Maybe the whole “Latino” craze is finally hitting the point of no return after someone thought that a PETA Latino site was a good idea. I had hoped this would all stop once Clorox Latino came out last year (yes, that really happened), but apparently not.
Now I am starting to get worried. Any sense of authenticity about the U.S. Latino experience is getting oversaturated with clueless mediocrity. Instead of trying to reflect a new and honest perspective of the bilingual-bicultural individual, we are fast becoming a Barrio Demographic. Instead of being ready for primetime, we get naked Panamanian models resting on large broccoli stalks.
All because it is “hot” to tap into the “Latino” market. Because agencies are telling major brands that this is what the 50+ million want.
Yet it doesn’t seem to matter, because even as PETA went “Latino” on us, the 2013 Latino Billboard Awards were happening, and everyone was down in Miami partying. These awards have become quite successful, but I wonder, “what if all those who make this event such a megahit were to stop and say, ‘No more?’” Instead of creating your own event, why not remind the Grammys that without the likes of Pitbull and Bruno Mars, for example, the mainstream music industry would be tanking right now? Let’s crash the Grammys instead. There is plenty of top-line talent. Did everyone already forget that moment in 1999 when Ricky Martin basically took over the Grammys? Why don’t we have more of those moments? Why are we settling for the Barrio Demographic?
The irony of it all is that not only did I find a site called Latino Rebels, I also contribute to NBC Latino, which along with outlets such as HuffPost Latino Voices, Fox News Latino, ABC/Univision’s Fusion, are offshoots of their bigger media families. Aren’t we just feeding into the Barrio Demographic when we support and create content for these outlets as well? What is the difference?
There is a big one.
Unlike agencies that are forcing the insipid manufacturing of “Latino” brands, I believe Latino media outlets are doing what they can to analyze and be critical of the bigger issue here: that the coveted U.S. Latino demographic is evolving and has yet to be defined. We are still trying to figure it out, but for me, I could do without every brand in the world having its own “Latino” division.
Furthermore, these media outlets strive to be more authentic in how they approach their readers. They are constantly looking for original stories through their social media channels and communities. I doubt agencies are as close to the ground.
These outlets also try to present a fuller picture that goes beyond just the Latino Billboard Awards, although in the end, I personally would love to see fewer Sofía Vergara stories and more original, non-PR-driven stories about the future of the U.S. Latino market. For the record, my outlet would never cover the Latino Billboard Awards even if you put us right on center stage next to Shakira and Juanes. Although we wouldn’t say no to Lollapallooza.
So, to me, the PETA Latinos and Clorox Latinos of the world are just fake. It’s like a check-off item that an agency tells a brand that they must do because this is the moment to capture the hearts and minds of U.S. Latinos. Instead, most of us just chuckle and then write about it in the media outlets that cover our world.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Do I think Latino media outlets should challenge their corporate owners a bit more? Should they “crash the Grammys?” Should they be asking tough questions about how Latinos are not represented in mainstream media or in the board room? Of course. This is just the beginning.
Here’s to the day when there are bigger outlets that actually reflect this country’s diversity and we no longer have to use “Latino” in our names.
Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77 ) founded LatinoRebels.com in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. His personal blog, juliorvarela.com, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. In the past 12 months, Julito represented the Rebeldes on Face the Nation, NPR, Univision, Forbes, and The New York Times.