Liliana Renteria never thought she'd end up on the cover of a magazine.
The Highland Park mother of a Monte Vista Elementary School student isn't glamorous like the models on the cover of Vogue. She doesn't make national security decisions like the politicians on the covers of Time and Newsweek. She hasn't starred in a sitcom or written a tell-all novel like the celebrities on the cover of People.
But to the editors at New City/Pueblo Nuevo magazine, it's about time people like Renteria got some press. And during its first full year of publication, the quarterly magazine has made a habit of celebrating the uncelebrated.
Renteria made the spring, 1994, cover because of her involvement in a Monte Vista Elementary parents' group seeking to understand and offer alternatives to prostitutes who were soliciting customers at a local supermarket. Calling themselves the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Steering Committee, she and other parents sought cooperation from neighborhood social services and law enforcement to help guide the women toward a better life.
"These are people from our own community," Renteria said. "So we must help them."
Editor John Godges sees New City as "more than just a paper. It's like the diary of a community."
Calling itself "the magazine for a drug-free Los Angeles," New City distributes 8,500 copies quarterly, the majority of which go to families of school children in the Pico-Union district, Echo Park, Hollywood, San Pedro and East Los Angeles.
"Our readership comes from communities that are often neglected or politically powerless," Godges said. "No one expects them to be important. Advertisers eschew these neighborhoods. The beauty of this magazine is that it's a quality magazine for a community that probably couldn't support it" financially.
Each issue of New City costs about $10,000, most of which goes for printing, yet the magazine has taken no advertising. The magazine survives because it is the official publication of the L.A. Alliance for a Drug-Free Community, a nonprofit organization that administers a Department of Health and Human Services grant for a five-year anti-drug campaign in Los Angeles.
Besides documenting the work of small school committees, New City features articles on alcohol advertising in minority neighborhoods, the relationship of violent crime to drug use, and editorial pieces on how communities can act together to effect change.
Printed on thick, expensive paper with a glossy cover, the magazine has a decidedly upscale feel. That's because Godges wants readers and the people the magazine writes about to feel like their stories are just as important as those that appear in the national media. The more people who read the stories, the more likely they are to participate in the alliance's programs.
"The magazine is intended to be a tool for organizing, to allow people from far-flung neighborhoods to find out what is going on elsewhere so that we can build a true alliance among communities," he said.
Every story in New City is translated into Spanish, Armenian or Vietnamese, ensuring that parents of students at targeted schools--many of them immigrants--won't feel excluded from the process.
"We design it so that if we happen to be writing stories about four different communities that have different cultures, we can translate it into English, Armenian, Spanish or Vietnamese with a common meeting ground of English," Godges said.
Renteria, for example, does not speak English, nor do many of the parents involved in Monte Vista Elementary's parent committees. Renteria, who associates describe as a forceful and eloquent speaker, might otherwise have been relegated to the role of yet another voiceless Spanish-speaking parent, ignored by administrators and angered by not being able to participate in her son Isaac's education.
Rosa Carranza, a parent leader at Santa Monica Boulevard Elementary, said the appearance of an article about her efforts to improve relationships between Latino and Armenian parents and children in the Hollywood area played a big part in getting people involved.
"They were really proud of that," she said. "And a lot of parents came up to me afterward and said 'Oh, we saw you in the magazine.' It was good that the article was in there to encourage them."
Carranza's group, the Building Cultural Bridges Committee, sponsored two well-attended cultural awareness nights featuring music, poetry and dances performed by Latino and Armenian students. After the presentation, parents of both ethnicities shared dinner in the school's playground.
"The responses are very warm, " said Godges. "It's as if the people are students receiving their yearbook. They really take ownership."
New City gets its reporting done inexpensively by hiring bilingual student journalists with a desire to document the communities where many of them were raised.
"Pueblo Nuevo is a very warm magazine," said reporter Pedro Carillo, who has written for the magazine since its inception. "It deals with a lot of personal issues and conflicts. So that brought me to the alliance. It brings you back to earth. You could make a feature out of any one of these parents."