“We’re 200% Americans.” That’s what I will tell my clients when they ask me about multicultural marketing, how it works, and what it means to be Latino in the United States in 2020. I wish I could take credit for the phrase, but I got it from Telemundo – and they’re right! We really are 100% Hispanic and 100% American. During Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s worth taking a serious look at exactly what it means to be a 200% American, and what that means for our culture and country.
The United States is, as most famously expounded by then-Senator John F. Kennedy, a nation of immigrants. Think about it – with the exception of the indigenous Indian tribes who’ve been around for tens of thousands of years, the ancestors of everybody who lives in America today came within the last few centuries. That reality has severely curtailed the sort of blood-and-soil nationalism that typified European countries in the 19th and 20th Centuries (and is surging once again today). While there has always been a nativist undercurrent in American culture – one that boiled over in the 1840s, in the late 1800s, in the 1920s, and again today – the United States has generally embraced newcomers into the fold and continually expanded the definition of who “real Americans” are.
And Latinos have embraced the notion of being “real Americans” in turn. We start more businesses than anybody else these days. We’re overrepresented in the armed forces. We’re having more kids, and sending more and more of them to college. Bottom line: nobody in this country believes in the American Dream like we do.
You can see it in the numbers. The median age of the Latino voter is 19. The median age of the white voter is 55. We’re redefining the complexion of America, its cuisine, its music, and its culture. And that scares some folks.
But should it? Think about the Latino immigrant experience. We arrive in America, find relatives or other folks who come from the regions we do, build ties, and help each other out. We have kids who grow up much more comfortable here than their parents were. They share their culture with their friends from other cultures…and the next thing you know, everybody’s eating tacos for lunch.
Sound familiar? It should. Because while the specifics are different, that pattern – with all its joy and pain, triumphs and setbacks, embraces and cold shoulders – is one that echoes the experiences of Italians, Irish, Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Jews, Germans, Koreans, Croatians, and plenty more Americans besides. Because we are a nation of immigrants.
Just look at how Latinos take to DIY: a key element of our culture as Americans. That tradition doesn’t come from any one country in Latin America. It doesn’t come speaking Spanish. It comes from necessity – from the immigrant experience itself. Newcomers don’t have the resources that a lot of more well-established folks might. So they make do with what they have. And they make it work. That might explain why Home Depot just had a record quarter, COVID be damned. Because when Latinos face hardship, we roll up our sleeves and find alternative ways of getting things done.
Think about it, marketers – when you talk about Hispanic heritage, you’re taking advantage of an amazing opportunity. You’re talking to the folks who are the latest to live the American Dream. It takes nothing away from our unique achievements and culture to acknowledge that other Americans might see some things they have in common with us. This month or any other month, Hispanic Marketing isn’t just for Latinos. If you do it right, it’s 200% marketing. The question is, are you willing to try?