Hispanic Newspaper Fills a Gap
El Carillon highlights Latin American issues that often are ignored by mainstream media
WHEN Lourdes Jimenez discovered a copy of the Spanish-language newspaper El Carillon in her mailbox one day, she wasn't quite sure what to make of it.Skip to next paragraph
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But after reading through the paper, Professor Jimenez, who teaches Spanish language and literature at St. Anselms College in Manchester, N.H., called the editor not only to subscribe, but also to invite him to speak at her school. Today, many of her colleagues and students read the paper as well.
Jimenez, who still doesn't know who put that first copy of El Carillon in her mailbox, says the paper helps her "keep in contact with everything that is going around in Latin America.... The newspaper is filling an empty space that I always feel."
This enthusiastic response is just what Pablo Navarro, the biweekly newspaper's one-man production team, was hoping for when he entered the news media fray less than two years ago.
"I decided early on that I wanted to bring Latin America to the United States, that I wanted to make our world a little bit smaller, so that we could be in better contact with our countries of origin," the soft-spoken editor says during an interview at the paper's "newsroom" in the basement of his home in Andover, Mass.
The idea to start the paper came in the late 1980s, Mr. Navarro says, when - tired of a long work commute, distressed at how little time he was spending with his family, and battling cancer - he was looking for a change. As he searched for "something very different" from his job as a college administrator, he realized that "one of the things I have complained most about in the past few years was that I was isolated from Puerto Rico." If Puerto Ricans here feel isolated, he asks, "Can you imagine those wh o are from Chile? From Argentina?"
So Navarro used savings and retirement money to begin El Carillon. The first issue of the tabloid-size paper was published March 6, 1991.
Both Navarro and readers interviewed stress that the major US media tend to ignore Latin America except for coups, disasters, or other extraordinary events. It is, Navarro says, "an area that is barely covered in the United States...."
Even with other Spanish-language papers in the US, he says, the emphasis is on local news and social events, rather than the larger issues facing Hispanic communities in the US and Latin American countries.
At present, El Carillon tells readers what is happening mainly through the eyes of the Spanish-language service of the Associated Press (AP) wire service, which feeds directly into Navarro's computer via phone link. He receives many more AP stories than he can use in the 16-to-20-page paper, though readers say it offers good balance in topics and often features stories that major newspapers ignore.
Navarro maintains that Hispanics across the US are hungry for such information. The tripling of El Carills circulation from the initial 5,000 to 15,000 - with, Navarro notes proudly, only two cancellations - is evidence of this need. Largely through word-of-mouth marketing, El Carillon has subscribers in 27 states.
Navarro cites some of the pressing issues for Hispanic communities in the US: housing, education, the environment, human rights, health, politics.
The paper's emphasis on human rights appeals to readers like Alan Jay Rom of the Boston-based Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights.
"I just find it a very worthwhile publication," Mr. Rom says. "I read it because I get different points of view about what is happening in places that I'm concerned about in terms of my own work. And I find it very well-written and informative."
While Navarro welcomes the unanticipated interest in El Carillon by non-Hispanics, he says that Hispanic communities remain his target audience, and that he is trying to dispel "the myth that poor people are not interested in good journalism."