When it comes to building strategies and content for Hispanic and Latino audiences, cultural competence is key. The race to gain influence over such a diverse, fast-growing U.S. population is pushing today’s communications and media leaders to think out of the box and innovate to get a step ahead, closer to the multicultural group deemed to become the largest racial and ethnic population in the United States by 2050.
Whether they’ve climbed the corporate ladder or created their own business projects, Hispanic and Latino leaders in marketing communications, media and advertising have been recognized for their unique, extraordinary efforts to build on services and products that fulfill a multicultural audience’s needs and causes. In today’s landscape, these leaders are not just the ones driving good business, but they are the ones shaking and moving the industry towards a more equitable future.
For Hispanic Heritage Month, Marcom Weekly brings a list of 20 Hispanic and Latinx leaders at the forefront of community engagement, brand positioning, content production and strategy that successfully connect communities to a purpose.
This year’s list is by no means complete. But it acknowledges the talent, effort, and impact of the Latinx, Hispanics, Latinos and Latine activists, executives, creators, thought leaders, journalists, and others making a difference in media, marketing, public relations and the advertising world for multicultural audiences.
Claudio E. Cabrera is the vice president for newsroom strategy and audience at The New York Times’ The Athletic. Born in New York City to Dominican parents, Cabrera is an award-winning journalist and audience development expert who specializes in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). He began his journalism career in 2004 while in his second year at CUNY’s Brooklyn College. As an intern for the Black newspaper, the New York Amsterdam News, he reported on the law that allowed phone companies in NY state to charge families of inmates exorbitant rates for phone calls. In 2006, he won an award from the Independent Press Association for his work. Upon graduating in 2008, Cabrera has worked for brands such as Yoonew – where he developed his digital skills in public relations, editorial, SEO and social media – InteractiveOne, Black Enterprise, CBS Local and The New York Times. Cabrera has grown the audience for every company he’s worked for by 40%, or more. In 2013, he was named one of the country’s ten best audience development experts by Folio Magazine. Cabrera is also a speaker on digital media for the U.S. and abroad and is invested in increasing readership from BIPOC communities as well as mentoring professional journalists and soon to be professionals in the media industry.
Stacie de Armas is the senior vice president for DEI, Diverse Insights, Intelligence and Initiatives at Nielsen. A U.S.-born Cuban, de Armas has served many roles related to multicultural marketing since she joined Nielsen in 1998. Currently, she leads the development of inclusive thought leadership and new research initiatives on diverse consumers and audiences, as she is an experienced identity researcher, consumer behaviorist, and subject matter expert in audience diversity, particularly for Spanish-language audiences. De Armas is a board member of the Hispanic Marketing Council, RespectAbility, and Google’s 21st Century Multicultural Marketing Council. She has received industry honors for her work in diversity marketing. She was also named one of Latina Style Magazine’s Top Latina Executives, and one of Imagen Foundation’s Most Powerful and Influential Latinos in Entertainment.
Gonzalo Del Fa is the president for GroupM Multicultural, a media and marketing banner that strategizes investments in diverse markets. The Argentinean executive joined the GroupM family in 2003 as managing director of MEC Argentina. In 2006, he moved to New York to launch MEC Bravo and, in 2010, he was instrumental in combining agencies under the GroupM Multicultural branch for GroupM – a division that provides clients with relevant and informative views on multicultural markets and audiences across the U.S. At the height of the pandemic, Del Fa engaged in the launching of GroupM’s “Multicultural Marketplace” – a comprehensive list of 300 Black and Hispanic owned and/or focused publishers that create, curate and distribute content specifically for those audiences. Under Del Fa’s leadership, GroupM Multicultural has worked with Nestlé, Unilever, Mars, Target, L’Oréal, General Mills, Church & Dwight, AARP, Kimberly Clark and Bayer. He has been recognized as Ad Age’s 2014 Media Maven of the Year, nominated for the Crain’s Visionary Award, and granted the 2017 Executive Leadership Award at the 15th Annual Hispanic Television Summit. Del Fa is also chair for the board of directors of the Hispanic Marketing Council.
