We have been studying Spanish for the past few years and after trips to Costa Rica, Spain, Cuba, Uruguay, Mexico, and Chile, it has become clear how incredibly pervasive the Spanish speaking culture is in the United States as well. Despite the title, this is not a political post, but a nod to the diversity that is so thinly veiled behind the English dominated world. A favorite restaurant employee, a Supreme Court justice, construction workers, many politicians (whether you agree or disagree with their political positions), landscapers, “caucasian” celebrities, professional athletes, and many others all speak the second most popular language on the planet (behind Chinese!).
So here is a short list of my favorites, not in any order and certainly omitting many. I’ll start with Jeb Bush because he inspired me to write this post after seeing him on “El Punto,” the news show hosted by the popular Spanish television anchor Jorge Ramos. Please excuse the ads, Univision goes a bit overboard and I promise hearing Jeb Bush speaking fluent Spanish is worth it.
Next up is the Supreme Court Justice of the United States Sonia Sotomayor in an interview with Jorge Ramos from 2013.
If you don’t speak Spanish, jump to the last 30 seconds where you can see her dancing salsa with Mr. Ramos, muy divertida!
Also, the NY Times article “Habla Español? Tim Kaine Is Latest Candidate to Use Spanish” features several politicians including Tim Kaine, George W. Bush, Michael Bloomberg (or Miguel Bloombito as he is sometimes referred to for his poor Spanish skills), Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush. Finally, the article, “Guess Who Else Speaks Spanish?” lists 10 more Spanish speaking celebrities with short videos of them speaking.
Yet despite the number of people who speak Spanish around the world, it is shockingly underrepresented in the high tech world. When I managed Mexico for a high technology company, every trip was a revelation. A small calibration lab in what looked like a rundown part of town housed state of the art equipment that was sometimes new, sometimes old, but always kept in impeccable condition. Thirty year old measurement microphones used regularly were still stored in their original mahogany boxes with the original manuals nearby. Engineers often times utilized older equipment to the fullest long after their North American counterparts had moved onto to the “latest and greatest” product offerings.
If your sales and marketing teams are not paying attention to Latin America, they should be. It is a massive market poised for growth. Unexpected highlights include Mexico’s emerging importance in high tech, Costa Rica’s focus on Corporate Services, and Columbia’s exploding IT sector (the third largest in Latin America). To be fair, these efforts will probably not create overnight record breaking growth in the bottom line, but a long-term strategic plan will certainly pay dividends over time especially since most companies are not focusing on Latin America at the moment. At the very least, you will find (like I did) a rich, open culture that greets the rest of the world with a hearty, “Tengo ganas de trabajar con usted pronto.”