“Se habla español”: Reaching out to the Growing Hispanic Population

How to cater to, and market to, the growing Hispanic and Latino population in the United States is something many industries and even government agencies are trying to understand and master today.

Here at US Funerals Online, we wrote some time ago a short piece on ‘Funeral Homes Catering to the Hispanic Population’, and yet it is still a topic that warrants further discussion. The population trends speak volumes and cannot be ignored, with a growth of 43% in the last decade (1), and Hispanics now accounting for around 1 out of 6 residents. According to the Census Bureau by 2050 ethnic and racial minorities will have reached the point where they will become the majority, and at this point, 1 out of 3 U.S. citizens will be of Hispanic origin.

We have already witnessed a shift in the funeral industry, with more and more businesses adapting to cater to their local Hispanic populations. Many funeral homes have taken the steps to employ Spanish-speaking staff, and where possible promote “Se Habla español” on their advertising literature and web sites.

Some funeral businesses have taken it one step further, either re-branding their existing funeral home to accommodate Hispanic needs or setting up a completely new arm of their funeral business that is solely catering to a Hispanic audience. One cannot ignore what ‘Dignity Memorial’ (SCI) is doing, as surely we should look at how a huge corporation is adapting to the new challenges of a changing market. SCI has already begun its program to adapt to this market with the conversion of funeral homes in key States with a large Hispanic population. SCI has branded the ‘Funerarias Del Angel’ network of funeral homes specifically serving the Hispanic communities across the U.S.

Is “se habla español” enough to reach a Hispanic audience?

The whole aspect of catering to the Hispanic market is more than just adding the “se habla español” dimension to marketing media. Hispanic funeral customs and cultures do vary significantly, and in order to appeal to a Hispanic clientele, a funeral home needs to meet these cultural needs. Rituals may need to facilitate the family being much more actively involved in preparing the body, offer more extensive and elaborate visitations and appeal to the vibrant ‘fiesta’ nature of Hispanic culture. Funeral homes that are successfully appealing to the Hispanic population are often incorporating symbolic aspects such as architecture, colors, and embracing the Catholic roots that influence their culture.

Incorporating Hispanic Icons, Symbolism & Family Values

Hispanic funeral customs

The icon of the Virgin of Guadalupe, otherwise known as ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe’, holds major significance for Hispanics, along with the Castillian roses that symbolize the story of Juan Diego and the founding of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City (the third most visited religious site in the world).

Family is extremely important in Hispanic culture, in fact, to the point that they believe it IS the one thing we can take with us when we die. Add to this the central beliefs about ‘Día de Los Muertos’ (2), (The Day of the Dead) when many Hispanics believe the dead walk amongst the living, and one begins to embrace an understanding of the Hispanic customs of burial, and especially returning to one’s homeland for burial.

Having a shrine for the deceased where the family can gather, remember, and celebrate is a key aspect of cultural practice, and Hispanic cemeteries differ quite significantly in how elaborate and colorful graves are. Even though cremation is being more widely accepted into Hispanic customs, the family still require a shrine site for visitation, and funeral homes in Mexico are now creating grand Columbarium’s to house cremation urns and family memorabilia.

Removing language barriers may be one aspect to reaching a Hispanic audience, but anyone who has learned Spanish will understand that there are cultural expressions and nuances that simply do not translate in a literal sense. This was best explained to me by a Mexican friend who suggested that to be able to learn the language I needed to embrace and understand the culture!

Understanding the generational shift of Hispanics and the Online Audience

Many funeral homes are going one step further than simply offering “Se Habla Español”, and offering their whole web site in Spanish. Although various tools are available online today to translate web content, having content professionally translated by a Spanish-speaker will have a greater appeal.

According to ComScore (3), the Hispanic online demographic is growing more than 50% faster than the overall U.S. online population, with over 20 million now using the Internet. An important feature of this Hispanic online audience is that they are younger than the ‘average’ online audience, and what we are seeing is the younger generation of Hispanics utilizing the medium of the Internet. It is reported than over 60% of the Hispanic online audience is under 35 years.

From a funeral business perspective, this suggests that there is an opportunity to appeal to the sons and daughters of Hispanics who migrated to the States over the last few decades. The children who will be left the task of arranging their parent’s funerals.

And, interestingly, research shows that there are a couple of distinct trends amongst these online users. The Hispanic audience is demonstrating a preference for social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube, and accessing online via mobile devices. According to researchers, this is due to the fact that there is a lack of quality web content for Hispanics, so they have turned to social media as a domain to create their own content-sharing platforms.

An important aspect of how to harness the growing Hispanic population is to use online media to reach the offline audience. For example, producing downloadable PDF’s and brochures that are adequately translated and aimed at the right literacy levels for the offline Hispanic population. The research would also suggest that using social media is a way to reach a wider Hispanic audience, and certainly creating ‘sound bites’ of information and visual data such as YouTube clips that can be easily shared.

It seems that in terms of a mid to long term business strategy, reaching out to the Hispanic population is imperative for those funeral businesses who strive to serve their community, and wish to continue being effective and successful at doing so as our cultural demographic changes.

  1. ‘Hispanic population tops 50 million in U.S.’ LA Times
  2. A holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world in other Catholic cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. It typically takes place on November 1st and 2nd.
  3. comScore is a global leader in measuring the digital world and a preferred source of digital business analytics.

Written by

Sara is the Editor in Chief for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death care industry in the US for the last 15 years.