EL PASO, Texas — The Latin press in the United States, currently one of the bright spots in the changing world of media in the Internet age, has been around for 202 years.
From the moment the first press in the Americas started printing in México City during Spanish colonial times to the newspapers of the Mexican revolution, to the papers helping ease the transition of immigrant life in the U.S., the Latin press has always given a voice to those who could not speak or would not be heard.
Dr. Felix Gutierrez told an audience a the University of Texas at El Paso, April 8, that for more than 200 years the Latin press has been pumping out news important to the immigrant and to the first generation Latinos looking for a way to fit in an Anglo world without losing their culture.
Gutierrez, a Visiting Professor of Journalism at the Annenberg School for Communication of the University of Southern California, has co-authored five books and more than 50 articles in academic journals professional publications and books mostly focusing on media diversity.
Gutierrez, who holds a PhD from Stanford University, showed a demo reel of a movie he is helping research entitled, Voices for Justice, a documentary chronicling the role the Spanish and bilingual press has played in certain movements in the Latin community here and abroad.
“The Hispanic press needs to be revived and preserved,” Gutierrez said. There has been a sharp raise in the number of Spanish-speaking media outlets, yet Hispanic ownership is still at a low, he said, which basically translates to media outlets recognizing the power of the Hispanic dollar because Hispanics do spend money.
These outlets are a far cry from the newspapers started in the past with a clear stance on a certain issue, he said. Unlike Fox News original Latino media did not pretend to be objective, but rather spoke out on the side of truth and justice as they saw it.
As the movie’s website, eltecolote.org, states, “When they were ignored or attacked by the Anglo press, Latinos created their own publications, which served to keep their communities informed, provided resources, promoted literary works, fought for economic and human rights, and nurtured the link to distance nations.”
El Misisipi, started up in New Orleans in 1808, is credited as the first Latin newspaper in the U.S. Other newspapers followed mostly serving as exile papers. Exile papers were published in the United States, with the protection of freedom of the press and were distributed to their homelands. “More often than not the newspapers were a rallying point for justice in the motherlands,” Gutierrez said.
The newspapers were also a sort of assimilation tools and instruction manuals for newly arrived immigrants telling them how to do things in the new land. The newspapers also helped the children of immigrants assimilate while not forgetting the culture of their parents and grandparents.
Since the growth of Spanish media today shows that Hispanics represent a powerful growing readership, news outlets may be tempted to hire a “Spanish kid” to report on the Spanish community and write stories that may interest Hispanics.
Gustavo Reveles Acosta, Board of Directors Secretary of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, said that it is important to have a balance of who reports what when it comes to the Hispanic community. “Newsrooms should reflect the population of the community… should you only send Hispanic reporters to cover Hispanic stories? Probably not, I think it should be a good mix,” he said “I’ve been in newsrooms where the most successful people covering the Latin community have not been Hispanics, and they bring a different perspective.”
But when does a sense of culture identity serve to separate Hispanics from the nation as a whole?
Dr. Dennis Bixler-Marquez professor of Chicano studies at UTEP believes Hispanics developing work made for Hispanics is important for identity, but “…we do have a tremendous participation in the so called mainstream media,” he said,
“I do think there is time for issues and actions by groups who will create positions and other times when we will like to come together. Most groups do want define their own parameters,” Bixler-Marquez said.