California Newspapers Cater to a Multinational Hispanic Population

According to the 2000 Census, about 75% of California's Hispanic population is Mexican. Even so, Hispanics of other nationalities – with a combined total of around two and a half million – still have newspapers written especially for them.

In Los Angeles, Salvadorians have the tabloid El Salvador dia a dia (weekly, circ. 35,000, free), Guatemalans – GuatemalaUSA (bimonthly, circ. 20,000-30,000, free), and Colombians – El ColombianoUSA (monthly, circ. 35,000, free).

All three papers are distributed in supermarkets, grocery stores, consulates and community centers throughout the Greater Los Angeles area, including the San Fernando Valley and Orange County. El ColombianoUSA is also distributed in San Francisco, San Diego and 19 other States including Florida, New York, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.

A quick look at these newspapers reveals an emphasis on news that would be ignored or given marginal coverage by the major Spanish language papers. “In order to be profitable, ethnic newspapers have to target a very specific community. This is achieved by providing readers with news from their country of origin and their community in the U.S.,” explains Ben Bustillo, editor-in-chief of El ColombianoUSA.

Reaching Beyond

Most ethnic newspapers also cover news that is of interest to a more general Hispanic audience. El Salvador día a día is divided into two major sections: one on Central America and Central American communities in the U.S., and the other on a variety of Hispanic oriented news.

According to El ColombianoUSA's Bustillo, it is impossible to identify communities based on specific interests and tastes, apart from their interest in their home country and community. “Many interests are associated with individuals. Within a single community there are people of diverse social and economic status and these are also determining factors in an individual's range of interests,” he explains.

The boundaries between these communities are fluid, blurred through constant interaction with Hispanics from other countries, especially in California where Hispanics of many different nationalities coexist.

Because U.S. Hispanics, regardless of their nationality, share certain political and social interests, they are likely to be affected by the same kinds of news. As Bustillo points out, interest in topics such as driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants will expand well beyond the Colombian community, and encourage non-Colombian Hispanics to pick up the paper as well.

Language Choice

Another interesting question is to what extent the Spanish language varies among these papers. Admittedly, the smaller the circulation, the more personal and community-oriented is the paper's style and content. Guatemala USA is written mostly by Guatemalans and El Salvador dia a dia by Salvadorians, which must affect the use of language and style, especially regarding local and community news.

But staff members from all three L.A. papers insist that their journalists and reporters try to use a standard Spanish that can be understood by any Hispanic reader. According to Bustillo, this wouldn't be difficult, since most of the journalists have lived in the United States for many years—he immigrated 27 years ago—enough time to erode localisms. The papers also get domestic and international news from newswires such as AP, EFE and Pacific News Service-PNS, leading to a mosaic of different styles within a single newspaper.

Ana Mateos

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