Spanish-Language Newspapers in the United States

Article excerpt

Throughout the history of the United States most immigrants have arrived speaking only their native language. When population concentrations who spoke the same language arose, foreign-language newspapers often appeared to serve them. Typically, these newspapers terminated publication once the group gained command of the English language and when the influx of additional group members in the area subsided (Fishman 1966; Monmonier 1986; Emery and Emery 1988).

The Spanish-language press, however, is different from other foreign-language publications. Spanish-language newspapers were published in New Orleans as early as 1808, and their presence in the Southwest predated the United States' territorial acquisition in the wake of the 1848 Mexican-American War. Over the following decades the Spanish-language press prospered in the Southwest, for the continuing influx of Mexican immigrants provided the critical impetus. By 1900 the first Spanish-language newspapers had appeared in the East. In 1990 Spanish-language newspapers in Chicago, New York, and Miami were commonplace. The historical and journalistic development of the Spanish-language press and Latin American national-origin presses and newspapers has been documented by historians and journalists for the United States and several of its regions. No attempt has been made to examine the historical geography of Spanish-language newspaper publication, however.

In this note we fill that void. We focus on a series of maps that correspond to the periods 1848-1876, 1877-1899, 1900-1929, 1930-1959, and 1960-1992. These periods reflect, to some degree, historical events and immigration trends related to the Spanish-speaking population of the United States: the end of the Mexican-American War, the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and the annexation of nearly half of Mexico in 1848; the conclusion of the Spanish-American War and the subsequent annexation of Puerto Rico in 1898; the beginning of the Great Depression in 1929 and the later repatriation of thousands of Mexican nationals to Mexico; and the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and the subsequent migration of thousands of Cubans to the United States. The maps portray the regional patterns of newspaper establishment for the 582 Spanish-language newspapers - including daily, weekly, monthly, and irregularly issued newspapers - published in the United States since 1848. Only the location and the time period during which they were founded are portrayed; no distinctions are made for frequency of publication. In fact, however, weeklies have dominated, representing 62 percent of all Spanish-language newspapers; the balance is divided among those irregularly issued, 26 percent; dailies, 7 percent; and monthlies, 5 percent. Our study is limited to the states and territories of the continental United States.

The data are drawn from a variety of sources. The bibliographies of the Mexican American press published by Rios and Castillo (1970; 1972) provided critical data on the Spanish-language press in the Southwest. In addition, we used standard print-media reference sources, notably N. W. Ayer and Sons Directory of Newspapers and Periodicals (1933-1992); Editor and Publisher International Yearbook (1959 - 1992); Encyclopedia Directory of Ethnic Newspapers and Periodicals in the United States (1976); and Hispanic Media and Markets (1988 - 1992).

EARLY DEVELOPMENT IN THE SOUTHWEST, 1848 - 1876

Three initial regional concentrations of Spanish-language newspapers can be identified - California, the Upper Rio Grande Valley, and South Texas [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED]. All three were territories gained in 1848, and much of the population was Mexican or Hispano. Thirty-one newspapers were founded during this period, but no more than ten were ever published in any given year.

San Francisco was the center for Spanish-language publishing between 1848 and 1876, for ten newspapers were published there. …