Hispanic culture and Latino market in USA

The expansion and use of a language is a key point to determine the influence of a culture at an international level. It is not only the perfect channel to convey a message, but also constitutes a market in itself. In a globalized world where markets contribute to shape the relations among countries, a language relative weight is an important factor to define the relevance of a certain culture, social group, country or any other entity.

@UNDP gives a very graphic example using a descriptive map to show the global presence of the 6 official languages of the United Nations in a very accessible way.

As described in Quartz last December, a recent study finds the languages that have a more diverse reach are usually “the ones most connected by multilingual speakers”. The study, edited by Kenneth W. Wachter, University of California, and published by PNAS, provides a “quantitative way to define the global influence of languages” using networks provided by book translations, Wikipedia and Twitter to explore language connections. The analysis concludes that the position of a language in these global networks “contributes to the visibility of its speakers and the global popularity of the cultural content they produce”.

In this context, Elcano Royal Institute co-launched the Working Paper ‘Los latinos y las industrias culturales en español en Estados Unidos‘ (Latinos and cultural industries in Spanish in United States) with the Secretaría General Iberoamericana (SEGIB) last January.

The event was chaired by José Ignacio Wert, Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports, moderated by Emilio Lamo de Espinosa, President of the Elcano Royal Institute and with the participation of Salvador Arriola, Secretary of Cooperación Iberoamericana at the SEGIB, Víctor García de la Concha, Director of the Instituto Cervantes, Emilio Cassinello, Director-General of the Toledo International Center for Peace and the authors, Jessica Retis, Professor at the California State University Northridge and Ángel Badillo, Senior Analyst at Elcano Royal Institute.

The working paper follows the path set by Emilio Cassinello in his working paper ‘Spain and The Hispanics: A Strategic Project’. ‘Latinos and cultural industries in Spanish in United States’ analyzes the Spanish-speaking communities from United States, Latin-American immigrants and their descendants. The paper studies how the tendency to homogenize these communities is contributing to the lack of knowledge about them. It focuses on the cultural market in Spanish and look at the linguistic policies, the sociocultural and economic integration to understand the reasons.

The working paper starts with a socioeconomic analysis and then studies the situation of the cultural industries in Spanish.

Introduction to Hispanic Culture in the U.S.

Even though Latinos are a very heterogeneous group, they are treated as a different race by a number of institutions (government, media, marketing agencies and policy, labor and medical entities, to mention just a few).

According to Retis and Badillo, there are currently 54.1 million inhabitants with Hispanic roots in USA, 17% of the population, and by 2050 this share will have increased to 30% of the population. There are 41 million Spanish native speakers and 11 million with limited competence in Spanish.

Since the 1950s, there were population flows following the U.S. economic and political intervention but in the opposite direction (i.e., to the United States). Between 1960s and 1980s more than 400,000 Dominicans migrated to the U.S.A., and 350,000 Colombian, almost 300,000 Salvadorian, 225,000 Ecuadorian, 170,000 Argentinian, 145,000 Guatemalan, 100,000 Peruvian, 85,000 Nicaraguan and 77,000 Honduran sought the same destination. Civil wars and the social chaos in their countries of origin are assumed as the main cause for these migration flows.

Latino’s purchasing power has grown from 1 billion U.S. $ in 2012 to 1.5 billion U.S. $ in 2015 according to Nielsen. As voters, it is a group with a low participation rate, the turnout of the voting eligible population was only 48% in 2012, but there was still 11.2 million Latino votes in that election.

The states with higher percentage of Hispanic population are New Mexico (46.3%), Texas (37.6%), California (37.6%), Arizona (29.6%), Nevada (26.5%), Florida (22.5%), Colorado (20.7%), New Jersey (17.7%), New York (17.6%), Illinois (15.8%), Connecticut (13.4%) and Utah (13%).

With regard to the linguistic policy, there has been a history of discriminatory and exclusion policies in education, and it is important to consider that the upward mobility is very limited through education.

Regarding the population of Spaniards in the United States, according to the Spanish consulates in the U.S.A., there were 45,000 Spaniards registered in the American census in the 1960s, 57,000 in the 70s, 73,000 in the 80s, 76,000 in the 90s, around 100,000 in 2000, 92,537 in 2010, 97,044 in 2011 and 103,474 in 2014.

Hispanic Market and its Weight in the American Economy

According to Experian Marketing (Advertising Age, Hispanic Fact Pack 2013), the preference in the language use in cultural consumption is as follows:

  • Reading: 37.4% of the Hispanic population reads only in English, 24.4% reads more in English than in Spanish, 16.2% reads more in Spanish and 19% reads only in Spanish.
  • Watching TV: 29.0% of Latinos consume content only in English, 33.4% watches more TV in English than in Spanish, 19.3% watches more TV in Spanish than in English and 12.4% watches TV only in Spanish.
  • Listening to the radio: 25.9% of the Hispanic populations listens to the radio only in English, 28.5% listens to more English radio than Spanish, 20.0% listens to more content in Spanish than in English and 19.1% listens to contents only in Spanish.
  • Internet: 42.9% of Latinos consumes content only in English, 19.8% consumes more content in English than in Spanish, 10.4% consumes more content in Spanish than English and 11.8% consumes content only in Spanish.

The remaining percentage to add up to 100% presents the figures of cultural consumption in other languages (less than 0.5% in all the categories).

There are some features of the Hispanic market which could be highlighted in order to understand the potential of this market niche, as shown in the infographic.

According to the International Publishers Association, Spain is the third world exporter of books, after United Kingdom and United States. 95% of the Spanish book market is made up of exports to Europe and America. The Spanish book industry exports € 182 million to North, Central and South America, among which € 51.8 million goes to Mexico, 22.5 million to Argentina, 16.3 million to Peru, 15 million to Chile, 14.7 million to Brazil, and only 13 million to the U.S.A.

Regarding cinematographic productions, IMDb relies on 2013 data: among the 11 movies with higher revenue in the American box office that year, 6 of them have partial or total Spanish production. Among the 20 most popular movies in Spanish released in 2013, 13 had total or partial Spanish production.

With regard to Latin music, Nielsen published in 2013 the number of downloads in 3 years, which grew from 31.1 million in 2010 to 35.3 million in 2012.

Boadcasting & Cable published the number of cable TV signals in Spanish in the U.S.A., which grew from 17 signals in 2000, to 70 in 2010, 100 in 2012 (estimation published by The Economist in 2012) and 134 in 2014.

All these figures show that the cultural industries in Spanish in the U.S.A. conform a wide market. It constitutes an opportunity to investors because it is a constantly growing market and shows the same trend for the future. But it is also a complex sociocultural reality, and investors should be aware of this reality to be able to adapt to the fast transformations of the Latino community in the United States, which is the second largest Spanish speaking community in the world today.

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