Johanna Fuentes, formerly of Warner Brothers and Showtime, is a senior communications executive with nearly 25 years of experience in the entertainment industry. As a communications liaison for CBS Corporation and ViacomCBS, Fuentes worked on locations in the U.S., Thailand, Brazil and Panama and led publicity campaigns for original series, movies and entertainment specials including Survivor, CSI: NY, Cold Case, The GRAMMY® and TONY® Awards. In 2010, she became the executive vice president for communications at Showtime Networks Inc., where she led the public relations strategy for a decade. During her tenure, Fuentes was responsible for the execution of all global media relations initiatives, enhancing the corporate and programming interests for Showtime Networks, Pop TV and Smithsonian Channel. During the last two years, Fuentes was the Head of Global Communications, Studios and Networks for Warner Bros., where she was responsible for the company’s communications strategies, media relations, public positioning, executive communications, crisis management, corporate responsibility and philanthropy on a global basis. Until July, when the WarnerMedia-Discovery merger transition ended, Fuentes was responsible for messaging alignment and consistency across Warner Bros. divisions —including the company’s film, television, video games, consumer products, home entertainment and studio operations businesses, as well as DC, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Turner Classic Movies.
Lili Gil Valletta is an award-winning entrepreneur, CEO and co-founder for CIEN+ and CulturIntel, two service firms dedicated to big data market research, business consulting and cross-cultural marketing, headquartered in New York City and with offices in Colombia and Mexico. A Colombian who arrived in the U.S. at age 17 as a non-English speaker, Gil Valletta worked for more than 20 years as a corporate executive –including a 10-year tenure as the director for global marketing services at Johnson & Johnson. In 2016, she co-founded CIEN+, a marketing service and business consulting firm that helps Fortune 500 corporations better understand and tap into diverse and high growth markets. Her proprietary methodologies of Cultural Intelligence and innovative application of AI and leading big data tools have been presented at numerous conferences, news outlets, the United Nations and universities like Harvard, Princeton, Cornell, Auckland University of Technology, and others. Gil Valletta, a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, is also the 2018 Hispanic Businessperson of the Year by the USHCC, 2019 Top 10 Innovation Catalyst by MM&M, Top 100 Most Powerful Women of New York, and a mentor to the Stanford Latino Entrepreneur Leaders Program.
Iván Heredia is the Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for 4-H, a U.S.-based network considered the country’s largest youth development program, managed by the Cooperative Extension System and the United States Department of Agriculture. Heredia has worked in the marketing industry for more than two decades for some of the most iconic youth-focused brands in the entertainment world. From 2006 to 2012, he served as the Director of Marketing and Talent Relations at Nickelodeon, where he created programs and synergies across ViacomCBS and the music industry at large to deliver culturally relevant content such as iCarly, Big Time Rush, and multiple Kids’ Choice Awards. For the following nine years, Heredia held several executive roles at The Walt Disney Co. As the vice president of marketing, brand engagement and revenue, he oversaw all branding efforts on behalf of Disney Channels Worldwide, led the revitalization of the iconic Radio Disney brand, including the Radio Disney Music Awards. He also served as an advisor and executive mentor on Disney Channel’s Leader & Learning Advisory Board, which fosters diversity, equity, and inclusion as well as professional development across the organization. Heredia, a celebrated Adweek 2019 Brand Innovator, now leads all marketing efforts at 4-H with a focus on driving brand recognition, revenue, and innovation to advance the mission of creating opportunity for all kids.
Maria Hinojosa is the Pulitzer Prize and Emmy award-winning journalist behind Futuro Media Group. Born in Mexico City and raised in Chicago, Hinojosa has helped tell America’s untold stories for over 25 years. In 2010, she launched Futuro Media Group with the mission to produce multi-platform, community-based journalism that gives critical voice to underreported communities by harnessing the power of independent media to tell stories that are overlooked by traditional media. In addition, she is the anchor and executive producer of the long-running weekly NPR show Latino USA. Alongside the radio show, Hinojosa’s media properties include the race and political podcast In the Thick, news site Latino Rebels and production hub Futuro Studios –the creative division that produces Anything for Selena, La Brega and the Pulitzer Prize-winning podcast Suave. Throughout her career, Hinojosa has helped define the conversation about America’s multicultural experiences with one of the most authentic voices in broadcast, focused on producing multimedia content for the new American mainstream. Hinojosa is also the author of two books including the memoir titled, Once I was You.
