Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Hispanic Newspapers In Iowa: An Emerging Voice

In 1874, German immigrants in Carroll County launched The Demokrat, a  German-language newspaper, with the declaration that the publication would battle to preserve the interests of recently arrived immigrants against "nativisim and fanaticism.“

Sound familiar?

The Demokrat was the forerunner of publications like La Prensa, the western Iowa Spanish-language media organization that wins the Google Search title for Hispanic newspapers in the Hawkeye State. It's based in Carroll, nicely positioned in western Iowa within speedy reach of many Latino-rich communities.

The emergence of Spanish-language papers in Iowa shows why learning Spanish is a key asset for Iowa's white native population. Let's look at the numbers:

What The New York Times says:

At the moment, an estimated 114,700 Latinos are in Iowa, a 28 percent increase since 2000, according to the Iowa Division of Latino Affairs. In some small towns, nearly a third of the citizens are Hispanic, although about half the Hispanic population is concentrated in five Iowa cities, including Des Moines.

Iowa, like other parts of the nation, is in the midst of change as more Spanish-speaking immigrants move into the state, taking jobs in meatpacking, corn and egg processing plants. Evidence of their growing presence comes in the form of new Spanish-language newspapers, radio shows and mom-and-pop stores in fading downtown areas.

Let's look at some even more localized numbers.

Using 2005 and 2006 estimates, the Census reports that 16.7 percent (2,830) of Crawford County's population of 16,948 is Hispanic. In the county seat of Denison, using the latest Census numbers from 2000, 17 percent (1,274) of the city is Latin.

These numbers clearly show a demand for the product La Prensa editor Lorena Lopez is putting out in western Iowa twice a month. But her enterprise is more than just commercial. She is an advocate for the Latin community.

Why is that needed?

The answer is simple: brown is the new pink. Here is excerpt from a story I wrote last spring.

East Carolina University political scientist Peter Francia says he doesn't generally quote comedians.

But Francia, co-author of a provocative study on the gay marriage issue in rural America's presidential voting in 2004, says funny man Bill Maher has the perfect description of the 2008 election: "Brown is the new pink." In other words, a possible GOP strategy will be to scapegoat Hispanics with immigration issues in much the same way homosexuals were politically posterized in rural areas with Bush team posturing against gay marriage and Karl Rove-inspired hyperbole that made the debate over same-sex unions sound like a collective referendum on the Bible, country music, cold beer at college football games and the right to smoke cigarettes while fishing.

Now let's get into the history of La Prensa in a story I wrote for the Carroll Daily Times Herald about a year ago.

The 2-year-old Spanish-language paper, La Prensa (The Press), is a family operation, the product of an ambitious mother-son team originally from Nicaragua but with deepening roots in Carroll.

Published twice a month, La Prensa, a free tabloid, is distributed at several locations in western Iowa including Carroll, Storm Lake, Denison, Spencer, Perry, Ames and Fort Dodge. Distribution stands at about 6,800.

Editor and founder Lorena Lopez, a former television personality in Nicaragua, launched the publication in May 2006 with her son, Carlos A. Arguello, a Carroll High School and University of Northern Iowa graduate.

With a master's degree in communications from Central American University, which has a campus in Managua, Lopez became a recognizable face on Nicaraguan television in the 1980s. She even hosted the Miss Nicaragua pageants for a time.

But the same professional drive that finds Lopez getting exclusive interviews with major American politicians landed her on the persona non grata list with the Nicaraguan government. She produced a controversial piece about homosexual activity among teen-age boys forced by the Army into remote areas for service.

Lopez said the fallout from that series is complicated to explain, but it is one of the major reasons that she found herself in California in 1993, along with sons Carlos and Nauj (Juan spelled backward).

While La Prensa is Hispanic-owned and operated, Latinos aren't the only ones spying opportunity for these papers in Iowa.

This is from a story I wrote on Iowa a few weeks ago.

Humboldt newspaper publisher Jim Gargano sees parallels between Iowa's burgeoning Hispanic community and his own Italian family.

Coming of age in the 1950s and 1960s in Fort Dodge, Gargano listened to his grandmother, Rosalia Maggio, speak Italian in his hard-working home.

"I learned both languages when I was growing up," Gargano said. "Fort Dodge had a lot of Italians back then."

He recalls hearing anti-immigrant smears about Italians from time to time.

Today, as a community leader in north-central Iowa, an area that is increasingly Latino-rich, Gargano on occasion will hear echoes of that bigotry in comments from some white native Iowans about Hispanics.

His answer is simple:"You can like or dislike the Hispanics, but they are going to be here."

With shared immigrant experience as motivation, Gargano Communications launched the Spanish-language newspaper La Voz "The Voice" in late 2007.

The Daily Times Herald and Iowa Independent have collaborated on a number of project in the last year, including much political coverage:

Here is an example:

Chris Dodd is interviewed by Lorena Lopez, editor of La Prensa, and Douglas Burns of the Carroll Daily Times Herald and Iowa Independant on 10/25/07 at the Moose Lodge in Carroll.

The interview with the Democratic presidential candidate and veteran U.S. senator from Connecticut is in both Spanish and English with Lopez asking the first three questions and Burns the following four.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Barack Obama for President!

Se Si Peuda!