Two weeks ago, Google, not one to be known for its incredible diversity, launched a new domain specially for Latinos, a world away from the .coms, .nets, and .orgs, made by (most likely) non-Latinos for Latinos. What ensued were debates on the initiative, and a host of recycled memes about the name. Today, HuffPost Live weighed in on the issue. In the spirit of full disclosure, one of our favorite Latino Rebels, Charlie Vázquez, took part in the conversation. We had to share the highlights:
1. Latinos are quite diverse (gasp!) and have incredibly diverse voices.
Esta se cae de la mata, but I found it greatly ironic to have such diverse voices discussing whether a monolithic domain targeting Latinos that does not really unpack what this audience means is necessary. Some supported the new domain. Ana Roca Castro, founder of Latino’s in Tech Innovation & Social Media, saw the move as a great way to communicate with Latino audiences and identify Latino businesses, “I think it was a very good idea…The dot com domains are running out. That’s a simple fact. So we’ll need to become more creative…We’ll need to look for new sources and expand the space in internet. Since we need to do that, let’s look to these creative ways of targeting specific demographics, and in this case it’s the Latino community.” Beyond making us wonder about what other niche groups will soon earn their own domains (.puppylover? .iheartgreenland?), Castro’s words confirm that some Latinos have indeed taken to .soy.
Others, like HuffPost Latino Voices’s Editor, Carolina Moreno, and Latino Rebel’s, Charlie Vázquez, thought the move useful for some, but mostly unnecessary. Moreno asserted at the onset of the segment, “When you look at .soy, you kind of think about…is this segregation or is this integration? Is the Latino community becoming a part of the big picture, or is it getting its own picture? And I think that part of the problem is that…you want to make sure you are part of the American population, and you are being approached in the same way. Not necessarily in a different language or with such drastic different technique or domain.”
Just the fact that this conversation happened underscores the question driving the debate about .Soy—is such a domain truly necessary?
2. Latinos are not a monolith—Take 1,000,000
It’s difficult to establish this point without seeming like we are repeating ourselves, broken record style. Still, if there’s anything this .Soy move has shown is that the idea of a homogenous Latino audience still reigns supreme. We may still live in an age where people believe there’s such a thing as a formula to target Latinos as a nondescript mass.
What’s worse, if this discussion (which to be fair only involved four people) was any indication, we even believe this ourselves. In fact, when defending the domain, Ana Roca Castro indicated, “We have to make sure that any initiative that comes out looking at the Latino market, we don’t only embrace it, we become part of it. Within it, we can make a lot of changes….we need to support each other… If I’m looking for the Latino communities, I’m going to advertise in the telenovelitas because that’s where my demographic is…”
Therein lies the problem. Beyond the problems embedded in the suggestion that Latinos must support any old crap made by (or in the case of .soy, made /for/) Latinos, Latinos are not all Spanish speaking, telenovelita watching, salsa-dancing consumers. We come in all shapes and colors. While my mom fiercely watches En Otra Piel, I’m more of a Law and Order kind of girl. Moreno said it best, when she asserted, “Latinos come in all different shapes, colors. We go all the way from the U.S./Mexico border all the way to the Chilean Patagonia…There are too many, too many different intricacies that come into Latino identity…” To which we add the Spanish speaking Caribbean as well, and perhaps even the rest of the world nowadays.
The challenge for any brand, be it Google or any new kid on the block, is to get that. And I mean /really/ get that. Move from there. One has to wonder whether .soy would even exist had someone really taken the time to digest that small, simple detail.
3. Segregation, digital or not, is not the answer
One of the biggest critiques that has been hauled at .Soy is that it’s Hispandering on steroids. While it’s too soon to understand the decision process behind Google’s move, and whether the move is even a wise way to speak to Latinos, it’s about time we put an end to the era of pigeonholing an entire group. In keeping with the fact that not all Latinos estan cortados por la misma tijera, it’s important for brands to recognize that Latinos see themselves as part of many other groups that may or may not reflect a specific ethnic and cultural identity. We are not only Latinos, we are also Americans. Trying to separate us from that may, and most often does, backfire.
