Demystifying Día de los Muertos

Collage Ofrendas

There are a lot of misconceptions out there regarding Día de los Muertos.  Many people think that it is the “Latin Halloween” and many places commercialize it that way.  However, that is not the case so I decided to take a stab at briefly (but hopefully truly) demystifying Día de los Muertos celebration.

Día de los Muertos is a very traditional and popular celebration in Mexico and part of Central America.  The origins of this celebration date back to the Indians of Mesoamérica – Aztecas, Mayas, Purepechas, Nahuas y Totonacas –  However, it is not exclusively a pre-Hispanic tradition but a fusion of two: Indigenous and Spanish.

The festivity known today as Día de los Muertos fell in the 9th month of the Azteca solar calendar which was close to the beginning of August, and it was celebrated for a full month.  The festivities were led by the Mictecacihuatl god, known as the “Goddess of Death “.   They were dedicated to celebrating children and the lives of departed family members.

When the Spaniards arrived in America and, in an attempt to convert the Indians to Catholicism, they moved the celebration to the beginning of November so that it would coincide with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day festivities, thus creating Dia de los Muertos.  All Saint’s Day falls one day after Halloween – a pagan Celtic festival celebrating , the end of the harvest season, the beginning of  winter or the ‘darker half’ of the year  and when the souls of the dead (good and bad) were said to revisit their homes.  The Spaniards combined the Halloween and the Mesoamerican festivals customs creating this way Día de los Muertos.


Día de los Muertos celebration in Mexico consists of the desire to reunite with the passing souls who they have loved; the desire to have them visit and at the same time the fear of them staying. To facilitate the soul’s return to earth, Mexicans give offerings to the departed.  Families spread flower petals, place candles, offerings and keepsakes throughout the stretch between the house and the cemetery.  The favorite foods of the deceased are carefully prepared, then placed around the family altar and the grave amongst the flowers and artisanal objects.

The offerings represent the obligation of the people to receive and take care of the souls during their annual return home as well as to offer them what they do not have available in the afterlife.  The arrangements are carefully planned – the belief is that a departed can bring fortune (i.e. a great crop), or misfortune (illness, accidents, financial difficulties, etc.) depending on their perception of how well the family handled the rituals.

Very briefly, these are some of the ingredients in this celebration.  Death is part of life.  Each November 2nd this celebration represents a rich array of activities, rituals, ceremonies, customs and beliefs which are practiced in cities and towns all over Mexico and here in the USA – a colorful and rich folklore celebrating the departed.

Say what?!


Translate?  Transcreate?   What’s the difference and when to do what? So confusing…Not really!  Let’s take a look at the key differences:

Translation conveys the exact meaning of the source material.  Centered on accuracy  vs. relevancy , it is best used for legal documents, statistical information, technical information, etc.

Trancreation is derived from the words translation + creation.  It takes the concept of a text in one language and completely recreates it in another.   In other words customizes the source material for the target audience taking into account cultural nuances.   It tends to be creative, bold and original and focuses on relevance.   It is especially important for marketing materials, newsletters, community programs, trainings, etc.  In essence ,when it is crucial to convey a concept correctly and motivate your target audience into action.

When companies choose the path of transcreation they must involve the transcreator in the creative process.  This person must have thorough knowledge of the source content and understand the “message” is trying to convey.  The transcreation must convey the meaning of the original message and equally important, it must produce the same “reaction” from the target audience as it was intended in the source language.  That being said, the transcreator needs to have high proficiency in both languages and thorough understanding of all cultures involved.

Bottom line, if you are trying to raise the bar in connecting more effectively with your target audience in the Hispanic market; and you wish your message is seen, understood and accepted then transcreation may be THE option for your company.

There are no shortcuts when marketing to Hispanics


The sleeping giant has awaken and It’s finally sinking in! It’s not a matter of “if”, but “when & how?”  Today most companies are convinced about the undeniable opportunity the Hispanic market represents, but not all are acting on what they know – that is, spending on Hispanic marketing and ensuring the operations are staffed to serve “in-culture”.

