MEXICO CITY - Kitelab, the Mexico City market research company, conducted a survey that has tremendous implications for understanding how U.S. Latino communities perceive themselves. Underlying the research is knowledge that Latinos will represent a $1.3 trillion consumer market by 2012.
The research found that Hispanic social evolution has accelerated in taste, customs and practices.
For instance, Kitelab claims that three simultaneous generations are at play all the time. This means immigrant stereotyping is a mistake because it is like presenting them as less integrated than they really are. It's partly an error to pose nostalgic themes about "back home," when most feel they are already home.
Instead, on the whole, a quest for "authenticity" is taking place. Let's say "validation" because most people are concerned with how their life story squares with the larger society, where they stand as consumers, and what the future holds in everyday realities.
Ties and responsibilities elsewhere are not broken lightly. In 2010, $21.3 billion in remittances were sent to Mexico. So where does this revenue come from? Long workdays and small enterprises.
Sixty-five percent of those responding said they were willing to work extra hours, compared to 56 percent of non-Latinos who were asked the same question. Others started small businesses. Between 2003 and 2008, Hispanic businesses grew by 43 percent compared to 14.5 percent for others.
The emerging picture is that of a population with a three-generation path, seeking authentication for the life journey they are on, who work disproportionately hard and long, and seek economic self-reliance through enterprise.
The rubber meets the road when advertising and political electioneering try to interpret trends and data. Glenn Llopis makes this point in Forbes.com. He says business and political leaders are having "cultural intelligence" trouble. They just don't get it. It's not something they can buy but must have experience to understand.
Llopis points out that influential business and political leaders are not assimilating the essentials staring them in the face. He also implies they aren't up to date with U.S. society as it is now, What kind of national leadership is that?
It's something to consider because too many self-satisfied operatives are currently using a few raw numbers and some percentages to declare they already know election outcomes based on Hispanic demographics.
It's true Latinos account for more than half of U.S. population growth. They are registering to vote at a rate six times greater than the general population and turning out to vote five times more, according to the U. S. Hispanic Leadership Institute.
Sam Stein in the Huffington Post quotes Barack Obama's 2008 campaign deputy director for the Latino vote Carlos Odio, as saying Latinos are the Democrats' "secret weapon." That is a tiresome way of declaring Hispanics are President Obama's pawns and less a constituency with its own aspirations.
The question worth asking is, what have you done to warrant returning you to office? Not what have the Republicans done, but you and the Democrats.
Democratic partisans should also know that some places like Texas became Republican and reactionary because the Democratic Party, not unlike now, was unresponsive to democracy and Hispanics. This was not a failure by Latinos but the failure of rip-and-run Democrats.
Most of all, President Obama's partisans need to understand that the Latino vote is neither a pawn nor a potential. It is a time-proven key player in presidential outcomes since 1960. It has gotten bigger and stronger since that time.
It would help for the instant Hispanic experts to spend an evening reading one of a half-dozen good books on the subject. They might then understand how Democrats can lose with a winning hand.
Real politics is not for gambling addicts holding a pair of dice. A the Kitelab study tells us, it is about life and living and perceiving the whole casino.
Jose de la Isla writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.