Luis Miguel Messianu is the founder and chairman for Alma, a marketing and advertising agency dedicated to the Hispanic markets in the U.S. Born to Romanian parents and raised in Mexico, Messianu has played an influential role in the evolution of the multicultural strategies implemented in the marketing and advertising industry in Latin America and the U.S. Hispanic markets. Since launching his agency in 1994, Messianu has worked for brands such as McDonald’s, State Farm, Clorox, Sprint, General Motors, Goodyear, L’Oreal, Coca-Cola, Nestlé and others on award-winning campaigns. Through his vision and leadership in creating a non-conformist culture, Messianu’s agency has made Ad Age’s A-List five times since 2010 –including Multicultural Agency of the Year in 2014, 2015 and 2017. In 2013, Messianu was named Diversity Trendsetter by the American Advertising Federation. In 2015, he was named Legend Honoree by AdColor in celebration of his achievements in diversity throughout his career. In 2016, Messianu served as the President of the Jury at El Sol Festival in Bilbao and was also a juror for the Radio Lions at Cannes. In 2017, his agency won an unprecedented 10 Lions, including two Golds at the Cannes Advertising Festival. Alma has been the most awarded U.S. Hispanic agency at Festival Iberoamericano de Publicidad, El Sol Festival, Wave Festival and U.S. Hispanic Ideas Awards. In 2019, Messianu was inducted into the Culture Marketing Council’s Hall of Fame, one of the biggest honors in the multicultural industry.
Lin-Manuel Miranda is a Pulitzer Prize, MacArthur Fellowship, Tony, and Grammy-winning theater and film recipient. Born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents, Miranda first became widely known for writing, composing, and starring in the Broadway hits, In the Heights and Hamilton: An American Musical. As its composer/lyricist, Miranda won a Best Original Score Tony Award for In the Heights, as well as a nomination for Leading Actor in a Musical. It also earned him a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album and a spot as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama with the musical’s book author, Quiara Alegría Hudes, in 2009. In 2016, Miranda’s work in Hamilton won 11 Tony Awards, with its author taking home the prizes for book, score, and best musical. He also won a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. His work in theater set the stage for his work on the Disney animated film Moana (2016) –which included his Oscar-nominated song How Far I’ll Go– as well as acting roles in films like Mary Poppins Returns (2018). In the fall of 2017, he gathered an all-star lineup of Latin performers for the single Almost Like Praying, with proceeds benefiting Puerto Rico’s recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Miranda’s 2008 musical, In the Heights, was adapted for the big screen by Warner Bros. in 2021. That same year, he made his directorial debut with the film adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s Tick, Tick…BOOM! and penned songs for the Disney animated feature Encanto.
Jessica Morales Rocketto and Stephanie Valencia are the founders of Latino Media Network, a distribution and content-creating startup that raised $80 million to launch –one of the largest capital raises for a media company owned and operated by Latinas. Morales Rocketto is an activist who works in civic engagement for the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Valencia is a national leader at the nexus of politics, technology and leadership development and an entrepreneur. With the capital raised for the media startup, the duo acquired 18 Spanish-language radio stations from TelevisaUnivision, that serve 10 of the largest Hispanic and Latino markets in the country –Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, Chicago, Dallas, San Antonio, McAllen, Fresno and Las Vegas. The deal is one of the largest single acquisitions of radio stations by a Latino-owned and operated company. The media hub intends to help listeners make sense of the avalanche of information that targets Hispanic and Latino audiences.
Deborah Rentería is the executive director of inclusive creative and marketing strategy for Lionsgate and co-founder of La Nueva Link. A U.S.-born Mexican, Rentería is a marketing professional and pop culture enthusiast with 10 years of experience in the entertainment industry. On the multicultural marketing team at HBO, she focused on creating experiences that organically engage with diverse audiences and elevate top priority programming and initiatives. Rentería led the strategy behind marketing campaigns for productions and projects such as Game of Thrones, Ballers, Lovecraft Country and others. In 2020, she launched La Nueva Link, a community for creatives and media professionals to foster visibility and understanding of U.S. Latinx micro-communities through a network that engages and empowers non-white storytellers digitally and in real life.
