Todo se transforma: thoughts on Latino leadership and change


Almost two years ago, I shared some thoughts regarding the topic of leadership and Latino communities. At the time, the Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project reported the results of a 2010 poll that indicated the U.S. Latino populace did not feel there existed a single individual that could be considered their national leader. The organization recently released the results of a new survey has that indicated similar data despite indications that also suggest a national Latino leader is needed. Ironically, these results have been released at a time when we in West Michigan are now experiencing a change in leadership within our own Latino community. Again, I feel the responsibility to address how Latino leadership can be engaged with both locally and nationally, and how non-Latino organizations can engage with both Latino communities and leaders regardless of changes that may seem daunting yet inevitable.

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Latino Branding Power awarded Hispanic Business of the Year

Left to right: Orlando Bonifacio, Salvador Lopez, Jonathan Barrera Mikulich, Gloria Lara, Angie Hanks, Veronica Ramirez

Left to right: Orlando Bonifacio, Salvador Lopez, Jonathan Barrera Mikulich, Gloria Lara, Angie Hanks, Veronica Ramirez

This past week, I received one of the greatest honors since I started Latino Branding Power just over two years ago. On Monday, March 25, at the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Banquet, I received the award for Hispanic Business of the Year in recognition for efforts with Latino Branding Power. It was an incredible honor to be recognized by my peers, the West Michigan Latino business community, and the many people who have supported me over the years.

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Latino Branding Power featured on Radio in Black and White

I was honored recently to have a guest spot on the West Michigan based show Radio in Black in White. The show, facilitated by Skot Welch and Rick Wilson, covers topics related to race, ethnicity, and cultural competence. Skot and Rick have many years of collective experience in these areas and will often delve into uncharted waters during their weekly broadcast discussions. I appeared during a segment of the show when they took a few moments to talk about Latino culture, Hispanic marketing, and the origins of Latino Branding Power. Listen to the clip below featuring my talk with Skot and Rick:

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Latino Branding Power debuts in Rapid Growth Media

Last week, I was happy to have a small feature in Rapid Growth Media, a local online weekly that reports about the arts, innovation, and economic development in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I was interviewed by journalist and creative strategist John Rumery about Latino Branding Power as well as some of my thoughts and insights about marketing to Latinos.

Check out the Rapid Growth Media feature here.

Latino Entrepreneurs: West Michigan’s best kept secret

I was honored last week to be invited to participate on a panel discussion with other esteemed West Michigan colleagues at Davenport University. The panel was part of a series by the university entitled Secrets of Success. We were asked, as Latino business owners, to talk about lessons learned, barriers overcome, and our thoughts about how other businesses and organizations can connect to the burgeoning Latino demographic. It was a privilege to be invited and I truly enjoyed the engaging conversations held with the audience and my fellow panelists.

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Latino youth education achievement gaps

Last month I wrote a post about a new human centered design initiative from the Keller Futures Center for improving resilience among Latino youth. Interesting enough, about the time we were completing the project, an article appeared in The Rapidian (a local Grand Rapids online news and information source) about the Grand Rapids Latino student achievement gap. Unfortunately, the statistics look bleak. According to the article post, Grand Rapids students in the eleventh grade are scoring at 18% proficiency in math and 32% in reading compared to statewide scores of 52% in math and 63% in reading. What are causes of these educational gaps and what can be done to close them?

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California vintner Amelia Ceja to deliver keynote at West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet

This afternoon, the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce will hold their annual awards banquet at the JW Marriott in downtown Grand Rapids. The coveted keynote address will be delivered by Amelia Ceja, owner and president of the Napa, California winery Ceja Vineyards (watch my video interview with Juan Tornoe, last year’s keynote speaker). Amelia Ceja has been recognized as “Woman of the Year” in 2005 by the California legislature for “breaking the glass ceiling in a very competitive business” and is the first Mexican-American woman ever to be elected president of a winery.

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What we can learn from the Day of the Dead

The video above is a montage from a vacation I took to Michoacán, Mexico during the holiday known as El Día De Los Muertos (The Day of the Dead). My mother and I made the journey together a few years ago and had a fantastic time. Although a celebration to honor the dead may seem a bit macabre from a Western influenced point of view, for the indigenous populations of Mexico and Central America, it is a very commonplace tradition. What can this fatalist inspired holiday teach us about the attitudes and values held by many Latino communities?

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Para tu salud – Health and wellness in Latino communities

Last month I participated in a focus group that sought to collect feedback from various local communities and residents. I was invited as part of a group that gave insights about health and wellness in relation to Latino communities in Grand Rapids and West Michigan. What I found interesting were the parallels between most of the participants’ answers when it came to the subject of access to health care for Hispanic families. Many that recognized Latinos in Michigan underutilized health care and it was often a challenge to connect Hispanic individuals with the value of ideas like preventative measures and health education. Listening to the feedback, I was inspired to consider how marketers can use cultural relevance to break down barriers between education and access to health care for Latino communities.

