The Latin Side of Madison Avenue
Marketing and the Language
that Makes Us “Hispanics”
Latinos currently make up a coveted U.S. marketing segment. No other ethnic group in the United States is targeted by such a vast network of advertising agencies and an entire marketing industry selling them consumer products by addressing them as a common people and a market. In this context, Hispanic marketing has become one of the primary institutional forces fueling a common Latino/a identity, prompting analyses of this industry in relation to contemporary Latino cultural politics. 1 Today, Hispanic marketing agencies can be found in every city with sizable Latino populations, over fifteen of which operate in the U.S. advertising capital, New York City, the birthplace of the Hispanic advertising industry and the second largest Latino market.
This essay explores the origins and current scope of New York's Hispanic marketing industry as well as its impact on the creation of panethnic categories and images of and for Latinos. 2 I consider this industry as an arena of Latino self-representation that, dominated by corporate intellectuals of Latin American backgrounds in the United States and tied directly to the dominant structures of the U.S. economy, serves as a fruitful entry point into the complex interests involved in the public representation of latinidad. In particular, I argue that this industry is directly involved in the maintenance of latinidad's Hispanic core through its economically driven need to emphasize the permanence of the Spanish language as the basis for Latino/Hispanic identity to ensure and perpetuate its own existence and profitability. The industry's common name, Hispanic marketing, is indica-