Lissette M. Ríos is the founder of Chic Influence, a public relations agency specializing in influence-building for brands and celebrities in the diverse mainstream marketplace. For more than 15 years, Ríos worked as a corporate executive in public relations for agencies that worked with major global brands such as Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Nintendo, Pernod Ricard, General Motors and Land Rover. In 2015, she launched an all-in-one agency that offers talent management, strategic media and public relations. Based in New York City, the agency currently represents Being Latino –one of the country’s top social media marketing companies targeting Hispanic millennials, celebrity hairstylist and makeup artist Gabriel Samra, ready-to-wear fashion line Cenia for Home Shopping Network, and celebrity fashion stylist Irma Martinez. A U.S. born Cuban, Ríos has been featured on award-winning journalist Victoria Leandra’s El ADN podcast about the challenges that Latinx movers and shakers overcome to reach success.
Claudia Romo Edelman is the global mobilization expert, social entrepreneur, catalyst and marketer for social causes who founded We Are All Human, an organization that focuses on getting business leaders, policymakers, NGOs and individuals to convene and agree on speaking out against discrimination. Romo Edelman, a former Mexican-Swiss diplomat who was born and raised in Mexico, has more than 25 years of experience leading marketing and advocacy for global organizations including United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations, the World Economic Forum and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. She has launched hundreds of successful campaigns and initiatives including the Sustainable Development Goals and the SDG Lions Awards. She earned a ranking on People Magazine’s 25 most powerful Latinas and received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2019, among many other awards and recognition. As a thought leader for the Hispanic community and its role in the economy, Romo Edelman also founded The Hispanic Star, a collective goodwill effort to advance the Hispanic community. She also founded Global GoalsCast, a podcast that inspires and empowers listeners to make the world a better place.
Maria Elena Salinas is a Spanish-language news anchor and journalist. She was previously a co-anchor of Univision’s nightly newscast, Noticiero Univisión, and the network’s news magazine, Aquí y Ahora. She has interviewed heads of state and national leaders around the world, including every president of the United States since Jimmy Carter. In 2007, Salinas co-hosted the first Spanish-language presidential forums for Democratic and Republican candidates on Univisión. In addition to her role as a broadcast journalist, Salinas is also a radio commentator and a syndicated columnist. Her writing appears in Spanish and English in more than 55 newspapers across the United States. Salinas is a founding member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She serves on the board of directors of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and the International Women’s Media Foundation. Salinas’ work has earned the top awards presented in broadcasting, including multiple Emmys, a Peabody, Gracie Awards, the Edward R. Murrow Award and the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism.
Solomon Trujillo is an international business executive who has served as CEO of global companies in the U.S., the EU, and Asia-Pacific region – including US West, Orange and Telstra, the Australian media-communications company. A pioneer and visionary, Trujillo is the chair and co-founder of the Latino Donor Collaborative, a group of U.S. Latino business leaders working to replace false stereotypes with a clear-eyed view of Latinos as a mainstream economic force driving growth in the United States. He is also the chairman for Agua Media, a podcast production hub for the U.S. Latino community that offers a wider-angle view to conversations, storytelling and interviews through the lens of the new American mainstream. Trujillo is also the co-founder of L’ATTITUDE, a national platform that showcases the contributions of U.S. Latinos in business, media, politics, science, and technology. In August, L’ATTITUDE’s venture fund focused on Latino-owned start-ups closed on $100 million for its sophomore fund. A native of Wyoming, Trujillo sits on the board of the Latino Business Action Network, a collaboration partner to the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative.
Arturo Varela is the director of public relations at Culture ONE World, a cross-cultural advertising and media arts agency based in Washington, D.C. In 2010, Varela started his professional career as a bilingual journalist for Al DÍA News, covering a broad range of topics from arts and culture to politics and business. Throughout his five-year tenure with the newspaper, Varela won several José Martí Awards and Keystone Media Awards for his journalism work. In 2016, he moved on to lead strategic corporate and consumer communications with a focus on diversity and multicultural communications, public and media relations. During his five-year tenure with tourism agency Visit Philadelphia, Varela was responsible for the Latinx and LGBTQ+ markets as the senior manager of public relations. He helped shape and execute the tourism company’s Latinx and LGBTQ+ campaigns –like the 2019 Filadelfia, You gotta feel it campaign– and coordinated media coverage of Philadelphia in local, regional, national and international outlets, as well as conducting media event planning and coverage tracking. Varela is now the public relations director for Culture ONE World, where he builds and executes marketing communication strategies for multicultural markets around the U.S.
