Los Niños, Las Niñas, and the Hispanic Family Puzzle?

11 Oct 2004|Felipe Korzenny

Maria Hernandez arrived in the US 15 years ago when she was 20 years old. She came illegally from Mexico to join her boyfriend, Juan, who had preceded her. He came 2 years earlier and learned a lot about how to live in the US. Juan taught Maria much about what products to purchase, where, and introduced her to new customs he developed in those two years. Juan and Maria soon had a baby girl, Martha.

When Martha was 3 years old she got twin brothers, Mario and Miguel. At 7 years of age Martha and her younger brothers spoke the Spanish their parents taught them. Martha also learned English at school and when playing with kids in the neighborhood. The kids watched Spanish language TV with their parents in the evening, but during the day they watched English language shows. They learned a lot from those shows, including a lot of their English. Juan and Maria both worked and earned a good enough income to qualify for a home loan. They purchased their first home. That was one of their dreams.

Juan and Maria thought they would like to have some of the “abuelitos” (their own parents and the grandparents of Martha) join them so they could enjoy their company, but also they could help by being at home with Martha and her two brothers while they were at work. Soon the household was composed of 2 parents, 2 grandparents, and 3 children. Each of them had a different level of proficiency in English and in Spanish.

The decisions about what to eat, what to drink, what movie to see, what car to buy, and many others were made by means of family discussions. Since all of them shared the consequences of most purchases, all had an interest in the decisions. The kids became very important in product decision making because they were the best informed about what is available in the market place. When Martha turned 12 and her brothers 9, they had an important influence in at least 60% of the purchases relevant to the family. Their parents and grandparents listened to them with respect because these kids just “knew more.”

Maria and Juan also tended to indulge their kids quite a bit because they wanted the children to enjoy what they did not have when they were young. In many ways these kids grew up prematurely for US standards but they grew up happy and loved. When the kids were teens they wanted what all teens want except that they felt proud when Hispanic stars became popular and the “Americans” would look up to Hispanics.

These kids grew up in a cultural conundrum but with pride. In their early adulthood they became good citizens and in many ways reclaimed a lot of their Hispanic heritage that had been diluted during their teen years. Some enlightened marketers that understood the trajectory of this archetypal family, did well with the millions of families like them.

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