Marking the final episode of this season, Bigeye insights intern Miguel Zarzuela hosts the podcast, examining the complexities of US Hispanic identity. Miguel explores the history of Hispanic Heritage Month and engages in lively conversation with special guests Dr. Antoinette Perez, Andrea Diaz, and Romulo Zuzunaga. Hear how to avoid common stereotypes and misconceptions, and learn how brands can authentically market to and connect with the diverse US Hispanic community.
Miguel Zarzuela: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:
Dr. Antoinette Perez: I do believe that brands need to consider the label of a Hispanic or a Latino is including a lot of different people.
Romulo Zuzunaga: You’re Hispanic. You must like rice and beans or Chias or what about if I’m from Uruguay, Argentina? I like drinking mate, or I like desserts, or I like barbecues.
Andrea Diaz: It’s the immediate thought that brands have when they want to target Hispanic people. They’re like, “Oh, you’re Mexican.”
Miguel Zarzuela: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS: fresh perspectives on marketing and advertising produced weekly by Bigeye, a strategy-led full-service creative agency growing brand for clients globally. Hola Todos. I’m Miguel Zarzuela, and it’s an absolute pleasure to be your host for today’s IN CLEAR FOCUS special episode celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. Thank you for joining us. My journey into the world of advertising and public relations began at the University of Central Florida. Currently, I have the privilege of serving as an inside intern at Bigeye agency. But let me take you on a little journey of my own, one that’s as diverse as the tapestry of Hispanic cultures we’re here to celebrate today. I was born in the beautiful Dominican Republic, and my family relocated to Puerto Rico when I was just 3 weeks old. Later in life, I had the incredible opportunity to call Mexico my home, spending a decade in the vibrant cities of Manzanillo and Guadalajara. Now, I find myself in Orlando, where I have lived for over a decade. This rich tapestry of experience has shaped me into a multicultural millennial – and it’s precisely this background that fuels my passion for exploring the complexities of Hispanic identity. Today, we’re going to dive into a conversation about how we define and measure Hispanic identity in the United States. So let’s embark on this journey together and celebrate the vibrant, diverse, and ever-evolving Hispanic heritage.
Hispanic Heritage Month is an annual celebration of the history of culture of the US Latino and Hispanic communities. Hispanic Heritage Month 2023 started on Friday, September 15th, and ended last Sunday. The event commemorates how those communities have influenced and contributed to American society at large. When did this commemoration start?
On September 17, 1968, Congress passed public law 9048, officially authorizing and requesting the president to issue an annual proclamation declaring September 15 And 16 to mark the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Week and call upon the people of the United States, especially the educational community, to observe such week with appropriate ceremonies and activities. But why does it start on 15th? September 15 was chosen as the kickoff Because it coincides with the Independence Day celebration of five Central American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Those five nations declared their independence from Spain on September 15, 1821. Mexico, which also declared its independence from Spain, was on September 16, 1810. Today, I have the pleasure of having a conversation with Doctor Antoinette Perez, Andrea Diaz, and Romulo Zuzanaga.
Andrea Diaz: I’m Andrea Diaz. I’m 25. I was born here in New York, but I lived all my life in Peru because my parents are Peruvian. I moved here to the US 2 years ago, so my first language is Spanish. I’m currently a social media specialist at Bigeye.
Romulo Zuzunaga: My name is Romulo Zuzunaga. I’m 25 years old, also. I’m from South America, Peru. I moved here when I was 23. My family is from I moved to Orlando 2 years ago. The same as Andrea. My first language is Spanish. I grew up learning how to speak English, but all my culture is Latino. I study communications and journalism. Right now, I manage a restaurant here in Lake Nona.
Dr. Antoinette Perez: I am doctor Elba Antoinette Perez. I am a physician in private practice on the island of Puerto Rico. I am also the principal investigator for medical research for major pharma – Novo Nordisk, Merck, just to mention a few. And here I am trying to represent as best as I can our Latino community.
Miguel Zarzuela: Did you know the history of Hispanic Heritage Month?
Dr. Antoinette Perez: Actually, I was unaware that there was a Hispanic Heritage Month. So, no, I don’t know the history. I was happy to know that something is beginning. Very aware of the black history or heritage periods, but not with the Latino ones. I did not know.
