As a first-generation Latina in the U.S., I often hear, “Really, you don’t look Cuban.” Maybe it’s my light skin or my name. “Estacie” doesn’t exactly translate very easily. Perhaps it’s the other person’s familiarity with Cuban actors or musicians. Maybe it’s the way that I speak English.
I often respond in Spanish “Si, soy Cubana,” knowing I am possibly opening myself up to a language duel—or quizas muchas preguntas.
You see, the thing about language proficiency is that it isn’t a proxy for language preference or choice. Meaning: how and when I choose to speak Spanish or how well you might think I speak English, isn’t representative of my personal language preference for connection. For nearly three-quarters of Latinos who live in the U.S., speaking Spanish is an un privilegio, a choice and not a necessity.
What does engagement actually look like? Today’s Latinos demand engaging, new, culturally-relevant, and nuanced content via trusted platforms that respect the U.S. Hispanic experience. This is so much more than just serving up “Spanish-language content”. Our collective desire for authentic, meaningful content is what makes this a bridge to culture. It allows us to be visible and heard in our content. It’s not easy to find the right combination of words and phrases outside the Spanish language environment.
Let me explain. Much of the content Latinos are seeking is in Spanish, regardless of their “primary” language. In our spring 2021 radio panel, 74% of Hispanics listen to Tejano music. 40% of Latino Urban listeners are English-speaking. 69% of Spanish Tropical Format listeners identify as bilingual. Spanish language content doesn’t only draw in Spanish speakers. The phenomenon can also be seen on television, as a Spanish-language TV show topped the list of all streaming content in 2021 for all languages.
Hispanic viewers to Spanish content were responsible for 37% of the total impressions in May 2021. That’s more than 50 million impressions, showing how Spanish language programming delivers more than in language programming—it delivers a world where Hispanics, of any language proclivity, find relevance and community.
And if those examples of the power of Spanish language content to deliver engaged English speakers aren’t enough to convince you, look to social media to see the growing Spanish language presence all over English speakers’ social media feeds. Young U.S.-born Hispanics are influencing today’s most newsworthy and fun trends, by sharing Spanish-language content ushering its cross over to general market pop culture. Late last year the popular “no me importa” remixes on TikTok or the “Mi Mujer Me Gobierna” dance remixes on Instagram Reels, each with millions of views flooded your English-language feed. This is happening because the meaning—that specific sentiment—can only be expressed in Spanish; so we share it leading to its consumption by English and Spanish speakers alike.