In a post-election opinion for CNN, Latino media entrepreneur Manny Ruiz wrote an open letter to Donald Trump, offering advice on how he can "reboot" his relationship with the Latin American community. It was a thorough list of pointers (read them here). But it left out what has to be the most important thing Trump needs to change if he wants to govern effectively: the negative and misleading narrative about Latinos that still hangs over our country.
During his presidential announcement speech in June 2015, Donald Trump stated that immigrants are bringing, "...lots of problems... drugs... crime... rapists." This statement simply does not hold up to the facts. Many of us are entrepreneurs, creating millions of jobs that grow our economy.
The end of Trump's Latino unreality show might have helped him get elected, but it will only impede him in getting his job done.
Here is why: if there is a mandate coming from the general electorate, it is not about building walls. It is about strengthening the economy -- and creating jobs -- for all Americans. Contrary to popular belief, Latinos do not only care about immigration issues. In fact, according a recent Pew Research Center survey, "economy is at the forefront of Hispanic voters' minds in this presidential election year, with 86% saying the economy is very important to their vote." If someone were to write a more accurate narrative about Latinos with respect to the U.S. economy, it would position Latinos as a potential strategic partner to the president elect, rather than a scapegoat. Consider the facts. Because going forward, the facts will matter:
Latino startup power
Let's start with entrepreneurship, one of most important proxies for economic growth in our country. The narrative about Latinos here may be surprising.
As Stanford Professor Doug Rivers observed at event in 2015, "contrary to what you may have heard, Latinos have not been a drag on the economy. It's quite the opposite."
The Latino population in the US (currently at 17%) is growing at an undeniably fast rate (estimated to be 30% by 2060), and with it, are the number of Latino-owned businesses (LOBs) -- growing nearly 50 times faster than non-Latino-owned businesses, according to a recent study by the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative (SLEI). Latinos start more companies than any other ethnic group in the US today (about 12% of all starts).
Like housing starts, business starts contribute in many ways to the economy, including more jobs. For Latinos are not just starting bodegas, tacquerias, and home-cleaning services. They are also starting new businesses in construction, media, professional services, healthcare, education, and yes, technology in a wide range of areas including iOT, virtual reality, and fintech, the technology category in which my own company competes. These companies employ -- and will continue to employ -- many Latinos and non-Latinos throughout the US.
Latino buying power
Here's another fact that will help shape the narrative for Trump: US Latino buying-power is a $1.3 trillion phenomenon -- a number larger than the gross domestic product of Mexico -- and is expected to grow by 50 percent in the next five years, which would make it the world's 11th largest economy if it were a country, according the International Business Times. Why? About one in five US citizens today are of Latino origin. But by 2050, the ratio will be one in three. So not only are Latino citizens creating more jobs for the US economy that Trump has been asked to lead. They are also stoking the consumer-economic engine behind US prosperity.
Latino civic power
But it does not end there - there is another kind of power that Latinos wield. And Trump, who self-proclaims to be one of the most politically astute business people, is most surely aware of it.
The rapid growing number of Latino business owners is also becoming increasingly civically engaged.
In an article for NBC.com early this year, Remy Arteaga, former Executive Director of the Stanford Initiative, noted that the average Latino-business owner is more likely to be civically engaged than other Latinos, because they have more interests, more ties, and more at stake than others in the Latino community. This means Trump will need to court them if he wants to leverage their civic power to move forward with his aggressive political agenda.
Arteaga called Latino business owners "power voters." No doubt: they will continue to be an electoral force throughout the 21st century. But I prefer to think of them as "power citizens," because of the unique combination of economic, spending, and civic power. These citizens can help others organize to help the country meet its economic mandate. Many are already doing that. But it would sure make sense to give them support.
This is the reality that Trump will need to confront, as he gets ready to move into the Oval Office. And I'm betting he's smart enough, and brave enough, to swap out a "show" that is based on negative fiction for a narrative that is based on positive fact. The truth is far more interesting, and better for America.