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Dear CNN, Latinos speak English

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Many Latinos may be feeling wooed the wrong way these days.

“Looking to tap the wealth of U.S. Latinos, CNN is planning to introduce a Spanish-language programming service tailored for broadcast TV stations next year.

The service, CNN Latino, is being designed as an eight-hour programming block featuring news, documentaries, talk shows and lifestyle programming. It is expected to launch in late January in Los Angeles on independent station KBEH-DT Channel 63 and eventually be carried by TV stations in other cities. …

With CNN Latino, the company is attempting to diversify by providing a syndicated block of entertainment shows — not just news — to share in the increasing amount of advertising dollars being steered to Latino outlets. CNN’s goal is to compete with established Spanish-language networks.”

Cynthia Hudson-Fernández, the lady in charge at CNN en Español and the network’s Latino division, said the new programming is meant to court “bilingual Latinos … who feel 100% American and 100% Latino.”

It seems to me that if a network wants to slap the tag “Latino” onto a new line of programming geared toward bilingual Latinos, the network should know and understand who exactly they’re targeting. And while Latinos are probably the most diverse group on the planet, there are certain things true in general about them.

The jefa steering CNN’s Latino marketing strategy should know that as new Latinos are born and raised in the United States, each successive generation becomes increasingly English-dominant. And because there are more Latinos being born in the United States than arriving from Latin America, we can expect to see a mostly English-dominant Latino population in just a short while.

Such trends underscore one important point that all networks must make note of: the tags “en Español” and “Latino” mean two very different things.

Spanish is the immigrant language of the Latino community, which is why most Latinos try to preserve their Spanish skills as a sort of homage to their immigrant forefathers. The same has been true of most immigrant experiences throughout much of American history, from Eastern Europeans to Italians and Jews — each has tried to maintain the language tradition of their homeland while assimilating to American culture.

If so-called “Latino programming” is meant to truly target a Latino audience, it should be in English mostly, if not entirely so. Otherwise the network comes off looking out of touch with what it means to be Latino in America. (Just ask any native born Latino how patronizing it feels to be spoken to in Spanish by a non-Latino.)

Some networks have apparently received the memo.

In October, media giants ABC News and Univision announced they were teaming up to provide programming in English to a Latino audience. Early in the year, Comcast revealed it too would be launching its own entertainment network, El Rey, in January 2014 offering English-language programming aimed at Latinos. (Comcast also owns NBCLatino, an English-language news site geared toward Latinos.)

While I salute CNN’s latest efforts to tap into the U.S. Latino market, over 52 million strong and counting, CNN Latino looks like it’s going to be too “en Español” and not “Latino” enough.

If media companies want to launch networks aimed at capturing Latino dollars, the programming on such networks should be in the language most Latinos use and will continue to use more frequently as time passes.

And believe it or not, America — Latinos speak English.

(Exhibit A: this article)

About Hector Luis Alamo, Jr.

Hector Luis Alamo, Jr., is the associate editor at Being Latino and a native son of Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood. He received a B.A. in history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where his concentration was on ethnic relations in the United States. While at UIC, he worked first as a staff writer for the Chicago Flame and later became the newspaper's Opinions editor. He contributes to various Chicago-area publications, most notably, the RedEye and Gozamos. He's also a cultural critic for 'LLERO magazine. He has maintained a personal blog since 2007, YoungObservers.blogspot.com, where he discusses topics ranging from political history and philosophy to culture and music.

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.

Comments

  1. John DeSimone says:

    Very well written and, for this Italian, enlightening. I was curious about your thoughts on NUVO TV. Are they doing it “right?”

  2. Rodrigo says:

    Agreed. Seems Sra. Hudson-Fernández just can’t let go of the good old “Que Pasa USA” days.
    In my opinion, programming in Spanish is done best by Univision , Telemundo and it belongs there. After all, if you are a Latino who watches programming on these networks, it is highly unlikely you will tune in to some hip and modern show in Spanglish on CNN or any other major network.

    ABC has the right idea; a blended approach that will appeal to young Latinos born and raised in the States. But then again, these viewers assimilate so quick that I am not 100% sure it will work for these young turks. Unfortunately, the Latino culture and heritage slowly fades with each successive generation.

    An interesting take nonetheless…

    Gracias por la entrega. !

    Rod

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