For the station, KCRA-TV Channel 62, the billboard merely addresses a local audience: “All we are saying is, ‘It’s your city, your town, your team.’ We are a team that’s educating and informing the Spanish-language marketplace.” But for the political action group, Americans for Legal Immigration, the billboards are an example of “irresponsible corporate citizenship” because the message might “make illegal immigrants feel welcome.” In either case, the billboards clearly reference the fact that Los Angeles was once part of Mexico and that in recent decades the Mexican-descent population has become the largest single demographic and broadcast market in the region. These are simply facts and nothing more. What each side makes of them is another matter. KCRA-TV uses them to address a marketplace, while Americans for Legal Immigration uses them to raise fears about citizenship (including “corporate citizenship”). Look closely at the uproar over the KCRA-TV billboards and you see two groups of non-Hispanics fighting with each other over what to do with “Mexicans.” Ironically, Spanish-language television stations are not necessarily owned and operated by those who speak Spanish, let alone by Latinos: in this case, KCRA-TV is owned by Liberman Broadcasting and the billboards are owned by Clear Channel Communications.
Here, in a nutshell, is a fundamental conflict in our society - not between immigrants and citizens - but between the business sector and social conservatives. This conflict has been at the root of immigration debates throughout the 20th century, and it continues full force into the 21st century. Meanwhile, the U.S. Spanish-language press continues a tradition that goes back to the 19th century in such newspapers as Eco de la patria in Los Angeles: it places the local news in a hemispheric context. No, Los Angeles is not Mexico, but neither is it an island unto itself.
Chon A. Noriega, Professor and Director