This weekend a Mexican icon passed away. Juan Gabriel at 66 left us with a legacy of great music, a tender heart and the hope that with enough hard work we can achieve our dreams. Juan Gabriel was a household name. Like Fabuloso or Chocolate Abuelita, uttering his name brought up a clear brand and sound.
My mom loved Juan Gabriel. It might be why I knew him so well. Every time without fail when he was mentioned my mom would go on to talk about his story. I knew from very young that Juan Gabriel came from humble beginnings. His mother couldn’t afford to raise him and put him in a children’s home, he ran away from the home and started pursuing his talent and became a great artist that stood the test of time, and when he made it big he bought his mom the house she worked in as a servant. My mom always started crying at that part.
My mom and I were talking about JuanGa and couldn’t resist to start singing one of his songs “No Tengo Dinero”. It didn’t take much for my son to start dancing to the lyrics. It’s a catchy song. I just recently found out that the “new” song that I like by Mana “Hasta que Te Conoci” was originally composed by Juan Gabriel, and Personally “Amor Eterno” will move me so much that it brings me to tears. Just to iterate my point that Juan Gabriel was a big deal to us.
However I was thinking about it when I found out the news. I was actually scrolling through my Facebook feed when I saw a status referencing Juan Gabriel and that he’ll be missed. It was around 5pm. I opened my CNN app and found nothing, so I went to Univision and it was the headline story. CNN finally caught up and posted on their website about Juan Gabriel’s passing but it wasn’t until about 9pm.
It made me think “They still don’t get us”. The media has no real pulse on what’s important to Latinos in the U.S. The fact that they still lump us all together like we’re not a sum of parts that represent each country and background we claim stakes in. Just take a look at marketing towards Latinos.
It took a major U.S. news entity over 9 hours to report on a story when Latino news had already had the story hours before. Not only that but the story CNN had was condensed just to the amount of records he sold. The man was touring in the U.S. he had a series dedicated to his life and all they were able to say was how much he sold. A few hours might not seem like a lot but in today’s world of rapid news it means a lot to be leading the pack.
Just turn on Univision and compare it to what’s on CNN or Fox or any other major U.S. news station and the news you get will be vastly different. Univision will report on the latest development on immigration law, natural disasters in our home countries, and keep us up to date to what strikes a cord with our Latino identity (You’ll also get some wacky news like why Pokemon go will kill you but that’s a different story). Latinos represent the fastest growing minority population in the United States but if companies and news stations want us to pay attention to them they need to pay attention to what’s important to us.
Sometimes marketing heads think that if they make a commercial in Spanish and put actors that look Latino that they’ll get our loyalty. Except they forget that all of us speak Spanish a little differently, and well the tall skinny light skinned brown haired model you have representing Latinos actually only represents a small fraction of what we look like.
It’s getting better though, I remember Cheerios did a commercial a while back ago with a song by Fito Olivares. Toyota tried to attach its brand to our sense of nationalism to our home countries, and Quacker had a commercial of children and adults pronouncing it either KWAYKER or KWACKER. But media still has a long way to go to get a real pulse of the Latino community.
It’s not that we’re all the same and you can’t really use “Latinos” to predict behaviors for a huge sum of the population. But we have real buying power, and as much as companies try to pry our dollars and eyes to their product, some of us have hard loyalties somewhere else because it just gets us. And as long as the mainstream media lags behind the matters that are important to us, our dollars, our eyes, and our votes will go somewhere else.