If you have made frequent use of social media in the last few years, you have undoubtedly come across the “LATISM” acronym a number of times.
LATISM stands for Latinos in the Social Media and is often used as a hashtag on Twitter: #latism.
Many in social media view LATISM uncritically and embrace it as an all-in-one remedy for bridging the technological divide between Euro-Americans and the so-called “Pan-Latino” community.
This media collective of pan-Latino Hispanics, which largely consists of east coast Puerto Ricans and Cubans, stand to gain much sought after attention and web traffic for their affiliated news organizations.
A closer analysis reveals some troubling concerns for the Chicana/o-Mexicana/o community and the struggle for self-determination. LATISM is nothing more than an extension of the Richard Nixon Hispanic politics of the 1970s that at one level neutralized the Chicano Movement.
In the early 1970s, the Richard Nixon Administration, with the help of the Hispanic/Latino “leadership,” waged a political and cultural war on the Chicano Movement.
The Nixon Administration and the Hispanic/Latino “leadership” were committed to containing the radicalism of self-determination embedded in the word Chicano, which ultimately helped unify barrios throughout Aztlán into a social movement, through the bureaucratic creation of the Eurocentric label “Hispanic.”
The label “Hispanic” neatly packaged the Chicano, Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Central American into a Pan-Hispanic/Latino consumer group ready to be swallowed by the bottom feeders of Madison Avenue and its Euroamerican and Hispanic/Latino corporate allies.
The label “Hispanic” diluted the historical legacy of existence (i.e. original inhabitants), dignity, identity and space (i.e. land ownership) of Chicanas/os as Indigenous peoples to the land.
The Pan-Hispanic/Latino melting-pot movement attempted to erase our history and identity, while neutralizing the Chicano movement.
What Is LATISM?
LATISM was founded in 2009 as a “501(c)4 nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to advancing the social, civic and economic status of the Latino community.”
LATISM is described by its founders as the “most powerful and influential network of Latinos/as involved in social media [that] engages in digital communities to ensure that online discourse more accurately reflects the rich diversity of thought, heritage and culture in our changing society.”
Furthermore, LATISM purports to “provide capacity-building training, information, resources and networking opportunities.”
LATISM is allegedly committed to the research and analysis of “Latino use of online social networks to inform decision-making by businesses, nonprofits, policymakers and others seeking to reach or mobilize Latinos.”
On the surface, it would appear that LATISM is just another of the thousands of “grass-roots” start-ups trying to find its niche in American society but on the contrary, LATISM is a business venture with strong corporate ties that seek to manipulate demographics by treating people not as communities but as markets to be penetrated for their raw consumer purchasing power.
The creation of the AstroTurf “organization” is a reminder that there is a cultural war of position taking place not only in academia but in the ever-growing battlefield that is social media where corporate marketers are seeking to capitalize on what is considered a hefty $1.38 trillion in “Hispanic Purchasing Power,” according to the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Chicanas/os-Mexicanas/os represent around 63% of the so-called “pan-Hispanic/Latino” population as of 2010 in the U.S. Census.
There are several processes by which LATISM functions in order to tap into the growing “Pan-Hispanic/Latino market.” The first of which is a technique known as Inbound Marketing, which is a four step process designed to focus on pulling people together who share common goals and ideals towards a specific company and/or a product.
One of the best known Latino inbound marketers is Julio Varela of Latino Rebels. From their own description: “The Latino Rebels are a collective of social media influentials, bloggers, journalists, poets, writers, producers, photographers, and marketers.”
In a web profile of Julio Varela, he admits that the “Rebels” took a red star with five points, a symbol sometimes associated with communism, as its icon but Varela insists that the choice had nothing to do with a political ideology and that he picked it from a crowd-sourced design effort simply because it “felt cool and edgy.”
This brings us back to inbound marketing. What is inbound marketing based upon? It is based on four principles: Attract, Convert, Close, and Delight.
For LATISM, and other marketing entrepreneurs, it’s not just about attracting any kind traffic to their blog or site, but it must the right traffic. In order for LATISM to know who the right traffic is online, they must know the “buyer persona,” that is, they must know each “customer” or “market” inside and out.
Ideally, to “attract” a buyer persona online requires a blogging account that “speaks to” and “answers” questions of potential customers and markets.
