Although we have conducted a lot of research studies in Latin America and the Caribbean, we couldn’t, as a team, agree exactly what defines this region and its boundaries for our clients.
This is because our clients structure their LATC divisions in different ways. They often decide how to structure themselves based on where the best talent is located within the region and then balance that against proximity to strategic regions and US offices. As a result LATC operational teams vary by organisation. There is no standard blue print.
Having said that, a common characteristic among healthcare companies is the establishment of individual country teams, often with sub-regional management teams e.g. South Latin America, Central America, Caribbean etc., and a pan-regional senior management team. The latter may be located within a US headquarters and / or key individuals based out of disperse satellite offices. Sub-regional groupings are typically formed around market clusters which are regularly based on collective market sizes - meaning Brazil and Mexico may be classed as one region in its’ own right, while smaller Central American and Caribbean states may be grouped under a single management team.
Consequently, at Research Partnership we took the decision to define the LATC region as all markets south of the USA and north of the southern tip of Chile, including all of the Caribbean islands such as Barbados, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Jamaica. In its entirety the areas has a land mass of 19.2 million square kilometres and a population of over 650 million.
The next question we had to ask ourselves was: how do people in Latin America and the Caribbean see themselves? Do they class themselves as Latino or Hispanic? What about Central American? Caribbean? Jamaican or Brazilian? The simple answer is yes, all of these. Certain terms have become increasingly less fashionable, even politically incorrect. For example, while ‘Hispanic’ is still used in the US census, it has for many years now been seen as a way of focusing only on those with European Spanish ancestors and as a tool to distance the Hispanic population from the African and indigenous people.
‘Latino’ is generally acceptable, however it implies a speaker of Spanish or Portuguese. This means that French, English and Dutch speaking nations, such as Guiana, Guyana and Suriname respectively, cannot be neatly defined by this label. There has also been criticism of the gender bias in the term. In Spanish grammar the grammatical gender of the term ‘Latino’ is masculine, while ‘Latina’ is feminine – and much less frequently used. In recent years, there has been a growing effort by campaigners and activists to use the term ‘Latinx’ in order to promote gender neutrality. However, the movement has drawn criticisms for its invented origins and its perceived corruption of the Spanish language.
While many people may have a pan-Latino or Caribbean identity, one’s national self-image, even bonds to a particular city, town or neighbourhood community, can be highly important. Each country has different cultures for food, art, music, public holidays and sporting teams (although the West Indies cricket team is a successful example of multi-island partnership). Economies, healthcare systems and business environment can be radically different even among neighbouring countries.
Those considering the LATC region should take care - we may approach the LATC region as a whole from an operational efficiency point of view, but healthcare market success should be based on an in-depth understanding of its consumers, the market and healthcare environment at a very local level.