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Recap: The Power of The Latino Market in the NY Metro Area

On Monday I had the opportunity to attend an event hosted by Nielsen and the Hispanic Federation entitled “The Power of the Latino Market in the New York Metropolitan Area.”

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The event featured the release of the report ”Nueva York and Beyond The Latino Communities of the Tri-State Region.”   Did you know that Latinos are the youngest and fastest growing demographic in the NY metro region? For more great info, check out the report! It’s a must read!  It is available for download here.

The panel discussion was moderated by Luis Miranda, founder and former President of Hispanic Federation, and featured a special presentation by Monica Gil, the Sr. VP of Public Affairs and Government Relations at Nielsen, who touched on the importance the Hispanic community has for the economy of our nation. The numbers don’t lie, Ms. Gil informed us that:

  • Latinos in the United States have $ 1.3 trillion purchasing power.
  • If Hispanic America was a country, it would be the world’s 12th largest economy.
  •  50,000 Latinos turn 18 every month.
  • 131 Latino babies are born every hour.

The panelists then delved into how the Hispanic community has changed, and what the data in the report means for businesses, and for the future of the Latino community in this region.

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From left to right: Juan Carlos Dávila, Rossana Rosado, José Calderón, Monica Gil & Luis Miranda 

Panelists included José Calderón, the President of the Hispanic Federation, Rossana Rosado, the Publisher of El Diario/La Prensa (which is celebrating its 100th anniversary), and Juan Carlos Dávila, Sr. Vice President and General Manager of the Hispanic Market Center of Excellence at Nielsen. The panelists discussed the importance of this data and what it means for brands and companies who are asking themselves “How do we market to the Hispanic community?”  Companies are realizing that with the purchasing power Latinos have, they can’t afford to neglect them.

Education

José Calderón talked about the importance of education.

He mentioned that while we are making great strides (In 2000, 49% of Latinos in the USA entered college, in 2012, 69% of Latinos entered college.) The system is failing our children. We need to figure this piece out, he says, because there’s a direct correlation between education and income. More needs to be done.  Rossana Rosado explained “We need more access to networks, to more opportunities, more mentors.”

Being “Ambicultural”

Young Latinos navigate two cultures simultaneously—many speak two languages (three if you count Spanglish Monica Gil reminded us!), and highly value their cultural roots. Furthermore, more people are international, keeping ties to their countries of origin by watching the news, sports, etc.

Both American and Latino cultures are influencing Latino purchasing decisions.  Monica gave a perfect example I immediately related to: we can go to “el super” or Trader Joe’s (yes, Latinos shop at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods!) I laughed because that’s what I do— If I want to purchase Ecuadorian items, I can go to my local supermarket which carries naranjilla (lulo) or plátanos, but I go to Trader  Joe’s  to buy organic deli meat and produce.

Diversity in the Latino population

Today, the Hispanic population is much more diverse than years ago, so brands have to take a much more nuanced approach, and have to remember that the Hispanic community is actually made up of many different nationalities. The Latino community in the NY region is especially diverse, the NY Metro area is the one place where you can find many different nationalities, which is somewhat different than other parts of the country where one nationality dominates.

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I was surprised to know that in the NY Metro region, Ecuadorians are fourth in population size, after Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and Mexicans. It just showed me how indeed times have changed—when I was little, we would get stuff sent to us (“encargos”) because we couldn’t find it at the local stores. Now? If it is not available at the local supermarket, chances are it will be available at a store a few subway stops away, in Corona, Queens. When I was growing up, I remember people didn’t even know where Ecuador was! Now, we have an elected official who is Ecuadorian—Francisco Moya, who represents the 39th Assembly District in Queens in the New York State Assembly. Times have indeed changed.

The Future: Economic and Political Power

José Calderón mentioned that we have to think about the political destiny of our community. It is important to obtain economic power and political power follows economic power.

The numbers show that we have economic clout; and our purchasing power is projected to continue growing.. The report estimates that between 2010 and 2015 Hispanic buying power will grow from $1 trillion to 1.5 trillion. That’s a lot of money. I think companies are starting to realize… they can’t just ignore us anymore, and as Rossana Rosado put it, “We’re here and we’re not going anywhere!”

If the election of 2012 showed us anything, it showed that the power of the Latino vote is real, and Latinos can mobilize. In my opinion, there will be a day when you won’t be able to win the White House without winning the Latino vote.

Elected officials know the importance of the Latino community, and there are rising stars in Politics that are Latino, such as the Castro brothers and here in NYC, Melissa Mark-Viverito, who was in attendance on Monday, and who some hope will be the next (and first Latina) Speaker of the NY City Council. Other elected officials in attendance included Gale Brewer who is running for Manhattan Borough President and Letitia James, who is running for Public Advocate.

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What will our community look like in 10 years? Monica Gil put it wonderfully, “culture is going to evolve, but it’s not going to go away.” Rossana Rosado mentioned the importance of “going back” to the Barrio, or the old neighborhood to eat, do your hair, etc. Latinos keep strong ties to their culture, even if they move out of ethnic enclaves where they grew up.

Indeed, I think that the importance of culture, family, and language is not going to go away. As a mother, I am very committed to transmitting the love of culture, food and language to my son, who is two years old. I speak to him in exclusively in Spanish, because I know knowing more than one language will give him advantages in the future, but also because I want him to grow up knowing that it is important to know the language of his grandparents and to develop an appreciation for the food, culture, music, and values that are part of being Hispanic.

Towards the end of the panel discussion, Juan Carlos Dávila touched on the importance of bilingualism and language. As someone who many time begins her thoughts in one language and ends them in another, I know exactly what he is talking about (and of course, there are just some things that cannot be expressed in English, that can be only be understood en español!)

He also mentioned that being Latino is “living the best of both worlds.” I couldn’t agree more.

Diana Limongi
welcome! I'm a Latina working mom from Astoria, NY, mom to a trilingual four-year old. I blog about motherhood, Latino issues, women's issues, work/life balance, food, parenting and raising my multilingual and multicultural son!

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