May 22, 2009

Editorial:

La Prensa San Diego Honored

When Assemblymember Marty Block informed La Prensa San Diego (La Prensa) that he had selected our newspaper as the Small Business of the Year for his district, Assembly District 78, we were caught a little bit off guard, to say the least. La Prensa is not what you would consider a financial success when compared to businesses with larger profit margins. We joked with Marty, “Was this recognition for surviving?”

La Prensa San Diego will be honored Tuesday, May 26, in Sacramento. The California Small Business Association is hosting a recognition event to honor small businesses from just about every Assembly District throughout the state. Because of the large number of honorees, La Prensa will not have an opportunity to address the other awardees, politicians, and members of the California Small Business Association. But if there had been an opportunity to make a speech, this is what we would have said:

This recognition award as Small Business of the Year is a testament to the founder of La Prensa San Diego, Daniel L. Muñoz. This recognition is also about surviving, printing and distributing a newspaper throughout San Diego County each and every week for the past 33 years.

La Prensa San Diego has never been about making money. Our focus has always been on the Hispanic community, about being an agent for change, about doing what we believed is in the best interest of the community, about creating an atmosphere of growth, improvement, and about political self determination.

When La Prensa started in 1976, the focus was about giving a voice to the Chicano, Mexican-American community. At the time, La Prensa was one of only 50 or so Hispanic newspapers in the whole of the United States. There were no Hispanic marketing agencies, no Hispanic Public Relation agencies, no Hispanic news agencies, and the Hispanic market was untapped.

The first ten years of our existence were about surviving. We needed to create a voice for the community, and we had to do it with very few resources. This required personal sacrifices and long hours at the office, doing odd jobs in relation to publishing. Often we would do typesetting work and layout work for other publications to supplement our income. But mostly we sacrificed so the newspaper could come out every week. And every week for 33 years La Prensa San Diego has been delivered. Our community knows La Prensa, they respect La Prensa, and they have come to expect it every Friday, knowing that the news reflects their reality.

Personal sacrifices meant that the Publisher, Daniel L. Muñoz, had to make personal financial sacrifices. He eventually lost his home because of this. But as he would say, a newspaper for the community was the most important thing and that above all else, it had to survive - no matter what. And survive it did!

La Prensa San Diego did more than survive. La Prensa provided opportunities for our people to learn, to build a resume, to become reporters, editors, graphic artists, performers, future publishers. An example we like to share is that of Guillermo Gomez Peña, a performance artist who had just graduated from college. While working on his art, Guillermo came to work with La Prensa, lending his skills to the paper. Guillermo was particularly interested in border issues and immigration, subjects he incorporated into his performance art. Years after his La Prensa experience, Guillermo earned the distinction of becoming a MacArthur Fellows award winner, commonly referred to as a genius grant, which included $500,000.

In the United States, during the ‘70s and ‘80s, there were few opportunities for Hispanics to get their foot into newsrooms. La Prensa San Diego was there for many young Hispanic journalists. They would hone their skills, build their resume and then move on to newspapers such as the Union Tribune, Los Angeles Times, or Time Magazine. Some La Prensa alumni went on to publish media in their own right.

La Prensa also became a model for other newspapers throughout the country. We would often mentor other aspiring publishers who would call and ask ‘how to’ questions, or look for guidance and support. We were always willing to help. Now, with the development of the internet and web pages, we reach a world-wide audience with readers from across the continent, South America and across the ocean.

So yes, we have survived. We continue to fight for la gente. If it weren’t for the vision, determination, and guidance of our founder and publisher, Daniel L. Muñoz, La Prensa San Diego would not be here today.

It is with great, grave sadness that we report that Daniel L. Muñoz was admitted to a Hospice this week. Several years ago, his son Daniel H. Muñoz picked up where his father left off, after 20 or so years of mentoring.

The last two years of publishing have been difficult and there have been days when we have questioned whether or not we could continue. But then we think back to the first ten years of La Prensa’s publication. Those difficult times put today’s challenges into perspective. We also remember that the important thing is that the paper survives. La Prensa is well read. It provides thought-provoking commentary. It works to build a political conscience. While it may not be universally loved, it is respected. La Prensa San Diego continues to provide a voice for the Chicano, Mexican-American community.

Thank you, Assemblyman Marty Block, for the recognition and for the opportunity to share a bit of our story.

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