Adán Medrano and Marketing Truly Texas Mexican

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(Author and chef Adán Medrano)

Houston chef Adán Medrano was recently named a finalist in the INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards for his cookbook, Truly Texas Mexican: A Native Heritage in Recipes, published by Texas Tech University Press. Medrano, whose extensive résumé includes professional work in communications, media and film, grew up in San Antonio and northern Mexico, and is as passionate about his ancestry as he about great cooking. His book explores both the history of the indigenous people of Texas and the roots of over 100 recipes he and many other Mexicans grew up cooking and enjoying as a community. Here at Signet Interactive, we particularly enjoyed his recipe for frijoles borrachos. (Which translates to “drunken beans,” of course!)

The popularity of Truly Texas Mexican: A Native Heritage in Recipes has a lot to do with its marketing. Both Medrano and his publisher have worked together as a team to promote the book to the general cookbook-loving public, as well as different segments of the Latino community. With “authenticity” being bandied about as the latest buzzword in our industry, the success of Medrano’s book offers a lesson in how historical and cultural awareness are not necessarily at odds with the job of (to put it bluntly) promoting and selling a product.

What is the Difference between Hispanic and Latino?

Hispanic. Latino. Mexican-American. Tejano. Chicano. For many Anglos, these words may seem interchangeable, but each one is infused with historical context that is still highly relevant and, in some cases, highly political. Medrano is very aware of what he calls “the nomenclatures of our community” and how each word resonates within that community, especially when it comes to marketing.

“‘Mexican-American’ is a label from the U.S. census,” he explains. “It went from ‘Mexican’ to ‘Mexican-American’ because we did not want to feel foreign and not a part of the land. A lot of people still use ‘Mexican-American’ to self-identify. ‘Hispanic’ is a word that incorporated us into the mainstream . . . ‘Mexican-American’ [was perceived] as being too close to Mexico, whereas ‘Hispanic’ was more erudite and seemed more sophisticated.”

“Latino” has since replaced “Hispanic” to signify an indigenous, as opposed to European, identity.

“We can’t get away from the fact that these are all European-based names,” says Medrano. “‘Latino’ is the accepted one we like. It’s more inclusive of the identity of Latin America . . . if you go to Huffington Post, for example, they no longer have Hispanic news. They have Latino news.”

In the 1960s, the word “Chicano” arose as part of the Chicano movement.

Says Medrano, “That’s when we first said we will not be labeled by a census as ‘Mexican-Americans.’ We’re not hyphenated. We eschew every label and every understanding that comes from the outside. ‘Chicano’ is a current, powerful word. It is not antiquated in any way.”

Medrano points out that most of the millennials he has encountered while promoting his book at universities, including University of Houston, Northeastern University and Harvard, use the word “Chicano” to self-identify. “And they speak mainly English,” he adds. “They don’t speak Spanish, although they have some Spanish words that are very important to them.”

Medrano uses the terms “Mexican-American,” “Hispanic,” “Latino” and “Chicano” in his book. When it comes to marketing, which word he uses depends on the forum. For instance, he recently tweeted to followers who identify as Chicano in their profiles, “Can a Chicano cookbook win book of the year?” to which nearly every respondent in the Twittersphere replied, “Yes! Yes it can!”

In terms of marketing what he describes as “a Chicano cookbook,” Medrano acknowledges there is both a broad, multicultural public forum, as well as a “very close and intimate community of Latinos who are characterized by political activism, social awareness, and historical understanding. The word ‘Chicano’ belongs in that forum.”

The Power of Grassroots Marketing

“There are ways to reach those segments within the Latino community which don’t cost you your entire budget,” says Medrano. Advertisers hoping to engage Houston’s Latino community should consider using focus groups with individuals representing very specific audiences, be they millennials, 30 to 40-year old professionals, or seniors.

“Segment them,” says Medrano, “because millennials will identify differently than the older audience.”

At the same time, advertisers should not underestimate the power and energy of grassroots marketing, especially when it comes to Latinos who are “movers and shakers” in their community.

“Grassroots marketing, at this time, has a lot of energy,” says Medrano. “This is the other side of our marketing efforts, using events, parties, fundraisers . . . and reaching Latinos and Chicanos who are invested in this. This book represents them. It represents our community. If the book does well, we do well.”

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