McCain and the Virgen de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe)

July 8, 2008

One of John McCain’s final activities on his recent trip to Latin America could earn him thousands of Latino votes, or at least a new affinity from Hispanics: He visited the Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

The Basilica de Guadalupe is Mexico’s most important religious sanctuary, and it ranks among the most important worship places in all of Latin America. The Basilica houses the original apron that was given to Juan Diego, an indigenous peasant, when the Virgin appeared before him in the 16th Century.

The Virgin of Guadalupe is the patroness saint of Mexico and the Americas; she is also referred to as the “Virgen Morena” (browned-skinned Virgin) and as the “Mother of all Mexicans.” Her image is worshiped with such devotion that almost every Catholic home in Mexico, or with Mexican roots in the U.S., has a picture, an altar or icon of the Virgen.

As Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes (as cited on Wikipedia) observed, “One may no longer consider himself a Christian, but you cannot truly be considered a Mexican unless you believe in the Virgin of Guadalupe.” Echoing that sentiment, Nobel laureate Octavio Paz (as cited on Wikipedia) said, “The Mexican people, after more than two centuries of experiments, have faith only in the Virgin of Guadalupe and the National Lottery.”

When in trouble, Mexican Catholics pray for la Virgen to intercede on their behalf, and when a miracle or “favor” is granted, the recipient offers a sacrifice or a gift to thank her. A common gesture to thank the Virgen is to make a pilgrimage to the Basilica, particularly around December 12, the day her feast is celebrated.

For Latino immigrants, the Virgen de Guadalupe represents an icon that gives them hope and helps them maintain their faith while facing problems. In fact, it is common to see the image of the Virgen carried by faithful participants during immigration reform rallies and events.

Historical Significance

The image of the Virgen de Guadalupe has been present during critical events in Mexican history. During Mexico’s Independence War from Spain in 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, known as the “Father of the Nation,” initiated and fought with a flag of la Virgen in his hand. During Mexico’s civil war a century later, Emiliano Zapata and his peasant army fought the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz using a banner of the Virgen as their flag.

In the modern era, then-candidate Vicente Fox began his presidential bid carrying a flag of the Virgen de Guadalupe that was given to him by his children; his victory ended the PRI’s more than 70-year political reign in Mexico.


For candidate John McCain, visiting the Basilica and getting a picture taken next to the Virgen could be a powerful tool to attract the votes of Latinos, especially those older immigrants and those with low-literacy levels as they would perceive him as a candidate who relates to them and pays respect to one of the most sacred elements in their lives. As far as political icons go, this one could work miracles.

                                       Picture Source: EFE


Yes we can!…improve Obama’s Spanish-language Web site

April 21, 2008

The golden rule when adapting (or trancreating, as some prefer) a marketing message, document or materials into another language is to ensure cultural relevance, which includes linguistic accuracy. In other words, the message or content must mean something to your target audience, and it must be grammatically and orthographically correct.

When developing materials for the Hispanic market, a misspelled word, a missing orthographic accent or a too literal translation of a word can negatively impact communication with the target audience. Even worse, such mistakes can be considered disrespectful to some consumers (like me).

I recently visited Sen. Barack Obama’s official Spanish-language Web site, and I was disappointed to find many orthographic and grammar mistakes in the site. The first problem is evident: in the homepage menu the word Conózcanos appears with an orthographic accent in the last “o” when it should be in the second “o” (Conózcanos vs Conozcanós).

Also, the latest blog entry appears as “Obama Pide que se Establezca Como Dia de Fiesta Nacional el Cumpleanos de Cesar Chavez” (Obama asks that Cesar Chavez’s birthday be considered as a National Holiday) , though the words Día, César and Chávez all should have orthographic accents and the word Cumpleaños should use a “ñ” instead of an “n .” Just for reference, the word ano with an “n” is the Spanish-language word for anus, while the word año with an “ñ” means year, so using Cumpleanos could be misinterpreted.

