This week Miami Beach was swept up in Hispanicize, an intense, five-day Latino pow wow where ideas are explored, concepts analyzed and there’s been enough Latino synchronicity to electrify a continent.
Hispanicize is far from our abuelo’s ethnic conference where Hispanics met to socialize and commiserate about the problems they were facing. Hispanicize, the brainchild of Miamian Manny Ruiz, is miles away from the traditional fiesta. This happening is a get-together that challenges, informs and inspires Latino media and entertainment professionals in the United States so as to help them blaze new paths and redefine what it is to be Latino in America.
“Hispanicize revolves around media content and the creators of this content in the various media disciplines: journalism, entertainment, marketing and social media. Multiplatform is our game and we target multicareer people,” Ruiz explained. “As we head into our fourth year of Hispanicize, we have not only picked up steam in terms of corporate sponsorship, but we have also begun to carve out a unique niche for ourselves.
“Once upon a time, it was all about doing everything in the collective — and that was understandable, given the meek political power Latinos had. However, the pendulum is swinging politically. Everyone acknowledges how significant the Latino vote is. We are about empowering Latinos not just politically but socially and economically, as well. We are all about encouraging the individual and exposing them to the realities of the media and the marketplace.”
As Ruiz and I chatted over a café, many of our anecdotes kept landing on the same themes. We concurred that there is still work to be done on the political front. Many of those topics — immigration, education and social issues like abortion — have been identified and beaten over our heads by politicians (on both sides of the aisle) whose sole goal is reelection.
The front lines of the modern-day struggle for the positive social and economic development of our communities, Ruiz and I agreed, has more to do with incentivizing and encouraging a true entrepreneurial spirit among Latinos.
It took an old, Mexican-American hippie, who played at Woodstock, to get me to reflect about where I stand in our society as a Cuban American. The legendary Carlos Santana said, “No representation without compensation.”
That simple concept helped me understand that it is difficult to gain politically and socially if you don’t have some kind of economic might to support it.
When everyone speaks of the Cuban-American success story in Miami, the most important aspect of that history is that Cubans worked hard, saved and quickly began to amass wealth and flex their political and economic muscle. The story may not be as romantic as Cesar Chávez’s marches in the 1960’s for farm workers’ rights, but the results were just as historic. Today, Cuban Americans are a force politically and in the business world.
The 2010 U.S. Census highlighted Cuban Americans in Miami as the largest growing business owners of any minority. “One of the goals of Hispanicize is to share the Miami Cuban-American secret with other Latinos across the U.S. in an effort to bolster and lift up those communities,” Ruiz shared.
“Much of the Cuban business success in Miami has everything to do with families,” said República advertising CEO Jorge Plasencia, now president of the National Council of La Raza and past co-chair of the Hispanicize conference. “In Cuban Miami, successful businesses are run with the same set of principles that keep the family nucleus strong — honesty, integrity and good communications. These traits are present in most Latinos’ DNA.”
Mike Valdes-Fauli, co-chair of Hispanicize 2013 (along with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien) and president of the South Florida public relations firm, The Jeffrey Group, described this year’s conference as “all over the map in terms of topics and formats. It is all intentionally planned in hopes of igniting and strengthening the future of all Latinos in the U.S.”
That message of economic prosperity is spreading among the Latino community nationwide so that we are not only represented but also compensated.