April 29, 2013 -- How do you tell a Latino animal from a non-Latino animal? That was my first question when I heard that last week, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) launched a site called PETA Latino in English. The "guau-guau" vs. the "bow-wow," the "ki-kiri-ki" versus the "cockle-doodle-doo"?
Turns out, PETA Latino is not a site for the protection of Latino animals (whatever that might mean), but instead a site which attempts to target Latino meat-eaters and animal abusers who apparently have a special Hispanic spiciness which requires a unique marketing approach.
The site gives us (irrelevant) cultural ambassadors like Charo and a former Miss Panama winner Patricia de León to translate the ills of animal abuse into the a language we can finally understand -- English.
While the site also has Spanish-language content, the move to target English-speaking Hispanics separately caught the attention of some snarky Latino bloggers like Laura Martinez. The Latino Rebels blog, which also took the PETA Latino to task, points out that a PETA en Español might make sense, but that in English it just feels like a "'barrio' brand."
Why can't English-dominant Latinos just go to regular PETA's site, Latino Rebels wondered. There seems to be a regional PETA for the Asia-Pacific, but no PETA for Asians. Similarly, there's no PETA for Black People or PETA for Jewish People or PETA for the Elderly, which would all be comparably ridiculous.
In fairness, the animal-loving company might actually have some good reasons for wanting to attract Latinos. Many Latin diets have a lot of meat, and there's not a whole lot of cultural awareness of the benefits of vegetarianism or healthy eating, evidenced by how disproportionately the obesity epidemic has affected Latinos. But are English-dominant Latinos going to rush to change their eating habits because the information they're reading is tagged as Latino-friendly? I'm skeptical.
PETA is not the first to try to target Latinos in a special way. The push to "multiculturalize" brands as the Latino population in the U.S. booms contributed to the creation of Clorox Latino, Toyota Latino, and Pampers Latino, among others. Some marketers say it's a great idea. But unless you have a good reason to "multiculturalize", it feels pretty forced, especially with English-language content.
A gaggle of news organizations, music companies, and food brands have realized that there's a void in the mainstream of culturally-relevant news/music/food-items, and brands like our own have rushed to fill that space.
But, what about protecting animals, buying cars, or washing clothes needs Latino flare? There's no cultural relevance to any of that. Do Latinos wash their shirts or drive their cars any differently?
Speaking of forced, before there was PETA Latino, the company attempted to get the attention of Latinos by posting ads where else but the border fence. In late 2008, they posted these signs with captions in Spanish which translate to "If the border patrol doesn't get you, the chicken and burgers will. Go vegan." But subtlety has never quite been PETA's thing, eh?
Cultural segmentation looks a lot more like segregation when there's no good reason for it. Many second and third and fourth generation Latinos feel both American and Hispanic at once. We do not see ourselves as a different species and when brands talk to us like we are, we can see right through it.