Chiqui Cartagena, Latino marketing expert and author of Latino Boom and Latino Boom II, joins Dr. Vanessa Weaver to discuss the United States’ burgeoning Hispanic population. She addresses the rapid growth in Latino buying power, why there is an increase in Latinos living in the South and Midwest, how Latinos are shaping consumer habits and popular culture, and why recognizing Latinos’ influence is critical to the success of companies in all industries.
In This Episode
· How Chiqui Cartagena leverages her background in marketing and journalism to highlight the stories of U.S. Latinos.
· The Latino population explosion and how it is contributing to overall U.S. economic growth.
· How U.S. companies can successfully market to Latino consumers.
· Invisibility and stereotyping of Latinos in American media.
· Ways to help Latino professionals show up as their most authentic selves at work.
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Workin’ It Out
Diversity and Inclusion Television
Dr. Vanessa Weaver: Welcome, I'm Dr. Vanessa Weaver, your host of Workin' It Out. On today's episode, we're going to look at the power of Latinas in America. We're here to celebrate the amazing impact of Latina culture and contributions on our society. Joining us is an incredible expert on these matters. Her name is Chiqui Cartagena.
I want to say welcome so much to you. Thank you so much for being here. I know you're in beautiful San Francisco and you just made the time for us to do it today, so thank you so very, very much.
And I want our viewers to know what an incredible expert and an incredible woman you are. For example, you're known as one of the top Hispanic media and marketing thought leaders, and you've authored two books already. You've authored two books, which have been best sellers, and these books are on the Latino community in the United States. And you've had a professional life just working with companies and in the political arena on understanding how to connect with the Latino experience and for them to understand how they add value to that experience. Not just how they extract from it, but how do they add value to that.
And so you're renowned for your work. In fact, I understand that you were part of the team that helped launch People magazine's Latino issue.
Chiqui Cartagena: That's right, that's right.
Weaver: Is that correct?
Cartagena: You're making me blush, Dr. Weaver.
Weaver: Well, you have a lot to blush about. I mean, you look like you're 15 and I'm looking at your resume and it's just incredible. But what's great about the work that you're doing is that you really provide insights, trusted insights on the Latino lived experience, on the marketing kind of considerations. And I grew up in the Procter and Gamble Company. They're known as a premier marketing and advertising company. So when I read your bio and your background, I thought, oh my goodness, it's good to have a person like you with that kind of expertise. What made you get into your profession? What made you take this direction?
Cartagena: Well, early on in my career, I started off in journalism, so really, I've been a storyteller all my life. And early on in my career, I realized nobody was really understanding me and my community as well as they should. So I really have dedicated my whole career to really helping people understand the impact the Latino community is having in this country. So it's been a passion from the very beginning.
Weaver: And you said you've always been a storyteller. So how do you use that storytelling technique to help people understand the strength and the power and the contributions, the historical contributions that Latinos have continuously made?
Cartagena: Well, clearly my two books have been really dedicated to helping business leaders better understand the important growth demographics that Latinos represent for this country and for their company. But also as a marketer and a journalist, that's what we do, we tell stories, right? All the time, whether it's a 30-second ad or a two-and-a-half-hour movie, or a white paper on the impact that Latinas are having on the US economy, that's storytelling in some form.
Weaver: And it's so invaluable. So thank you for that storytelling technique. And we're going to have an opportunity for you to do some storytelling with us today.
Cartagena: Good, thank you.
Weaver: I mentioned that you wrote two books, so tell us the name of those two books.
Cartagena: Well, they're both Latino Boom. The name, the main title is Latino Boom. And my latest one is, Catch the Biggest Demographic Wave Since the Baby Boom, because if you think of it, that's why I call my books Latino Boom. "Latino Boom" is a reference to the baby boom. We, as a community, are as large and as impactful as the baby boom has been since they started, right, influencing America and American consumers, and the American economy. So it's a play on words, the generational play on words, but that's what I'm trying for people to really understand that this boom is a positive boom and one that's going to help the US economy. And if companies do not understand this community and do not market or cater to this consumer, they're going to lose. They're not going to grow.
Weaver: Right. Chiqui, you talked about your storytelling capabilities, and you share with us some data from the 2020 Latino Donor Collaborative Report, and I was transfixed when I was reading the data. So let me just share with you or share with our viewers because you already know this, some of the data that you share with us and the first that just kind of knocked me off my chair was that Latinas contribute $2.6 trillion, which is bigger than billion, $2.6 trillion annually to the gross domestic product. $2.6 trillion. And people need to understand it because I don't know that a lot of folks in our society get how significant, I mean, if we didn't have that $2.6 trillion, it would affect, I mean, we would probably collapse, right, in terms of GDP.
