Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Beware of cultuphobia

By Ruben Navarrette, Special to CNN
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Fri November 1, 2013
"Despierta America" host Karla Martinez, left, appeared with co-host Raul Martinez on "Good Morning America."
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ruben Navarrette: "Cultuphobia" is fear that another culture is taking yours over
  • Navarrette: We worry that new cultural changes will marginalize us
  • When Spanish hosts came to "Good Morning America," some viewers were upset
  • Navarrette: Either they didn't like their morning routine changed, or they were "cultuphobic"

Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter @rubennavarrette.

San Diego (CNN) -- Introducing a new word: "cultuphobia." It means the fear that another person's culture is taking over your own.

The word may be new, but the concept is ancient. America is a land of immigrants that has, in truth, never liked immigrants -- no matter where they came from and whether they came with the proper documents or a letter of reference from the Queen of England.

Part of the reason that we don't like immigrants is because they frighten us. And one way in which they frighten us is because we worry that -- with the changes they bring -- they'll wind up marginalizing us and making us less important and less relevant.

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Ruben Navarrette Jr.

There is a name for that fear: cultuphobia.

For an example, look at what happened this week to mark the launch of the new English-language, Latino-targeted television network Fusion, founded by ABC and Univision. The parent companies came up with what they thought was the cute idea of swapping anchors on their top-rated morning shows.

The Spanish-language show, "Despierta America," which is based in Miami, sent hosts Raul Gonzalez and Karla Martinez to New York for some early morning chitchat with George Stephanopoulos and Robin Roberts, the hosts of "Good Morning America." Meanwhile, GMA sent Lara Spencer and Sam Champion to Miami to visit with the "Despierta America" crew.

Come to think of it, this was a pretty good idea. And no one seemed to enjoy it more than the hosts who switched places.

In New York, Gonzalez and Martinez were on the "Good Morning America" set on the same day as Enrique Iglesias, who sang a new song. Everyone seemed comfortable with one another, and there was a lot of laughing and dancing.

In Miami, Spencer told The Huffington Post that she "had no idea how much fun it was" to be on Spanish-language television and implored producers to "please have me back." Champion proclaimed that he loved the experience and didn't want to go back to New York. "I'm staying," he told the website. More laughing and dancing, this time to mariachi music.

It is no wonder that it all went so well, proclaimed Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez, who was also a guest on "Despierta America" that day. His hit movie "Instructions Not Included" is in limited release in the United States. After all, these days, the language barrier is just a puddle jump and, he said, among Latinos in the U.S., "everyone speaks both English and Spanish."

Here is where the story gets interesting.

Judging from the reaction on the "Good Morning America" page on Facebook and the comment section following news stories about the switch, many regular viewers of "Good Morning America" did not appreciate the gimmick. In fact, many of them were furious. Some said they changed the channel. Others vowed to never watch the show again if there is a repeat performance. "This had better be a one-time thing," wrote one disgruntled viewer.

One woman complained that, when she tunes in to her favorite morning news show, she expects to get what she always gets -- the news of the day "in ENGLISH."

There's the giveaway. For many of those angry "Good Morning America" viewers, it might just have been a case of them preferring to stick with what they like. But for others, it was a case of cultuphobia. These viewers aren't just protecting their favorite show, but -- as they probably see it -- their language, culture and civilization.

This is the other side to cultural marketing, and it's ugly.

A corporation -- or in this case, a media company such as ABC -- might vie for a larger market share by going after a new set of viewers and alienate its core audience members, who feel slighted, ignored or insulted. When that happens, the core isn't quiet. The core speaks up. Maybe next time, the company decides it isn't worth it.

I hope that doesn't happen here. I hope ABC will stand its ground and continue down this road of trying to reach Latino viewers.

Still, I'm not sure how Fusion will perform in the long run. I have concerns, and I'm not alone. While the new network is marketed to younger viewers who speak English, it doesn't seem that they've thought deeply about how to reach their viewers. That's not an easy demographic group to tap into, for either marketers or media.

Plus, Fusion would be better off not becoming simply an English-language, hipper version of Univision, where -- as I would put it -- the anchors are white and the politics are blue. The liberal Spanish-language network is all about advocacy journalism and protecting what it sees as the interests of Latino immigrants -- especially the undocumented.

Yet, on most of its telenovelas, which are produced in Mexico, the lead actress is European-looking with light skin. So, at Univision, they seem to believe that dark-skinned immigrants should have the full pallet of rights -- except, apparently, the right to appear in a starring role on Spanish-language television.

That's evidence of a different kind of phobia, and a depressing reminder that -- in either language, and either of side of the border -- people are the same, and prejudice is alive and well.

Follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join Us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ruben Navarrette

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:16 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
updated 10:43 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
updated 9:40 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 7:26 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Jeff Yang says the tech sector's diversity numbers are embarrassing and the big players need to do more.
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 4:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Ed Bark says in this Emmy year, broadcasters CBS, ABC and PBS can all say they matched or exceeded HBO. These days that's no small feat
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 12:29 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider say a YouTube video apparently posted by ISIS seems to show that the group has a surveillance drone, highlighting a new reality: Terrorist groups have technology once only used by states
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
John Bare says the Ice Bucket Challenge signals a new kind of activism and peer-to-peer fund-raising.
updated 8:31 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
updated 9:05 PM EDT, Sat August 23, 2014
As the inquiry into the shooting of Michael Brown continues, critics question the prosecutor's impartiality.
updated 6:47 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Newt Gingrich says it's troubling that a vicious group like ISIS can recruit so many young men from Britain.
updated 10:50 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
updated 8:00 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT