War of the Words

Page 9 of 9

Valera adds: "The majority of the people here couldn't make it in their own country, Mexico. They're not coming because they're well known there or because they're doctors or something. The country couldn't provide them with enough of a living to feed their families. They don't have the level of education that we wish to have. So we have to understand that the majority of the people are working families. And if you become too sophisticated, you get too far away from the culture."

Valera started Monitor Hispano on a mere $400, and normally works seven days a week just to keep his paper operating. So, from his perspective, La Voz looks like a big-money indulgence -- entrepreneurs playing Monopoly with real money. He views Monitor Hispano as "the only Spanish newspaper that's really supported by the community and people." He adds, "I don't have a body shop, I don't have other companies or other investors. I don't have any other money coming in."

He says Kaye "comes from Chicago, where people fight in the street, and so he thinks this is a softer market for him. To your face, he smiles and says, 'Happy to see you,' but you don't know what he's doing behind your back."

Kaye insists that Torres, not he, makes the big decisions at La Voz. He says they converse several times a day on the phone, but that he places absolute trust in Torres' ability to run the paper. Perhaps because of his sensitivity to charges that La Voz is not Hispanic-owned, his name is absent from the paper's masthead, and he defers to Torres on any questions related to the paper.

Ultimately, the issue of La Voz being funded by Anglo dollars seems less relevant than whether this weekly can sell the concept of a real newspaper to a local community that has no tradition of serious journalism. It's a question that has yet to be answered.

Although few would argue that La Voz's emergence has opened new wounds in the Hispanic community, Torres says that his paper is uniquely positioned to bring unity to Latinos, because it's the only newspaper ambitious and bold enough to cut across petty divisions. At times like this, his evangelical zeal could convince even the doubters that his newspaper is about more than profit margins, that it really wants to create a cultural impact.

"La Voz has to be a force to reach across the divide between Mexican-Americans and recent immigrants and find a way to reach both groups, and show that we've got more things in common than not," Torres says.

"La Voz is the one paper that can do that, because it's the one source of pride for the Mexican-American that's never seen anything of quality, and it provides that sense of seeming like back home for the recent immigrant. So La Voz can be that bridge."

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Gilbert Garcia
Contact: Gilbert Garcia