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Latino 2011: Marketers Loved Us. The Rest Of America? Not So Much

by Fidel Martinez

As a site that covers and writes about Latino culture (albeit oftentimes in a tongue in cheek and sophomoric tone), it’s easy to detect trends pertaining to us that develop over time. With less than two days until 2011 officially closes, I would argue that the two most prevalent patterns have been the following: Advertisers and media companies love Latinos while the rest of America… well not so much.

These two seem antithetical but it’s true. In the last year everyone from The Huffington Post to NBC Universal made attempts to reach out to Latinos. Also partaking in this landgrab for Latino audiences were Hulu, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, and CBS. Heck, even Univision–stalwart of Hispanic media in the United States– is gunning after your eyeballs.

The why is pretty easy to figure out. Latinos aren’t stupid (at least most of us aren’t, I can’t speak for everyone). We know they want our money, which cumulatively adds up to a lot of feria (about $1.1 trillion or so.) Because a lot of cash is up for grabs companies are tailoring their programming and content in an attempt to convince clients—akin to rappers walking into a strip club after getting a huge advance—that they are best suited to reach Hispanics. This is why you get The Huffington Post Latino Voices, NBC Latino, and even Univision News. All three are English sites whose content focuses on material they deem to be important and appealing to the English-speaking Latino.* All three were also founded in 2011 (August, November, and March, respectively).

You're not there yet, but keep trying.

It’s not just them either. Earlier this month, Hulu announced that it was launching a new service targeting the same demographic, calling it—SURPRISE SURPRISE!—Hulu Latino. When we wrote about it, we contended that the service was well-intentioned but not fully thought-out as they were using Spanish-language content (mostly telenovelas and programs from Univision). Still, the effort is a valiant one and I’m sure they’ll convince some advertisers to spend their Hispanic dollars with them.

On the broadcasting end of things, two shows are worthy of note: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Rob! Both are examples of networks making changes to their programming to draw in these crowds. The former, in my opinion, hit it out of the ballpark by hiring Al Madrigal as their Latino correspondent back in May of 2011. It only took them twelve years (Jon Stewart took over in 1999) to finally put a Latino comedian on their program, but hey, better late than never. As per Rob!, I’m going to go ahead and say that CBS’s attempt to cater to a viewership other than geriatrics will blow up in their face. The show doesn’t launch until January, but I’m calling it now: cancellation.

With all the examples listed above, one would think that there’s never been a better time to be a Latino in this country. That’s obviously not the case. Following in Arizona’s discriminatory footsteps, states like Nebraska, Georgia, and South Carolina have passed harsh anti-immigration laws that make it easier for cops to racial profile.

On the national scale, politicians (almost exclusively Republican) have come out in full force supporting these and other measures. The most egregious of them all was Herman Cain, who said that he’d erect an electrified fence alongside the Mexican border should he be elected President. Luckily for America, and for the steadily decreasing stream of undocumented workers coming into this country, Cain’s focus on a different kind of erection (the one in his pants) led to his fall from (dis)grace in the polls, and he eventually dropped out entirely.

It wasn’t just the Rick Perrys, Michelle Bachmans, and Newt Gingriches who were piling on the Latino hate. There was also Katt Williams. The miniscule (both in stature and character) comedian made headlines in September when he went on a racist tirade against a heckler at one of his shows in Arizona. Williams, like just about every flag-waving bigot, veiled his racism with xenophobic rhetoric (“This is UH-MERR-KAH!”) and got away largely unscathed from the incident. Why? Because hating on Hispanics is commonplace.

And then there’s Joe Arpaio. Pinche Joe. You can’t cite instances of anti-Latino bigotry without mentioned the Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. Despite the fact that Maricopa is the county with the fifth largest Latino population (according to 2006 Census data), Sheriff Joe did his best to create an environment of injustice within his department. This is far from an exaggeration. Just two weeks ago (Dec. 15), the U.S. Department of Justice, after three years of investigation, found that Arpaio (which is Italian for “human waste”) and his cohorts were responsible for the worst type of racial profiling in U.S. history. This inquiry resulted in the revocation of Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office federal authority to identify and detain undocumented individuals.

This is the most evil photo of Joe we could find.

So no, not everything is hunky dory in Latinolandia. But there are some bright spots that give this cynic some hope. Remember that Georgia law we mentioned? It backfired. So much so that farms in the state were estimated to lose over $1 billion because of a lack of a workforce. And the former convicts they brought in to replace the hardworking immigrants? They walked out on the job because it was too hard for them. Karma must taste like a rotten Georgia peach.

And let’s not forget Russell Pearce, the Arizona State Senator behind SB 1070. His ass was recalled due to his divisive bill.

These last two examples remind me of a scene in Fight Club where Tyler Durden (played by Brad Pitt) abducts the chief of police who’s investigating his group. Tied and bound, the cop can’t help but to listen to Durden’s menacing words:

“The people you are after are the people you depend on. We cook your meals. We haul your trash. We connect your calls. We drive your ambulances. We guard you while you sleep. DO NOT F*CK WITH US!”

That’s us, folks. Obviously we’re not menacing (despite what white America might think), but I do think that as a whole, Latinos are realizing that we’re a sleeping giant on the verge of coming out of our slumber. Let’s hope that in 2012, with so much on the line (::cough:: presidential elections ::cough::), we make our presence known.

*Whether they’re successful at it is a wholly different matter. Out of the three, my personal favorite would have to be Univision News. While The Huffington Post Latino Voices does have a broader scope of content, I can’t shake the feeling that Arianna Huffington will do just about anything for a buck.

Fidel Martinez is the Managing Editor of Tu Vez.

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