Even as a U.S. citizen, Juan Bonilla knows what it feels like to be a foreigner.
“When I started to look for jobs, I was treated like a normal immigrant from Mexico, because over here a lot of people think if you speak Spanish, you come from Mexico,” said the Puerto Rican who moved to Luverne seven years ago.
Bonilla speaks English, but the experience made him more sensitive to the struggles of his fellow immigrants.
“I noticed that there’s nothing in Spanish — no publications, no magazines, no newspapers,” he said.
“The Hispanic community or people who come here from other countries … usually they want to integrate and become part of our society over here, but they don’t have any way to know what’s going on.”
From that observation, La Voz Hispana, The Spanish Voice, was born. The free monthly magazine now has a circulation of nearly 6,000 that ranges from Huron, S.D., to St. James and will soon be distributed as far south as Sioux City, Iowa.
Bonilla and his staff produce the magazine from his Luverne basement — halfway between Sioux Falls, S.D., and Worthington, the cities that receive the most coverage — and production is a real team effort.
While Bonilla is the president, in charge of sales and marketing, his wife, Josefina, contributes recipes to the magazine. Family friend Jesus Ramirez designs each issue, and Ramirez’s sons also help; Jorge serves as the magazine’s Web master while other son Edgar helps translate to Spanish the articles, most of which are contributed by the magazine’s advertisers.
Some articles center on news and events, while others offer financial, health, immigration and career advice.
“We have everything (that) is going on in the community. If it is important, it will be there,” Bonilla said.
He hopes the magazine’s sponsors will help area immigrants gain some autonomy and said Job Corps, for example, can help people earn their GED and learn English or a trade.
“There are these things that can help them, and they don’t know about them,” he said.
Since the magazine’s first issue in August, La Voz Hispana has also been online, with the Web version receiving more than 180,000 hits by mid-January. The Web site, www.lvhmagazine.org, offers readers additional features in the form of Spanish music and television programs from their home countries.
La Voz Hispana Radio is a licensed online radio station run by Bonilla’s staff.
“You cannot find that anywhere but here. We select all the music ourselves,” he said.
Webmaster Jorge Ramirez also streams several television channels from countries like Mexico and Peru, and the site also has a section for “The Simpsons” in Spanish and the popular Mexican children’s program “El Chavo del Ocho.”
As the magazine grows, Bonilla said they are receiving more requests for advertising and may soon change to a 16-page format.
But Jesus pointed out the staff’s desire to remain a clean, family-friendly resource for the magazine’s tri-state coverage area.
“We want to keep it so you can leave it on your table and anyone can read it,” he said.
Source: Laura Grevas – Worthington Daily Globe