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More Latino families will soon be attending college graduation parties

Several years ago, my wife and I went to the college graduation party for a son of one of her close friends. The young man being honored had just finished a degree in criminal justice from Grand Rapids Community College and was the first in his family to pursue higher education. After proud family members and close friends gave him a standing ovation for his efforts, he composed himself and thanked everyone for attending. I recall the how the conversations that day revolved around him being a pioneer in his family. I also wondered if we would begin to see more Latinos like this young man pursuing higher education. A recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center would seem to answer my question. Perhaps more Latino families, like the one above, will soon be attending college graduation parities.

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Free advice for retailers

Last year I completed a professional certification in Hispanic Marketing Communications through  Florida State University. Since 2009, the F.S.U. Hispanic Marketing department has offered a course that is geared primarily to working professionals. It was a great opportunity to augment my credentials and I would highly recommend the course to others. For a final class assignment, students were asked to study a particular company or industry and develop a comprehensive Hispanic marketing strategy. For my assignment, I choose Grand Rapids based retailer Meijer, Inc.

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Marketing to Latinos in the Midwest

Photo credit: Juan Daniel Castro

This past month was the closing of a personal chapter for me. Since 2003, I have served on the board of directors for a West Michigan based non-profit called the Mexican Heritage Association (MHA). The MHA has been a proud institution in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan for over forty years. Its flagship event is the Fiesta Mexicana, a three day celebration of Mexican culture that coincides with Mexican Independence Day every mid-September. The photo above was taken just minutes before the ceremonial Grito de Independencia as a huge crowd of patrons covered the Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids.
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An interview with Juan Tornoe

At the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet, Latino marketing expert Juan Tornoe sat down with me for a few minutes before giving the keynote presentation that evening. Mr. Tornoe was very generous with taking time out of his busy schedule and answered questions about his involvement with marketing to Latinos, the 2010 Census, challenges and trends in Hispanic marketing, and insights about how Latinos use social media and the Internet. Please check out the video above of the interview.
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2010 Census: The browning of Michigan?

Carlos Sanchez of the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Last week, the Census Bureau released results of the 2010 Census for the remainder of US states including information for the state of Michigan. As predicted, national statistics saw a dramatic increase in growth for Hispanic populations over the last decade. The official toll for Latinos in the US surpassed some predictions, logging in at 50.5 million. Now, 1 in 6 people in the US are Hispanic and account for 16.3% of the nation’s population. For companies and organizations, these numbers will deliver noticeable implications for future efforts in marketing and outreach. Look for many brands to consider changes in their communication strategies, if they haven’t done so already.
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Honorary Latinos

Robert Mulligan

Sitting in front a trio of congas, Grand Rapids based musician and band leader Robert Mulligan counts off the rhythm to Todo Tiene Su Final. His band, the regionally recognized salsa orchestra Grupo Ayé, breaks into the Hector Lavoe classic while the audience below jumps onto the dance floor. The band delivers another stellar performance and leaves the dancers shouting for more. 

West Michigan attorney Michael Gardiner shakes hands with a family from Guanajuato, Mexico and then invites them into his office for a consultation meeting. Before delving into business, he spends a few minutes asking about the family’s hometown and shares his experiences of living in Mexico. Although Michael speaks fluent Spanish, a connection is made with the new clients that transcends language.

People like Robert and Michael represent what I refer to as “honorary Latinos”. They are individuals that live or work and have earned significant credibility within Hispanic communities even though they are both… well… non-Latino Caucasians. While their situations may not seem all that unique, some may find it unusual considering the perception of a cultural disconnect between Caucasians and populations that are commonly referred to as “people of color”. Earning credibility, I believe, is only a part of their stories.
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Census predictions for West Michigan? Dramatic Latino growth

Downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan

One goal I set out to do with Latino Branding Power was not only to report on culturally relevant insights nationally, but also locally from a West Michigan perspective. Although Michigan doesn’t boast a Latino population as large as other states like those in the Southwest, here in our corner of the U.S., we are eagerly awaiting the results of the 2010 Census

A recent article in the Grand Rapids Press attempts to take a look forward to the upcoming results and compares local stats from the previous 2000 Census to recent numbers from the bureau’s 2005-09 American Community Survey. Despite an overall decrease in Michigan’s population, the numbers indicate dramatic Hispanic population growth is expected within the state as a whole, West Michigan, Kent County, and the city of Grand Rapids.

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