Andrea Diaz: I don’t think I know the deep history. I know why they celebrate it.
Romulo Zuzunaga:Yeah. I made my research. As I told you, I have a journalist. It started in 1960 something I remember, 68 or 69. Why? Of course, it’s about the Latinos that moved here or the Latinos that come back here to the land, but I don’t know the actual story.
Miguel Zarzuela: Do you identify as Hispanic or Latino?
Dr. Antoinette Perez: That is a great question. For us in the Caribbean, they’re synonyms. So I do identify as both: as a Latina, and I identify as a Hispanic, and I identify as a Caribbean – Islander.
Andrea Diaz: I Prefer to say Hispanic just because I think when you say Latino, it involves just a group of people that come from Latin America. I prefer to say Hispanic just because that can help people know that I speak Spanish. So they can also know what type of language I speak, not only where I come from.
Romulo Zuzunaga: You know what? That’s a great question because Latino comes from the language, the Latin. So it’s French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish also. So I will say more Hispanic because in Latin America, Most of the people right here, we speak Spanish. So Hispanic first, then Latino, of course.
Miguel Zarzuela: How have you seen brands celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month?
Andrea Diaz: I think I’ve seen a bunch of social media posts. I don’t know if probably I should follow different type of accounts that celebrate it more. I really thought it was going to be, like, a big thing, but I also noticed that brands probably post something about this month, only this month, which that’s something that I don’t think they should do. I think they should do like whole year. Like they should include this type of when they’re thinking about strategies. I’ve seen a bunch. I’ve seen, for example, Starbucks. I’ve seen Florida Christophos, I’ve seen Walmart.
Romulo Zuzunaga: Yeah. Not too many, but that’s funny because I was talking to Andrea last night because I needed some product for my hair. So I opened the Target app, and I type in Spanish, like, and there was a post about this Latino man. That was nice. I mean, I didn’t know that if you ask me for brands, I didn’t know that Target could be one of the brands that the supermarket big brands that takes care of this. Well, I was unaware that they were celebrating heritage month, but I have become aware of some brands tailoring to Hispanics or to the Latino community. And I think that what they are using is interesting, not necessarily targeted to a single population because saying Hispanics is like saying English speakers. I mean, Australians speak English. British do too, and things that are targeted to Americans not necessarily are including them. But, yes, I’ve seen a couple of things.
Miguel Zarzuela: What do you find important for brands to consider when creating advertising campaigns focused on Hispanics?
Dr. Antoinette Perez: I do believe that brands need to consider the label of a Hispanic or a Latino is including a lot of different people. A Mexican cannot be considered to be the same person as a Puerto Rican, as a Dominican or as a Cuban, there are subdivisions within the Hispanic community and within the Latino community. Never forget that, you know, Hispanic comes from, and we are totally different from people from Spain. So, you know, I do believe that sometimes they fail to see that.
Andrea Diaz: I think we need to consider the fact that when you target Hispanic people, you’re also targeting cultures. So there’s a different way to talk to people that speak Spanish than people who speak in English. It’s just like the type of language or the type that people communicate in Spanish is totally different. And you also need to keep in mind that it’s just a bunch of cultures. And I think that’s a big mistake that brands can make. That is like, oh, let’s just target Hispanic people. No. You’re also targeting, like, cultures
Romulo Zuzunaga: Also, there’s, like, stereotypes. For example, I manage a restaurant, but I’m also server sometimes. So for white people, every single people that speak Spanish must be Mexican Or must be from El Salvador. So believe it or not, that is the way the big companies thinks about They’re Latinos or Hispanics targets. For example, I’m Latina, but I don’t eat tortillas. I’m Latina, but I don’t eat rice and beans. And that is a huge mistake.