It is this scenario that gives rise to AstroTurf organizations, such as Latino Rebels, LATISM, and others intent on capitalizing on the “Hispanic” purchasing power.
By exploiting Mexican & Chicano cultural iconography, Latino Rebels and LATISM, for instance, set out to “convert” visitors to their various blogs through the usage of “Call-to-Action” propaganda.
Calls to action must be enticing enough to generate leads, such as being sent to a “landing page” for a “social justice” cause. Once a marketer has a lead, they can then use it in order to begin a conversation with any online visitor. This conversation can be done through Twitter or Facebook.
These calls-to-action can then lead to filling out forms, whereby online visitors sent to a website will enter their information, which then goes into a centralized database, that the marketers can use as a contact marketing to optimize future interactions and sales with their new “customer” base.
The third step in the process is known as “close,” which the marketing team must use in order to turn leads into customers. For instance, a “closing” tool could be “marketing automation,” whereby a marketer would tailor their tweets and webpage messages to reflect the interests of online visitors.
The final step in the inbound marketing process is to “delight.” To delight is to continue to engage with your new customers by upselling their customer base into happy promoters of the company’s products: hence the hashtag #latism, for instance.
Inbound marketing turns strangers into customers. “It empowers marketers to attract visitors, convert leads, close customers, and delight promoters.”
Latino Rebels and LATISM, most recently, put one of their inbound marketing schemes into action during the 2014 Cinco de Mayo commemoration.
Latino Rebels through their various marketing branches concocted a social media campaign on Twitter with the hashtag #CincodeFallo, which was meant to address corporate promotion of Cinco de Mayo as a beer consumption and “fiesta” day.
On Cinco de Mayo, MSNBC’s “Way to Early” with Thomas Roberts featured his correspondent, Louis Burgdorf, in a sombrero drinking tequila that was obviously intended to demean the Chicana/o-Mexicana/o community. “Happy Cinco de Mayo. Let me just take a shot here to get the thing started,” Burgdorf said before appearing to take a drink. “Ole!”
And right on cue, a social media campaign by Latino Rebels and their marketing friends was begun to issue a “call-to-action” to get MSNBC to apologize for their racist depiction of Cinco de Mayo.
Hugo Balta, the president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, said in a written statement, “This is simply the worst example I have seen of a discriminatory stereotypical portrayal of any community by any media. The fact that this was done by a news organization is abominable. This wasn’t a chance occurrence. This was a planned segment where many decision-makers at MSNBC’s ‘Way Too Early’ program agreed on the content and execution which concluded on what was seen nationwide.”
Consequently, MSNBC and Roberts “apologized.”
Hook, line and sinker – the “Pan-Hispanic/Latinos” were declaring victory and patting themselves on the back for “standing up” to racism. As such, many of the Latino Rebels followers were “converted” and “delighted” by their phantom “Rebeldia.”
And you would think that this was the end of the story. But the reality is that while MSNBC was appearing to “apologize” for their racism, lost in all the inbound marketing schemes concocted by the Latino Rebels, LATISM, and their Hispanic marketing friends was the fact that one of their own, Adrian Carrasquillo, was writing the same racist nonsense for BuzzFeed.
Adrian Carrasquillo’s “20 Dos And Don’ts Of Cinco De Mayo” was hypocrisy and inbound marketing at its best. On the one hand, Latino Rebels, Hugo Balta and their marketing friends were making a case against MSNBC for their Cinco de Mayo “gaffe,” yet somehow didn’t lift a finger when one of their own began SHITTING once again on our community’s history, culture, and legacy.
It wasn’t so long ago that the Latino Rebels were crying racism and foul when Coors was going to be part of the Puerto Rican parade, yet somehow they all remained silent when Carrasquillo promoted a racist and distorted view of Cinco de Mayo and promoted getting “wasted” on the holiday.
As expected, Hugo Balta, though prompted multiple times on Twitter, did not say anything about this. And it was forgotten as quickly as it began. Various Hispanic/Latino websites collected their self-generated traffic and people moved on. But nothing has changed.
This media collective of pan-Hispanic/Latinos stand to gain much sought after attention and web traffic for their affiliated news and other organizations. We must continue to be vigilant and always be ready to defend our dignity against both Euroamerican and Hispanic/Latino exploiters.
We will explore just how deep the rabbit hole goes in a follow-up article on LATISM.
— Notes from Aztlán