5 de Mayo is NOT Independence Day

One would think that news outlets would occasionally use Google or even Wikipedia to confirm their history, yet, sadly, no. Sunday night, as I was watching the WXYZ-Detroit news coverage of the Mexicantown Cinco de Mayo Parade it was reported that the parade commemorated Mexico’s Independence Day. NO! NO! NO! Apparently, they could’ve just read one of their own publications (featuring some of my favorite Mexicantown eateries) that makes it very clear!

5 de mayo ninos mari 2016.jpg

Here in the US – Cinco de Mayo has become of symbol of Mexican Heritage; a day that Hispanic communities throughout the United States celebrate with parades, folkloric dance, and cultural festivals. I was thrilled to see my amiga, who grew up in SW Detroit, is continuing her family’s passion for dance with her children (featured in the photos). Mexican restaurants have really capitalized on this holiday, much like St. Patrick’s Day, marketing to Anglo-Americans with tequila specials & fiestas.

In Mexico – Cinco de Mayo is a national holiday to commemorate the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Kids are off of school and government offices are closed. (Think President’s Day or Labor Day in comparison.) The only place where this day is celebrated with any pomp or circumstance is in the city of Puebla. This battle took place between the ill-prepared Mexican army who were victorious against Napoleon’s army.

So spread the word, especially to your drunken friends and media outlets who didn’t take time to hit wikipedia before they go on the air!

P.S. Mexico’s Independence Day is actually on September 16th, although it is celebrated the night of September 15th with a reenactment  of the  “Grito de Independencia” where you will hear the country join their elected officials in a resounding “¡Viva México!” & enjoy street parties with fireworks.

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3 Tips ¿Sí/No?: Business w/ Latinos

Did you know that Hispanics now make up 18% of the total U.S. population? Yet, Hispanic and Latino labels are sociolinguistic and geographical – not racial. It is difficult to generalize the Latino population; it is far more diverse than one might think.

There are over 57 million people who identified as Hispanic in the U.S.(Statistics according to Pew Research, 2015)  Recent studies estimate that there are over 470 million native Spanish speakers throughout the world,  with over 52 million people in the U.S. who are either native speakers or are bilingual. (According to the Instituto Cervantes, 2015) Understanding cultural norms is no longer optional, it needs to be an integral part of all professional development and market strategy.

Spanish Speaking Population

(Image from www.SpanishSEO.org, 2008)

Here are 3 Tips for conducting business with Hispanics / Latinos:
(D) 

Número Uno: Don’t assume all people of Hispanic origin are the same! 

  • Some speak Spanish. Some don’t. Some are white, some are brown, some are black.
  • Some are European, not all. Some are from Mexico, not all. Some are from caribbean islands. Some were born in the U.S., some were born in Latin America.
  • Many are of mixed mestizo or mulatto ethnicities.
  • Most consider themselves American (North America, Central America, South America = America = American)

Número Dos: Do build relationships! 

  • Always greet with a sincere Good morning! Good afternoon! Hello, How are you? – whether it is via email, text message, phone or in person!
  • Allow time to get to know your colleague, employee or client – you will be far more effective. Keep current with their lives & your business will flourish.
  • Ask lots of open-ended questions.

Número Tres: Do provide positive feedback!*

  • With Latinos, you will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
  • We all love compliments, but Latinos are motivated to please and love to make people happy. Provide strong, positive feedback for performance without a “but” and you will find an immediate correlation to their work or response times.
  • In general terms, blame is passive in the Spanish language. Criticism should be collective or passive (ex: “This project isn’t moving along as effectively as we’d like.”  vs. “YOU haven’t met this deadline.” Or “WE need to firm up our target dates so we can deliver to the client on time.”) 

#3 is tricky and I will be writing a blog just on this dynamic principle of constructive criticism from a cultural perspective. It will change the way you relate and improve your bottom line.*

We all know that the United States is a diverse society. In every metropolitan area you will find people from almost every corner of the world. Our demographics are shifting, the ethnic population of the U.S. is up 10% over the last 20 years. It is estimated that the combined minority population will surpass 50% within the next generation. Now is the time to embrace cultural understanding and integration. Our social, political, and economic future depends on it.

If your company is in the Metro Detroit or Chicago areas and would like Puente Cultural Integration to provide consulting, cross-cultural or diversity training for your staff or you are in need of Spanish language services, please contact Bridget@puenteci.com for a quote.*

Cuba Libre

President Obama is in Cuba! This is an historic event for both the United States and this unique island to our south. Cuba is so close, yet has remained a folkloric unknown to their neighbors to the north. The doors are opening and will provide an opportunity for individuals on both sides to finally connect.