Miguel Zarzuela: For those who are not familiar with the difference between Hispanic and Latino, Hispanic is generally accepted as a narrower term that includes people only from Spanish-speaking Latin America, including those countries or territories of the Caribbean or foreign Spain itself. With this understanding, a Brazilian can be Latino and non-Hispanic, A Spaniard could be Hispanic and non-Latino, and a Colombian could use both terms. However, this is also an imperfect categorization as there are many indigenous People from Spanish-speaking countries who do not identify with Spanish culture and do not speak the dominant language. One way to count Hispanics is by self-identification. Meaning, if you say you are Spanish, you are counted as such. This is the approach we take at Bigeye in our consumer surveys and it’s also used by organizations like Pew Research Center and Gallup. One key aspect is that Hispanic is considered an ethnicity, not a race, according to the US Census Bureau. So what is a Latino? In general, Latino is understood as shorthand for the Spanish word Latinamericano, and refers to almost anyone born in or with ancestors from Latin America and living in the US, including Brazilians. Latino does not include speakers of Romanse language from Europe, such as Italians or Spaniards. To simplify matters, the 2010 US Census listed both terms together and specifically mentioned the Spanish-speaking countries or territory of the Caribbean but excluded non-Spanish-speaking countries. In day-to-day life, many Latin American immigrants and descendants simply prefer to stay in their countries of origin directly. Can you think of any notable examples of Hispanic representation in the media that you feel do Hispanic culture justice, that truly celebrates the culture?
Dr. Antoinette Perez: We do have a couple of actors, especially in movies, that have done a great job portraying that a Latino can do the job and can be a good actor. The news media, A lot of the Latinos who have jumped to the American market like Jorge Ramos, they are in newscasts, and they’re doing a great job portraying our culture and how versatile we can be.
Andrea Diaz: This Presentation of J-Lo and Shakira in the Super Bowl. You don’t see a lot of things in that presentation, but it is also the it’s only like the dance, like the music, like people dancing. I feel like that’s just a great way to see how Hispanic or Latin people are. And, like, in a big event like the Super Bowl, it was just I think that’s why it’s probably one of the best Performances in the Super Bowl.
Romulo Zuzunaga: That’s a great answer, Andrea. Also, I mean, I listen to music every time, and I don’t know the number of these stations, but when was this? Like, 6 months ago, my friends and I, we went to a concert that was from Iheard Radio. So they bring all these Latino artists like Zion Lennox, De La Ghetto, like, a lot of Latinos.
Miguel Zarzuela: What are some common misconceptions or stereotypes that companies should avoid when targeting Hispanic consumers?
Dr. Antoinette Perez: Oh, definitely; the first one is that we are not in a party mode all the time. I think that there is progress in trying not to portray Hispanics or Latinos as having a lower intellectual ability or a lower academic preparation. There are a lot of professionals, and that can be validated by the amount of Hispanic last names that you are seeing. Even in Congress, you can see it in government. You can see it in hospitals. You can see it among the professionals. We have a lot of Hernandez and Vasquez and Melendez and Perez going around, and not all Hispanics or Latinos migrate into the United States because they are struggling in their countries. They migrate for the same reasons other people migrate. It’s just for maybe growth, professional growth.
Andrea Diaz: I think like Romulo said before, it’s the immediate product that brands have when they want to target Hispanic people. They’re like, “Oh, you’re Mexican.” Like, “We can talk about tacos. We can talk about mariachis”, and they all will understand that, which is wrong. There’s a lot of cultures and different cultures when it comes to Hispanic, Latin people. So I think that’s a wrong or a bad thought that normally brands have when they want to speak to this type of people. It’s like, We’re not all in the same bag. Like, of course, we speak Spanish or, like, we are from Latin America, but it doesn’t mean you can talk to us, like, in the same way because we’re from different countries at the end of the day.
Romulo Zuzunaga: Yeah. I think the Same, Minh. Well, I was telling you about the okay. You’re Latino, so or you’re Hispanic. You must like rice and beans or tortillas, or What about if I’m from Uruguay, Argentina? I like drinking mate, or I like desserts, or I like parrillas, like barbecues.
Miguel Zarzuela: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.
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Miguel Zarzuela: Welcome back. You’re listening to a special episode of In Clear Focus inspired by Hispanic Heritage Month. I’m Miguel Zarzuela, and I’m talking with Antoinette Perez, Andrea Diaz, And Ramulo Zuzunaga. Numbering almost 66.5 million, Hispanics now represent one-fifth of the total US population. They are also one of the fastest-growing segments. Multicultural Americans currently account for 44% of the US population and by 2028, almost 47% of the US population will be multicultural. Hispanics are the largest multicultural group of all with significant growth here in Orlando, Tampa, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Atlanta.
Miguel Zarzuela: So, what are your thoughts on Latin music’s recent surge in popularity?
