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.

McCain

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


Playeras Latinas ( Latino T-shirts)

May 26, 2008

Almost a year ago, Macy’s department store introduced the NaCo brand t-shirts to the U.S. market. The t-shirts, with their selection of catchy phrases, slogans and adaptations from Mexican slang, made the brand an instant success within the U.S. Hispanic population, especially among Latinos with Mexican roots.

Phrases like “Ser Naco es Chido” (Being Tacky is cool), Brown is the new White, and Se Habla Español (Spanish Spoken) that mock Latino tackiness garnered great attention from the public and the media, while some Latino-rights advocates considered the phrases racist.  In response, Macy’s pulled the shirts off the racks and issued a public apology.

But the fact is that these t-shirts were originally conceived and designed for the Mexican market, appealing to the Latino sense of humor and capacity to parody themselves. In Mexico, the NaCo t-shirts were perceived as a “cute” trend, adopted mainly by wealthy members of the society.

In Mexico (and Latin America), wearing a garment with a slogan doesn’t mean that the individual endorses or agrees with the statement, especially when these slogans are written in another language. For instance, I have seen Hispanic males and females both in Mexico and in the U.S. wearing garments from the RED Campaign or Walk for Breast Cancer without having a clue of the meaning of the message they were promoting.

Of course, the opposite is true when it comes to wearing sports team-related garments.  Those individuals are acutely aware of the symbolism of the slogans and colors they wear, and they will defend them with pride.

Meanwhile, another brand of Latino-themed t-shirts has entered the U.S. market, but this time the clothing is designed and created in Texas by a company called Siesta Tees.  Siesta Tees offers a line of garments with less “controversial” topics and designs that appeal first- and second-generation U.S Hispanics. Phrases like “ I © abuela” ( I © grandma),  Can you say chula? (cutie) and a couple of designs from their Ojo (eye) Collection, which, according to the company’s Web site:

… was inspired by abuela, tía and that egg they put under the bed. Mexican folklore believes that people who envy or are jealous of babies give them the evil eye, which causes the kiddos to get sick. To rid the little ones of the evil eye you pray over them with the egg and place it under their bed, and poof the little one is rid of the OJO.


Poll: 4 out 10 Mexicans have a family member living in the U.S.

May 6, 2008

A recent study by Mexican pollster Roy Campos from Consulta Mitofsky shows that 39.6 percent of Mexican nationals have a family member living in the United States.

When asked about the possibility of moving to the U.S. if they had the opportunity, 41 percent of the respondents said that they would. The number increases to 49 percent among men and 51 percent among young adults. Nearly half, 44 percent, of the Mexican middle-class said that they are willing to move to the U.S.

When asked about the possibility of immigrating under illegal conditions, 3 out of 10 respondents said that they would do so. Also, 39 percent of young adults, ages 18-29, are willing to immigrate under such conditions.

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 Mexican adults, aged 18+, conducted April 24-29, 2008. One can say with 95 percent confidence that the margin of sampling error is +/- 3.1 percentage points.

View the report here (in Spanish)


Hispanic Agencies: Don’t boycott Lorena Ochoa

May 2, 2008

While reading HispanicTips, a comprehensive Hispanic news aggregator run by Tomás Custer, I came across an interesting quote taken from an article published in the LA Times. The quote addresses the reasons why Mexican superstar, golfer Lorena Ochoa, has virtually no sponsorship deals in the United States.

“I had Hispanic agencies telling me that, ‘no, Mexicans like soccer, baseball and boxing,’ ” Hambric (Lorena Ochoa’s agent) said. “But this is a woman who is now the No. 1, best-regarded person in her country.”

To be honest, this troubles me very much, especially because the feedback that Hambric received was coming from so-called “experts in Hispanic Marketing”. To say that Mexicans only like soccer, baseball and boxing, is almost as absurd as saying that Mexicans only eat tacos!

Mexicans, as the rest of the world, enjoy watching all types of sports. For example, basketball (big fans of the NBA), car racing (NASCAR, Formula 1), and there is even a big fan base of the NFL, to the point that there is an official NFL Web site dedicated to the Mexican market (www.NFL.com.mx). Furthermore, the NFL’s American Bowl has been played five times in Mexico City.

Every four years, the Olympic Games draw the attention of Mexican fans in disciplines such as Tae Kwon Do, weightlifting, track and field and even equestrian sports, basically any competition in which a Mexican national has the possibility of winning an Olympic medal.

And, guess what? Mexicans are also big fans of “posh” sports like tennis and golf. In fact, the PGA (golf) and the ATP (tennis) hold international competitions in Mexico every year.

What the “experts” in Hispanic Marketing contacted by Lorena Ochoa’s agent do not understand is that Mexicans tend to admire, almost idolize, successful athletes, no matter what the discipline. A gold medalist, or champion from Mexico, gives all Mexicans a sense of pride, a reason to believe that success as a person and as a country is achievable.

Let me provide you with some examples (Information from Wikipedia):

Raúl Ramírez was a very successful tennis player during the 70s and early 80s. At the height of his career he was ranked as No. 4 player of the world. In singles he won 19 tournaments, including titles at the ATP Masters Series events in Rome (1975) and Monte Carlo (1978). He also won 59 doubles titles, including Wimbledon (1976), the French Open (1975 & ‘77), and at ATP Masters Series events in Cincinnati (1978), Canada (1976, ’77 & ’81), Monte Carlo (1979), Paris (1977), and Rome (1974, ’75, ’76 & ’77). A memorable moment of his career was when he led the Mexican Davis Cup team in a victory against the US team in 1975, which was led by the number one player of the world at the time: Jimmy Connors. This achievement gave Raúl a celebrity status in Mexico.