I have been obsessed with Cuba for years. It has been on my bucket list ever since I was introduced to the music of the Buena Vista Social Club in the 1990’s. I was so fortunate to get to see them at the University of Michigan and I used their documentary with musician Ry Coder, to introduce Cuban culture to my Advanced Placement Spanish students.

To so many of us, the island seems to be frozen in time. The classic cars that cruise down the Malecón exemplify the Havana of old. We need to go and witness this complex culture. Governments and politics aside, we also need to respect their history and not impose our American values. Modernization and trade will benefit the Cuban people, but the preservation of their culture must always be part of the conversation. In other countries, we have seen McDonald’s & Starbucks put locally owned shops out of business. We have seen ecosystems harmed by Monsanto, both in the US and abroad. Let’s allow Cuba to remain Cuba, while initiating  opportunity for trade and providing Cultural exchanges. It is about the people! We must make sure that Cubanos have a voice and are not forgotten in the process of creating a Cuba Libre!

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month

The cultural and linguistic diversity among the 21 official Spanish-speaking countries is great. Each country has their own unique cultures, accents, and expressions. Learning the different meanings of words and “¿Cómo se dice . . .? / How do you say . . .?” in different regions gives insight into the culture.

Matador Network is a great resource for international cultures and travel and I loved this post on Mexican Expressions. Learning the slang expressions when I lived in Mexico changed my language from textbook to native-like. These types of expressions exist in each country – with huge variations from one region to the next.

There is a also a huge variation in accents throughout the Spanish-speaking world.  It is similar to how different English speakers sound to each other. When someone from Scotland hears the accent from Texas or when someone from Boston speaks to a Jamaican, they might feel like they are listening to a foreign language! The same is true in Spanish. This video made me literally LOL with the examples of how different countries’ accents sound to native Spanish speakers.

If you are interested in a workshop or training series about the diverse cultures of the Spanish-speaking world or if your company needs a consultant with expertise in a specific region of Latin America, contact us here to set-up an appointment.

Why was I so affected by Sandra Bland’s arrest and death?

(Editor’s note: I originally wrote this in July. I was leery about posting a controversial piece. I decided it’s too important.)

I don’t know why the video footage of Sandra Bland’s arrest has me so shaken-up?

I can relate to the stress and annoyance Sandra felt that day. I hear it in her voice. She was smart and articulate. She was an “Angry Black Woman”. She was exasperated and tired.  She was “Driving While Black”.

If she had been a White woman, if that had been me? Would I have been treated the same way? Would I have been pulled over? Would I have been spoken to in the same way? Would I have been arrested? Would I have died?

I am a smart, outspoken, sassy and sarcastic (White) woman. It gets me in trouble sometimes. It’s never gotten me arrested. It’s never gotten me killed.

CNN debates and experts disagree why she was arrested.

Of course, I will (maybe?)

It has been my experience that Latin Americans are very generous with their time and energy. They have really good intentions and will almost always say “Yes” or “Claro que sí” to most requests.

Their follow-through, however, is complex. (See my previous blog: “Love the one you’re with ;-)” ) Previous commitments will not trump current activities.

Yes, almost always means “maybe, if nothing else comes along”. So take their “Claro que sí” with a grain of salt (and maybe a shot of tequila?)

Traveling in Latin America

You’ll find dozens of articles and tips about traveling abroad. Some are applicable to our business travel as well as for pleasure. While most tips will focus on Europe, the cultures of Latin America have a deep European influence and can be a source of valuable tips when traveling for work.

nice-shoes-1418878-639x843Here are a few tips from Puente Cultural Integration for business travel in Latin America:

  1. Dress the part
    • Err on the side of formality
    • Even (or especially) for social events – Latin Americans will dress up
    • No tennis shoes unless it’s an athletic event
    • You can always take off the sport coat & tie if you are overdressed
    • If everyone else is in business dress & you show up in khakis / polo – what role do you play?
  2. Eat the local cuisine with your hosts
    • Nothing can kill a deal faster than your desire to eat at McDonald’s or TGI Friday’s
    • Insist that they take you to a local restaurant & let them order for you
    • One person (usually the highest exec) always picks up the check (do not offer to split the bill)
    • If you are buying the meal say “Les invito” (I’m inviting you all) & you must ASK the waiter for the bill “La cuenta, por favor” – they will never just bring it.
    • Enjoy your meal – it is not uncommon for a “business” lunch / dinner to last 2-3 hours.
    • Say “Provecho” (Bon Apetit)  before eating & “¡Salud!”  (Cheers!) before drinking
  3. Business is done after hours
    • Relationships matter – ask about their family
    • Real conversations matter – find out what they love to do
    • Business deals will be sealed the next day, don’t insist on keeping the business talk going out of the office
    • Use the out-of-office “social” time to build the relationship & the business will get handled more effectively
  4. Be really careful with taxis
    • Only use radio taxis or a business/hotel car service
    • Ask the hotel concierge
    • Never hail a cab off the street

      Freeimages.com/MiguelEsquivel
      Freeimages.com/MiguelEsquivel

More useful tips can be found from on msn.com “How to NOT be an Ugly American Abroad”.

