Hispanics are creating a new baby boom in the United States

Mitt Romney said he didn't reach out enough to Hispanics in 2012. Chiqui Cartagena says businesses make the same mistake.

Story highlights

  • Cartagena spent whole professional life helping fellow Americans understand Latinos
  • Every 30 seconds, two non-Hispanics reach retirement age and one Latino turns 18
  • "Latino baby boom" will affect every aspect of American life over the next 50 years
  • Cartagena: Businesses can't afford to ignore Hispanics, one-quarter of their market
With a name like Chiqui Cartagena, you can't escape the fact that you're different from your classmates in school. From the first grade on, I was constantly looked down upon and treated differently -- and sometimes not so nicely.
I'm an Army brat. My father was a decorated veteran of the Puerto Rican 65th Infantry Regiment that bravely fought in the Korean War. When he left the armed forces, he became a corporate executive for General Electric in Spain, which is where I grew up from the age of 6 until I was 21 years old.
When I came to the U.S. to finish my education and became a journalist, I was fascinated by how little people really understood Latinos. So I have spent my whole professional life helping my fellow Americans understand who we are.
Chiqui Cartagena
The last two Census reports and presidential elections have certainly elevated the awareness of the power and growth of the U.S. Latino community, especially in certain sectors, politics being one of them. But there is still a lot of ignorance about the important impact Hispanics are having on every sector of the U.S. economy.
There are seven sectors of business -- retail, food, entertainment, financial services, etc. -- that offer companies unprecedented domestic growth opportunities, if only they will focus their efforts on marketing to Hispanics. But business leaders don't feel like they know how to take the proper steps to capitalize on their Hispanic opportunity, so they don't do anything at all.
On average, only 5% to 6% of all advertising budgets is allocated to marketing to Latinos, who already represent 17% of the total population and 20% or more of key demographic groups -- children, teens, and millennials. Clearly, there is a fundamental gap between awareness of the need to start marketing to Latinos and the ability to do so.
Business leaders often don't know where to begin. It all feels very scary to them -- partly because for so long, language has been the main way people think about Hispanic marketing, when in fact, it's all about culture and creating marketing campaigns that are culturally relevant.
When minorities in general make up almost half of all millennials -- with Hispanics accounting for nearly 25% of them and growing at the fastest pace -- this is an opportunity you can no longer ignore. How can you have a millennial strategy without asking yourself "What about Hispanics?"
You simply can't afford to leave out one quarter of your target simply because you don't know how to talk to them. If you do, chances are your competition will figure it out and you will lose in the long term.
Hispanics are creating a new baby boom in the United States.