As American as a mail-order catalog

Sears, that bastion of American culture at reasonable prices, is printing a catalog in Spanish. In America, a people is a market. And it follows that as more Latin American people come to the United States, the more seriously they will be taken as a market.

The upshot is that American business is heading toward bilingualism whether the government is or not.

From the Spanish-language subway advertisements in New York to the many Spanish-language radio stations in Los Angeles, more advertisers are putting money into reaching the Hispanophone.

So observes mass communications specialist Felix Gutierrez of the University of Southern California.And, simply put: "More ad messages in Spanish will mean more media in Spanish to carry those messages."

About 78 percent of Latin Americans in the United States are bilingual, according to census figures. More Spanish language media is likely to raise the level of coverage and media interest in the Hispanic community.

What makes Latin Americans a lucrative market is their demographics. They are generally younger than the US average and have larger families. This translates into a higher proportion of budgets for food and household goods. A recent survey by the National Association of Spanish Broadcasters also showed high brand loyalty and a tendency to seek well-known (read well-advertised) products.

The growth Dr. Gutierrez sees coming in the '80s is less in independent Spanish media and more bilingualism. That is, more shows, books, articles produced in two languages.

The movie Superman II, he notes, was released at the same time in Spanish and English. In the past, the Spanish audience has had to wait. More songs will also be released in English and Spanish versions, Dr. Gutierrez expects.

Bantam books is the first of the major US publishers to move into the bilingual book market, announcing early this year a Spanish version of Judith Krantz's "Daisy" and, more recently, a forthcoming book on Dodger pitcher Fernando Valenzuela. The Chicago Sun-Times and the Arizona Republic recently joined other major US newspapers publishing Spanish editions.

The growth of the Spanish language is bound to arouse some reaction from Anglo society, says Dr. Gutierrez. "But I don't see any threat to the unity of of this country from a multicultural society."

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