A year ago at this time, I was in Puerto Rico enjoying the holiday season with family. One night, we experienced a holiday tradition known as a Parranda. During a parranda, friends and family will gather at the front door of a local home and sing traditional Christmas songs. Eventually the guests are invited in for more singing along with food and drink. The parranda will make its way through the neighborhood stopping at more homes and gathering people along the way. As you can see from the video above, we had a lot of fun participating in the parranda. In additional to being a popular holiday tradition, can the idea of a parranda help to create Puerto Rican unity online through social media?
Marketing and social media expert Giovanni Rodriguez recently wrote a column in Forbes where he compared the vast social networks of Latinos with the traditional holiday parranda in Puerto Rico. Rodriguez sees a solution to the talent drain that continues to have a negative impact on the Puerto Rican talent base. Currently, a high number of Puerto Rican immigrants move to the U.S. mainland for opportunities and take their talents and resources with them. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, there are now more Puerto Ricans living on the U.S. than on the island commonwealth of Puerto Rico itself. Although sympathetic to those who desire to improve their lives through immigration, Rodriguez suggests social media has the potential to virtually pool the talents of Puerto Ricans both in the U.S and on the island. The intent would be to use social media to exchange ideas and create actionable initiatives to help improve conditions for all Puerto Ricans. He explains:
“Most social tech projects that succeed start with small, experimental efforts to connect people who can actually get things done and then later teach others how to do it. We call them early adopters, and the really good ones later become mentors. It would not take too much to get a network of exiles and islanders going on a small scale and then bring others in.”
Just like the parranda, where friends and family travel from house to house, gathering participants, social media networks have the potential to gather individuals of similar interests and concerns. Rodriguez continues:
“In fact, our history of moving back and forth between the US and the island may have sharpened our senses and stoked our needs to stay connected. Now might be a good time to flex those social muscles. And with Christmas coming round the corner, it might be time to reimagine the parranda and ask who is knocking on the door and who is on the other side.”
I appreciate Rodriguez’s metaphor of the parranda and hope that his ideas will come to fruition. I would expand the use of metaphors even further. In Mexico, we have a holiday tradition called the Posada where friends and families travel from house to house as a symbolic journey of Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging. Participants will sing traditional carols and eventually arrive at a particular home for a final celebration, symbolizing the holy family’s eventual destination. Like the posada that travels to various homes, many Latin American immigrants also find themselves in transit in search of a place to call home. With human capitol both here in the U.S. and in Latin America, can social media provide the “home” base for the exchange of resources and ideas between nations?
Perhaps there are examples that already indicate this aforementioned potential. In a book review post earlier this year, I wrote about a case study from online Hispanic marketing expert Joe Kutchera’s recent publication Latino Link. MedioTiempo.com, a soccer website originally developed for fans in Mexico, found they had earned a strong following of online visitors in the U.S. – Mexican transplants that were seeking to keep up with their favorite teams back home. The facilitators of MedioTiempo recognized the potential of these inadvertent connections and were able to capitalize on their patronization. When content is of interest and relevant, and delivered with value, connections can be made that cross boundaries. How can the above example inspire us to consider other activities and initiatives?
This year as we enjoy the holiday season with friends and family, consider those that may not be with us geographically and how we can together forge better relationships and alliances with the online tools we now have at our fingertips. We know the potential of our unique Latino social dispositions and we continue to use them to our advantage. Now is our time to take the next steps and use social media to improve our communities.
Thank you to Mr. Giovanni Rodriguez as the inspiration for this post and to all those who continue to push boundaries through their social efforts online. I wish you all a happy and safe holiday season and a prosperous new year. –Jonathan