The Afro-Latina actress from the smash-hit series Suits, Gina Torres, goes to the Alma Awards – an event that recognize the best American Latino contributions to music, television, and film – and has her identity questioned by a Telemundo reporter. The mistake is subtle, but if you look at the video, you will see that the Telemundo reporter does not expect Gina Torres to speak Spanish. After all, she is Black and not Latino, right? Wrong.
The one-drop rule of the American South never made its way down to Latin America; instead, there was a caste system based on the different hues of brown that came about from interracial marriages. In Latin America, racial categories are more fluid than they are in the U.S., thus one can identify as Afro-Colombian or Afro-Brazilian if one chooses.
But what happens, let’s say, when a black Cuban is born in the United States: is he/she, African-American, Latino, Black, all, or none? The one-drop rule still frames the way we see individuals, and marketers, like many people, do not know how to target this group. The easy route is to only place Afro-Latinos as African-Americans, but that strips them away from their linguistic and cultural richness.
One of the basic rules to creating loyal consumers is to cater to your target audience. Afro-Latinos are in an interesting position for advertisers, because they can be part of three different markets: the Afro-Latino niche market, the trillion-dollar Hispanic/Latino market, and the African-American market. A good way of starting an Afro-Latino-based market is by advertising by region. According to the 2000 Census, for example, there were 3 million Latinos who said they were Black; almost 2 million of them live in New York.
I assure you, since the year 2000 those numbers have gone up. But even if they are less in numbers compared to the Latinos with the more stereotypical look (black hair, tan skin, brown eyes, and straight hair), Afro-Latinos are making their presence felt. According to the article, “Afro-Latino youth can be a gateway for marketers“, Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban youth in the East Coast, “like their African-American counterparts, have the ability to set trends for other cultures as well as their own.” Their ability to blend into African-American and Latino spheres allows them to mix elements from both worlds to create new trends, music, identities, and cultures.
Here are some more influential and famous Afro-Latinos who were born and raised in the United States: Soledad O’Brien, Victor Cruz, Mariah Carey, Laz Alonso, Fabolous, Zoe Saldana, Carmelo Anthony, Kid Cudi, Rosario Dawson, and Prince Royce. On a local level, there is Los Rakas, a hip hop group of Afro-Panamanians based in Oakland, CA.
Marketing firms, this is an untapped market that is ready to be explored. Be the first to provide the correct brand value for Latinos in the United States, and maybe you will also tap into other unknown and profitable markets in the process. Just remember, Black is also Latino: Afro-Latino.
This post is also available in: Spanish