Dr. Antoinette Perez: I am amazed. We have always had very good Latinos singing in both languages. We have always had representation in music with Latinos and good music, what puzzles me is that it took people like, Bad Bunny with, you know, very, very outrageous lyrics or someone like Jennifer Lopez dressing in skimpy clothes to catch the attention of the rest. So it bothers me a little bit as a professional and as a woman that that is what catches the eye, I sometimes feel that to be a Latina immediately means that you’re gonna have long hair, a big behind, and a lot of makeup, and a lot of jewelry on you, and that is a misrepresentation of the majority of Latino woman and Hispanic women. So it is puzzling. It just for me, it just shows you what people want to see and what they want probably the Hispanic community to identify itself with, which is whatever is trending in the United States. Witness to that is that everyone is doing a collaboration with a rapper. I guess it is what it is, and I wish it were another way so they could reach more of what a Hispanic really is. Our demographic is bigger than that.
Andrea Diaz: I think it’s great. And I can say it because now that I live here in the US, I feel like I’m not too far from home, which, for example, in Peru, I used to listen a lot of Reeton, Like, in general, just like Spanish music. And now that I’m here, when I go to a club or when I hang out with my friends, It’s not crazy to hear Spanish music. It’s just normal. And you can hear, like, American people saying like, oh, can you put the bunny? Can you put this type of music? Can you put so I don’t feel like too far from home because I feel like it’s this type of music is normal here now, And before, it wasn’t.
Romulo Zuzunaga: Yeah. I think they are doing great. These guys from Colombia was always like a country where the musicians are really good. Colombia is doing great. Puerto Rico is doing great. Dominican Republic is doing great. And as Andres said, you can go to a trip, to a car, you can be at the supermarket, and Bad Bunny is, like, the Background music.
Miguel Zarzuela: How assimilated into mainstream American culture will you say you are?
Andrea Diaz: I think I’m You’re very far. I think I always in my head say that I need to Maintain my roots. Probably the only thing that I’m trying to include in my culture from the American culture is probably the type of routine when it comes to work. But other than that, I feel like I always try to have this Latin balance. I don’t think Americans are used to this type of balance that in my head I have, but it’s like, yeah, I can work a lot, But I also need a lot of personal time, a lot of fun times. I need to see my family. I need to see my friends. And if I don’t do it during a week, I feel, like, weird. I think I’m far from American culture. I don’t think I’m even trying to leave my culture that I grew up and try to have the American culture in my life.
Romulo Zuzunaga: Yeah. Same. I think that we’re far from it, Not because we’re looking for it, but it’s something we grew up with. I mean, I don’t see myself, I don’t know, going to a house of my friends. Their parents offer me some food, and I’ll say, no. I don’t like it. No. I have to take a seat. And even if I don’t like it, I need to eat it. So that’s A small but very significant example about the Hispanic or Latino culture. We know a lot of American friends that they were born here, they don’t Speak a word in Spanish. And if you offer your something in your house with your parents in front of them, they will say no. Take care of our guests. So I don’t see myself doing that. I think I would fire away of that. I think the American culture has a lot of good things that Latinos doesn’t have. But, yes, I’m not looking right now.
Dr. Antoinette Perez: Well, I think I’m pretty much assimilated into American culture. I Not only lived there in my youth, so my children studied there. I travel constantly. I have the blessing or curse of having the opportunity to sit with different demographics. I have the same conversation on the flip side. When I come to Puerto Rico and I have to go into briefings with my meetings with other doctors or people in the health care industry, I will get the same thing like, oh, those gringos, and I have to sit and explain. It’s not the same someone who’s from the south of the United States, someone who’s from the East Coast, someone who’s from the Dakotas, someone who’s from the west. And I am totally all the time explaining that the United States may be 1 country, but it is many countries inside of a country with many people that come from many demographics because it’s a country made out of immigrants. So I do think that we have more or less the same thing as the Hispanics. It is a huge task to try to, like, put everyone under the same roof because there are differences.
Miguel Zarzuela: And what parts of your culture do you hold on to?
Dr. Antoinette Perez: That’s a very, very good one, and I will come clean that I probably am not the common Hispanic. When you are an islander, you get mixed a lot, so I hold on to different things of different cultures. For some things, I feel Puerto Rican. For many other things, I feel Dominican, and you would not believe for how many things I feel as an American. So holding onto a culture is it’s complicated. It has a lot of things going on. Probably, you hold on to the food to identify yourself, what you like a lot, and brings you back home through taste. It is a tough from your heritage.