Cartagena: What's more important about that first data point is that a decade ago it was only $1.6 trillion. So in a decade our contribution has increased $1 trillion. Think about that.
Weaver: Why has that, why such a significant increase?
Cartagena: Well, we are sort of the best kept secret of the US economy, if you ask me. We are a key segment of the US economy because we are young. Our median age is 28 versus 38 for the US population, right? Our buying power as a result, right, because we're younger, a whole 10 years younger than the US average population, our buying power is age, years of buying power is 56 years versus 36 for the US population.
Weaver: So it's 20 more years over the, oh, my goodness.
Cartagena: Our consumerism. That's why we're so important. We are really, and this is something that I hope we talk about a little bit later. We make tremendous positive contributions to this country and to the economy and we don't hear that story, right? We only hear the negative stories. We only hear how we're takers. We are givers.
Weaver: And in fact, when we think about that 2.6 GDP, that would be the eighth, if this was like, if the Latinas were an independent country, you would have the eighth largest GDP in the world.
Cartagena: That's right, we are 64 million strong and we have a larger GDP than Mexico, which has over 100 million people. So, I mean, again, going back to this hidden secret, that's why I wrote these books, right? People don't understand how powerful the impact of Latinos are in every sector and hopefully we'll get into this a little bit more.
Weaver: Well, as part of your storytelling, I'm curious, how do people respond to that? When you tell, when you share the facts we just talked about in terms of the GDP at $2.6 trillion and having 20 more years of consumer buying power than the average other American population, how do people react to that? How do companies respond to that?
Cartagena: Well, believe it or not, some people sort of are in awe and then they say, "Oh, but they speak Spanish, I don't know how to market to Latinos who speak Spanish." And yes, a lot of Latinos speak Spanish. A lot of them speak Spanish English, and a lot of them only speak English. The language has always been one of those barriers that I think marketers have had a hard time grappling with, but that's why we have Spanish-language media.
From my career I worked both at Univision and Telemundo. These media companies do a great job helping clients, companies better understand how they can get their message to our consumers, to my community, and really sort of start really growing their base, right? So many companies and P&G is a great example. I did a lot of work with P&G, not only in Hispanic market, also in the African-American market because P&G gets it. P&G gets that one out of four babies born in this country are born to Latino parents.
Weaver: And that's a lot of diapers, that's a lot of Pampers and Luvs.
Cartagena: That's right. And also, they know the Latino woman is the main decision maker. She loves to take care of herself, so beauty care, another big division of P&G, very important. And so P&G has been a leader in the marketplace advertising to Latinos, and really trying to understand. You have in the Fortune 100, you have companies like McDonald's and P&G, and Unilever who have done a great job over the past 30, 40 years, but then you have a ton of companies in the Fortune 1,000 who haven't even started marketing to Latinos. So that's the positive.
I always liked to turn negatives into positives. There's a lot of room for growth and all they have to do is really understand the Latino community, understand the power that we bring to the table, that we are positive contributors to this country, great consumers, and really a market that must be addressed by companies moving forward if they want to win.
Weaver: Well, it's surprising to me, with a cohort like the Latinas, generating $2.6 trillion GDP, why companies have not placed that as a priority. It's one thing to say languages is a barrier, but is it about language being a barrier or a company's not making the commitment to them?
Cartagena: You got it. The commitment part is the big thing, which is why I've written my books, right? Often people will say, "Okay, we're going to launch our product in Canada." Canada is like one third, half the size of the US Hispanic market, but they'll choose Canada over the US Hispanic market because they think it's easier. And you know what? I think again, smart executives, smart C-suite people understand that they have to start addressing. That's why I wrote the book to demystify some of these like, I can't do it, it's in another language, I don't understand these people. And I think we've made some progress in the 30 years I've been trying to make this message stick with corporations in the United States.
Weaver: Well, it's interesting that it's taken all of that.
Cartagena: And I'm not done my friend, I'm not done. I feel like every time I turn the corner, there's somebody else I need to enlighten and educate.
Weaver: I lived in Los Angeles for about eight years and it's no way a business can survive in Los Angeles without any understanding of the culture or the language.
Cartagena: California is 40%, Texas is getting up there. In big cities, New York, Chicago, you get it because you see it. You walk down the street, you get in the Metro, that's the beautifulness of our multiculturalism, right? But then there's other big swaths of America where you don't see that kind of change. Although the growth of Latinos in non-traditional areas, places like North Carolina and Georgia, yeah.
Weaver: Idaho. It's exploded.
Cartagena: It's really surprising. It's triple-digit growth every census. So, even though we were in our enclaves, I think now Latinos are everywhere and this is why it's such a great opportunity.
