In the nearly ten years since it began, the Latino-centric conference Hispanicize has grown to become the largest annual conference for Latinx in media, business, tech and digital content creation. The term “Hispanicize” stems from the early days back when Hispanic Media Group (the company behind the event) owned Hispanic PR Wire and marketed themselves as being able to “Hispanicize” any communications initiatives or general market programs.
Since its founding in 2009, this idea of catering to Latinx consumers and businesses is what drives the conference to connect with entrepreneurs, businesses, and influencers to provide attendees with access to insider information from different industries.
“I’m excited about Hispanicize LA in particular because it is the first time we are opening the event to consumers, ‘fans’ of our amazing Latino talent. In addition, the Hispanic Heritage theme of this event aims to inspire, empower and give a platform to our community to have their voices heard and affect change,” Managing Director and Co-Founder of Hispanicize Event Katherine Johnson-Gunn told HipLatina.
The almost three-day conference in Los Angeles kicked off Friday, Oct.11 through Sunday and skewed towards entertainment considering the local talen. There was even a fireside chat with Mario Lopez but it still stayed true to the diverse offerings Hispanicize has cultivated. Panelists included beauty vlogger Laura Sanchez, makeup artist and entrepreneur Angel Merino, Laura Di Lorenzo of The Chonga Girls and Diana Colin of CHIRLA.
From how to produce viral videos to diversity in beauty to monetizing Latinx art, the conference aims to provide an array of panel discussions. And for the first time ever, it’s also got political with a panel encouraging Latinx to exercise their power to vote.
Empowerment is the common thread that ties all the panels together and is ultimately the end goal for the conference, according to Co-Founder and Managing Director Of Hispanicize Event Cristy Clavijo-Kish.
“One of the panels we always have is understanding your worth, how to value your work and grow your brand. So that’s empowerment from the angle of knowledge and creating a network,” she said.
The idea of empowerment extends beyond the professional world with panels that focus on the Time’s Up movement, defining the Latino voice in Hollywood, and the impact of Latinx LGBTQ in pop culture.
“We are fostering an openness that is not associated with the Latino community. We wanted to make sure to have that as an open platform for conversation,” Clavijo-Kish said. “We’ve worked to empower women of color in general.”
They’ve also made it integral to focus on financial literacy among the Latino community, something Clavijo-Kish believes is key to empowerment.
Latinos are more than 55 million strong in the US with estimates that double the population by 2060, and Hispanicize recognizes the power in those numbers. The fact that it’s now a multi-day event in LA is a direct response to its popularity according to Clavijo-Kish, with previous attendance being upwards of 800 for the LA event and 2,500 in their home base of Miami.
“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. Our spending power is huge, and these companies have really taken notice,” Chief Operating Officer of Hispanicize Media Group Piera Garibaldi-Jolly told the Knight Foundation.
The event helps to cultivate burgeoning entrepreneurs and even acts as a launching pad for businesses as was the case with Bebe Lanugo. The company—which sold baby products with a cultural message— won funding to propel the brand during co-founder Carla Curiel’s pitch at Hispanicize Miami in 2013.
Clavijo-Kish herself is an entrepreneur who understands first hand the hard work and dedication that goes into establishing a business as well as the inevitable hardships. The Cuban-American mother of 16-year-old twin girls who considers herself a “hip Latina mom, shares the advice she gives them on working hard.
“I’m a teenage cancer survivor so I try to live by the mantra that it has to fulfill me in someway or I have to feel like I’m making some sort of a difference even in my little niche. I definitely believe that you have to find your passion point. What makes you tick on Monday may seem like it really sucks on Wednesday and then on Friday you’re doing OK. You may love it but it’s not gonna be an easy road.”
This passion is what fuels her to organize the conference along with Peruvian Johnson-Gunn to ensure each time is not only better than the last but also “edgy” and always empowering.
They make it a point to change up their panelists to stay on the pulse of what’s trending and relevant.
“We sometimes annoy speakers cause they want to be at every Hispanicize, but we strive hard to change the agenda, to bring in new faces, to allow a new voice and not allow any favorites,” Clavijo-Kish said.
The cost to attend the LA conference ranges from $55 to $275 and this can sometimes turn people off, according to Clavijo-Kish, but she is quick to point out that it’s really an investment in one’s career.
“I would like to see the Latino community believe in more professional development for themselves. I want to see our community embrace it more strongly,” she says.