Andrea Diaz: I Feel like the part of the family. Romulo and I, we grew up in Peru, which the family is probably the most important thing. And now that we moved here and had to leave our family in another country makes us value more that part of the culture. That’s the only way to say it. Family is probably the most important thing in our culture.
Romulo Zuzunaga: About Latinos responding, I think we keep it fine, and every single Latino can answer you this. We don’t wait till the 25th or December for opening the gift. We open it the night before. We stay the night before. We like to having a great dinner with our family. That’s a small example.
Miguel Zarzuela: What are some generational differences you see within your family in terms of how closely people identify with Hispanic culture?
Dr. Antoinette Perez: It gets blurrier and blurrier the younger the generations get. I personally believe it’s a result of globalization, probably, but, definitely, there is a change. There was more identification with the heritage with my parents. It was a little less with me. It was probably a little less with my children and with my nephews. Nowadays, the younger ones, You can see almost a disconnect because it is so global. Definitely, there are generational differences. The younger generations don’t really, really identify into a lot of what we would say identifies with our culture.
Andrea Diaz: A good example is Hispanic culture or Latin culture, it’s very rare to move from your house When you’re young, like probably before you get married, it’s not normal. Like for your parents is like, oh, you live in the house. Instead for, like, American people, it’s just normal that you leave your house at 17 because you’re probably going to college. So I feel like with my family was really a big thing when I moved from a house before I got married. Because my parents, they got married and they immediately left the houses. So they were waiting to leave their house because they needed to get married first. So that’s a huge thing that I think with the generations is just changing. Probably, no. It was, like, probably one day my kids will do something different, but I think that was a huge, huge thing that I felt Because my parents were, like, you’re leaving the house, and you’re not married yet. What are you gonna do? And, I don’t know, for me, it was just, like, normal, But it’s just a big change.
Romulo Zuzunaga: I mean, the older generations, most of them are very conservative about that. For example, we moved here first, then we saw how life is, and then we decided to get married. So it’s different. It’s something that didn’t happen in the past. Some people first need to get married, and then they will check how it goes. Probably, they will divorce next year, but 1st, they needed to take that risk that we’re not taking now. We feel a bit of more freedom probably. But, yeah, it is what it is. Now it’s different. Probably our kids or our grandkids will do something else. Who knows? Maybe they will have a kid first, then they will move. We don’t know. But, yeah, that’s something that is very, very strange for some people. For example, I know friends because they are friends that Our transgender, for example, we respect them. We love them. And for their families, it’s very hard to get the idea That my daughter is dating a boy who is transgender, but it’s like it is like this. I mean, older generations are very conservative body something that is getting better with time.
Miguel Zarzuela: And how do you navigate these differences?
Dr. Antoinette Perez: It’s really hard. It’s really hard. Just to give you an example, I I do see young people as patients, and I have staff in my office who is young. And many times, I sit and I have these conversations, and I find out who’s trending in music or fashion or movies, and I do go see them, hear them constantly, my generation, which is stuck in the middle between the older grandparents and the younger ones. I won’t say we struggle. We just have to do the homework and figure out where each generation is standing.
Andrea Diaz: I think talking to people, like trying to understand how People’s lives are just different from yours and times are different too. So you need to also continue to change. Like Now we’re like that. But as we said, like, probably one day I have kids, they’re gonna do something different and I’m gonna be probably like forty or something, and I need to just understand how that works for them. That is gonna be different for them. So I need to understand that. I need to understand how just people live their life differently, and it’s just a way to change.
Romulo Zuzunaga: I think I’m pretty sure the same. I mean, it’s about the way you think is how you can manage those differences.
Miguel Zarzuela: Andrea Diaz, Romulo Zuzunaga, Dr. Antoinette Perez, thank you for being our guests on IN CLEAR FOCUS. Gracias a mis invitados, Dr. Antoinette Perez, Andrea Diaz, y Romulo Zuzunaga. As always, you’ll find a full transcript of this conversation along with links to the resources we discuss on the Bigeye website at bigeyeagency.com. Just select ‘podcasts’ from the menu. Thanks for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Miguel Zarzuela. Hasta luego. Adios.