Did you find these tips useful? contact us here.

If your company is in the Metro Detroit or Chicago areas and would like Puente Cultural Integration to provide consulting, cross-cultural or diversity training for your staff, please contact bridget@puenteci.com for a quote. 

Love the one you’re with . . . ;-)

You will see a common theme when doing business in Latin America: Relationships!

To be successful in the Latin American market, you must be present – both physically and emotionally – to maintain your clients’ trust and loyalty.

Do not assume previous positive business dealings will ensure a long-term relationship in business. If something newer, flashier, bigger or better comes across their desk – they may jump at the opportunity if you are not close by to remind them of your value. They will “love the one they’re with” and you will be out the door like yesterday’s news.

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Steven Wosina Photography

So my best advice, as we bridge the gap with Puente Cultural Integration, is to forge and maintain your business relationships. Get to know your cohorts in Latin America well. Understand their needs. Ask questions about their lives and their families. Be present. Be available. Be there for them and you will be the one they’re with!

Global Commerce: It’s tricky business!

When conducting business or hosting social events with people from various cultures it is important to learn the “do’s & don’ts”.  Each culture is unique; what is required in one setting may be offensive in another. This is a quick at-a-glance infographic reference to nine different countries created by a company named Zendesk that we found at Entrepreneur.com. 

35 Tips How Not to Offend International Business Partners From entrepreneur.com

Looking for more information about going global? Contact us for a consultation today!

If your company is in the Metro Detroit or Chicago areas and would like Puente Cultural Integration to provide consulting, cross-cultural or diversity training for your staff, please contact bridget@puenteci.com for a quote. 

Spanish? Hispanic? Latino? Ay, Dios Mío!

When working with people from a Spanish-speaking background it is important to understand that they are a diverse people.

It can be offensive to assume someone’s ethnicity. Asking someone if they are “Spanish” or if they speak “Mexican” is more common than you imagine and extremely insensitive.

  • Spanish = nationality referring only to people who are from Spain, in Europe; it is also the language spoken by millions of people in the US and Latin America.
  • Mexican = nationality referring ONLY to people who were born in the country of Mexico (south of our border). It is not a language, just like American is not a language.
  • Latino / Latina = people who have Latin American roots (includes Brazil, where they speak Portuguese, not Spanish).
  • Hispanic = people who have a Spanish-speaking heritage.
  • Mexican-American = typically 2nd or 3rd generation of Mexican descent (see above); may be racially &/or culturally Mexican, but may or may not speak Spanish fluently. Although the Mexican / Mexican-American populations are larger than other Hispanic populations, it is not okay to assume someone is “Mexican” because they are brown or speak Spanish.

If you are genuinely curious, an appropriate question might be, “What is your ethnic background?” This allows for the person to self-identify and will give you an idea if they are open to talking about their heritage.

Never ask, “What are you?” The best answer for that is, “Human!”

The Spanish vs. Hispanic vs. Latino question is really a personal preference. This four-minute video from Kat Lazo (who self-identifies as Indigenous-Latina) really breaks it down and also shows us that it is truly up to the individual to decide which label they prefer.

There are 21 countries that list Spanish as their official language. Each country has a distinct nationality. Every region has a unique cultural identity and their ethnic make-up is diverse. Some Latinos, especially those from the Caribbean, may be seen as Black or African-American even though they may not identify with that culture. Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans and many people from Central America, Colombia, Venezuela and Perú have a mixed racial heritage of Spanish + Indigenous + African roots. Black Latinos will identify with their home culture, but depending on their experiences in the African-American community, may be able to bounce between both groups in the US.

There are also millions of Hispanic-Americans who may be second or third generation from any of those cultures or whose families are originally from the southwest. Do not assume that someone with the last name Rodriguez or Garcia speaks Spanish.

There are huge differences between working in a Latin American country vs. working in the US with people who are of Hispanic heritage. Is your business in need of an expert on all things Hispanic, Spanish or Latino? Contact us here!

If your company is in the Metro Detroit or Chicago areas and would like Puente Cultural Integration to provide consulting, cross-cultural or diversity training for your staff, please contact bridget@puenteci.com for a quote.