The Latinx Experience Is Complex. Sharing Our Stories Is the Best Path to Understanding

Vulnerability is necessary if we're to see authentic representation

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This year’s Hispanic Heritage Month inspired some great work, including investment in education, support of artists and creators, limited-edition collections and more—but also several opinion pieces detailing how brands missed the mark on celebrating authentically.

It’s not easy to come up with one tagline or capsule collection that encapsulates the entire Latinx experience. Latinx creatives have the opportunity to lead by example and support and empower one another to understand and share their cultural upbringings within the community.

By sharing with our colleagues, our leadership and our clients, we can all find common avenues and open up the pathways to translating our stories into strategies. This begins with our own vulnerability in opening up, starting with asking how folks may or may not relate and leaving space for thoughtful discussions.

For creatives, this may be quite literally going above and beyond their job, but it’s one of the only ways true understanding can happen.

Why it’s important to share

Doing this work ourselves is immensely difficult because many of us are still trying to figure out our own stories.

In recently speaking with several Latinx colleagues, it became clear that the range of our own stories demonstrates the multifaceted nature of the Latinx experience. Some of us discussed that, despite growing up in diverse neighborhoods and Hispanic households, we never felt like we were “Spanish enough,” which led to feelings of being disconnected from our culture and misunderstood.

Others felt the need to whitewash themselves to fit in, including dialing back their Spanish proficiency to avoid feeling uncomfortable or standing out in an unwelcome way. And these feelings remained as we entered the workforce: We navigated the uncertainty of our own identities and how our distinct perspectives, rooted in our cultural upbringing, would resonate with colleagues and clients.

We discussed how our upbringing impacts our participation and contributions to our teams, whether in the form of silence or finally seeing the strength in waving our cultural flags and appreciating being Latinx as a superpower.

Opening up to fellow Latinx colleagues and hearing stories that related to my own led to overwhelming feelings of comfort. The sense of relief that came from these shared experiences was palpable—at the same time, there was a sense of enlightenment from learning how our experiences were so varied, despite our being labeled as part of one community.

Sharing these stories will impact how I approach future work and serve as the basis for advice to share with other Latinx creatives. I thank my colleagues Pitu Sanchez, Alma Cats, Eilyn Segura and Andie Villanueva for participating in these conversations with me.

A minority within a minority

Complicating matters further, in the public relations community, only 10.5% of employees are of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, which means there’s only a small cohort of Latinx creatives who may ever have the opportunity to contribute to strategy. This makes the imperative to tell our stories even more urgent as space is limited.

By doing what we do best as creatives—storytelling—and focusing on telling our own personal stories, we can help come up with strategies that speak to multiple Latinx experiences. There are many benefits to this, which include educating clients and brands on how best to reflect our immensely different cultures in their Latinx-focused work, while also helping open doors for the next wave of Latinx creatives in the community.

If you don’t have the opportunity to work alongside Latinx colleagues or aren’t exposed to different Latinx stories, there are resources that open up how the community can be portrayed and shed light on avoiding stereotypes.

One helpful tool is Google’s All In toolkit, which gives marketers, advertisers and creatives the tools they need to create work that improves representation and belonging while positively and authentically reflecting the world. Their Latinx insights, developed in partnership with AdColor and The Hispanic Federation, are intended to help marketers understand cultural nuances between and among Latinx identities to be “more inclusive of those who have been historically under- and misrepresented in marketing and media.”

So, whether you are looking to get a jump start on planning next year’s Hispanic Heritage Month or thinking about initiatives that will target the Latinx community year-round, consider how you can pull the different cultures and upbringings of the community into the room. As Latinx creatives, we can play our part by sharing our own stories and inviting our Latinx colleagues in to tell theirs, to shape more authentic and compelling narratives. It’s the easiest place to start.