Hispanics, or Latinos (which kindly includes my native country, Brazil, where we speak Portuguese), have been a strong influence in the US economy for decades. As an integral part of the workforce seeking the “American Dream”, more and more Latinos tried, as time went by, to “fit-in” to the American culture to succeed and achieve that Dream. Latino parents would only speak English with their kids, so they would fit-in in school. When American neighbors came to visit, they made sure to serve peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the kids and hot dogs for the adults (“keep the tamales in the fridge, Mi Amor!”). You get the picture.
The process of trying to “fit-in” to an alien culture is called acculturation. It does not have much, if anything, to do with which generation you belong to, but it is a phenomenon statistically proven to be correlated with two major variables:
These two factors are critical because they reflect how people feel and how they act. Your level of comfort in any given language allows you express and feel emotions in those languages. Try to play with a baby in a foreign language and you will see what I mean! Your purchase habits show how much of that “new” country’s habit you have embraced and adopted daily.
According to Simmons, the Hispanic data division of Nielsen, the distribution of the Hispanic population by level of acculturation historically looks like a bell curve:
But about 15 years or so ago, something interesting started to happen:
And this trend is alive and well. So, what’s going on?
This phenomenon is known as retro-acculturation. Basically, the now 57 million Hispanics living in the United States figured out that they CAN eat their cake and have it too! They don’t have to hide the tamale when people come visit... they can share it, and their neighbors love it! Latino music is beautiful and lively – and many Americans like it too, so it’s okay for us to listen to it. It is possible to be Latino and love the US way of life at the same time.
As a result, for the last 10 years, Simmons has consistently tracked the evolution in the acculturation levels bell curve. It shows:
Today, given how fast Hispanics are acculturating and the influence of retro-acculturation, in all top Hispanic markets in the US, the acculturation bell curve is moving from the distribution in red, towards the green shape below:
So, what does it mean to you, as the CEO of a company trying to grow your business in US markets with a strong Hispanic population?
By the way, if you became uncomfortable with the back and forth between “Hispanic” and “Latino” in here, get used to it. It is an on-going debate, with no right answer. In fact, it is part of the journey to understand this awesome culture!