On Thanksgiving Day, many Hispanic homes will be filled with the familiar scent of turkey roasting, but the holiday preparations will also include other customary dishes that better reflect Hispanic heritage. Many Latinos may choose to follow American traditions and also opt to include Hispanic foods as part of the celebration.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, mixing the old with a new part of life is a way to show how thankful and appreciative Latinos are about their bountiful lives. Thanksgiving is sometimes known as “Dia de Accion de Gracia” or “Dia de Dar Gracias,” but the Thanksgiving name or traditions hold strong. Part of the unique U.S. Latino experience is creating a customized blend of Hispanic and American cultural cues and traditions. So, while all-American at its core, Thanksgiving in a Latino home may still look and feel innately Latino from food and décor to a steady stream of Latino music, dancing and laughter. These things do not take away from the tradition, they only add more layers.
Along with the classic stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes and cranberries, tostones or mofongo (both made of deep-fried plantains), tamales, guacamole, tortillas, beans and specialty salsas and rice dishes (which vary by country of origin) might be found on the dining table. Cultural insights begin at home, and Latinos will tailor Thanksgiving to meet the duality of their culture in the U.S. and pay tribute to their Hispanic roots. Families with school-age children are also more apt to understand the unique holiday.
While Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Latin America – and the real history of the holiday beyond foodstuff might elude those who did not grow up with this history lesson – Latinos feel a special connection to its meaning of being thankful, and they appreciate sharing in its festivities. In fact, 76 percent of Latinos often celebrate U.S. holidays, and 86 percent of Latinos feel it is natural to live and act in ways that are typical of U.S. American culture, according to a Simmons Spring 2011 survey.
You might ask, does it matter if pumpkin flan is served rather than a pumpkin pie? And what if stuffing is seasoned with adobo, chorizo and peppers? Creativity is a large part of any family meal, and some food companies cater to a Latino palate that is unfamiliar with turkey and other traditional Thanksgiving fixings.
What matters is that marketing is used to invite Latinos to fully embrace the American tradition and its offerings. In a comScore study, 35 percent of Hispanics recalled products that they saw advertised, versus 31 percent of non-Hispanics. Thirty one percent of Latinos also enjoyed watching ads, compared with only 19 percent of non-Hispanics.
Although growth has slowed in the consumer product goods industry overall, companies that provide CPGs for Hispanics have seen more progression, and Latinos often turn to Spanish-language media to familiarize themselves with American traditions.
Food and beverage companies can do their part to offer choices and alternatives to Hispanic consumers that blend the two cultures. Think turkey with chorizo cornbread stuffing, or turkey hotlines in Spanish, for example.
But it’s not the food itself that makes the holiday. It is family, and new and old traditions that make the day so special. After all, an occasion that combines family, food and fun is bound to be cherished.