Myth: Latinos Don't Do Valentine's Day

The Things Some Marketers (and Men) Say

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Rochelle Newman-Carrasco Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
A new-business prospect in the retail jewelry category once closed the door on a proposed Hispanic marketing launch by asserting "Latinos don't celebrate Valentine's Day." She supported this by telling me about the "Latin Lover" she once had -- her words, not mine -- and how he never did anything special for her on Feb. 14. He informed her that since Valentines Day wasn't celebrated in his country of origin, he wasn't planning on participating in the related rituals here.

There was nothing to gain by telling her that she had been the victim of the old country-of-origin escape clause. This is where someone relies on his home country to bail him out of a potentially awkward situation. After all, ignorance is bliss.

It's an evasion technique that's getting harder and harder to pull off. Holiday rituals, and the marketing that supports them, are both imported from and exported to the U.S. on a regular basis. Is there now, or was there ever, anything that could be categorized as a Hispanic holiday?

Just like the Hispanic Aisle in the supermarket, the Hispanic Holiday Calendar is a work of fiction. Like food, most holidays on the hit list are country specific. They're either Mexican, Cuban or fill-in-the-blank. Or they're Catholic. Or, like Dia de la Raza, they're culturally controversial.

So where does that leave Valentine's Day? Is it just a Hallmark holiday or is there anything about it that Latinos can claim as their own?

First of all, while it wasn't always the case, today most Latin American and Caribbean countries have a version of Valentine's Day. Rituals vary country to country. In Brazil, for example, it's Dia dos Namorados and it's celebrated on June 12. Elsewhere it's celebrated on Feb. 14 as in the U.S. But in some cases, that's where the similarities end.

Historically, The Latino-Valentine's Day connection goes deeper than one might think, if you count chocolate as a Valentine's Day necessity.

The history of chocolate traces back over 1,500 years to Central America in terms of the Cacao tree, and then to the Mayan and Aztec civilizations in the form of a beverage which the Aztecs called Xoclatl. Spanish conquistadors, finding this word impossible to pronounce, corrupted it to the more accessible Chocolat. Eventually, the first chocolate factories opened in Spain where the drink was made more palatable to European tastes by mixing the beans with sugar and vanilla. Fast forward a few thousand years, and today Latinos can dig into their ancestral chocolate history by buying a container of Haagen-Dazs' Mayan Chocolate, also referred to as "the original chocolate."

And economically, the impact Valentine's Day has on Latin American economies is profound. Up to 90% of the roses sold for Valentine's Day are from Colombia and Ecuador.

So this Valentine's Day, don't fall for the "I wasn't born here so I didn't get you anything" routine. Meddling marketers are more than happy to help love-struck Latinos buy that perfect someone the perfect gift.

For example, 1-800-flowers en espaƱol provides a dedicated Spanish language on-line shopping experience that includes a customized promotional tie-in with Meredith Corp.'s Siempre Mujer magazine.

Latinos without a date for Valentine's Day can pursue a culturally compatible mate on the newly launched singles site Here, Latinos can meet online and dream of the day that they'll walk toward the altar together, thus giving the phrase "Hispanic Aisle" a whole new meaning.
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