Weaver: And so what's fueling that in terms of the Latina lived experience? Why are they in fact going from the traditional areas like California, Texas, New Mexico? What's pushing them into some of those southern states, the Midwest?
Cartagena: They follow the jobs, Dr. Weaver, they go to where they're needed. If they need to, a lot of the growth in the south, has been to work either in agriculture or also in furniture, building, construction. A lot of the growth, believe it or not in crazy places like Montana, they're following the oil industry. And in Utah, the Latino population grew overnight, practically, when they hosted the Olympics because who was going to take care of all those new hotel rooms, and who's going to do all that construction? We were.
We are one of the hardest working populations in this country and you can see it. We're 18% of the total population and yet over 30% of the construction workers, over 30% of transportation workers, over 30% of medical assistants. There are categories and industries where we way outnumber our total population as a demographic.
Weaver: Well, with those kinds of shifts in location, how is that impacting our culture in the United States?
Cartagena: Oh, my God.
Cartagena: You know what? If you haven't noticed it in the food you eat, right? Now salsa sells more than ketchup. It has for 20 years. The flavors that you like in your ice cream. Twenty years ago, nobody had heard of dulce de leche, now it's a mainstay. Your chip, your cereal, your everything has been deeply influenced by the Latino culture. But not only that, the sports we watch. Look at soccer. Look at the popularity of soccer. Look at the music. How many times have you danced to "Despacito"? You know what I mean? Yeah, I mean, we really, Look at America's favorite pastime MLB, baseball.
Cartagena: Over 30% Latinos, the biggest stars are Latino. And here's another misconception, right? We had been here for many, many decades. This painting us as immigrants, new immigrants, it's a false narrative. I know people who are, especially from Texas or California, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth generation Latinos. They were here before the pilgrims landed, okay?
Weaver: I was going to say, I think California was Mexico.
Cartagena: It was.
Cartagena: It was Mexico.
Weaver: Texas was...
Cartagena: All the way up to where I am in San Francisco, and Texas was. too. So who is American?
Weaver: So help me understand, what's getting in the way of the general American citizen fully understanding the strengths and the contribution that our Latino brothers and sisters are making? What's happening with that?
Cartagena: Well, Dr. Weaver, unfortunately, I feel more invisible as a Latino woman than I do as a lesbian.
Weaver: Say more about that, invisible.
Cartagena: I don't exist in media, name me one media news personality who is Hispanic. I can't name any unless we're talking Spanish-language media. I'm talking in an English-language media. When I look at the news, I don't see myself as a Latina. When I go to the movies, I don't see myself as a Latina. I'm a Latina professional with a college degree, I don't see that portrayed. I do see a lot of lesbian professionals, and so I can relate to that. But we're not represented in media.
The stories that are told of us in the media are distorted and only focused on the negative, the border walls and the new immigrants, but nobody's talking about the successes and the amazing contributions. And that's because we're not in the newsrooms, we're not in the power storytelling places. And it takes companies like, I commend P&G. P&G has done an amazing job really bringing out the stories of the black community and of the Latino community. And it's on corporations doing much better job of really sort of saying, "Hey, these stories are important, we need to talk about them." So our invisibility is really holding us back because when you don't see that, then you're going to treat your employees differently.
Now there's a lot of talk about DE&I, and I think that's good, and it's actually super important. But one thing is to check a box and say, "Oh yeah, we're doing it." But the other thing is really looking inside and saying, "Okay, what do I need to do with the company to really start making my employee base reflect, my consumer base? And also how do I bring new ideas and innovate and make sure my teams are diverse so that I am moving forward and growing my company in the best way I possibly can."
Weaver: Well, you make such an outstanding point. And I just want to say, when you said DEI, I just wanted to just say what that is. That's diversity, equity and inclusion. Some people may not know what that means, but you are so spot on with the comments you're making.
In my firm Alignment Strategies, we do a lot of work dealing with diversity, equity and inclusion issues for Black and Latina and other ethnicities and races. And we do know, when you talked about feeling invisible, we've heard that. We've heard many say that sometimes I come here, and people don't see me. And then we also have worked with other Latinas who felt like they had to cover or hide their identity just to fit in, to be effective. And so it's this thing of feeling invisible and then trying to figure out, can I really be my authentic self and bring that diversity to the job?
But we do know, to your point, that organizations that figure it out, the organizations where people feel like they can be their authentic selves to bring the diversity into the approaches to the work or into ways that you connect with the consumer and all of that outperform other companies that don't. So it is in company's self-interest to figure this out, but more than figuring out, be committed to really doing those kinds of actions and engaging and having people like yourself helping them think about their marketing strategy, their approach, and et cetera. Well, let me ask you this, because I know part of your other bio talked about the fact that you will help politicians deal with, what do you do in that space? How do you use this skill with that?