This cuts both ways. As much as we want to reach other Latinos with our business and with our voices, we also want to reach beyond them. I can’t imagine hosting LalaboyPR on .Soy despite the fact that an essential component of who we are, of our brand, of our services, center on our Latinidad. We are more than that. (We stand for the alternative, for the Millenials, for the off-the-beaten path brand). I want to be able to speak to more than Latinidad. Charlie Vazquez explained it best, saying “When someone goes into business, and they buy a website, they are not necessarily doing business within the world from which they are coming from. We are living in a rapidly globalizing world, so for a Latino to start a business and to be locked under the constraints of a .soy profile doesn’t make any sense when you are trying to communicate with the world…a business owner would want to have a dialogue with as many people out there as possible.”
To best engage with Latinos, Latinos and not Latinos need to speak to our uniqueness without making us feel as outsiders.
4. A new coat of paint may not be enough to address the lack of diversity at places like Google.
If one thing the panelist and hosts agreed on was on the need for more diversity, well, everywhere. .Soy’s staunchest critics have claimed that instead of trying to blindly guess what may attract and appeal to the Latino consumer, their resources would be better spent diversifying their own. Writing for Red Eye Chicago, Hector Luis Alamo posed,
“Before companies spend another advertising dollar trying to relate to Latinos, before they pitch one more prepackaged product or idea, they should consider including Latinos in the creative process from the start. Instead of guessing which new flavor will drive the Latins wild, why not hire Latinos to work on product development and advertising campaigns? Maybe a few companies could be daring enough to even promote more Latinos—gasp!— to sit on the board of directors.”
It’s difficult to argue with the sentiment. Suffice is to turn on the TV, open any magazine, peruse the correction section of the NYT (Oscar de la Renta was born in Spain, really? Puerto Ricans are immigrants not migrants?) for misinformation and misunderstandings about Latinos to see the need to go beyond stamping a Spanish word on a new domain. What our brands, businesses, institutions, consumers are claiming for is much more than that. Diversity in the boardrooms, in the news rooms, in the decision-making spaces:
“A lot of the time, you really have to look within, you have to look at the offices, the people working for Google….Bringing a little more diversity into their offices, hiring more Latinos and all multicultural backgrounds. You can get different experiences and that is always just going to come into play when it comes to their work, and I think that’s going to show. It’s going to be a slow process, but it’s going to be something that is more long-term and more effective.”
The rest will follow.
5. Marc Lamont Hill can hold his own and them some
Admittedly, this is not really a takeaway about Latinos or how to speak to the diverse and vast group of people that makeup the Latino audience, but we would be remiss not to give props to Lamont Hill for this interview. Where we once cringed (as did others) at Lamont Hill’s vanilla treatment of the subject of diversity (and specifically Latino diversity) in the media, today was different. He really pushed for the details and nuances of both arguments. Hence, when Carolina commented on the potential for .soy to seem like digital segregation, he was quick to offer a flip side to this argument. “So much of American multiculturalism has been for the first couple of hundred years trying to make everybody the same, trying to flatten out our differences…this is an opportunity to say, hey, you are part of America, but you also get your own thing…” Point taken. This first interaction set the tone for the entire conversation, making for a particularly productive discussion.
We were pleased to hear his own assessment on the issue, “If I’m talking to Google, I’m much more interested in their diversity hiring practices…I want Latino advisors, Latino employers, I want more diversity more so that I want to see that .soy.” Indeed. Now we are getting somewhere.
As Millenials, we cringed when we learned about .soy. It seemed “silly,” to quote Charlie Vazquez. “Uy, Terrible,” was Maria’s first reaction. “Soy is a bean,” she added without thinking twice about moving LalaboyPR to .Soy. We can see how this new domain may be very useful for incredibly targeted and niche purposes, like building a list of Latino startups, as Ana suggested during the HuffPost Live. Yet, .soy didn’t speak to us. We are not about segregation and finding separate platforms, but about integrating while celebrating our uniqueness. Soy is the opposite of that.