Hispanicize conference underscores importance of Latino influence in journalism, music, film and more

Creators Party presented by Carnival: Opening Night Party of Hispanicize. Photo courtesy of Hispanicize.

Home of a Hispanic population estimated at 55 million people, the United States is the second-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. The impact of the social, political, cultural and economic life of Hispanics in the United States has been profound — and it’s only growing.

According to the just released Geoscape’s 2016 American Marketscape DataStream report, there will be about 68 million Hispanics in the United States by 2021; the population is growing at an average of 1.6 million Hispanics each year for the next five years. Such was the context for Hispanicize 2016, an annual event billed as the largest gathering of Latino professionals in marketing, social media, digital content creation, journalism, music and film, which took place at the InterContinental Miami hotel April 4-8.

The seventh annual edition of Hispanicize featured a dizzying array of panels, new product presentations and music performances. As part of the event, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the largest organization of Latino journalists, held its first annual Spanish-language conference, which was supported by Knight Foundation. Knight also hosted the journalists’ association for its spring board of directors meeting last Friday.

“I started with Hispanizice as a partner in 2011, just a year after it launched, and I have seen a huge evolution,” said Piera Garibaldi-Jolly, founder of the popular mom blog,, co-founder of DiMe Media, and chief operating officer of Hispanizice Media Group. “Traditional media has changed so much; everything has shifted online. There it’s where you see the changes so how do you reach the Hispanic consumer? Mobile consumption by Hispanics is huge, for example. And as you see that change, the media, the marketing has to change along with it.”

An estimated 3,500 people attended the event, which featured as main sponsors Prudential Financial, Toyota, NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, Coca-Cola, Unilever and Wells Fargo. But the long list of participating companies also included brands such as Amazon, Facebook, Toyota, Home Depot, Walt Disney Pictures, Vive Mejor, Verizon Wireless, JC Penney, State Farm, JetBlue Airways, Comcast, Microsoft and Fox News Latino.

“Reaching the Hispanic consumer is the thing these days, and it’s because brands and marketing agencies understand that we are growing at an exponential rate,” said Garibaldi-Jolly, who was born in Uruguay and grew up in the United States. “Our spending power is huge, and these companies have really taken notice.”

The political importance of Hispanics and the event was underscored by the presence of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, a former broadcast journalist, who seemed at ease answering questions at one of the booths last week. In fact, this being primary season, the role of Latinos in national politics was ever-present.

“We are brand-friendly. We never talk about politics. In seven years I’ve never taken the stage to talk about anything that’s even remotely related to politics, “ said Manny Ruiz, the Miami-based founder and CEO of Hispanicize Media Group, in some unscripted remarks when introducing a speaker Tuesday. “But [what’s happening] it is outrageous.”

“We are going to put our leaders, our Latino leaders, on the spot nationwide,” said Ruiz, who is Cuban-American. “And we would not leave Hispanicize without showing that there are real ideas to bring us together and make us be respected, because our dignity matters, regardless of our political leanings or our countries [of origin]—be it Cubans or Puerto Ricans or Mexicans. You know what? When they talk about ‘the Mexicans,’ they are talking about you and me.”

Fernando González is a Miami-based arts and culture writer. He can be reached via email at [email protected]