Cristina Vera is an award-winning communications strategist who founded Vera Creatives, an agency based in Chicago that shapes social equity through human-centered, innovative marketing, design, and community engagement. Vera built on her leadership and engagement experience in management positions with the public relations departments at the City of Chicago, the Chicago Park District and the Illinois Network of Charter Schools. In 2009, she founded Vera Creatives to obtain more resources, representation, and funding for under-served communities across Chicago. Vera has worked on awareness campaigns for the 2020 U.S. Census to increase participation among minorities and hard-to-reach communities in Cook County and the City of Chicago. Her agency also worked on a marketing campaign for the city-wide Chicago Early Learning program. Vera also led a campaign to increase Latino enrollment by ten percent for the Chicago Head Start program, and the enrollment campaign of 25,000 children for the Chicago Park District summer day camp. Most recently, Vera worked on an engagement effort to connect with nearly 6,000 Illinois businesses to increase awareness and compliance with CDC guidelines among communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
Lizette Williams is the Global Head of Vertical Solutions Marketing for Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. Williams, born and raised a New Yorker, and self-proclaimed proud Afro-Latina, is a marketing and advertising executive with expertise at driving the convergence of brands, culture and digital. In the past 15 years, she has worked in major marketing roles at McDonald’s, Kimberly-Clark Corporation and PepsiCo., where she focused on driving consumer-centric growth strategies based on cultural relevance. Currently, she serves as the Global Head of Vertical Solutions Marketing at Meta, where she leads a global marketing team tasked with developing the business marketing strategy and approach across seven industries including Consumer Packaged Goods, Retail, Gaming, and eCommerce. In 2017, Williams was inducted into the American Advertising Federation Advertising Hall of Achievement. She has been listed as one of Crain’s Chicago Business “40 under 40,” Advertising Age “Women to Watch,” and Black Enterprise “Top Women Executives in Advertising and Marketing.” She has been a keynote speaker and panelist at several premiere industry conferences, including SXSW, Advertising Week, and multiple Association of National Advertisers conferences. Currently based in Chicago, Williams serves on the Board of the Chicago Advertising Federation.
Steven Wolfe Pereira is the Chief Business Officer at 3Pas Studios and the board chair for Encantos. A U.S. born Dominican, Wolfe Pereira began his career in finance in the mid-90’s with The Blackstone Group, Salomon Smith Barney (Citi) and Violy, Byorum & Partners. He held executive roles in marketing, branding and business development at Publicis Groupe, Univision and Akamai Technologies, before he served as the Chief Marketing Officer of Datalogix (acquired by Oracle), Neustar (acquired by Golden Gate Capital) and Quantcast. In 2016, Wolfe Pereira co-founded Encantos, an award-winning, global entertainment platform that creates purpose-driven direct-to-consumer family brands that incorporate learning, literacy and life skills – all connected by culture. Some of Encantos most renowned productions include the Emmy-nominated and Kidscreen award-winning #1 bilingual preschool brand Canticos, the adventure-based travel brand Tiny Travelers, and the Day of the Dead-inspired bravery brand Skeletitos. Under his leadership, Encantos was named in Fast Company’s prestigious annual list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies for 2021. Wolfe Pereira is also the chief business officer for 3Pas Studios, a multiplatform global entertainment company co-founded by the award-winning actor, writer, director, and producer Eugenio Derbez and acclaimed film and television producer, Ben Odell. Wolfe Pereira, an Emmy-nominated executive producer himself, was named by Adweek as one of the 50 Most Indispensable Executives in Marketing, Media and Tech and is considered one of the top Chief Marketing Technology Officers in the U.S. A speaker and thought leader on multicultural consumers, Wolfe Pereira was highlighted as one of LinkedIn’s 2022 Top Voices for Hispanic Heritage Month.
Leticia Uvario also contributed to this package.