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Column: She decided her magazine had to proclaim that Black lives matter — in Spanish

Ivette Zamora Cruz with a copy of La Revista, her Spanish-language magazine that covers Latinos in the Coachella Valley.
Ivette Zamora Cruz with a copy of the summer issue of La Revista, her Spanish-language magazine that covers Latinos in the Coachella Valley.
(Gustavo Arellano / Los Angeles Times)

As Black Lives Matter protests swept across the country this past June, Ivette Zamora Cruz felt simultaneously proud and embarrassed.

She was thrilled to see hundreds of Latinos attend rallies across the Coachella Valley, from Palm Springs to Indio to her hometown of Rancho Mirage. But she saw other Latinos say online that the fight wasn’t theirs, so why bother joining?

Zamora Cruz thought about her own life.

About how family members back in Mexico casually nicknamed darker-skinned relatives la negra (the black girl) or la morena (the dark-skinned girl). How she didn’t know much about Black history beyond what she learned in high school as a newcomer to the United States. How she had no Black friends, and never bothered to consider why.

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“Some Latinos have always tried to look away — ‘That’s their community, not ours,’ we’ll say,” Zamora Cruz said from the small but well-kept home she shares with her mom and teenage sister. The bohemian sounds of Eydie Gormé and Agustín Lara played in the background. “But we need to start calling out ourselves now. You have to show where you stand.”

So she did so in a very public way: Zamora Cruz devoted the latest issue of her Spanish-language glossy lifestyle magazine to Black voices.

La Revista (The Magazine) launched last year to showcase Latinos in a region where the media tend to depict them — if at all — as little more than hotel workers or field hands. Stories highlight restaurateurs, community activists, cumbia bands and other unsung local heroes.

While well-received, La Revista quickly lost money and was on the verge of shutting down until Zamora Cruz had her epiphany.

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She began to cold-call Black businesses with offers of free ads, and asked Black writers and photographers via Instagram to submit their work. The issue published in August with profiles of Black artists and activists, and a historical timeline of police violence against Black people in the United States.

Zamora Cruz made sure to also run the stories in English — a first for La Revista. She exerted editorial control only on the blank last page, titled “Tu Lucha es Mi Lucha” (Your fight is my fight) and with a prompt for readers to self-reflect on what they just read.

The 32-year-old worried that Black people — which number only about 5% of Coachella Valley residents — would take her gesture as opportunistic, while her core audience would feel betrayed.

Both fears proved unfounded.

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“It’s powerful,” said Neftalí Galarza, a former Coachella Valley Unified School District board member who’s now running for Coachella City Council. “There’s a blind eye to what Black people go through in our community. But by supporting Black lives, we all benefit. That’s what Ivette showed.”

“It makes me feel seen, for sure,” said Nailah Johnson, who contributed an essay about growing up Black in the region and also shot the cover image of five young Black girls in leotards running toward Palm Spring’s iconic white windmills. The 29-year-old had seen La Revista around her hometown of Palm Springs but admitted she never picked up a copy “because I don’t speak Spanish.”

She was at first perplexed when Zamora Cruz asked her to contribute, but agreed once she learned about the theme. “I could tell she immediately got it,” Johnson said. “It says, ‘You care about us, we’re going to lift you as much as we can.’”

Confronting anti-Blackness is a conversation that younger, well-meaning Latinos have pushed on their elders or conservative relatives all this summer, often to little or quarrelsome effect. No one likes to be told their culture is rife with racism.

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But it’s one thing to hector someone toward your worldview. It’s another to literally put your money where your beliefs are, like Ivette Zamora Cruz.

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Originally from Guadalajara, she moved to Cathedral City at 15, but returned to Mexico to earn a business degree. Zamora Cruz came back to the Coachella Valley eight years ago to take a job as a social worker, an experience that had her travel the entire region, not just the wealthier western side where she grew up.

“It’s two completely different sides of the desert,” she said. “And who writes its narrative? One gets the glamour, the other, nada.”

Simply posting cool Latino stuff on Instagram didn’t seem impactful enough. She remembered the many lifestyle magazines that cover the Coachella Valley and wondered why Latinos didn’t deserve the same. With no journalism background but a deep Rolodex, Zamora Cruz launched La Revista as a free quarterly last April with a run of 1,000 issues (its tagline: “El Valle en Tus Manos”— the Valley in your hands).

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She quickly discovered what far-bigger media organizations — including this one — know too well: Making money in print media ain’t easy.

Each issue had a smaller and smaller run; Zamora Cruz dipped into her own savings to keep it afloat as ad sales quickly dipped. She was ready to end La Revista’s run with one final spring issue, but the pandemic made even that seemingly impossible.

Then the Black Lives Matter protests sprouted. She spent $1,000 to print 200 copies. Now at $5 apiece, Zamora Cruz hopes to at least break even and plans at least one more issue of La Revista to continue the conversation with her audience.

Making money isn’t the point anymore.

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“I go back to those little girls on the cover,” she said, pointing to a magazine on a coffee table in her living room. “They’re part of our community. They’re going to grow up among our kids. So we must fight for them all.”

Just then, her phone rang. Lunch was waiting outside in front of her driveway.

Chermica Simmons runs Mica’s Soul Kitchen, a 3-year-old food stall that used to set up every Thursday night in downtown Palm Springs but hasn’t opened since February. La Revista ran a full-page ad for Mica’s, “and I’ve gotten a lot of new attention,” said Simmons.

The two had never met before until now, but smiled and chatted as if they were longtime pals. Simmons left Zamora Cruz with Styrofoam containers filled with Southern-fried combo plates of fried shrimp and lobster tails and mac ‘n’ cheese.

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“That’s what I want to hear,” La Revista’s publisher said as she lugged lunch into her home. “Latinos supporting Blacks.”


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