Ana Gabriela Guevara. Ana had a successful career in track and field, especially in the 400 meters. The highlights of her career are obtaining the silver medal in 400 meters at the 2004 Olympic Games held in Athens and the winning the 2003 World Championship in France. Ana’s achievements made her one of Mexico’s most influential celebrities.

Eduardo Nájera. Eduardo became the second Mexican to play for an NBA team, yet he became the most famous. Off the court, Nájera served in 2001 as the United Nations Drug Control Program Goodwill Ambassador for Sports Against Drugs. Also, in 2004, Najera established the Eduardo Najera Foundation for Latino Achievement, which provides college scholarships for outstanding Latino students facing barriers to their educations.

Clearly, the “professionals” that counseled Hambric (Lorena’s agent) need to do some more research on the audience they are trying to target. Lorena could be a great Hispanic spokesperson for products, services and organizations, ranging from beauty products to health-related services. She is young, she is successful, and she is Latina, what more can we ask for?


MySpace Latino: Lost in Translation

April 13, 2008

On Friday, April 11, MySpace oficially launched MySpace Latino, the Spanish-language U.S Hispanic version of the social networking site. Unfortunately, MySpace didn’t get it right: they did a poor job on the translation/adaptation process of their site into Spanish. 

According to the company’s news release, the site was created as a way of:

“responding to the needs of our growing Hispanic membership, MySpace Latino offers content that is culturally relevant to Latinos in the U.S.,said VP and Managing Director of MySpace Latino, Victor Kong.

I highlighted culturally relevant because after visiting the site, I was shocked (in a bad way). The site’s copy contains many grammatical mistakes as well as the usage of words that are not common, or even understandable by their target audience.  If MySpace’s goal is to target an ever-expanding Spanish-speaking audience, then the site ought to be more respectful of them. This blunder could illustrate a lack of knowledge of – or interest in – those whom MySpace is trying to reach, or, even worse, a sign of disrespect to Spanish speakers.

The home page shows the word Entérate without an orthographic accent over the second ‘e’; in most Latin American countries this a significant grammar mistake. The only exception is Argentina, where the word is pronounced with an emphasis on the second-to-last syllable. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the total number of Argentians living in the U.S. is of around 175,000, or 0.4% of the total U.S Hispanic population. This means that MySpace’s usage of the word Entérate without an orthographic accent is wrong to 99.6% of the site’s target audience. (For a broader explanation of Spanish-language orthographic accents click here.)

 Also, after signing up, I received a confirmation e-mail containing the following phrase:

Esperamos que te lo pases pipa explorando el sitio. ¿Ya te has paseado por estas zonas?

The expression “que te lo pases pipa” (to have a good time) is also a regional Argentinian phrase. For Hispanics from Mexican origin, who represent 64.1% of the population, these words mean nothing.

The following problems were also found on the home page of MySpace Latino: a) The word video is used with and without an orthographic accent (both forms are correct, but the spelling of the word should be consistent throughout the same document – though I must say that for most Latin American countries, the word video without an orthographic accent is preferred); and b) the word Inscríbete appears in the sign-in menu without an orthographic accent when it ought to have one.

Spelling and punctuation mistakes were rampant throughout the Web site. For example, one page had the word “ciudad” mispelled as “cuidad,” and on another, the word “que” did not have an orthographic accent when it should have had one. Also, a phrase that ended with an exclamation mark (!) did not have a corresponding opening mark (¡) – a bad punctuation mistake.

Such punctuation mistakes might be minor when drafting the Web site’s copy. The problem comes when these mistakes were not caught in the review process. My Space Latino’s PR firm, Edelman ( Multicultural practice group), should have caught these errors before letting their client “go live” without carefully reviewing the site. Call me a purist, but grammatical mistakes are unacceptable in a project like this because they hint at a carelessness that can be equated with lack of respect for the target audience.  After all, do you think that repeated grammar mistakes in the English-language version of MySpace would be tolerated? I don’t think so.

If it truly is MySpace Latino, then it should speak my language.

 


Cinco de mayo NHTSA planner (Friends don’t let friends drive drunk)

April 8, 2008

Let me begin by saying that it is me in the poster below on a bad photo shoot day. The campaign was created by The Media Network, Inc. for the National Highway Traffic Safety Admistration (NHTSA) to promote among U.S. Latinos sober driving after Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

NHTSA’s web page provides the following explanation:

Cinco de Mayo has become a big night out for many, particularly young adults. But it is also a very dangerous night out because of alcohol or drug impaired drivers. Those celebrating this year should be sure and designate their sober driver in advance – before the festivities begin.

From 1999 to 2005, an average of 43 percent of all highway fatalities each year on May 5 and overnight into the early morning on May 6 were caused by impaired drivers with blood alcohol content (BAC) levels of 0.08 percent and above, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“I am the designated driver”

This poster/print advertisement represents a very common way among Hispanics to make sure an individual is sober: “make the number 4 with your legs and don’t fall”. Placement of this creative would be most appropriate in restaurants, local bars, supermarkets, street fairs, parades, retail establishments that sell alcohol and publications targeting adults