North County Paper Becomes a Voice for Spanish-Speaking

Times Staff Writer

It was the sort of minor event that easily gets lost in the workaday rush. Earlier this year, a North County radio station dropped its weekly Spanish-language program.

The two-hour show of music and public-service spots each Sunday morning may not have seemed like much, but it was virtually the only link to news and information for many in the region's burgeoning Latino community.

Jaime Castaneda, however, noticed when the program went off the air.

Spurred in part by the death of the radio show, Castaneda decided to try to fill the void, hatching plans for a Spanish-language newspaper that North County could call its own.

The result was Nuevos Horizontes.

Jammed with articles on everything from AIDS to soccer, the newspaper's debut issue hit the streets in mid-November and was quickly followed by a second edition a week ago. Castaneda and his partner, Xavier Corona, plan to begin publishing the free tabloid, which subsists off advertising revenues, on a weekly basis beginning in 1988.

An erstwhile social service worker, Castaneda hopes his new newspaper can eventually make a splash in the region, becoming something of a platform for North County's teeming Latino population, a largely invisible enclave that has for years lacked a unifying thread.

"The Hispanic community up here is not organized. It doesn't have a focus and doesn't have people being groomed to take on leadership roles," said Castaneda, who was born in Oceanside and raised in Vista. "We want the paper to be the voice for the Spanish-speaking in the area."

Several longtime residents have greeted the new publication with open arms.

"I think this is a wonderful thing," said the Rev. Rafael Martinez, founder of the North County Chaplaincy, a group that administers to the needs of migrant farm workers. "Many segments of the Hispanic community have no means of mass communication. They don't buy the regular papers, especially the large number who are poor. A Spanish-language newspaper will be a very valuable thing."

Others say the paper could serve as a focal point for area

Latinos, which the federal Census has estimated at more than 70,000, to begin developing a more potent punch on the local political scene.

"I think it will be a great help," said Albert Mendoza, an unsuccessful council candidate in Carlsbad. "I don't think the mainstream papers always do justice to the Latino candidates.

"Out of 17 cities in the county, there are only about four with Spanish-surname council members. There are no Hispanic mayors, no Hispanic chiefs of police, no city managers. Yet the population is sizable. Jaime's paper can bring the message to many members of the community that we do have candidates."

Much like the immigrant press that thrived on the East Coast during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the paper will seek to provide a bridge to help new arrivals more easily assimilate into a society that is often confusing.

In the first issue, for example, Castaneda included an article highlighting the need for readers to obtain auto insurance by Jan. 1, the deadline for a new state law requiring the coverage for all motorists. Another story touches on changes in the new federal immigration law. Still another announces available classes in English and other skills at a local junior college.

"We're trying to inform these people who don't have access to this kind of information except by word-of-mouth," Castaneda said. "If they don't have access to those laws, how does the general population expect them to understand?"

Some of the articles are a bit less weighty. One story, for instance, details accommodations and conditions at local ski resorts in hopes of getting Latinos "out of the local barrios and expose them to new experiences."

Longtime Residents Targeted

While migrant workers will undoubtedly form a part of the paper's readership, the publishers expect the biggest segment to consist of Latinos seeking a permanent life in the United States as well as longtime residents yearning for a link to their native language.

"We expect to even have the ones who have been here 20, 30, 40 years," Castaneda said. "I've got a grandmother--I don't know how long she's been here--who just loved it. People like her want to read in Spanish. It's still their preference."

Published out of a spartan office suite at the front of a nondescript brick building in Escondido, the paper is reported and written almost entirely by Castaneda. With the help of two other employees, Corona handles most of the advertising sales and other business matters.

Twelve- to 16-hour days are typical for the rookie publishers, especially as deadlines approach. But plans are in the works to add additional writers and advertising salespeople.

Both Castaneda and Corona have traveled atypical routes to their current posts.

Castaneda, 37, is a self-taught journalist, having served as a part-time correspondent for the Los Angeles-based Latino magazine Caminos during the early 1980s while working as a contract administrator for the county in the social services field. Between stints with his father's accounting business, he also has served as executive director of North County Centro Inc., an Escondido-based nonprofit health and human services agency for Latinos.

His Real Love--Sales

Corona grew up in Mexicali, listening to U.S. radio stations and watching American television. After getting his doctorate in veterinary medicine in Mexico, he married a U.S. citizen and moved to this country. Eventually, he turned to what he says is his real love--sales. Corona took a job with the Spanish Shopper, a sort of PennySaver published in Spanish, and soon thereafter met Castaneda.

The pair hit it off and soon were discussing plans to start a weekly of their own. With some financial help from Castaneda's father, Rodolfo, Nuevos Horizontes was born.

If the paper can survive, it would be the first to accomplish that feat in the region. Several years ago, the Vista Press and the Blade-Tribune, two general circulation newspapers in the area, experimented with special columns or sections in Spanish, but eventually dropped them.

With every word in Spanish, Nuevos Horizontes is unique among the Latino newspapers in San Diego County. Two other long-established papers based in San Diego feature mostly stories in English, with only a few translated into Spanish.

Castaneda hopes his paper eventually can stretch its reach beyond North County. But first the paper must begin to turn a profit, something its publishers predict will take place early in 1988.

Indeed, the first two editions of the paper are chockablock full of advertisements, the key ingredient for keeping the presses whirring. While some Latino publications complain that discrimination has kept many big advertisers away from the Spanish-language press, Corona says he has encountered relatively few problems with potential clients so far.

The paper is distributed at more than 80 restaurants, self-service laundries, shopping centers and other establishments frequented by Latinos from Solana Beach to Oceanside and inland to Escondido. Corona says he hopes to eventually tap more than 200 distribution points, while including copies on the "hot trucks" that cater food to farm workers in the fields.

Want Base of Subscribers

More than 3,000 copies of issue No. 1 were printed, but the pair bumped the number up to 5,000 for the second edition. By February, they hope to be printing between 12,000 and 15,000 issues each week. Ultimately, the publishers want to develop a base of subscribers, Castaneda said.

The key to the paper's success or failure, however, will be its content, Castaneda admits.

He plans to tackle even the hottest of issues. Indeed, the second edition featured a muckraking story that takes several Latino soccer teams' members to task who are losing their playing privileges at a local field because they have been drinking and acting abusive during games.

"You've got to bite the bullet and let these guys realize that they've got to learn to clean up their own back yard," Castaneda said.

In addition, Castaneda plans to take editorial stands on certain issues of importance to the Latino population. Although it has been in existence less than a month, the paper has already been contacted by one local politician who wants to talk with the publishers.

"I think," Castaneda said, "we can definitely become an influence on how Hispanics feel and think up here in North County."

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