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Keeping up with the Garcías – why some Latinos are obsessed with shopping

The Holiday Season is in full swing. The decorations are up, the Christmas trees have been lit and, although Jesus is the reason for the season, it’s shopping time in America! The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates that this year’s holiday sales will increase by 4.1 percent, reaching $586 billion dollars in spending. Latinos will account for a large chunk of that spending – after all, our purchasing power is at 1 trillion dollars. Looking at these figures got me thinking about how so many Latinos love to shop, not only during the Holidays, but also year round.

In all fairness, I can’t speak for all Latinos (although I do know Latinos from different countries who are shopaholics), but I know for certain that plenty of my fellow Puerto Ricans are obsessed with shopping. Shopping is almost like a competitive sport and the winner is whoever buys the trendiest clothes, flashiest car, shiniest bling, and latest gadgets. It’s not only about looking good and having things; it’s about looking better and having more things than everyone else.  This snobbish attitude affects everyone, regardless of social class. In fact, sometimes lower income individuals are so intent on keeping up appearances, they’d rather get behind on rent, utilities and other expenses directly tied to their livelihood in order to stay in the competition.

Flashy Latinos definitely know how to prioritize their investments; for example, they prefer to have a luxury car than a nice house because more people get to take a look at what they’re driving than where they live. They also shop for brand names, even if it means purchasing knockoffs, just to enhance the illusion of high social status. Thankfully, and probably because my dad is half Jewish (that’s right, a stereotype at someone else’s expense for a change!), my parents taught my siblings and me to be frugal and live within our means.  When I first moved to the United States, I noticed that Americans aren’t as concerned as Latinos about these things, especially when it comes to clothing and cars. They actually spend most of their income on housing expenses.

Interestingly, and most likely driven by these cultural differences and the struggling economy, it looks like the shopping behavior of U.S. Latinos is starting to deviate from the retail consumption patterns that are prevalent in their countries of origin. Latinas in particular are apparently becoming the new queens of smart shopping. When compared to Caucasian and African American women, Latinas are doing more research before buying and searching for discounts. So even though they will most likely continue to shop a lot, Latinos in the U.S. may be learning how to spend their money more wisely. Maybe eventually the competition will be about who nabs the best bargains; that will become the new status symbol.  If that’s the case, I might be up for a little friendly competition.

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. No tengo dientes, pero si tengo un systena de audio para la casa a todo dar!!! Y también rims para las llantas del carro.

  2. We have become more educated consumers. There is no doubt about that.

  3. If Latinos started shopping wisely then Toys r us and the video game market would go chapter 11!

  4. Good..just stop matching your sneakers to your t-shirts..this here is a good start.

  5. Are we yes, how fast…slow

  6. I find the 28 LIKES and the following excerpt (“In fact, sometimes lower income individuals are so intent on keeping up appearances, they’d rather get behind on rent, utilities and other expenses directly tied to their livelihood in order to stay in the competition.) REALLY disturbing. I’m not sure if that practice is exclusive to low income Latinos….BUT anyone that chooses to operate in that way has decided they are no longer accountable for themselves. The whole content of the article was disturbing. If even 50% was accurate and people “LIKED” it because they agreed then the Latino community has some serious work to do. I just hope the “LIKES” were for the closing statement where there was almost a positive spin applied.

  7. adding to what you said, I am in my second year of college and during high school I noticed that all the “cool” Hispanic kids had like the best cloths and all the girls, and now they are high-school drop-out. moral of the story, make sure you go to school for school and not for popularity.

  8. José M. Mora III, this is in response to your comment. First of all, I don’t say it’s exclusively a “low income” thing, it happens with Latinos of all social classes. However, low income people, who obviously find it hard to stay in the game, DO sometimes prefer to get behind on basic necessities in order to keep up with appearances. I personally know A LOT of people like that. Is it disturbing? You bet it is! But it’s a reality, and I think that’s where the “likes” come in. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should know someone like that. The message of the article is precisely that this is disturbing and should not be so. But fortunately, at least Latinos in the U.S seem to be breaking away from those consumption patterns a bit, in the sense that they are becoming smarter shoppers and looking for deals and bargains. This is not to say that they aren’t shopping as much, but at least they are being smarter about how they spend their money. Lastly, I think HUMANITY as a whole has a lot of work to do! Thanks for your comment.

  9. I don’t agree that Latinas are becoming “smarter shoppers”, they are just looking for “gangas”. That does not make you a “smarter shopper” if you are still spending more than you can afford.

  10. But if you are shopping within your means, you are being a smart sbopper by looking for deals. Obviously, people who want to shop and shop when they can’t afford to are being foolish.

  11. Taina – not sure, but we may be splitting hairs here. I referenced low income b/c of your statement that I quoted and the article was written with respect to Latinos. My question (or actually thought) was that this may not be exclusive to low inclome Latinos…it goes beyond Latinos. Anyway, it was a good article and thank you for confirming what I already got from it…that you also find it disturbing. I know its disturbing from witnessing it from family & friends almost daily. A few of these folks (not all) are recipients of public assistance who always champion the cause of increased benefits. My frustration with that is this – how can you expect or want anyone to do more for few than you are not willing to do for yourself??? I hope you’re right about choosing better purchases but Frank Aquino touches on the key issue when he wrote….”That does not make you a “smarter shopper” if you are still spending more than you can afford.”.

  12. I say in the article that it’s in general, not specific to low income people. However, the quote you make reference to, is something I’ve seen myself; people who are tight for money but still shop, even if it means getting behind on bills. And you’re right, this doesn’t affect only Latinos, but I focus on our people because, well, this is about being Latino! Lol. And I agree with Frank too (he’s my husband btw!), if you’re broke, you’re not being smart if you’re living beyond your means, regardless if you’re shopping for deals or not!! Eso se cae de la mata! ;)

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