Latinos, Inc: The Marketing and Making of a People

Latinos, Inc: The Marketing and Making of a People

Latinos, Inc: The Marketing and Making of a People

Latinos, Inc: The Marketing and Making of a People


Both Hollywood and corporate America are taking note of the marketing power of the growing Latino population in the United States. And as salsa takes over both the dance floor and the condiment shelf, the influence of Latin culture is gaining momentum in American society as a whole. Yet the increasing visibility of Latinos in mainstream culture has not been accompanied by a similar level of economic parity or political enfranchisement. In this important, original, and entertaining book, Arlene Dávila provides a critical examination of the Hispanic marketing industry and of its role in the making and marketing of U.S. Latinos.

Dávila finds that Latinos' increased popularity in the marketplace is simultaneously accompanied by their growing exotification and invisibility. She scrutinizes the complex interests that are involved in the public representation of Latinos as a generic and culturally distinct people and questions the homogeneity of the different Latino subnationalities that supposedly comprise the same people and group of consumers. In a fascinating discussion of how populations have become reconfigured as market segments, she shows that the market and marketing discourse become important terrains where Latinos debate their social identities and public standing.


Recently a group of Latino marketers at a large advertising agency invited me to speak about my work and my vision of contemporary Latinidad. It was one of the stranger requests I’d received as an artist. Normally I speak at schools, sometimes to book clubs, and on a few occasions in prisons; but this group of young Latinos clearly felt beleaguered inside their corporate labyrinth and thought I’d be able to say some things that would complicate the Latino formula being pushed onto them from their corporate bosses. I went primarily out of curiosity (and because a friend inside the company more or less leaned on me). What was so surprising about that afternoon was how palpably frustrated these young folks were at the ways our diverse Latino communities were being spun within their industry. They were frustrated with the simplifications around race, class, geography, and language. They were frustrated at the marching orders they were getting from their clients. They were frustrated with their entirely white Southern-cone-slash-Cuban overseers. They all agreed, however, that Latino advertising was boomtown central. Latinos, after all, were the largest “minority” group in the country and growing fast.

“This is only going to get bigger,” one of my hosts said.

Another explained, “We’re the market of the future.”

That was the one thing that almost everyone could agree on: the Latino market was where the real money was, characterized by explosive growth and almost unlimited potential.

It was one of those jarring surreal conversations a brother does not . . .

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