We can now rest a little better knowing that we won’t have to listen to another Senator asking about wise Latinas. But if you think the debate at Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings, especially about her famous two words, don’t have any deeper implications–including for those of us who toil in the world of marketing to Hispanics, I want some of the stuff you’re smoking. To paraphrase Sen. Lindsay Graham, “elections have consequences.”
How Latinos are perceived in the larger American universe and in corporate suites impacts our work profoundly. The conservative Republican senators who grilled Sotomayor could have easily been speaking on behalf of corporate execs, English-language media executives, some CMOs, consulting firm principals, and yes, even some ad agency execs.
Remember Pete Wilson and Prop. 187? Republicans in California have never really recovered from that episode, and the current California governor is only technically a Republican. Even Latino supporters of Prop. 187 turned against the initiative and the then Republican governor when it became clear that the initiative had turned anti-Latino.
Today, we had a group of white, conservative Republicans essentially launch a full-frontal assault on one of our most cherished and treasured icons: our wise Latinas–our mothers, our abuelitas, our tias, our wives, our sisters, etc. In its Sunday edition, the NY Times published a story on how some proud Latinas have appropriated Sotomayor’s famous words, and turned them from a epithet into a badge of honor. I think we’re just seeing the beginning of a renaissance in not just Latino pride, but also in “wise Latina” pride.
It’s interesting to note that of the six largest Latino states, only Texas’s and Arizona’s Republican senators unanimously voted against Sotomayor. I salute the lone Republican Hispanic senator, Mel Martinez of Florida, who bucked his party’s leadership and voted for one of the most qualified judges ever to be nominated to the Supreme Court (ensuring that both of Florida’s US Senators were Sotomayor backers). Orlando’s huge Puerto Rican electorate will remember this when they vote for Martinez’ successor next year.
It’s too early to tell whether Texas Senators Cornyn and Hutchinson will suffer any consequences from their votes. My guess is that for the forseeable future they will not. They no doubt calculated that even though their state is one-third Hispanic, their conservative base still wields power and must be fed. Besides, as long as they have Republican Latino sycophants like Alberto Gonzales in their corner they need not fret.
Thank you, Sonia. Are you listening Mr./Mrs. CEOs and CMOs?