September 27, 2012
By Juan Tornoe
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, at least up to the 2010 Census, you are a Latino/Hispanic if you say you are. I tend to agree with this perception, because I believe that being Hispanic is more of a state of mind, the embracing of a culture, rather than the Nation or people group you belong to / descend from.
The question about the authenticity of one’s Latinoness recently came up after San Antonio’s Mayor, Julian Castro, delivered the keynote speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Several media outlets had a field day pointing out that Mayor Castro was not a “real” Hispanic because he does not speak perfect Spanish. A grandson of a Mexican immigrant, this third generation Latino was brought up in an English-only speaking house; his mom wanted him and his twin brother Joaquin to speak and think in English since she did not want them to go through a similar experience as she did when, as a child, was punished at school for speaking Spanish.
Does this make Julian Castro less of a Latino? I don’t believe so.
The latest numbers from the Pew Hispanic Center indicate that 24% of Hispanics are English dominant; which means that almost 1 in 4 individuals with Latino Heritage feel more comfortable interacting in Shakespeare’s tongue than in that of Miguel de Cervantes.
Yes, language is part of culture. Still, language is not culture’s only element. Here is a quick run-through of a few others of its building blocks: social organization, customs & traditions, values, norms, and expressions of art & literature.
It would be difficult to argue that Mayor Castro is not connected with all the other elements of Latino culture. So what if he is not fluent in Spanish? He simply is part of the 24%; those Hispanics who live their lives in English, if not all, most of the time. They may throw in an “Oye” or a “Mijo” every now and then, but most of the time they feel at home when interacting in English.
By limiting the definition of an authentic Latino by his or her proficiency in Spanish, we are simply contributing to the same stereotype that drives many companies and organizations to define Hispanic Marketing as Spanish Marketing.
Marketing in Spanish must be a tactic, never an overall strategy to reach the diverse and complex Latino market. There will always be a place for reaching out to part of the Hispanic market in Spanish, but if that is the only thing you do, you are missing out on establishing a relationship with the 24% who you just won’t reach in Spanish.
How complex and diverse is the market? We don’t even agree on the issue of defining Hispanics by language spoken. A recent Huffington Post Quick Poll asks the question, “Is Spanish a cultural requirement for Latinos?” to which we get a split answer:
36.49% say, “Absolutely yes! That’s a crucial part of the Hispanic heritage”.
63.51% say, “ No, not in this day and age”.
Originally published on Hahn, Texas' Editorial and Trends