A new magazine with a nuevo approach

[Editor's note: The original version misspelled the reporter's name.]

In Los Angeles, middle-class Latinos will soon have something new to talk about. Tu Ciudad (Your City), a bimonthly magazine slated to debut on Thursday, will be the city's first magazine for Hispanics, written in English.

Oscar Garza, the magazine's editor in chief, says that the approach isn't as radical as it might first seem. Many of the roughly 500,000 well-to-do Latinos in L.A. "live their lives in English," he says, and prefer to see this reflected in the media they consume. [Editor's note: The original version did not specify that it is wealthier Latinos consuming English-language media.]

And while Tu Ciudad hopes to woo the city's upwardly mobile Mexican-American population, it also wants to be a "pan-Latino" publication that will speak to others who have a "great affinity for Latino culture."

This focus doesn't represent a wish for second- and third-generation Hispanics to distance themselves from their roots. Instead, it reflects the fact that people are truly embracing their hyphenated heritage.

Hispanics realize that "English is the language of success," and so they adjust accordingly, says Héctor Tobar, author of "Translation Nation: Defining a New American Identity in the Spanish-Speaking United States."

For many Latin Americans, speaking Spanish is no longer "a symbol of the culture and poverty that they were trying to escape," he explains.

Rather, it's a badge of honor that allows "the American dream to take on more of a Latino color, so you think about sending your kids to college but buying your retirement home in El Salvador," he says.

While Ciudad could aim for a national audience, as many magazines do, Garza says the regional emphasis is important. "It's about Los Angeles and it's about our place in Los Angeles." He thinks Tu Ciudad's readers might be shortchanged if its scope were too broad.

Garza is more interested in striking a chord with this particular audience, who "still don't see enough of themselves in the mainstream media." But he makes it clear that while Ciudad recognizes that serious issues such as gang violence and poor educational systems still plague the Latin American community of Los Angeles, the magazine isn't trying "to solve social problems."

Garza, who has more than 20 years of journalism experience, says that the magazine will practice some "journalism with a capital J." The première issue, for instance, features an article titled "When War Comes Home," which tells the story of three Latino soldiers returning home from Iraq, as well as "Latinos & Hollywood: Are We Hitched or Still Flirting?" The latter examines how Tinseltown is responding to its growing number of Latino stars.

Tobar, a Guatemalan- American, calls the city the "crucible where a new national culture is being molded." Still, Ciudad hopes to perfect its own brand of success, a challenge that Jaime Gamboa, publisher and founder of the magazine, says must be met carefully.

Mr. Gamboa, who has already garnered an impressive list of advertisers - including Aveda, Honda, and Target - says he understands why companies might find the magazine a "difficult concept to grasp," since it aims to target the acculturated Latino without overlapping with mainstream or distinctly Spanish-language publications.

But Gamboa says that Ciudad's design has been a major selling point for advertisers who are surprised by the conventional look of the glossy magazine and its distinctive feel, which Gamboa says is, "definitely commensurate with where Latinos are today." Gamboa also reminds advertisers to "forget marketing in Spanish; you want to market to Hispanics."

Marketing to Hispanics, especially in California, sounds like a smart idea, according to the University of Georgia's Selig Center for Economic Growth. California tops the list of states with the largest Hispanic markets. As of 2004, California accounts for 28.9 percent of total Hispanic purchasing power with nearly $2 billion.

This buying power might be one reason for what Lupita Colmenero, president of the National Association of Hispanic Publications, says is the success of Latino-targeted publications, which are enjoying increasing circulation while the mainstream media decline.

"That sends a big message: when you specialize in issues that concern the Latino community, you're always going to have an audience - whether you put it in English or Spanish," she says.

Whether Ciudad will truly reflect the voice of its target demographic remains to be seen. But Tobar feels that among the Latin community, one thing is certain. "We're developing what I call Latinismo, this idea that the Americas are one and that there isn't a contradiction because the border doesn't exist in our minds anymore."

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