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Insights: The Afro-Latino Ethnicity

I recently completed the Accelerator for Media Pros (AMP NYC) program, for business owners in media and entertainment, to help them scale and grow, and to contribute to the city’s local economy. My goal in participating in the program, was to develop a competitive brand positioning strategy for my company GALENT, as the source of authoritative insights on the Afro-Latino(a) market segment.

One question I sought to answer through my market research was, where did the all-encompassing term “Afro-Latin America” come from? Latino origin can be viewed as the heritage, nationality group, lineage, or country of birth of the person or the person’s parents or ancestors before their arrival in the United States. [1]

Afro-Latino(a)s are persons of African Descent born or whose parents or ancestors were born in Mexico, The Caribbean, Central and South American countries whose inhabitants speak a Romance language, Spanish, French or Portuguese. They share a long history of displacement and exclusion. Until a couple of decades ago, Afro-Descendants were not regularly included in the statistics of most Latin American countries, so their situations and needs remained mostly unknown or ignored. The past decades, however, have marked the beginning of a remarkable shift from this past. After decades of invisibility, Afro-descendants have been gaining greater recognition and voice, owing to the persistent work of their leaders and representative organizations.

Although each country has its own history and nuances, these factors largely shape the Afro-Latino(a) values and become a fundamental part of the Afro-Latino(a) “culture” they share here in the United States.

The broad regional concept “Afro-Latin America” appears to have originated in Brazil in the 1970s. Brazil, with a projected Afro-descendant population of 105 million people in 2015, has not only the largest share of Afro-descendants in the region, but the second largest in any country in the world (after Nigeria). [2]

A group of black socialist activists and intellectuals in the city of São Paulo were paying close attention to racial issues and struggles not just in Brazil but in Africa, the United States, and throughout the African diaspora. These activists, many of whom participated in the creation of the Movimento Negro Unificado in 1978, named their movement “the Grupo Afro-Latino-América”. When offered the opportunity to publish a regular section of articles and commentary, edited by the young journalist Hamilton Cardoso, in the leftist magazine Versus, they called the section “Afro-Latino-América.” Thus, was coined a paradigm-shifting concept that would eventually reverberate across the diaspora. (Reid Andrews) [3]

The idea of Afro-Latin America was introduced to the United States by political scientists Anani Dzidzienyo and Pierre-Michel Fontaine, both of whom were doing research in Brazil on black social and political movements. Dzidzienyo published his findings in a 1978 article on “Activity and Inactivity in the Politics of Afro-Latin America”; two years later Fontaine reported on “The Political Economy of Afro-Latin America.” Fontaine defined the term to include “all regions of Latin America where significant groups of people of known African ancestry are found.” [4]

The term “Latino” appeared on the census form for the first time in 2000, the question read, “Is this person Spanish/Hispanic/Latino?” [5] The newer term solved the problem created by the fact that Hispanic, refers to Spanish-speakers and thus excludes people of Brazilian descent. [6]

According to the National Association of Latino Independent Producers, “There’s no doubt that the intersection between Black and Latino runs deep, and yet the Afro-Latino experience remains largely invisible in mainstream media.[7] Marketers, advertisers and the media and entertainment industry cannot continue looking at diversity through only the broadest of categories, i.e., Hispanic. The one-size mentality overlooks how nuanced markets are, that’s because the one-size mentality overlooks people.[8] Today, many people despise the term “Hispanic,” given its connection to Spain and colonization and it erases important differences in race, culture, language and class. Those with African and indigenous roots often feel left out of conversations and celebrations under that label.[9]

Identity is nuanced, diversity exists within diversity, for instance, according to the Pew research Center, a quarter of U.S. Hispanics identify as Afro-Latino. Afro-Latino(a) consumers are looking to build loyalty with brands that properly represent their voice and authentic identity; while empowering their heritage. Therefore, we decided to serve the needs of the excluded, dismissed, ignored and underserved Afro-Latino(a) segment. Understanding the needs of the emerging Afro Latino(a) demographic is at the core of GALENT’s marketing niche.

As disruptive forces continue to upend traditional ways of doing business, participation in the Accelerator for Media Pros (AMP NYC) program, provided the tools to amplify our voice within the rapidly shifting industry of media and entertainment. It allowed us to develop a competitive brand positioning strategy to build an enterprise by serving the needs of the excluded, dismissed, ignored and underserved Afro-Latino(a) Population and position GALENT as the source of authoritative insights on the Afro-Latino(a) market segment and the gateway to the Afro Latino segment.

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