In Hispanic culture, what you wear and how you wear it says a lot about you. A low-income family may not be able to afford expensive clothes, but their shirts are pressed and their shoes polished. Middle- to upper-class Hispanics in Latin American countries will save money to come to the United States to shop and buy American brands that, ironically, if not made in China, were probably made in a Latin American country like Guatemala (my home country). ).

Regardless of their financial situation, accessories and jewelry are essential for girls from a very young age. Little girls get their ears pierced almost at birth and can let their hair grow out to be pulled back into a sleek, polished ponytail. Her socks will have ruffles and her outfits will match.

Appearances are very important in Hispanic culture. First impressions have great value and are sometimes very difficult to erase if the result is negative. You don’t want to start off on the wrong foot. “The one who will say” (what will they say).

In America, clothing has become a way of expressing oneself. The “Go Green” or “Vote for Obama” t-shirts speak for themselves. Among Hispanics, clothing is not to express, but to impress. The reason for this could be that they worry about being judged and not accepted. And since social circles tend to be very small in Latin countries, it is important to give the right impression even though “appearances are deceiving” (appearances are deceiving).

I remember the comment of my mother-in-law (a Harvard Business School graduate), when she visited Guatemala for the first time. She said, “Everyone dresses like they’re always ready to go to an event.”

© 2009 Sofia E. Keck