Reaching and Engaging with Hispanic Communities - research report by Child Trends Hispanic Institute and The Crimsonbridge Foundation
Why I picked it up: Hispanics and Latinos are the second-fastest growing minority group in America (after Asian Americans), and the largest, and youngest, minority group. If museums are going to thrive in the future, they have to adapt to meet the needs of a broader swath of Americans; Hispanics and Latinos have historically been underserved by museums.
Best thing in report: A chart showing how how different racial and ethnic populations follow news topics. (See below.)
Two findings in this chart particularly fascinate me:
1 - That whites are far more interested in local town or city news than African Americans or Hispanics. It makes me wonder if there are barriers to connecting with a local community that African Americans and Hispanics are more likely to feel. And if so, what can we do about it? Lots of questions here.
2 - That Hispanics are more interested in science and technology than whites, with African Americans significantly less interested. That seems like a great opportunity for museums to tap into (as well as work to be done).
(The data in this chart comes from the Media Insight Project (2014) from NORC at the University of Chicago. It is a great, reputable source.)
What else you need to know: Demographically, while Hispanics are nearly 18% of the US population, a quarter of children are Hispanic. Two thirds of those Hispanic children live in or near poverty, and those families are less likely than their socio-economic peers to access public assistance programs. (Here using only "Hispanic" in the same manner of the US Government; see final thoughts for why this matters.)
Hammers home that the Hispanic and Latino audience is not monolithic, and that individuals are more likely to identify by their nationality (i.e., "Honduran" or "Guatamalan") than "Hispanic" or "Latino." Emphasis on taking the time to get to know who your audience actually is, and to reflect their linguistic and symbolic preferences in your communications.
Service providers to Hispanics and Latinos emphasize how important face-to-face communications are, such as knocking on doors, going to events, visiting schools, and partnering with educational, faith, or medical groups. While more labor intensive, it is far more effective than broader media outreach.
Note: this communications guide focused on lower socio-economic Hispanic and Latino households.
Implications for museums: Museums generally struggle to reach Hispanic and Latino households, just as they do households that are of lower socio-economic status (SES). To hear that public assistance programs, and the nonprofits that work with public assistance, struggle as well doesn't absolve museums from the struggle, but puts it into context.
If you are serious about reaching Hispanic and Latino households, it takes grassroots work to do it effectively. Face-to-face communications and hard work to build trust and connection. It is a long-term, incremental process. But as our population changes, it is one that is necessary if museums are truly going to matter in their communities.
Read or skip? Skip. The bulk of the report was a toolkit for communications, and was well done; if you are new to communications work you should check it out. But there were few insights that were truly about Hispanics specifically; most applied to low SES households in general, not just Hispanic ones. I had high hopes, but it just wasn't the report I hoped it would be. The most relevant bits are highlighted in this review.
Final thoughts: The report mentioned repeatedly that we should listen to our audience and identify them by how they identify themselves. Yet the report pretty much used "Hispanic" and "Latino" interchangeably (as others, such as Pew, do). They are not, however, the same. "Hispanic" means Spanish-speaking origin, so it would include individuals from most of Latin America and Spain … but not Brazil, as they speak Portuguese. "Latino" refers to individuals from Latin America, including Brazil, but not individuals from Spain.
Full citation: "Researching and Engaging with Hispanic Communities." Research report published by Child Trends Hispanic Institute and The Crimsonbridge Foundation. Released September 28, 2016.
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I respectfully acknowledge that I live and work on the lands of the Duwamish people, whose ancestors have lived here for generations. I thank them for their ongoing care of this land, and I endeavor to help museums bring forward a more complete and inclusive history and culture in their work.