The verb "hispanisize" means 1. to make Spanish or Latin American 2. to bring under Spanish or Latin-American domination or influence. 

Cafe Con Leche recently look a trip to Miami to attend the Hispanisize conference. What is "Hispanisize" you might be asking yourself? Well, Hispanisize is a yearly conference that unites Latino trendsetters and newsmakers from across the country. It brings us together and builds an agenda that takes an "unblinking, honest look at who Latinos are and what we must become". In practice, what this looks like is a really big family reunion that includes free wine booths, painting a car and really awesome swag bags. (The sessions were really cool too, but more on that in a moment.)

Before Hispanicize officially kicked-off on Tuesday, I attended The Dime Summit, at the SLS South - a luxury boutique hotel on famous South Beach (yes it was luxurious, check out the pictures below). The Dime Summit hosted was hosted by Dime Media and focused on the Latino blogger community (many of whom are Latinas - also known as "blogueras" - more on them below). The keynote speakers were Julissa Arce and Lisa Price (founder of Carol's Daughter). Mirroring stories of triumph - Julissa spoke of the importance of focusing only on the things you have control over. Lisa shared with us something her friend Soledad O'Brien said to her, "show people who you want to be, even if you're not there yet". She emphasized the importance of self care because as an entrepreneur you are your brand - people may applaud your success but they do not see all the hard work behind it. Being in the company of so many successful people was the right note to start of the conference. 

Hispanicize 2016 then officially kicked-off the following day - this four day conference, taking place at the Miami Intercontinental Hotel,  brought together 260 speakers in 102 sessions. It covered topics from media to Latino politics and leadership to business. There was such a profound amount of knowledge and fun I had, the only way I can break it down to you all is by giving yinz a list. Below are my 10 top take aways (and favorite moments) from Hispanicize 2016.

  1. #FanGirl Moments: Meeting Los Pichy Boys and Joanna Hausman from Flama was hilarious. I felt glamorous speaking to Samy (who is always on Despierta America doing someone's hair). Listening to Rosario Dawson was refreshing because she brought fire to the party and were not going to let Latinos be politically and socially mediocre on her watch, no way. I felt honored to be able to hear Lizzie Velasquez speak about her journey, she even brought her parents on stage. I ugly cried in the audience and texted my mom I loved her. I am even getting emotional right now as I write about hearing her talk.
  2. Hip Latina curates the best food and wine experiences. I did two wine tastings at their table, met amazing people and basically I want to live at the Hip Latina win tasting table at Hispanicize forever. Or at least for happy hour once a week.
  3. Home Depot put together a nice breakfast for us where I got to plant some succulents in a terrarium. These are not words that are normally in my vocab, but not I own a succulent in a terrarium and I am committed to not letting it die. It needs a lot of light and a little bit of water (about every day). Thank you to Costa Farms for the great tips!
  4. Boricua Bloggers. Talk about hyper-connectados - 69% of Puerto Ricans have regular access to the internet, 90% of them have a social media presence. With a population of over 3 million people - if you are not online, you know someone who is. Facebook is most popular social media site follow by YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. And while the media may be painting a picture that Boricuas are leaving the island, these bloggers are holding fast to staying in Puerto Rico and creating a place where they and their families can thrive. Check out Piccolo Mondo
  5. Blogueras. They have MAJOR influence in Latino households across the USA and beyond. Their blogging topics range from lifestyle and fashion to travel to couponing - and they are not just blogging for a hobby, they are business women. Companies across the country court their influence in order to promote their products and services. This is because Latinos are the fastest growing segment within the USA population, we have over $1.5 trillon in spending power (and growing), plus Latinos are young (median age is 27). Companies not only want a piece of the Latino market as loyal customers, they also want to maintain those brand relationships for generations to come. Bringing on a trusted bloguera to endorse and promote your product to her followers is the most sustainable (and authentic) ways for companies to build these brand relationships with Latino consumers.
  6. America is changing. (I have done several blog posts about this - which you can see here, here and here - but I am pointing it out again because I heard it ALOT during the conference.)
  7. The Latino Market. The best way to reach Latino consumers is by being authentic. However, the Latino market is complicated and multifaceted. We come from various countries, speak multiple languages, use social media at high rates and are a mix of foreign and non-foreign born with a variety of generations and traditions. Most of us are bicultural, bilingual - easily switching between Latino ("home") culture and United States culture yet a lot of us are not and tend gravitate to only USA or Latino culture depending on how long one's family has been living in the USA...or if they never even immigrated here in the first place (border crossed them ,they did not cross borders. Cafe Con Leche has previously written about this as well.
  8. Cross Culture Marketing > Multicultural Marketing > General Marketing. I will have a much more detailed blog post on this at a later date, but essentially general marketing is not the way to go if you are trying to attract diverse audiences. Cross cultural marketing is what multicultural marketing was 20 years ago, multicultural marketing is not "out of vogue" but misses the mark in larger urban areas where cultural identity is more fluid.
  9. Pittsburgh needs to be at Hispanisize 2017. If Pittsburgh is really serious about attracting Latinos to help grow the population it is my strong suggestion they have a booth at this conference. This is the place to interact with all the Latino influencers across the country and get us on the map to be "hispanicized". (And I would not use the Hola Pittsburgh brand, Latinos are attracted to AUTHENTIC marketing strategies.)
  10. Take me to your leader. Latinos do not have a fearless national leader representing all our interests. It's also unclear how well we use our political power (we have the numbers, but do we have the will and are we organized?) (Cue Rosario Dawson and Manny Ruiz here.) This was something that we heard in several sessions - it was just at the afternoon plenary, but also in the discussion about Latino representation in the media. One comment that resonated with me what that no Hollywood Latinos publicly denounced or boycotted the Oscars, perhaps out of fear of losing the position they worked so hard to get, however we are left with a void of strong leadership in the face of growing numbers. I see this reflected locally in Pittsburgh, while the population is growing quickly here we are still largely hidden, disconnected and seen as a "fringe" community in the Pittsburgh region. 

We want to hear from you mi gente:

Who do you think could be our national leader?

How do Latinos organize to effectively wield our power to effect policy and elections? 

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