Movida phone targets latinos |

Movida phone targets latinos

pitkin county correspondent

A new kind of cell phone is hitting the Roaring Fork Valley this month, specifically targeting the growing Latino population.

Movida Communications is launching pay-as-you-go cell phone plans nationwide this year, providing wireless voice and data communication on the Sprint wireless network. Its various plans are specifically marketed toward Latinos in the United States, including calls to Mexico for 20 cents per minute.

Movida – which means “on the move” in Spanish and is slang for moonlighting, or doing something else on the side – is partnering with Cisneros Group of Companies, Sprint and Wal-Mart to offer the service, estimating that there are more than 40 million Latinos living in the country who might be interested.

The phones and cards customers buy to “refill” minutes onto their phones are sold at Wal-Mart stores and were already a surprise hit in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Hector Krauss, who visited Glenwood Springs on Wednesday with Movida, said sales skyrocketed in east Texas just after the storm hit the Gulf Coast, since a pay-as-you-go service was popular with English speakers and Spanish speakers who needed to contact loved ones immediately.

Although the phones are outfitted Spanish, users can also choose English. The phones will feature other specific amenities for Latinos, including celebrity news from Latin stars, soccer scores and updates on popular novellas, or soap operas.

“The company was created to sell to the Hispanic market – not sell to the Hispanic market as a byproduct,” Krauss said. “Everyone in the company is of Latin descent, so we can address the Latin market in the United States without stereotypes.”

Krauss said the company has had an interesting time selecting advertising agencies for its products, finding that some companies hear about a product for the Latino population in the states and automatically put “mariachis and sombreros” in their advertisements, or address all Latinos as though they come from Third World countries.

“We have to address stereotypes in culturally correct ways, and we see that as our strong point,” Krauss said. “We know who they are and how to talk to them.”

Krauss is originally from Mexico City and moved to the United States in 1993. He is now based in Phoenix.

Luis Polar, editor of La Mission newspaper, based in Carbondale, said he estimates the Latino population from Aspen to Parachute to Avon is roughly 30,000. Many of the Latinos in the area are from northern Mexico, but he said it’s good to see the company being “culturally sensitive, rather than putting everyone into one mold.”

“Hispanics have a need for communicating with family and friends, and we think that the Latino base in the United States is very communicative and mobile,” Krauss said. Movida’s target audience includes traveling day laborers who move from job to job frequently and Latinos who lack a credit history, proper identification and permanent addresses.

Movida’s main financial backer, Cisneros Group of Companies, is one of the largest privately held media, entertainment, technology and consumer products organizations in the world. The group owns 13 percent of Latino television network Univision, a supermarket chain in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and a beer distributor and baseball team in Venezuela. The company was looking for ventures in the United States and was a perfect fit with Movida, Krauss said.

The wireless network plan for Movida was finalized in January and launched in April in San Diego and Arizona. Los Angeles and Texas were soon to follow. This month the company introduces cell phone plans in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Florida, Nebraska and Northern California.

The only places the company will not cover are Hawaii, Alaska, Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas – places of weakness in the Sprint network or with very few Latinos, he said.

Krauss said the new company is better than the prepaid phone calls Latinos often buy to call home.

“Unfortunately for the Hispanic market in the U.S., it’s easy to be fooled with those cards, when English is your second language,” Krauss said, noting that while the rates seem great, the fine print of a prepaid card often penalizes the user for not using all of the minutes during one phone call, or adds on connection fees.

Movida’s service includes a choice of three different cell phones and two service plans, both of which can be refilled with minutes by purchasing Movida cards.

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