I was one of 40 participants of the 2020 Google Creative Campus. As part of our 8-week course, we split up into teams to solve a pitch on racial equity around the world. My team was mainly comprised on individuals from Latin America, so we decided to focus our solution on the region.
How might Google advocate racial equity in Latin America?
Many Latin Americans struggle to define their racial identity.
Each country has its own unique characteristics, racial makeup, and vernacular.
Create a space to facilitate open discussion about racial equity on the national front.
In Latin America, despite the majority population consisting of mulatos/criollos/mestizos (terms for mixed ethnicities), people continue to be discriminated against very frequently because of the color of their skin. Many of these issues stem from histories of colonialism, discrimination, eugenic systems, and colorism. For people of mixed race, it can be incredibly difficult to define one's heritage and race. Our team conducted a survey of ~100 individuals in Brazil, Ecuador, and Costa Rica (where our team members are from) and found that:
For a long time, racist connotation has been embedded into the fabric of society and into daily vernacular. Below are some of the common words our team found in spoken Spanish and Portuguese across the region.
Prieto (Spanish): dark-skinned person
Indio (Spanish): indigenous person
Cholo (Spanish): refers to person of indigenous descent, Mex-Am stereotype associated with gang culture
Pardos (Portuguese): refers to individuals of mixed race in Brazil
Mestizo (Spanish): mixed white/indigenous
Mulato (Spanish/Portuguese): mixed black/indigenous, derived from the word "mule"
Villeros (Spanish): used to refer to individuals living in shanty-towns
A curated platform dedicated to facilitating conversations and discussions around education on heritage, culture, and racial equity in Latin America. Raices translates to roots in Spanish (Raízes in Portuguese).
Each Raices page is tailored to the country you’re located in and brings together Google’s top products like Google Arts and Culture and Google Translate to elevate diverse resources and perspectives on racial equity, local culture, and heritage, including verified content contributions marked here by the green box and Raices tag.
Our goal is to add richer context in order to hack the narrative, search algorithms and the nuances behind mixed-race identity and racial equity within the context of these individual countries.
An important facet for us as we were building this was the fundamental understanding that every country in Latin America has its own unique racial makeup, history, subcultures and art that arise from those subcultures. Shown above is the Raices home page for Brazil, populated with resources highlighting Brazilian voices, articles and artists such as Portinari.
We also considered an integration with Google Translate that would register common terms related to race and mark any that were negative/outdated in red.
With Raices, if you want to learn more about the context behind some questionable terms like cholo, when you search it, you’ll be able to see a red alert tag letting you know this word has a derogatory definition, along more resources and link that will take you to your country’s Raices page. We also thought the images page in particular could be a place where Google can help combat visual stereotypes that are associated with some of these definitions, instead providing options, tied again to the Raices framework.
We picked Brazil as our pilot country since it's the largest country in Latin America with a strong Google brand presence. Our main target countries for Spanish pilot were Colombia and Mexico.
Like the Brazilian page shown above, here we have the Raices page for Mexico, highlighting Mexican voices as well as stories from Arts and Culture featuring icons like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. The Google Translate feature also notes terms that are specific to the Mexican vernacular.
To promote the program, we laid out three core channels to target our marketing:
Google Arts and Culture was a product we recognized as having huge reach and potential. We imagined Google Raices acting as a singular tag to help launch and distinguish new story series and curated article lists that speak directly to race, culture, and heritage in these individual countries.
We also explored current collaborations and creative programs through the Google Arts and Culture platform, including the Art Zoom series (shown below: GAC's existing J.Balvin episode). By hosting special Raices x Art Zoom episodes, we could highlight artists from BIPOC or marginalized backgrounds to provide a perspective on their country’s art history that hasn’t been done before.
We explored other features of Arts and Culture, such as the Experiments section, creating fun interactions like a Cultural Crossword puzzle to learn about new artists.
The 40 of us were supposed to attend the Cannes Lions festival together for a week, but we couldn't because of COVID. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise because we were able to spend 8 weeks working together. My team had the honor to present our idea to internal Google leaders, which gave us the encouragement to push our ideas even further. This experience opened my eyes to how beautiful diversity is and how big the world is.
Nicole Rachid (Brazil): video editing, animation, Portuguese translation
Arianna Montoya (Costa Rica): research, Spanish translation
Carolina Plaza (Ecuador): research, Spanish translation
Siladityaa Sharma (India, US): UX/UI