The Latino Market: Tongue Twister
You walk into the bookstore, past the tables of "Books for This Month's Holiday," and find your way to the Foreign Language section. Bring up your bébé in French; speak Chinese like a Tiger Mom; have a conversation in Russian that would warm the cockles of Putin's heart—it's all here. And if you already know a foreign language—Spanish, say—you'll also find novels and self-help books right next to "500 Spanish Verbs."
The juxtaposition of grammar and fiction is a little odd, but the titles—at least in Spanish—are anything but. "The Hunger Games," Fifty Shades of Everything, the latest by Rhonda Byrnes. There's even a golden oldie: "Cómo ganar amigos e influir sobre las personas" by Dale Carnegie. Pick up the Spanish translation of Dan Brown's "The Lost Symbol," and a worn phone card falls from between the pages—a card once used to call home (Mexico? Colombia? Guatemala?)—now used as a public bookmark. Nestled between the Dan Brown and the Dale Carnegie, there's a thick book by someone whose name actually sounds Spanish: Paco Ignacio Taíbo II. No phone card falls from between its pages.
Such a bookstore trip is a tangible encounter with a difficult truth for publishers: The Hispanic market is a tough nut to crack. Both Vintage Español, which published the Dale Carnegie, and Rayo, which published the Taíbo, know this well.
The challenges are many: the cultural diversity in the population; the different levels of acculturation to the U.S.; the varied linguistic abilities, ranging from the old woman who doesn't speak a word of English to her bilingual son to his English-speaking daughter who takes French classes in school.
Increasingly, the question of digital literacy becomes an important factor, as well—though not easily parsed, given that Hispanics utilize technology differently than the general population.