Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM) ended a couple of weeks ago, and it was yet again filled with companies misusing and generalizing labels/terms to represent the whole hispanic and Latino population in their posts and ads.
Ever since I moved to the U.S. five years ago, all I see this time of the year is marketing mainly involving tacos, tequila and sombreros, bringing up stereotypes and missing the purpose of HHM. Plus, my LinkedIn becomes filled with posts about firms highlighting their employees with hispanic and/or Latino heritage, and these firms are usually predominantly white.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a white Latina hispanic young woman who was born and raised in Mexico and I appreciate the efforts of corporations and even politicians to be more inclusive of my culture. However, HHM marketing campaigns should not only target people that look like me (white).
HHM is an annual celebration observed from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 that recognizes the history, culture and contributions from U.S. citizens with hispanic and Latino ancestry. The term “hispanic” comes from the Latin term “Hispanicus” which means “Spanish” and comes from Spain. For that reason, it is important to point out that the regions that were colonized by Spain through a colonized language are hispanic.
Nowadays, each of these regions actually portray a blended culture including colonization features imposed by Spain and the traditional costumes by indigenous peoples. For example, in Mexico we have this drink called “Horchata,” with its main ingredients being rice, milk and cinnamon. People in Spain drink something similar, as well as in Latin American Countries such as Venezuela or Panama. All these regions are connected because Spaniards colonized and imposed their own heritage.
In the States, the term “hispanic” started to be used during the 19th century to label those who had Spanish descent and who settled in the Southwest. Being “Latino” specifically, refers to anyone born in a Latin American country or who has Latin American descent.
Astonishingly enough though, Mexico is not the only country located in Latin America whose main language is Spanish, and Spanish is not the only language spoken in this area of the world. Hispanic and Latino heritage expands broadly to indigenous groups, the Caribbean, Africa, and even Asia一meaning that there is a wide variety of ethnic groups that also speak Spanish, yet will not really feel identified with a quote by a white top executive from a fortune 500 company, nor with a discounted margarita night.
According to the U.S. Census, there was a decrease from 53% in 2010 to around 20% in 2020 of the amount of people within the Latino/hispanic population who identified as white. Instead, those who identified as “other” increased from 37% to 42%, and the share identifying as two races or more rose from 6% to 33%.
Therefore, simply labeling this whole group as “hispanic/Latino” isn’t fair for others with mixed ethnicities when it is not deeply representing their roots as well. Marketed content revolving around HHM doesn’t showcase the diversity within this population and only focuses on the Spanish side of latinity and hispanity, which will continue to alienate Latinos and/or Hispanics who don’t identify as white.
Institutions and firms should dig deeper into the topic when it’s time for HHM. Implement workshops for your company to know where the hispanic/Latino population in the U.S. came from (and clearly state that not only from Mexico); educate your employees and customers on the link of hispanic/Latino traditions or products with Spain and that the United States has adopted throughout the years; ask your hispanic/Latino employees how they feel, do they feel included? What would they like their co-workers to know about them and their culture? Ask what resources are lacking in their local communities and how the company can make an impact.
In the end, the hispanic/Latino people born and raised in the United States are U.S. citizens who make up a large part of the population and have contributed to a large part of the country’s history. Hence, a simple Taco Tuesday will never be enough to really recognize their heritage.
Graphic Credit: Alexis Pragides