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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.
List of Illustrations
1. "Don't Panic, I'm Hispanic": The Trends and Economy of Cultural Flows
2. Knowledges: Facts and Fictions of a People as a Market
3. Images: Producing Culture for the Market
4. Screening the Image
5. Language and Culture in the Media Battle Zone
6. The Focus (or Fuck Us) Group: Consumers Talk Back, or Do They?
7. Selling Marginality: The Business of Culture
Posted October 30, 2001
A group's participation society through various spheres- consumer, political, etc., can define its standing within that society. It is with this mind that Arlene Davila attempts to dissect the complex world of Hispanic marketing and advertising. In Latinos, Inc., Davila sets a lofty goal: to investigate and analyze the creation of an essentialized Latino market by the advertising industry. The overall theme that is key to understanding Davila's research and conclusions is the notion that there is a gap between perception and reality, and between those who receive the images and those who create them. This chasm is what Davila explores throughout the book; we are constantly reminded that the perceptions and images of Latinos that dominate the marketing industry are far from reality. Businesses and corporations are eager to find and exploit new markets through whatever means necessary. To find a new, undiscovered, or underdeveloped market is thought to be key to an organization's success. As the Latino population began to grow and become more affluent than ever, the attractiveness of the market was undeniable. Latinos occupy a different niche than what marketers deem to be 'middle America,' the average white consumer. Because they seem to have different culture, mores, and traditions marketers find it easy to use these differences to sell products. The problem is, who determines what Latino 'culture' is? This is where Davila comes in. In this well-written piece, Davila flexes her in-depth knowledge of the industry as she answers questions of ethnicity and authenticity with the astute eye of an anthropologist. Many of the people who make the decisions with regard to Latino advertising are either not Latino or prone to make sweeping generalizations about all Latinos based on their own experiences. What we learn, however, is that Latinos are a very diverse group with varying skin shades, dialects, and origins whose 'culture' cannot be neatly packaged by the advertising industry. Davila begins with a description of how the Hispanic advertising industry came to be. Here we learn that the original Latino advertisers came from a very select group and were networked by a dizzying array of connections. Central to their influence, however, were Spanish television networks that served a two-fold purpose: to prime a Latino market and serve as an entry point for these advertising professionals. The early professionals got their experience in these stations, and then moved to the United States, where they were often marginalized with few resources in their offices, and often not given larger accounts if their appearance was not 'Anglo' enough. This discrimination toward the early advertisers was indicative of how general society felt (and continues to feel) about Latinos. In their quest for professional parity, these advertisers had to frequently create images that were not totally accurate portrayals of Latinos. Also, these positions were almost completely dominated by Cubans, who have had drastically different experiences than Latinos from other countries. We begin to see Davila's development of the chasm theme. Davila writes, A direct result of the Spanish-language-centered infrastructure of the U.S. Hispanic marketing industry is the ethnic division of labor whereby the Latin American corporate intellectuals from middle- and upper- class backgrounds rather than U.S. born Latinas generally dominate the creation and dissemination of 'Hispanic' images in this country¿ The industry craves highly educated, bilingual Hispanics whose ethnicity does not present a problem to Anglo clients and who can accurately represent and translate Spanish creative concepts for Anglo clients. (Davila 34, 35) Davila argues that the professionals who are charged with representing the Latino community are not representative of that community. Although the writing is dense at times, Davila does an excellent job of showing how this crWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.