The Hispanic press in the United States

Por By Silvio González

Havana (PL) The history of Latin journalism in the United States shows a constant struggle in defense of culture and for preserving its own identity, as well as being a bulwark for fighting against racial discrimination and injustice.

According to ancient history, the first daily was the one placed by Roman Emperor Julius Caesar in the “Forum”, which he named “Daily Acts” in the first century A.D.

But the fact is that the history of the emergence of the earliest Latin news media in the United States also has a merit very scantily acknowledged or researched up to now. Félix Guttiérrez, a professor at the University of Southern California, stated that 150 years before the initial U.S. Latin daily came out, the first pieces of news had already been published in a leaflet written by the first Hispanic journalist known, Juan Rodríguez, in 1541 .

In 1808, the first daily ever published in Spanish in the United States, “El Misisipi”, began to come out in New Orleans.

Hispanic papers have worked on social and political issues, defense of the community against abuses by authorities, patriotic and cultural celebrations, and they have also provided a forum for readersâ�Ö opinions by means of their letters and other literary materials.

Some newspapers even founded publishing houses for distributing intellectual and artistic works by Hispanics on a larger scale.

The New York community, mostly made up of Spaniards, Cubans and Mexicans, also made some papers; among them, El Mensajero Semanal (1828-1831), El Mercurio de Nueva York (1828-1833), La Crónica (1850) and La Voz de America during the 1860s.

HISPANIC JOURNALISM IN NEW YORK

The history of Hispanic journalism in New York and Tampa is illustrative and important since in the early XXth century, journalistic enterprises of Spanish and Cuban origin dominated the cultural scene.

On March 14, 1892, shortly before the foundation of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, the newspaper Patria appeared in New York, every Friday night. José Martí and the editors did their best to make a success of the weekly, which in spite of its poor circulation, passed from hand to hand, and was read within the immigrant community and reached Cuba and other Latin American countries.

Neither El Yara, founded by José Dolores Poyo in Key West in 1878, nor El Porvenir, issued in New York, and directed by Enrique Trujillo, was as successful as Patria, which was published from 1892 to 1898.

Also of great importance because of its large circulation was the Las Novedades weekly (1893-1918), in which the famous Dominican literary figure Pedro Henríquez Ureña collaborated, as well as the Puertorrican La Gaceta Ilustrada, edited by Francisco Amy in 1850.

Among the various specialized papers in New York during the Depression and the Second World War, the most interesting is Gráfico weekly, edited by Alberto Oâ�ÖFarril, a comic actor of Cuban vernacular theater, according to researcher Luis Leal.

THE PRESS IN TAMPA

At the end of the XIX century, the area of Tampa, in Florida, experienced the transplant of the tobacco industry from Cuba and the activity of its press was very attached to the community, according to Richard A. García, in his book “Class, Consciousness and ideology”.

Some tobacco factories were set up in Eastern Tampa, in 1886, so as to avoid the hostilities of the Cuban war of independence, get closer to their markets in the United States and circumvent excessive import tariffs.

Strife caused by the war of independence could not be prevented, and the community was more or less divided between the Spanish owners and administrators supporting Spain and pro-independence Cuban workers.

Ethnic-racial divisions were reflected in the creation of various community societies such as the Spanish Center, the Asturian Center, the Cuban Center and the Martí-Maceo society.

New York , San Antonio and Los Angeles had Hispanic newspapers addressing a heterogeneous readership, made up of regional groups from the south-east, immigrant workers and political refugees, according to researcher Francisco Lomelí.

Some of the most talented Mexican, Spanish and Latin American writers made a living as reporters, columnists and critics at the offices of San Antonioâ�Ös la Prensa, La Opinion and El Heraldo de Mexico in Los Angeles.

Those very journalists also wrote books of poetry, essays and novels that were published in small publishing houses such as Laredo Publishing House, Spanish American Printing of Los Angeles, San Diegoâ�Ös Bolaños Printing House, and many others.

The Chicago-based daily, Tribuna de América, published on March 5, 1989 that:

“Nobody can be what one has not been born to be. If you know the history of the homeland and your ancestors, you do not have to feel inferior to anyone and therefore there is no reason for you to want to belong to a race which is not yours”.

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