Local Culture in Latin America
White collar workplaces, open settings, luminous and spacious living rooms, neutral spaces. Marc Augé named them as "non‑places": spaces that lack identity, where humans can seem anonymous or even exchangeable. Airports and shopping malls are the main examples of these spots. Do the images you most often use have this characteristic? To ensure that our consumers identify with the visual stories we promote, it is essential to be able to adequately represent the local culture of each market. A thriving diversity and inclusion strategy also implies broadening the spectrum of representation of each country’s culture, their traditions, their festivities, their colors, their tones and even their textures.
When we look at the most popular visuals used in Latin America, we see very few references to those regional traditions. Primarily, people are shown in neutral settings without decoration, or in open spaces that do not convey any cultural landmarks or signs of belonging that promote identification. For example, mate is one of the most popular tea infusions in Argentina. Recent research states that almost 8 in 10 Argentinians drink mate at least on a monthly1 basis. It is very common to see people drinking mate in offices, in university classrooms and also in public parks. However, less than 1% of most popular images in Argentina depicted people drinking mate. We observe a similar pattern in Mexican visuals: tacos, the world‑famous Mexican street‑food dish is depicted in less than 1% of the most popular food visuals used in Mexico. Or even with soccer, the most popular sport across the whole region: less than 1% of the most popular visuals in Latin America depict people playing soccer.
This lack of culturally‑rooted local content invites us to rethink what imagery is being used and what message we want to convey with visual stories. Visuals that show “non‑places” are intended to convey an aspirational lifestyle. However, we should bear in mind that Latin America has one of the highest indexes of self‑perceived middle class people in the world. More than 70% of Latin Americans2 believe that they belong to middle class. In that sense, depicting only visual stories of wealthy backgrounds undermines identification.
To address this issue, we must analyze whether the content we present represents the society we want to reach. When choosing visuals, ask yourself:
- Are the visuals we choose usually generic, or do they look specific to Latin America?
- Do they include any local landmarks that facilitate identification?
- Do the people in our visual stories "look local”?
- Are you seeking out visuals that are really shot in Latin America?
- Are we including popular Latin American traditions in our stories (the street food, the passion for sports, the typical infusions, the colorful decoration of our environments)