The latinizing of the United States in U.S. Mexico Relations, the San Diego
When my parents were growing up in the early part of this century and even into my childhood years, in the 1950’s, it was best for us to assimilate and not exhibit our culture. We were chastised as children for speaking Spanish in public schools. In my home we only spoke Spanish in the presence of my grandmother, who spoke no English, or when my mother wanted to communicate to me without my friends understanding her. This always embarrassed me because it was rude to talk about them and they, of course, knew my mother was not expressing positive observations. It was not until the La Raza movement, in the sixties, that Chicanos and other Hispanics began to identify with the mother culture. Now in the United States, particularly in the Southwest, you are at a disadvantage if you do not speak Spanish.
The statistics are awesome regarding the growth of the Hispanic population in the U.S. and by the end of this century we will be the largest “ethnic minority” in the country. More importantly Hispanics are by and large a more successful entrepreneurial group than the average Gringo John or Jane. U.S. Hispanic owned businesses are growing at a 76% faster rate than non Hispanic businesses. In the communications industry the largest growth sector is in Spanish language media. The number one listened to station in Los Angeles, at this writing, is (KVLE) which broadcasts in Spanish. Presently, there are over 400 Spanish language radio stations in the United States. If you are a cable TV subscriber just surf your options and you will likely find several Spanish language networks and or local stations to choose from- TELEMUNDO, TELEVISA and TV AZTECA are transmitted all around the globe.
If L.A. were in Mexico its five million Mexican residents would make it the fourth biggest city in the country after Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterey. From L.A. to the border 40% of the population in Southern California speaks Spanish. South of the border another unique market and culture has emerged. A new hybrid culture that has developed in Tijuana and Mexicali and their U.S. border cousins. Called “Fronteriza” it is a frontier culture that mixes: language, styles of dress, music and a perspective that is influenced by both Mexican and Stateside values. Although influenced by cross border experiences, Fronteriza is a distinct culture, neither Mexican or American. This synergy of influences is producing new and unique music, theater, literature and art.
The U.S. – Mexico border is where bi lingual highly educated Mexicanos are as apt to read the Wall St. Journal as they are a Spanish language business journal and conversely fronteriza U.S. businessmen read El Financiero (the Mexican business journal also found as an english language weekly version. This border region is also producing young entrepreneurs who are developing new approaches to marketing to these important and quickly growing, bi national, bi cultural economies.
Javier Reyes is the publisher of Latino Magazine, struggling to educate San Diego advertisers about the importance of the Hispanic market. Reyes, who originates from L.A., is somewhat frustrated with the San Diego advertiser’s slowness in accepting the importance of Hispanic oriented media. Reyes points out that San Diego’s hispanic market is, by national standards, the eighth largest in the United States. However, when we include the border towns of Baja California, the Hispanic market in this region is really among the top five in the nation.
The Baja border population is about equal to that of the San Diego market. Therefore, advertisers in the San Diego market are getting a double bang for their buck. Radio signals, cable T.V. , satellite dishes and wide distribution of U.S. magazines and newspapers provides advertisers with a “free ride” into Mexico. The major Baja market spans the border through Tijuana and Mexicali to Ensenada, seventy miles to the South.
Throughout these cities cable T.V. provides all of the major networks, including Fox, CNN, The San Diego PBS affiliate and of course MTV. When we include satellite viewers, and AM radio signals the entire state of Baja has wide access to U.S. initiated programming and commercial coverage. In print media, pharmacies and news stands throughout Baja sell the San Diego Tribune and the L.A. Times. Local San Diego advertisers, paying local rates in all of the media, get the benefit of this audience windfall.
Advertisers are also getting hip to the fact that this is not some “poor farmworker” demographic in Baja. San Diego Dialogue, a University of San Diego research group, dedicated to researching the border region, determined that the average income in Tijuana was equal to that of the average San Diegan. Tijuana scored higher, however, on the education scale. North of the border, a new generation of affluent Hispanics has emerged. These new, upwordly mobile, Spanish speaking buyers, can afford second homes. As a result, Rosarito Real Estate sales people estimate that 40% of their sales are now to Hispanics. They also report that it is an easier sale because they do not have the same gringo fears about Mexico to overcome.
If you don’t believe the crossborder Hispanic market is big business ask Enrique Morones, Hispanic Marketing Director for the San Diego Padres. The following is extracted from a recent Wall St. Journal article by Julio Laboy: “For years the Padres had a reputation for ignoring San Diego’s minority communities; some critics had even dubbed them ‘the champions of neglect”.
Then in 1994, John Moores and Larry Luchhino took over the team from a group of 15 owners and attitudes changed. Now instead of minority leaders struggling to initiate contact with the Padres the Padres are seeking them out.
The groundwork for the Padres program was laid two years ago when the team named business consultant Enrique Morones to the newly created position of director of Hispanic marketing. With an eye on drawing fans from a huge regional market that includes Tijuana, the team opened a store selling Padres tickets and memorabilia across the border in Mexico.
In 1996 the Padres began busing Mexican fans to Sunday games and broadcasting the games in Mexico. The team also made history when it played the New York Mets in Monterey, Mexico. It was the first regular season major league game ever played outside the U.S. or Canada.
Morones who is justifiably proud of the bottom line results he and management have been able to produce by paying attention to this very lucrative market. The 1996 attendance figures were three and one half times greater than the previous season with a total of 225,000 Hispanic fans. The success of Morone’s effort resulted in his being promoted to the new title of Director, Multicultural Marketing, expanding the concept to other ethnic groups.
A new day has dawned in the hearts and minds of businessmen at the border. Almost everyone now realizes how economically dependent we are upon each other and that economic dependency will translate into better relations between the two countries. I am very excited about where I live and work again after some very lean times. I’m not predicting a boom as I did in the mid 80’s for Baja because I’m afraid it might, again, jinx the state’s chances.