rallied behind legislation acknowledging the seismic demographic changes occurring across the country, more staid and traditional politicians have also moved closer to the center on a number of key issues, says Thornton Democratic Rep. Joseph Salazar.
Two huge accomplishments aimed at making life easier for immigrants and their families in Colorado became law in the last legislative session. The ASSET Bill made it possible for children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at state colleges and universities and Colorado also became the eighth state to pass legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to legally get drivers licenses. Both measures included bi-partisan support.
“When we brought this legislation, the opposing side thought it could latch on to it and use it against us,” Salazar says. “But we already knew there would be a stronger push for immigration reforms. We had been watching the poll numbers and they were changing. We had the weather gauge on it.”
Salazar says the demographics are irreversible and Latino interests will continue to be served whether it is in pop culture or politics. “We have a lot of kids in college getting degrees. They are incredibly driven and many are starting to get a political flavor.”
While $1.2 trillion in buying power has helped change the way the country looks at Latinos, Latinos also see themselves in a different light. Today, just as marketers and multinationals see Latinos in a different light, so too, do Latinos see themselves differently. Today’s young Latino has role models in fields unimagined by their parents or grandparents.
‘Si Se Puede’ is something everyone will soon understand.