Keep in mind these important guidelines when marketing to Hispanics:

  1. Planning and execution require rigorous analysis.  Gain deep and authentic insights about Hispanic customers – That includes language use, age, gender, country-of-origin, acculturation, socioeconomic status, income, spending, lifestyle.
  2.  Be sensitive to cultural nuances and avoid stereotypes. Hispanics are a very diverse group coming from more than 20 different countries.
  3. Be Flexible; Communicate Differently, Communicate in Culture. Think Transcreation not translation. Effective communications is more than just translating an English message into Spanish. It requires a communication process that must be built from the ground up.   It may be in English, Spanish, Spanglish or Bi-lingual.
  4. Highlight products/services. Assume many existing products/services are new to a large percentage of adult Hispanics. “Show Me” vs “Tell Me”. Provide practical advice – educate.
  5. To gain “Share of Pocket”  Primero: gain “Share of Mind” (Awareness/Familiarity/Trust) and then, Muy Importante:  gain a  “Share of Heart” (emotional & cultural Hot Buttons).   Most efficient combination is done in language with cultural relevance.
  6. Be strategic and consistent in your Hispanic marketing efforts.  To create strategies that result in profitable Hispanic market growth you need to turn to Hispanic market experts. This is one instance where expert knowledge counts – in house or external support.
  7. Integrate your efforts across the marketing mix.  Campaign messages are understood by Hispanics when you incorporate family, language, culture, it’s festive & colorful, community focused, utilizes Hispanic media AND social media.

Bottom line is that same all marketing principles apply when marketing “In-Culture”.  There are no shortcuts – including, sustained, robust funding and long term commitment.

What Does Hispanic Heritage Month Means to You?


As we approach the month of celebrating our “common Hispanic heritage”, I started thinking about what does Hispanic Heritage month really means to me.   Hispanic Heritage month is a national celebration that started in September of 1968 and coincides with the anniversaries of the independence of eight Latin American countries.  It runs from September 15 through October 15.  During this time we suppose to recognize the contributions and historical legacies made by Hispanics and Latino Americans to the United States and celebrate the rich heritage and many cultural systems.  Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that people want to learn about races and ethnicities different from their own, but why limit that to one month a year?   We need to acknowledge the contributions made by Latinos in the United States throughout the year.  Latinos will continue to be part of the history and future of this country as we have for centuries – every day of the year.  By dedicating a month to Hispanics (by the way same thing with African Americans and Black History Month), we run the risk that many companies and brands will focus their marketing efforts on this one month but forget about an ongoing outreach program for this growing lucrative market.

For all intents and purposes, I am Hispanic – or at least that’s how I am “labeled” – but in reality I am Puertorriqueña or from Puerto Rico.  That’s how I identify myself.  And I also feel my Puerto Rican heritage is different than the Peruvian heritage or Mexican heritage or Colombian heritage just to mention a few.  I guess what I am trying to point out is that we need to be thoughtful to all the different countries and cultures that are being lumped into one category (Hispanic) to celebrate during one month (from Sept. 15 – Oct. 15) our supposed heritage.

I personally celebrate my heritage every single day – when I connect with my friends to play dominoes and listen to salsa in xm radio, when I cook my Puerto Rican dishes for my family and friends, when I tell my son stories about the Taínos, el coquí and el Yunque, when I travel back home with friends to show them my real heritage – that’s authentic, that’s me, my heritage.

Direct selling and the Latina market potential


“America is experiencing the most profound demographic changes in a century, as result many companies have been caught unaware by the resulting major shifts taking place in the American marketplace today.”

Barry Levinson – Author and Commentator, Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Internet Life

For this post I would like to focus on the Latina market segment and the fantastic opportunity it poses for direct selling companies who are willing to invest,  change their traditional approach and build a more meaningful and purposeful relationship with this market.

Empowering Latinas is too important to pass up.  Let’s take a look at some of the key data.

  • Latinos Are Fastest Growing Population Segment in the U.S.
  • The 2010 Census revealed that the U.S. Latina population surged 43%, rising to 50.5 million in 2010 from 35.3 million in 2000. Latinas now constitute 16% of the nation’s total population of 308.7 million.
  • Latino purchasing power is projected to reach $1.5 trillion by 2015
  • Latinas are more focused on changing their lives, very aspirational
  • Latinas are much younger than the general population (but don’t overlook the middle age and older women)
  • 62% of the Latino female population has yet to enter their peak earning years (35+)
  • Latinas account for 23.6 million of the US population and are the mothers of one-fourth of the children being born in this country
  • They are connected and love social media

And, it’s a diverse market that requires nuanced understanding.

