El Pregonero Gives Voice to Washington Latinos
New America Media, NAM Profile, Samantha Tyrka Posted: Jun 11, 2008
Editor’s Note: El Pregonero, the oldest Spanish-language newspaper in the Washington D.C.-metro area, hopes to assist newcomers as well as inform second- and third-generation Hispanic Americans. NAM contributor Samantha Tyrka is a journalism student at American University. NAM profiles are generated under the J-school partnership with American University.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Imagine leaving everything you have ever known to move to a foreign country where you know no one and do not speak the language. Imagine being a second- or third-generation Hispanic American who faces daily struggles to maintain and understand your Latino culture, while embracing American ways of life.
Many of the Latin and Hispanic Americans who come to the United States emigrate from their countries to escape poverty and minimal professional opportunities. El Pregonero, the oldest Spanish-language newspaper in the Washington D.C.-metro area, hopes to assist these newcomers, as well as inform second- and third-generation Hispanic Americans, according Rafael Roncal, the editor of El Pregonero.
“We try to help newcomers and make the process of transition easier for them, make things better and get them to know the rules,” Roncal said. “It’s a new environment and you have different languages, different customs, et cetera. They feel lost, so we try to help them in that transition.”
Often times, faith serves as a unifier for people who often feel isolated—which is why, in 1977, the Archdiocese of Washington founded El Pregonero, according to former staff member, Ernesto Clavijo.
“We established the paper as a way to communicate to the Latino community about what was going around in the area. Mainly about religion and what services were available to the newcomers,” said Clavijo.
One of the ways that El Pregonero tries to help immigrants feel welcome is by emphasizing the importance of political, social and civic involvement, according to Roncal. While people of all communities and backgrounds should be concerned with politics, it is particularly important for Hispanic Americans living in the District.
“Participation is the corner of everything here. If you don’t participate you don’t count,” Roncal said.
The rights and family values of the working class have always been subjects of importance for the readers of El Pregonero, according to Tom Schmidt, the publisher. Recently, Hispanic Americans have taken a great interest in the economy, immigration and education, according to Schmidt.
One of the main reasons that immigration and education are so significant to the Hispanic community is because of the recent developments in immigration legislation, Roncal said. Many people want to make a difference and voice their opinions, but are unable to because of their lack of education, he said.
“It’s not just saying I want to do something about this. It’s how can you make a change,” said Roncal. “The only way that you can do that is by having a higher position, one where you are responsible for having decision power.”
The most rewarding part of working for El Pregonero was helping and informing a severely underrepresented group of society, according to Clavijo. While at El Pregonero, he said the thing he valued most was “the opportunity to inform a voiceless community, a community that had not been taken care of by the other media.”
“The general-market media pretty much ignored them,” he added.
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