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El Tiempo: Voicing Immigrant Rights in Merced County

NCM Profile

Daniela Rible Posted: Mar 02, 2004

A historic bullfight that will take place in the Central Valley towns of Gustine and Stevinson piqued the community's attention when it appeared on the pages of El Tiempo. The first bullfight ever to take place in Merced County, the event will feature renowned Spanish bullfighter Pablo Hermoso de Mendoza, currently ranked the number one bullfighter in the world.

Merced County is located in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, the world's most productive agricultural area, and spans from the coastal ranges to the foothills of Yosemite National Park. It may not seem like the typical destination for a world-class bullfighter at the peak of his career.

But the county is home to a thriving Latino community that makes up an estimated 45 percent of the population. The only Spanish-language paper in the county, El Tiempo keeps Spanish-speaking residents informed of local news and events like the bullfight.

The free bi-weekly was founded in 2001 by the local newspaper The Merced Times. But the idea to launch El Tiempo had been brewing since 1991, when the publisher of The Merced Times began a search for a Spanish-language editor. A native of Mexico who had been in the United States less than four years, Vicente Carillo applied for the job, but was turned down because of his limited English ability.

Three years later, Carillo noticed a small ad to help create a local Spanish-language paper. That Friday, he found himself in the same office, this time armed with stronger English skills.

"I said, 'I can do this and Im ready to start next week,'" says Carillo. He began work the following Monday as managing editor.

Since its founding, El Tiempo has expanded its circulation from 6,000 to 10,000, with distribution in over 200 Latino businesses, retail stores, restaurants and schools in Merced.

But El Tiempo has remained a one-man show. Carillo is responsible for everything from writing articles, editing, photography, layout and sales for the 12-page publication. He says nine out of 10 press releases that the newspaper receives are in English, so he also plays the role of translator.

El Tiempo publishes stories on issues of immediate concern to its readers, who range from recent immigrantsprimarily agricultural and cannery workersto U.S.-born Spanish speakers, many of whom work as teachers or service industry professionals.

One recent article focused on the much talked about bill that would allow Mexican citizens residing in the United States to vote in Mexico's elections, beginning with the 2006 presidential election.

The newspaper also addresses hot topics in the United States like the controversy over gay marriages. In interviews with local residents, Carillo has found a mixed reaction in the local Latino community. Most Catholics that he talked to say they are supportive of same-sex marriage, but opposed to same-sex couples adopting children. Other Christians, he says, accept the idea "under human law but not Gods law."

Immigration concerns dominate much of the newspaper's editorial coverage. El Tiempo informs readers on immigrant rights, workers compensation and unemployment benefits, gives advice on obtaining drivers licenses and analyzes the consequences of the state budget cuts for the local community.

"As an immigrant," says Carillo, "I understand the problems of immigrants. I understand the Latino culture and I know how to present issues positively to this community."

Carillo hopes to increase advertising for the newspaper in order to expand its circulation, publish weekly and go online within a year.

He says he wants to use El Tiempo as a catalyst to increase the Latino communitys involvement in local issues, such as getting parents engaged in their children's education.

"This (newspaper)," he says, "can be a model in the community to help families."

Contact El Tiempo at:
2221 K St., PO Box 772
Merced, CA 95341
Tel: 209-722-3877
Fax: 209-358-7108
E-mail: mercedtimes@aol.com

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