Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > General > Corporate America and Washington are wrong to think the only language to reach Latinos is Spanish

Corporate America and Washington are wrong to think the only language to reach Latinos is Spanish

LatinaLista — Long before I read today’s Nielsen report that outlined, among other things, that the language to reach the Latino market was Spanish, I knew that Nielsen wasn’t alone in their “assumption.”

When asked by Pew Hispanic researchers what language they think in, only first-generation Latinos responded in the majority to Spanish.

The White House seems to think that the way to reach Latino voters is also through Spanish.

Consider this stat: when Enrique Acevedo interviewed President Obama for the “Al Punto” program that ran Sunday, it marked the 15th time the president had been interviewed by Univision… That’s far more interviews than the cable news networks have grabbed, and not that far off from the number of interviews with ABC (24), CBS (23, including David Letterman) and NBC (21, including Jay Leno)…

In fact, when the general media/public thinks about the U.S. Latino market, they automatically assume Spanish is the language ALL Latinos speak, understand and prefer, thanks to reports like Nielsen and Univision’s claim that they reach “97% of U.S. Hispanic households.”

Take for instance the series of news articles published this week about director Robert Rodriguez’s (Spy Kids, El Mariachi) new cable television network El Rey.

Grant it, Robert Rodriguez is Latino and the name of his new cable network is Spanish for “The King” but in interview after interview, it was made clear that this network will have English programming.

The El Rey network will offer “an action-packed, general entertainment network in English for Latino and general audiences that includes a mix of reality, scripted and animated series, movies, documentaries, news, music, comedy, and sports programming,” Comcast, which will carry the network, said.

However, one news outlet skipped that part. Though the body of the article had the same quote as above, the headline writer at the news site must have focused only on this paragraph in the original CNN story that was republished on the Washington-state based site.

Rodriguez is Mexican-American with deep roots in Texas, where his family can trace its history to a land grant in 1760, he said. He grew up making movies in his backyard with a home video camera and proved to the world that a film can be made “with very little money and no film crew” when he enjoyed widespread success with “El Mariachi” in the early 1990s.

The CNN story’s headline read: “New network to reflect, shape identity of Latino culture, owner says” But the KXLY headline — of the exact same article — read: “New Spanish-language network coming in 2013.”

Nowhere in the story did it identify El Rey network as being “Spanish-language.” In fact, it was quite clear in identifying it as in English.

So where did this assumption arise that if the creator is Latino and the name of the network is in Spanish, it must have Spanish-language programming? The same happens with this site.

At first, if people only see Latina Lista, before reading the content, they assume it must be a Spanish-language site.

After all, wouldn’t a Latina, who opts for the name of her site to be in Spanish, write in Spanish too? Not entirely,especially if she knows that the U.S. Latino population isn’t as dependent on Spanish for communication as everyone would like to believe.

According to Pew Hispanic research regarding Language Use Among Latinos, it’s only first-generation Latinos (immigrants) who are overwhelmingly Spanish dominant (61 percent). Among the second-generation, only 8 percent are Spanish dominant and in the third-generation and higher, barely 2 percent are Spanish dominant.

To think that the majority of Latinos are Spanish dominant and can only be reached through the Spanish language does a great disservice to every proud Latino and Latina whose country of origin is the United States.

It goes to show the depth of ignorance that still exists in Corporate America and in Washington to think that messaging to Latinos in the United States must be in Spanish. It doesn’t have to be nor should it be.

As we stand now, the U.S. Latino community is fractured — undocumented immigrants versus native born or citizen Latinos. In other words, Spanish-speakers versus bilingual and English-speaking Latinos.

Until the Latino community is allowed to become whole, Corporate America and politicians will always be crafting only two messages – one for Spanish speakers and the other for everybody else who speaks English.

Yet, just because Latinos speak English doesn’t mean they don’t want to hear the same message as tailored to our Spanish-speaking copadres. Those same nuances and issues in those messages apply to us all.

Messaging goes way beyond the choice of language; it goes to really understanding that within the Latino community, there are two separate but equal audiences — who each deserve the same message treatment.


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  • AlvaradoFrazier
    April 18, 2012 at 8:51 am

    Thanks for a dose of reality. First generation (my mom, born here) was often forbidden to speak Spanish at school & punished. Their parents thought it would be easier for them if they were not Spanish dominant.
    My mom passed this on to second gen (me) and we learned Spanish through the neighborhood, overhearing Spanish conversations of the Tias/Tios, and HS Spanish classes: thus the pocho Spanglish and labels that we weren’t “Mexican” enough.
    Now my siblings and I have to push the 3rd gen. into taking HS Spanish and using it more often. Ironically and thankfully, this generation doesn’t seem to label each other as Mexican or Latino ‘enough’ if they don’t speak Spanish. 

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  • goodbyehello
    April 18, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    The owner of Univision lobbies to make sure that Nielsen only counts Spanish speaking Latinos or bilingual Latinos who are Spanish dominant. If you are an American of Mexican descent and you only speak English, Nielsen is not interested in what you watch.

    Also, Obama and other politicians chose to address Latinos exclusively through Spanish TV, so that they can lie, and not get called on it. Obama can go on Spanish TV and say that he will pass an immigration bill, and it won’t be much of a story. But if he were to say that on CNN, Fox would junp all over him. This is all a scam.

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