Cartagena: Of course. So, I had the privilege of working with Univision for about eight years and five of those years I created a new team called The Political and Advocacy Group for Univision. And Univision started this, like they did on the client side, on the brand side, because they realized that political campaigns were not really talking to Latino voters. And we are now the largest demographic group, not the largest electorate group yet, but with our growth, we will become the largest group of minorities in the electorate, right?
So, Univision set out to really sort of help people in Washington and in state capitals around the country, understand the power of the Latino voters. How many voters, how many Latinos are voting, who are they voting for? And what we discovered, and it's been shown again and again, is that Latinos are actually swing voters. The parties have done such a bad job, honestly, talking to Latinos. Because Latinos vote at such low levels, they get sort of left out, right? So they are low propensity voters and therefore they're caught in this catch 22 because when politicians start gearing up, they go after likely voters. They don't have all the money in the world. Hey, Latinos are swing voters. Both parties have done a terrible job of telling them what they really stand for. And because they don't have that history, right? If your parents didn't vote, then you're less likely to vote. So there are new voters. Every year, 1 million Latinos turn 18. That's 1 million new voters.
Weaver: One million?
Cartagena: Yes, nobody's telling them, "Hey, the Democratic party stands for this, or the Republican party stands for that." In fact, I would say the Republicans are doing a better job than the Democrats at reaching out to Latinos and you saw that turn a little bit in Texas and in parts of California, where they voted for Trump, everybody thinks Latinos don't vote for Trump, but they did, and you know why? I think, this is Chiqui, my own theory, we're used to, in our home countries we're used to these authoritarian kind of figures, right? We're used to the men like braggadocious men like Trump was. And we go for the American dream. So they also sort of aspire to be a millionaire like Trump. So there are a lot of things that people don't realize that Trump said that really did attract some Latinos, the majority of Latinos still vote more Democrat, but the problem is the Democrats believe Latinos are born with a big D on their forehead and they're not. They need to be spoken to like everybody else.
Weaver: Well, thank you for that. Well, I can't believe our time is out. So we're going to have to have you come back. But we always like to end our shows by our guests giving some tips, like typically three tips of advice, and I would love for you to share with corporations, what should they be doing to be better connected to their Latino community?
Cartagena: Within your companies, really make an effort to understand that Hispanic identity. We're not a monolith. We come from 22 different countries. I'm half Puerto Rican, half Spanish, but maybe in your company you have Dominicans or you have Mexicans or Salvadorians. We're all a little different. The beauty is we all speak Spanish, of course, so that unites us but there are also differences that you need to understand, and you need to celebrate. You also need to really reduce the obstacles to success, right?
So what's stopping your employees from being the best they can be. And you know what? Just ask them. But be careful. Don't trust only employee surveys. Latinos with surveys tend to try to be very positive. What do you want me to say? Oh, I'll be very positive. And they'll never tell you how they really feel. So use other devices. Ask your managers to do one-on-one meetings and maybe take notes. Create a suggestion box where people can really freely speak.
Weaver: So it's like not assume that the traditional forms of data collection, employee opinion surveys, and all of that are going to really give you what you need to really know. Thanks for sharing it. And what would be your third one?
Cartagena: Well, you mentioned this, Dr. Weaver, that Latinos feel they need to repress part of themselves to succeed. In fact, let me quote a study done by Latinos at Work where 76% of Latinos said, "I repressed part of who I am when I go to work." And by the way, 43% of them are women. And there are three aspects of the Latinoness that I think employers need to keep in mind and that are little cultural shift, right? People's appearance, the way they dress. Latinos, we're a little more voluptuous. We're a little more colorful. We're a little more, I like darker and deeper cuts in my stuff. That's just our culture.
So let's talk about that. Body language, right? Look at me, I'm expressing myself with my hands all the time, I cannot talk without moving my hands. Some people interpret that as like weird. And then, I don't have an accent, or at least I think I don't, but a lot of Latinos do and that also makes them feel less than. So really just reach out and again, try to reduce the obstacles to their success and start fixing that culture that has always existed to be more open and more receptive to authenticity.
Weaver: And more inclusive, right? And I really thank you so much for sharing those three tips because they're very important. And that last one, in terms of 76% of Hispanics feel like they can't be their authentic selves when they come to work. Can you imagine the impact on productivity, the impact on engagement, the impact on belonging to an organization? It's a tremendous dollar impact for that. So we're going to put those three tips on our website because I think they're really, really important. Thank you.
So we've got to say goodbye to our viewers, and we have this saying Chiqui, where we say, be safe, have a productive week and have a be happy week. I'm Dr. Vanessa Weaver, your host for Workin' It Out. Goodbye.