Inside a garage that doubles as an office on a quiet residential street in Seaside, newspaper publisher Raúl Magno Peralta and production manager Oscar Avendano López navigate a mess of computers and phones to photocopy and staple 4,000 free Spanish-language newspapers. Seated strategically by the door in order to answer phones, monitor construction and watch the dog, the sharply dressed Magno states his mission for the paper. "I always try to put in information that will be of interest to the Hispanics: immigration, health, education, help for migrants," he says. "They are starting to see Foro Latino as a source for information, for serious news."
Magno immigrated to the States in the late 1980s with 20 years of editing and publishing experience in his native Oaxaca, Mexico. Frustrated by a lack of opportunities in journalism and noting a dearth of Spanish-language news in the region, Magno started his own free weekly paper, relying on the sweat of his family and a shoestring budget generated from selling advertisements.
While the Peninsula offers its English-speaking readers a modest variety of newspapers ranging from countywide dailies like the Monterey County Herald to small local outlets like the Carmel Pine Cone, the options for the region''s thousands of Spanish speakers are few. The written news sources that do exist in Spanish offer little in the form of local Peninsula news. El Sol, the Californian''s free weekly, mostly translates stories from the parent paper''s English text and distributes the bulk of its 13,000 copies in Salinas and South County. And one would have to know just where to look to find a copy of Nuevo Mundo, the San Jose Mercury News'' free Spanish weekly, which distributes only 1,200 of its 56,000 weekly papers in the Monterey area.
In the opening edition of Foro Latino in 1997, Magno wrote that it was time the region''s Latinos, already 30 percent of the county in 1990, had a forum for communicating their opinions and reading about events in their own language. Three years and 100 editions later, Magno postulates that Foro Latino ("Latino Forum") has come a long way in showing the Peninsula''s Spanish speakers that there is a reason to pick up the paper.
This is not an easy task. The first stumbling block is that Latinos traditionally rely more heavily on radio and television for news than on print sources, particularly in regions like the Peninsula that lack a solid Spanish print news presence. More cumbersome still, says Magno, is that Latinos often do not see themselves as fully integrated into the U.S. political system, and thus don''t necessarily see current events as relating to their lives.
"In Mexico, the situation is more politicized," posits Magno, himself a legal resident en route to citizenship. "Latinos aren''t mixed into politics in the U.S., so we do analyze politics a bit in Foro Latino, but the community is still not interested in it. It''s partly because many people are not citizens."
But Magno, who came to the U.S. after a period of governmental repression of his newspaper syndicate, is determined to keep his 20-page publication newsy. The pages of Foro Latino reflect an amalgam of Magno''s hard news bent and community interests and needs. The result is a rare mix of extremely local, national and Latin American news, with headlines ranging from "Tragic run over of Seaside school child" and "Migration opens its door" to "Poverty forces Mexican couple to sell child." The paper''s non-news sections include classifieds, horoscopes, soccer league results, children''s jokes and love advice.
Magno derives the paper''s editorial content from local and international news sources, which he consolidates into short, clearly written pieces. Scrambling to find free time between his two part-time real estate jobs, a family, and house renovation, Magno relies on the help of his wife Ludy and his production designer Oscar Avendano to get the paper out every Friday. That means occasionally a Friday slips by without a new issue, and every so often typos grace Foro Latino''s pages.
But this unique blend--which constitutes the only homegrown Peninsula news source in Spanish--appears to reach its intended audience, and it is clear that with more time and money, the paper could prosper alongside the rising Latino population in the region. Foro Latino hits makeshift newsstands in markets and stores in Seaside, Marina, Castroville, Salinas, Monterey and Watsonville each Friday morning, and by Saturday night, many distribution sites are stripped clean. An informal poll of Spanish speakers on the streets of Seaside demonstrates that the majority of them are familiar with Foro Latino, and many cite it as their only source of news.
Audel, an employee at the Mi Tierra market on Seaside''s Broadway, is a perfect example. "I like to read it," he says straightforwardly, adding that he subscribes to no daily papers. "It has subjects about the news and also Mexico and what''s happening on the border. And it has rentals, and work ads also."
Magno, for one, is confident that his creation has a rosy future. "I see Foro Latino in a few years with a firmer base, bigger circulation, and even a different design, like a tabloid format," he says with assurance. "We will grow on par with the Latino community, because journalism is a necessity of every community. If we can inform them, we will."