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Will US Born Latinos and acculturated Hispanics retain cultural identity over time?

A few months back I used Linkedin.com to conduct an informal poll to gain insight into cultural identity within the US Hispanic population segment.  Aside for having a very dynamic and proactive membership base, Linkedin.com contains several Hispanic and Latino groups who exhibit an extraordinary commitment to the community by devoting time for the exchange of ideas and the discussion of issues that affect the political and economic development in our community. 

The main objective of the poll was to search for an inclusive term that would transcend the complex racial, cultural and religious background of American citizens who trace their origins back to Latin America.  We asked which of the following terms do you identify with? A) Latino B) Hispanic C) American Latino D) American Hispanic. 

The results were quite fascinating.  There were 412 comments spread across four Linkedin.com groups from 183 respondents at the time I tabulated the responses. Over 40% of respondents did not check a specific choice.  But rather went on elaborating about their parent’s country of origin which included Puerto Rico, Mexico, Cuba, Peru, and Dominican Republic and so on.   Only 59% of respondents checked at least one of the choices as follows:

A) Latino 53 or 28%
B)  American Latino 8 or 4%
C)  Hispanic 40 or 21%
D)  American Hispanic 11 or 6%
E)  N/A* – 72 or 41%  

 *Among the N/A category, approximately 3% ignored all four choices and wrote “American” and approximately 50% chose Hispanic and Latino rather than pairing Hispanic or Latino with the American hyphen.

Engagement with respondents was insightful and inspiring.  The poll led me to confirm the magnitude of Hispanic diversity and it was quite indicative of developing attitudinal trends within the US Hispanic and Latino community as it also led me to question the level of fragmentation within the community.

Geographic proximity: global empowerment of news and information; ease of transporation; and US – Latin American political and economic ties will continue to fuel Hispanic and Latino heritage and customs retention in the US.   According to this poll, younger US born and acculturated respondents seem to cling to the pluralized concept behind the American terms Hispanic and Latino, rather than using as subgroup (i.e, Mexican, Cuban, etc).  It also appears that the Spanish language may no longer serve as a “unique” identifier, especially among those born in the US after 1985. This is especially challenging for marketers, as more and more English language vehicles targeting the Hispanic and Latino market emerge.   

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Comment by Candy Torres on July 6, 2011 at 9:29pm

I am proud of my Puerto Rican heritage even though I was born in NYC. My parents were born en la isla del encanto but grew up in Harlem. It was a time when assimilation was expected. They were too young to feel connected to the island or learn many traditions. However, we were told to be proud to be Puerto Rican but tell people we are Spanish.

Anyway, I have been fascinated by family research, photographs, and documents. I am learning about family members long gone, some before I was born. I've picked up intriguing pieces of history that provide a context for my family's past. It's giving me a whole new beautiful understanding at what it means to be a latina and an American. Blog on my Genealogical Journey

Comment by Hugo J. Lembert on July 1, 2011 at 5:12am

@Hugo Blata

It is my belief that the US Latino community is evolving and building its own unique American identity. Young adults born and raised in the United States will play a key role in the social and political make up of this country in years to come.  Many have come to realize that in order to secure political, social and economic progress in our community; we must foster a unified front. 

You are correct in saying that the US Census falls short in identifying differences in language and background.  In the scheme of things, does it really matter? Why import and focused on such fragmentation in the US? Why not make it easier on ourselves and our US brothers and sisters?  We have the unique advantage of uniting as one powerful American group given our shared cultural/ historical background and socio-political ties to our chosen home. The poll indicates that there is much work to be done to break fragmentation within the community.  However, I still believe that this condition will change over time. 

To answer your Marketing question...Many marketers are realizing that given current developments in our community, a holistic approach to reaching Hispanics in the US is a viable option.

Comment by Hugo Balta on June 30, 2011 at 10:13am

Very interesting study.

While the new Census identifies the population boom led by the Hispanic community, it comes short in identifying the unique differences in language and background. You just can't place all Hispanics in one bucket.

The challenge for marketers- as you point out will be how to target a specific group who have...several targets which change dramatically over 50 states. How do you do that effectively and efficiently?


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