Maggie: What if you had no way to find out what was happening right outside your door just because you didn’t speak the language? Well, one newspaper has worked hard to serve that type of community. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Scott Evans met up with their news team as they celebrate the big 1-0-0.
Scott: Its tagline is, ‘El Campion de Los Hispanos,’ which means, ‘The Champion for the Hispanics.’ And it happens to be the oldest Spanish language daily newspaper in the country. El Diario La Prensa is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.
La Prensa was founded in 1913 and El Diario came along in 1948. And it was in the early 60s that both papers went from competing against each other to merging as one.
Erica Gonzalez: El Diario has raised a steady drumbeat around issues that have been important to our community.
Scott: And now a century later, the paper is still serving the Hispanic community of New York City, which is growing. Just over 28% of the city’s population is Hispanic. We are talking about 2.5 million people. And just over 13% of the families in New York speak Spanish at home.
Executive Editor Erica Gonzalez says the paper is more than just a paper. It is like a tool for its quarter-of-a-million readers.
Gonzalez: It’s a different experience with El Diario versus the English language dailies because many people need the paper to kind of understand and navigate and kind of get from one step to the other. We have people who will come and see us first or call us first before they go to a government agency.
Stacey Cabezas: My grandparents, this was how they kind of read and knew what was going on in Puerto Rico, around the world. And, you know, they didn’t speak much English, so we kind of always had a copy in the house. You know, I would read it, and that’s how I got, you know, very well versed being bilingual.
Scott: Not only is the paper a source of information, but it also has a rich history in pushing for change.
Describe to me some of those moments where El Diario has played the activist role for Latinos in the community.
Gonzalez: We’ve had an impact on policy and on outcomes. In very small individual ways, from tenants and their basic needs to how New York City has a mandatory law around bilingual education.
Scott: The publication was even able to leverage its influence to help the Gregorio Luperon High School in Washington Heights get the new building it desperately needed.
Gonzalez: El Diario just went, you know, ‘this building needs to be delivered to these students,’ you know, and was just…campaigned relentlessly. And El Diario has a history of doing that, just kind of like being a thorn in the side of city government or state government or federal government.
Scott: And as part of the centennial celebration, El Diario has teamed up with Columbia University to share more than 5,000 photographs from its library.
Gonzalez: These are photos that you won’t see in other newspapers. They mark specific moments for Hispanics, the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s a visual chronicle of our city and how Latinos have shaped our city.
Scott: What do you think if the founders of El Diario were reading the paper today? What do you think they would say?
Gonzalez: I think they would be astounded. I would hope they would be proud and thrilled.
Scott: Scott Evans, Channel One News.
Maggie: We will be celebrating Hispanic Heritage right here throughout the month and over at Channelone.com.