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America drinks up all things Hispanic

Consumer culture falls in love with Latino influence.

By Vanessa Colón
The Fresno Bee

Companies creating products are finding that incorporating a little Latin influence is chic.

They've found blending aspects of Hispanic culture into new products, from ice cream flavors to cartoon characters, can make a lot of dinero.

Business experts say more companies are taking Latino culture into the mainstream. Hispanic culture encompasses a variety of groups, including Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans and South Americans.

Cinco de Mayo is an example of an ethnic event's reaching a broader audience than expected because of marketing campaigns by food and beverage companies. The holiday celebrates the defeat of French forces by Mexican peasants in the 1862 battle at Puebla, Mexico.

In the central San Joaquin Valley, the celebration has spread to nearly a week -- it started Friday, five days before May 5. It has meant more business for local bars in the Tower District and elsewhere.

"It's gotten more popular. People are always looking for something to celebrate. It keeps people's mind off the economy," said Scott Kendall, owner of Sequoia Brewing Co. on Olive Avenue in the Tower District.

Call it commercialization or Latinolization: Businesses spice up their products with a little sabor and a bit of flair. Häagen-Dazs has blended the swirling sweet caramel taste of dulce de leche into ice cream, and Liz Claiborne captured the hip sway of a Latino dance in its perfume, Mambo.

-Fresno Bee

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