Obama en Español

The third blog entry includes the following title “Latino Lideres de Ohio Demuestran su Apoyo a Barack Obama . “ The first two words “Latino Líderes” were translated directly from “Latino Leaders” while the correct order of the words should be the inverse “Líderes Latinos”, plus the word líderes should have an accent in the letter “i .” The rest of the text of the entry seems to have been translated with an on-line translation software and not proof read by a Spanish-language speaker. Yet, the text was signed by Conchita Cruz (a Latina name).

The Obama Hispanic team should carefully review the content of the page and avoid these evident mistakes, which are affecting the candidate’s image. A comment in the page’s blog says:

…el castellano escrito en su versión para hispanos debe ser mucho mejor. Hay demasiados errores. Posted by Jose from Chicago, IL
…the Castilian (Spanish) written in the Hispanic version of the page should be improved. There are too many mistakes. Posted by Jose from Chicago, IL

Finally, as a suggestion, the Spanish-language version of the page should also contain quotations from Obama as the English-language one does. Ideally, the page should contain the phrase “¡Sí se puede!” given the phrase’s strong appeal among U.S. Hispanics. (If you want to read more about the origin and usage of the phrase click here.)


Getting Latinos to vote

March 31, 2008

The Century Foundation just released a very interesting analysis by Tova Andrea Wang of the  2008 Nevada caucaus, focusing on Latino voters mobilization. Her specific recommendations may be considered simple or of common sense for professionals that already work and know the U.S. Latino population. But for newcomers in this area, the following considerations can be great starting point for an effective Hispanic outreach campaign.

— Doing voter registration at Latino social gatherings and sporting events, where potential voters were in an enjoyable, relaxed environment.

— Holding several mock caucuses around the state — many in Spanish — to teach Latinos about the process and how to participate.

— Creating a Spanish-language Web site to inform visitors about the caucus process.

— Creating a Spanish-language telephone hotline, which was available in the weeks before the caucuses and on voting day.

— Using a Hispanic marketing firm rather than a political consulting firm to create materials uniquely targeted to the Spanish language audience.

 Read the full report here.

Latino Punctuality

March 7, 2008

While campaigning in Texas, the Hillary Clinton’s media team showed good understanding of the Hispanic culture…and voters.

Channel ’08, a blog, noted the following differeces between two T.V. spots that aired in Texas:

“As you can see in the screengrabs below, the Clinton campaign urges Spanish-speaking voters to arrive at caucus sites at 6:30 p.m., while the English-language ad urges voters to arrive by 6:45 p.m:”


Screengrab of a Hillary Clinton Spanish-language TV ad (YouTube). (Source


Screengrab of a Hillary Clinton English-language TV ad (YouTube) (Source:

Puncutuality is not a common trait among Hispanics, and it is ordinary for Latinos to plan accordingly. If you want a party to start by 10:00 p.m., tell your invitees to arrive by 8:00 p.m.; and be prepared for some late-comers to arrive by 11:00 p.m.

In non-social situation Latinos might be late to their appointments by 30-45 minutes, with the possible exception of a doctor’s appointment (in that case the doctor will be the one late.)

A word of Advice for marketers:

a) When planning community event such as a fair, festival or fiesta, announce its beginning time at least an hour before your scheduled activities begin.

b) When conducting focus groups or other qualitative studies with Hispanics, ALWAYS let know your that the session will begin at least 30 minutes before your official starting time (agreed with moderator and client), and tell the participants that they have to arrive at least 25 minutes earlier for registration purposes, otherwise they could lose their place. And even after making these allowances, expect participants to arrive just in time for the session.

¿Cómo se dice, como se llama?…Obama (how do you say it? what is his name? Obama)

February 22, 2008

These are the latest additions to the Obama-themed repertoire, but this time with ¡sabor latino!:

I.- ¡Viva Obama!

From AFP:

NEW YORK (AFP) — White House hopeful Barack Obama has been given a boost to his presidential campaign among Latino voters in the form of a Mexican Mariachi band singing his praises on video-sharing website YouTube.

