Book teaches the ABCs (and Ñ) of Latino culture

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By Pablo J. Sáinz (La Prensa San Diego)

Jim Estrada knows the Latino community. With almost 40 years of experience in marketing and public relations focusing on Latinos, Estrada has been able to learn to take the pulse of the largest minority group in the United States.

He began his career in San Diego, where he was a television news reporter, worked as a public relations specialist at San Diego County Council of Governments, and was in charge of marketing for the San Diego Trolley. Estrada is now the owner of Estrada Communications Group (ECG), based in Austin, Texas.

He recently put all the knowledge he has acquired about the Latino culture and market into a book, “The ABCs and Ñ of America’s Cultural Evolution: A Primer on the Growing Influence of Hispanics, Latinos, and mestizos in the USA” (Tate Publishing, 2013).

The book is a collection of essays about different aspects about Latino culture and history, from the Spanish conquest of Mexico to Latino voting rights.

Estrada will be visiting San Diego County on September 8th to promote his book. He’ll be here for a by invitation only “Tardeada and Book Signing” at the home of long-time friends Norma and Roger Cazares.

La Prensa San Diego talked to Jim Estrada about his book, and his vision of Latino culture and marketing. To learn more about Estrada and his work, visit www.estradaUSA.com.

LP: Your book covers a whole range of subjects in Latino culture and history. Why did you decide to make it as general as possible? You describe the books as a “primer” on Latinos.

Estrada: Creating cultural awareness and competency takes time and cannot be too daunting a task. Providing readers with the “basics”— the ABCs, as it were—and a rudimentary understanding—a primer—of the influence Hispanics, Latinos, and mestizos are having on them and their specific interests creates a sense of ease about learning. The ABCs and Ñ is a “primer” for people whose careers—or curiosity—require them to understand the Who? What? Where? When? and Why? of the largest ethnic segment of the U.S. population. This collection of essays provides readers with the basic knowledge of facts that can help them become better equipped in their efforts to reach out to, and effectively interact with, this fast-growing consumer, employee, student, taxpayer, and voter groups in the USA.

LP: Who is your target audience for the book?

Estrada: Actually, there are two targeted audiences for this book: the first is Latino families and students; the second is all those charged by their private and public organizations to establish positive relations with Latinos—from teachers and law enforcement personnel, to media and marketing practitioners, as well as others irresponsible for improving their organizations’ image among the nation’s largest and fastest growing consumers, employees, students, voters, and taxpayers.

LP: When I first read the title, I thought it was a business administration title, but then when I read it, I realized that it is a perfect balance of cultural insights that can be applied to any field.

Estrada: This collection of essays compiled for this book is intended to provide readers with the knowledge of never known and omitted facts that may help them become better equipped in their efforts to reach out to, and effectively interact with Hispanics, Latinos, and mestizos that are having cultural, economic, political, and social effects on the USA.

The book was written to educate readers about our nation’s lack of knowledge for the past, present, and potential influences by our country’s largest and fastest growing ethnic segment.

LP: Why is it important for all Americans to learn their ABCs and Ñ?

Estrada: The phenomenal rate of growth by Latinos is arguably the most significant demographic event in the history of our young nation; yet, a review of historical records, educational curricula, and media exposure finds most non-Hispanic whites—as well as a substantial number of the 52 million U.S.-born, naturalized and immigrant Hispanics—are unaware of the contributions Latinos have made to the growth and progress of our nation. In what seems like a blink of the eye, retailers, marketers, government entities, and public and private organizations have taken notice of Latinos and their incredible growth rate—as well as their potential consumer, social, and political power. Latinos had an annual purchasing power of approximately $1.2 trillion in 2012 and projected to grow to $1.5 trillion by 2015—an amount greater than the economies of all but eight countries in the entire world. They are already the majority of K-12 student enrollment in the nation’s two largest states: California and Texas. And, some 50 thousand Latinos turn 18 years of age each month become eligible to register to vote. It would have been easier to assimilate Latinos into U.S. society when their numbers were not as great. But after so many years of less than positive attitudes toward culturally distinct residents of Mexican, Puerto Rican and Cuban ancestry by a dominant Eurocentric society, the cultural gap has widened to the point that learning about the nation’s largest ethnic group must now be crammed into a short period of time.

LP: Do you think the general public and corporate America misunderstand Latinos? Why?

Estrada: Absolutely! There is no question the media and entertainment industries have projected a less than positive image of Latinos as well as those of other non-white, racial, ethnic, and immigrant groups. In contrast, the image of white European-Americans has been presented almost exclusively in a positive manner, from the rugged cowboy to generations of war heroes, and from crime fighter to superhero. There was no doubt in the minds of moviegoers, media and entertainment executives—and corporate sponsors—as to who were to be the “good guys” and the “bad guys.” Mass media has misrepresented Latinos to our nation’s mainstream Eurocentric society through acts of “commission” (stereotypic portrayals of Latinos in media and by historical revisionists); as well as acts of “omission” (absence of factual information related their contributions to our country) by the news media, entertainment industries, and questionable historical accounts.

LP: The book uses a lot of statistics and charts to back up your claims. What sources were you interested in using for the book?

Estrada: As a former news journalist and marketing consultant, I understand the need for accuracy and use of irrefutable sources to underscore the validity of my claims. The images and perceptions of Latinos in the USA have been indelibly etched in the minds of European Americans for over nearly a century and a half; disputing such long held attitudes must be well documented and beyond reproach. The works cited in the writing of this book are those that I felt were the most respected and unimpeachable sources.

LP: Do you have plans to translate the book into Spanish?

Estrada: Yes! We are already preparing and updating text for the second edition of the book. Inasmuch as it took more than nine years to finalize this first edition, it must be made available to young and old members of Latino families in both English and Spanish, if it is to have the positive effects I intended.

LP: Your professional background is in communications. You were a television reporter, and then in marketing and public relations. Does “Hispanic Marketing” exist?

Estrada: The old adage of “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door” required innovation and quality by the maker. But if today all “mousetraps” are basically the same, innovation and quality may no longer be as critical as marketing of one’s products and services to an increasingly diverse consumer. Adapting to the demographic changes of our nation’s marketplace has become a major concern for businesses and nonprofit organizations looking for a competitive advantage. Latinos are ready, willing, and able to invest their consumer and membership dollars in those organizations that genuinely want them as consumers. Adapt or perish remains one of nature’s inexorable imperatives.

LP: Why is it important for companies and government agencies to know how to reach Latinos?

Estrada: Those companies—and public agencies—that find themselves in the process of playing catch-up with their competitors must find ways to become culturally relevant and competent if they wish to improve relationships with their fastest growing stakeholders. Today, more and more Latinos judge companies, organizations and agencies by their “social responsibility” track record—often as much as the quality and cost of their products or services. In our nation’s current distressed economy it is critical that the private and public sectors reflect the communities in which they do business. Expanding the employee work-force and governing boards to mirror the targeted customer or population base will help increase confidence and trust. The path used by consumers and providers of products and services is a two-way street that must be kept clear of obstacles to allow for easy and frequent access. Diversifying your organization’s personnel with people that reflect your stakeholders and customers ensures the path to your door provides easy access.

LP: Finally, Jim, what do you remember the most about San Diego?

Estrada: The treasured times shared with my family: my sons, parents, brothers, and sister; my friends, colleagues, mentors, and supporters; the incredible number of professional, personal, and community service opportunities that were afforded me; and the countless positive experiences of having lived in “America’s Most Beautiful City.”

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Categories: NGL News

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