Last night, 150-plus leaders gathered in Silicon Valley, Calif. to discuss the emerging role Hispanics are playing in business, government, and society during the 2012 Hispanic-Net 11th Annual Dinner.
Hispanic-Net — an organization dedicated to bridging understanding between Hispanic entrepreneurs and executives in technology with all members of the Hispanic community– honored retired NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria who is now playing a pivotal role in the nation’s effort to build a viable commercial space program, and entrepreneur Alejandro Velez, founder of Back to the Roots and The Sage Mentorship Project, Inc.
“The Hispanic plurality is becoming important – not just in numbers, but in leadership in the U.S. and the world,” says Michael Lopez, president of Hispanic-Net. “Both honorees exemplified this.”
Lopez-Alegria, who in his 20 years with NASA visited space four times and holds three NASA records including the longest spaceflight – 215 days, spoke about the “past, present and future” of space exploration. As the current president of the Commercial Spacelight Federation, he said commercial space travel could spur a new wave of innovation and job growth, similar to what the nation witnessed in the early days of commercial aviation and after President John F. Kennedy declared the U.S.’s goal to put a man on the moon.
Hispanic-Net’s “Entrepreneur of the Year,” Velez, spoke about the innovation, marketing, and early success of his first product, Back to the Roots, a “do-it-yourself” sustainable kit which allows consumers to grow oyster mushrooms on coffee grounds. Velez said the kit has enabled him to build a company to that “makes money and does good,” paraphrasing Google’s corporate mantra “don’t be evil.”
The keynote for the event was delivered by Giovanni Rodriguez, CEO of SocialxDesign, a strategy and marketing consulting firm with offices in Silicon Valley and Washington, DC. Tracing the recent emergence of Hispanic power in politics and communications — and the role Hispanics have played in social movements, Rodriguez discussed a seven-point plan for remaking the “Hispanic brand for the 21st Century.”
1. Think beyond physical borders. Because social networking enables Hispanics to communicate and collaborate transnationally, we now have the opportunity to stitch together an international Latinosphere with international clout.
2. Think beyond language. Increasingly, Hispanics are communicating in English and in Spanish. Witness the emergence of English-language media for Hispanics (like NBC Latino, and ABC/Univision).
3. Rethink our identity as immigrants. We are Americans; this land is your land, this land is our land.
4. Embrace our diversity. There are many differences between Hispanic groups in the U.S.
5. But despite those differences, understand how we come together around issues that matter to us: the economy, education, health, immigration, and Hispanic pride (the five things that a recent White House study found mattered most to Hispanics).
6. To date, we have have an inward focus for the brand: taking care of our own.
7. But going forward, the Hispanic brand will be about taking care of others as well. Because we have demonstrated excellence and strength in a number of areas critical to the evolution of society (digital communications and social movements), we can apply those strengths to helping other citizens. It’s similar to the way other ethnic groups redefined their own brands in the 20th century to help others (e.g., how the Jewish community rebranded itself through philanthropy and support for general social causes, and the Indian community began to rebrand itself in the U.S. by supporting general entrepreneurship). This is the most important step in the remaking of the Hispanic brand, and we are already seeing that it has begun.
“The role we will play in this new world is bigger than ourselves,” says Rodriguez.