The posting of the two-minute clip, which features six musicians dressed in traditional sombreros and black suits, comes less than two weeks ahead of a crucial nominating contest in Texas, where Latino voters play a key role.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re from Corpus Christi, from Dallas or from El Valle, from Houston or El Paso, the important thing is that we vote for Obama,” the band sings before launching into a chorus of “Viva Obama! Viva Obama!

The music theme was taken from a Mexican song called ¡Viva México!…(listen to a mp3 stream here), a tune usually played during the Mexican Independence Day celebrations on September 16.

II.- Obama Reggeaton

Listen to the song here

According to Miguel López author of the song:

“My imagination was captured in Chicago by a self-described, “skinny dude with the funny name.” Before I knew it he was elected to the U.S. Senate. In 2004, I’m living in Southern Cal watching the Democratic National Convention and impacted by his speech. It wasn’t the same old politics – the audacity of it all. This year he announces that he’s running for President.

Amigos de Obama and the Como Se Dice? Como Se Llama? OBAMA! OBAMA! ‘08 outreach campaign was created to fill a void in media outreach to Latinos. Every election year, last minute, anemic voter registration drives yield little success. Media campaigns often consist of TV spots showing candidates speaking a few words of Spanish in an attempt to win Latino votes or attack ads about ‘illegal aliens’ to scare non-Latino voters.

We are desperately seeking a voice that speaks authentically. Race and politics aside, it’s leadership not sound bites that we need. If you claim to be compassionate, show it. If you preach unity, help us unify and heal our great divide. If you want our vote, earn it. Be real. Barack Obama represents a defining moment for our generation. We have an opportunity to be agents of change and bring awareness to the Latino community.

We all have a unique story. It doesn’t matter that I’m Mexican-American, born in East LA, raised in Utah, lived in DC and worked on the South-side of Chicago. What matters is what I’m doing now and how I’m helping my neighbor, my brother.”

Both tunes are catchy, witty and will definetly capture the attention of Latino voters…maybe these will be the tools that will make the difference in the Obama campaign.

Obama…¡Sí se puede!

February 20, 2008
Yes, we can! This catchy phrase used by Barack Obama has its origin in the U.S. Latino culture. It is the adaptation of the slogan coined in 1972 by Dolores Huerta from the United Farm Workers (UFW) and immortalized by labor leader César Chávez.

Although, the exact translation of ¡Sí se puede! is “Yes, it can be done!” the colloquial translation has evolved to Yes, we can!, the phrase has been used in different contexts on both sides of the US-Mexico border during the past 30 years.

It was first used by César Chávez during his 25 day fast in Phoenix Arizona in 1972, then in became the rallying cry not just for the UFW but for union and Latino activists in the U.S.

During the 2006 immigration reform rallies, ¡Sí se puede! became the common yell in marches all accross the country.

In México, the phrase has been used as political slogans. Felipe Calderon Hinojosa when sworn in as President of Méxio said during his remarks “Sí se pudo y sí se puede” (Yes, we were able to, and yes, we can), referring that his election victory in July 2006 was contested by oponent candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador but ratified by the Federal Electoral Tribunal in September 2006, and that Lopez Obrador’s follower were determined to not letting him take oath as President.

¡Sí se puede! has also been used as a war cry during sports events, specially if it involves the Mexican National soccer team (Selección Nacional)playing against tough rivals such as Brazil, Argentina, France and the U.S. But it is also used for local and regional teams both amateur and professional. It is common to hear the shout when the local or favorite team is loosing or the score is tied.

The ¡Sí se puede! soccer chant can be heard whenever the Mexican National team plays in U.S. stadiums.

Another famous use of ¡Sí se puede! comes from Venezuela where a video against the regime headed by President Hugo Chávez was disseminated through YouTube in June 2007. The video has images of rallies held by young Venezuelans and it is complemented with a song from Venezuelan singer and super star José Luis Rodriguez “El Puma”. A very powerful piece.

After all, the constant use of ¡Sí se puede! can attract many Latino votes…maybe Hillary and McCain can start using ¡Yo también puedo! (I can too!)?