Cronistas and Satire in Early Twentieth Century Hispanic Newspapers

By Kanellos, Nicolas | MELUS, Spring 1998 | Go to article overview

Cronistas and Satire in Early Twentieth Century Hispanic Newspapers


Kanellos, Nicolas, MELUS


From the mid-nineteenth century to the present, Hispanic immigrants have created Spanish language periodicals to help their enclaves to maintain a connection with the homeland while also helping the immigrants to adjust to a new society and culture here. The Hispanic immigrant press has historically shared many of the distinctions that Robert E. Park identified in a 1922 study on the immigrant press as a whole.(1) Included among these distinctions were the predominant use of the language of the homeland; the serving of a population united by that language, irrespective of national origin; the need to interpret events from their own particular racial or nationalist point of view, as well as the furthering of nationalism (9-13). Park also noted that immigrants read more in the United States than in their lands of origin, for a variety of reasons: the press was not available back home or it was restricted, "there is more going on or they need to know" and "news is a kind of urgent information that men use in making adjustments to a new environment, in changing old habits, and in forming new opinions" (9). He further states, "The very helplessness of the immigrant ... is a measure of the novelty of the American environment and the immigrant's lack of adjustment to it" (9). The immigrant press then serves a population in transition from the land of origin to the United States by providing news and interpretation to orient them and facilitate adjustment to the new society, while maintaining the link with the old society. Underlying Park's distinctions are the concepts of the American Dream and the Melting Pot: the immigrants came to find a better life, implicitly a better culture, and soon they or their descendants will become Americans and there will no longer be a need for this type of press. In fact, Park's study was actually implemented as part of a more generalized study on how to Americanize immigrants. For Park, the immigrant press was a transitory phenomenon, one that would disappear as the group became assimilated into the melting pot of U.S. society.

Although I agree with many of Park's observations on the functions of the immigrant press, the history of Hispanic groups in the United States has shown an unmeltable ethnicity, and as immigration from Spanish-speaking countries has been almost a steady flow since the founding of the United States to the present, there seems no end to the phenomenon at this juncture in history nor in the foreseeable future. Furthermore, the immigrant newspapers of individual Hispanic groups do seem to give way over time to newspapers serving more than one Hispanic nationality group; and the children of this readership may consume English-language or bilingual periodicals that serve ethnic minority interests rather than immigrant ones. Thus, today, while many immigrants may read New York's El Diario-La Prensa or Los Angeles' La Opinion, second-, third- and fourth generation Hispanics may subscribe to a variety of English-language Hispanic magazines, such as Hispanic or Latina.

The immigrant press is not to be confused with the native Hispanic press that developed first in the Southwest in the mid-nineteenth century and later in most Hispanic communities, which served a readership predominantly of U.S. citizens. This press was cognizant of the racial, ethnic and/or minority status of its readers within U.S. society and culture. The ethnic minority press may make use of Spanish or English; it may include immigrants in its readership and among its interests; it may cover news and commentary of various "homelands," such as Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico or Spain; but its fundamental reason for existence and its point of reference is the life and conditions of its readership in the United States. Unlike the immigrant press, it does not have one foot in the homeland and one in the United States. It is not the purpose of this essay to study the Hispanic ethnic minority press, which has been covered elsewhere. …

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