Local business owners learned some of the ways to engage the Latinx community — along with the benefits of doing so.
Utah State University Latinx Cultural Center Director Christopher Gonzalez spoke at the Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Luncheon to explain some of the challenges the Latinx community faces.
“Latinos in Cache Valley overwhelmingly speak Spanish, but, like myself, not all of them speak Spanish,” Gonzalez said. “That’s of interest to you because if you’re not thinking about how you might provide opportunities to communicate your vision, your business to this growing demographic, then you’re missing a key part of the future.”
As the Latinx demographic grows, Gonzalez said, businesses have to think about how to reach those customers.
Part of that effort, Gonzalez said, is understanding cultural differences and moving away from stereotypes in order to engage the Latinx community.
“I try to dismantle stereotypes wherever I find them,” Gonzalez said. “Stereotypes are shortcuts to knowledge.”
Stereotypes derive from what is portrayed about a particular group of people because the community doesn’t have enough information, Gonzalez said.
“The way we think, the way we see the world is shaped by the stories that we encounter,” Gonzalez said. “We just have to confront certain limitations that we have in our thinking about certain groups of people that we don’t know.”
He used his story as an example of a common stereotype among the community.
“I identify as a Latino man and I have no experience with immigration,” Gonzalez said. “I have no experience with crossing a border. That is not my story.”
Gonzalez’s family has lived in the United States for generations, but some people might believe he immigrated.
“Not all of the Latino experience is about heading across the border, having come recently to this nation,” Gonzalez said. “I think that’s an important thing for me to say because if we turn on our media today, we often see the Latino community portrayed as recently arrived — and sometimes not well.”
One of the biggest challenges Latinx youth face, according to Gonzalez, is that often parents will not support a secondary education due to lack of information and a cultural difference.
“Education is sometimes seen as a very mysterious thing for Latinos,” Gonzalez said.
Chamber of Commerce Director of Operations Laura Hansen said knowing the difficulty for students to continue their education would help others support the Latinx community.
“That’s great information to share because technically, we are their community now,” Hansen said. “If we can help support that, we’re going to improve our community.”
A challenge Latinx students may face while at the university is they don’t feel welcomed, so retention is a challenge.
“They’re maybe the only Latino or Latina student in a classroom or in all of their classes at Utah State University,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said the Cultural Center was created to help Latinx students who may feel isolated as well as many non-Latinx students who have spent a significant time in Latin American countries and might feel out of place because of the close alliance they have been in for two years.
Gonzalez encouraged the attendees to get to know the Latinx community more.
Hansen said she learned about a different perspective at the event.
“It answered a lot of unspoken questions and people just aren’t aware of how they feel,” Hansen said. “We have our perspective but it’s great to hear their perspective. Case in point, the Latinx community, to get an idea of their perspective on things.”
Les Patterson from Red Edge Marketing said the event would help people connect across communities.
“Coming to an event like this today has been a wonderful way to hear a little more of the story of the Latinx culture and be able to better understand and start removing some of the barriers,” Patterson said.