by Daisy Expósito-Ulla
I’m writing at the onset of Hispanic Heritage Month to join the celebration of our community’s long-term accomplishments, inspired by one of America’s preeminent national institutions: The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. This past week, the museum unveiled a new exhibit to celebrate the unparalleled work and accomplishments of Latinas in journalism, ¡De última hora!: Latinas Report Breaking News. The exhibit explores the relationship between Spanish-language TV and American history through the collective experiences of seven Latina journalists, including Ilia Calderón, Dunia Elvir, Marilys Llanos, Gilda Mirós, Lori Montenegro, María Elena Salinas and Blanca Rosa Vílchez. These Latinas have paved the way and serve as role models and mentors for future generations of Latina journalists in American media.
Our agency – a Latina-owned agency at that – was extremely honored to have The Smithsonian select us to create the tribute video that serves as the anchor piece to the exhibit. The video highlights the careers of Latina journalists and the major, historic stories they have covered over the past several decades, spanning the Vietnam War, September 11, immigration, racial and cultural wars, and many others. But it does more than that: in doing so, it conveys the extreme importance of our presence in America. It leaves no doubt about the importance of Spanish-language news and it underscores how these women – who are at the top of their game – do more than just deliver the facts. They cover stories with unyielding commitment, genuine empathy and a sense of staunch purpose and advocacy that builds personal connections with their audiences. They inform, empower and encourage our community in ways that are unique to Spanish-language media because the stories are told in-culture y con mucho corazón. Additionally, they maintain and strengthen a visceral and emotional connection to the lands that they, or their ancestors, left behind.
These are some of the many reasons why Spanish-language content, and the news, specifically, enjoy greater levels of trust when compared to English content and news. In fact, as reported in Nielsen’s latest report in its Diverse Intelligence Series, even younger Latinos have greater trust in Spanish-language news and media over mainstream outlets.
Being part of this experience and the launch of The Smithsonian exhibit filled me with great pride; not only because our agency’s work is projected on the walls of the Smithsonian, but more so because of the Spanish-language media infrastructure we pioneers in the Hispanic advertising industry have helped build. We helped develope the ecosystem that made it possible for these Latinas to practice their craft to the benefit of our community and to America at large. We pitched advertisers to take note of the importance of the Hispanic consumer audience and to our unique lifestyles and needs. We encouraged – sometimes demanded – that clients invest because of the growth opportunity, which is still quite alive today. If we had a breakthrough idea but the channel or program didn’t exist, we created it. In other words, we, at Hispanic specialty agencies, have always done more than sell products and services. We have helped build the media landscape that Informs, entertains and empowers our community while helping bring our clients’ brands closer to these growth consumers.
The work of these seven journalists featured in the exhibit, as well as that of the many Latina/o/e journalists not included for reasons of time and space, is to be commended and applauded. I encourage you all to make it a point to visit the exhibit, ¡De última hora!: Latinas Report Breaking News. It will run at The Smithsonian between now and May 2025. More importantly, I urge all Hispanic and multicultural marketers to recognize the importance of Spanish-language media and to become champions so that brands not only invest but engage with messaging that is culturally relevant and in Spanish. Several research studies show that when Hispanic-targeted creative is done right, it can drive deeper levels of connection, affinity and trust, just as Spanish-language news and the work of these journalists have done for decades.
I realize there is a small segment of the Latino population where speaking Spanish does not align with their lived experiences. I recognize there is a role for culturally relevant English content and advertising that targets bilingual/bicultural Latinos. And I understand that there is this misguided notion that defending Spanish-language media appears to be outdated and out-of-touch. However, data findings from a number of leading, reputable research firms repeatedly show that this is faulty thinking. What’s more, it works against the best interests of our communities and the Hispanic consumer. Whatever one’s own personal feelings or agenda about this subject, it behooves all of us to see the greater purpose of supporting Spanish-language media and advertising: to help move our community forward and to help our clients connect with this growth consumer in ways that foster deeper levels of trust. That would be the most powerful way to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month all year round!