The Pulse of American Culture
By Salvador Acevedo, VP of Culture Strategy
A few years ago, a good friend of mine wrote a genius blog post titled “the abuela is the ultimate hipster.” Her point was that several consumer trends among Millennials (“do-it-yourself,” sharing products and services, home-made remedies and beauty products, etc.) are common practices among older generation Hispanics (hence the “abuela” = grandma.) The key takeaway was that you should pay attention to Hispanics if you want to understand the Millennial consumer. A good rule of thumb in my opinion, but not quite complete. If older Hispanics are hipsters, young Hispanics are at the epicenter of what it means to be American nowadays. If you want to understand where American culture (and consumers) are headed in the future, look closely at young Hispanics.
More and more at Scansion we listen to young Hispanics identify themselves as “Americans of Hispanic background,” and one of the key reasons why is beca use they are fully aware of the deep influence they have in contemporary American culture.
With an entrepreneurial spirit, a relentless focus on family, and a deep belief in hard work and progress, Hispanics are the carriers of values typically identified as “American.”
On top of that, most Hispanics come from countries in which mestizaje - the fusion of two or more cultures – is common*. This makes them particularly well-equipped to understand and smoothly move from one cultural mindset to another, an ability that is highly desirable in a globalized world. Being 100% American and a 100% Hispanic at the same time is not a contradiction for most of them. Quite the opposite. It is actually a way of life in which they can transit from one cultural mindset and/or from one language to another. By virtue of being bilingual and bicultural, many Hispanics have a higher level of cultural openness, which means that they not only value diversity but personally navigate cultural differences in an organic way.
More than assimilating to what traditionally is known as “American” culture (the melting pot process), Hispanics are influencing everybody else in acquiring the ability to live and understand multiple cultural mindsets. At the surface level, we see all kinds of Hispanic cultural manifestations becoming staples of American culture: Mexican food, Latin music, Day of the Dead celebrations, etc.
At a deeper level, values that Hispanics hold dear such as harmony, progress, respect, and equality, are shared by many, especially Millennials.
A good example of the influence Hispanics have in contemporary American culture could be found in Hollywood, one of the most emblematic American institutions. In four out of the last five years, Mexicans have won the Oscar for best director, which could be correlated to the fact that Hispanics buy almost a quarter of all movie tickets in the country.
Hispanics, both young and older, not only embrace American values in a deep way, they also navigate the turbulent waters of cultural differences in times in which a globalized world requires deep intercultural communication skills. And this is what makes Hispanics the perfect barometer to foresee where customers are, and will be heading, in the future. So, the next time you need to figure out where the consumer market is going, think about talking with and understanding young Hispanics.
*If you want to explore these ideas further, please check my TEDx talk here.