  • 21 different Latina nationalities
  • 4 U.S. Latina generations
  • 2 language stratifications (English and bilingual)
  • 5 core U.S. Latina regions (New York, Chicago, Miami, Texas, California)
  • 3 primary migration motives (economic, political, familial)
  • 3 core demos under 40 (14-17, 18-24, 25-34)

With this growing opportunity, it is unfortunate that Latina marketing usually begins like this: “Let’s just translate materials into Spanish & sprinkle into our general campaign.”

Which speaks to SPANISH DOMINANT (Unacculturated) segment and:

-          Results tend to discount language and nationality
-          Efforts are generalized in order to account for diversity of Latina market
-          Don’t account for mistrust of Spanish language efforts by mainstream
-          Only a small percentage of population adequately reached

End result? Reaches ONLY 30% of population

The right approach would look something like this: “Let’s reach the biggest segment first with a geotargeted, in-culture approach.”


-          Starts with the biggest and fastest growing part of the Latina population
-          Success means speaking their language: English, Spanish or a mix – Spanglish
-          Taking advantage of generational influences
-          Focus is on behavior and culture, adapting the approach by geographical needs

End result? Reaching 70% of population with easily adaptable targeted outreach while capturing the Spanish dominant too!

For a company or brand to generate awareness, engagement and build affinity via word of mouth and social media among the Latina population in the U.S., it must demonstrate relevance, accessibility and value; engage with her in the spaces where she is communicating; take into account the impact of influencers in her life and show her a range of products that meet her needs.

Don’t fall into the trap of asking these questions:  How can I sell more to Latinas?  How can I get more Latinas to join my company?  How can I get Latinas to convert?   Why can’t I attract more Latinas?

Instead ask the right questions:  How can I earn a relationship with Latinas?  What is the right culturally relevant approach to earn trust?  Win loyalty?  And build influence?


The Hispanic market – it’s not just about the language, it’s about getting to the very heart of the culture.

The importance of Hispanic consumers and their growing purchasing power which is estimated to reach $1.5 trillion dollars by 2015 is certainly getting the attention of corporate executives across America.  However, there is a general lack of understanding of what this opportunity is all about.

Latinos in the USA

Hispanics are not one – Hispanics represents a highly diverse community represented by more than 20 countries with unique cultural traits, nuances and values that happen to speak Spanish.  The key to Hispanic marketing is understanding and embracing these differences.  Learning about the cultural characteristics and values will help companies connect with the Hispanic consumer in a way that is meaningful to them.  Yes, Hispanics consumers want to connect with the brands, trust the brands and then they will purchase the products.  This requires a long term commitment from corporate America to become more knowledgeable about their lifestyles, values, family, religious and political beliefs – everything that shapes and defines their way of thinking.  Bottom line it’s not about the language, it’s about getting to the heart of the culture.

Unfortunately, there are many companies who give up on the Hispanic market when they don’t get an immediate return on their investment which is typically as a result of a mishandled short term strategy. They don’t see the long term opportunity and they don’t invest on a long term culturally relevant strategy to reap the rewards of this lucrative and rapidly growing market.  The Hispanic market can no longer be viewed as a tactical option, but rather must become a strategic imperative for those companies and brands that want to dominate their industry for the next 20 years and beyond!

What would you do and who would you be?

So here I start…I am finally doing it – my first blog.  Thanks to Natalie Sisson from for her 30 day blog challenge and her wit and wisdom in empowering people to be the best they can be, reach for their dreams and never give up.  This is so close to me and what I am passionate about.

So the question today is if you woke up tomorrow and were free to do anything you wanted with your life, what would you do and who would you be? Well, I am happy to say that after thinking about this question, there is not much that I would change.  I would be a mother, a wife, a friend, and a passionate Latina who embraces her culture and yearns to share that passion with other individuals for the benefit of creating a better understanding and opportunities for all.   I would also travel as much as possible, learn and have fun with my family, friends and people I meet along the way.

I’ve been working in the direct selling industry for over 20 years – in particular with the Hispanic market.  This is an industry that allows many people to become “suit case entrepreneurs”.  I see them all the time … working from anyplace, having the flexibility to work around what is important to them, feeling empowered and financially independent – making their dreams come true.

What it takes is to have a vision, plan, drive, positive attitude and perseverance.  As I always say…SI SE PUEDE!