Reaching Hispanic audiences: It's all about relationships

If you want to offer educational programs to Hispanics, begin by forgetting the program. Instead, think people. Only with a system of healthy relationships in place can you begin to deliver educational content.

Getting Started

If Extension has little or no name recognition and credibility within your local Hispanic community, relationship building can sound daunting. It’s even more difficult if you don’t speak Spanish and have little knowledge of Hispanic culture.

An easy way to start in these circumstances is to get to know the local organizations that already have credibility within the Hispanic community. They can help you identify community leaders and might even introduce you. Form partnerships to deliver educational programs. Collaborating with WIC on a nutrition education program, for example, can lend instant credibility.

Some examples of organizations you’ll want to get to know include public health clinics, Head Start, WIC, churches offering Spanish-language services, the Oregon Council for Hispanic Advancement, AmeriCorps, Catholic Charities, and the Oregon Human Development Corporation.

Suggestions for relationship building

  • Learn a few words of Spanish (gracias, por favor, buenos días). Even this simple effort indicates you’re sincere about wanting to be part of the community.
  • Dine at your local Mexican restaurant on a regular basis. Smile, compliment them on the great meal, ask for a recipe.
  • Find out whether there will be a Mexican Independence Day (September 17) or Cinco de Mayo (May 5) celebration. Show up for it, have fun, get to know people, and learn about cultural traditions.
  • Participate in events sponsored by other agencies and organizations, even if you’re not a formal part of the program. When the program is over, stay and chat with participants.
  • Spend time listening. Learn what people need the most and what agencies can meet those needs. By helping families with their immediate needs, you’ll be seen as a trusted source of information.
  • Offer youth programs. Because most Hispanic youth are bilingual, you can offer these programs in English. By getting to know young people, you’ll begin to build relationships with families.
  • Finally, be patient! It takes time to build the trust that will make your programs successful. Relationships don’t develop overnight; they take years.
  • Even after you’ve built successful programs, keep nurturing relationships. Extension educators’ tendency to be task oriented often clashes with Hispanic cultural values, which typically place more emphasis on relationships. Make relationships a higher priority than tasks. If necessary, forego the task to save the relationship.