‘The First Newspapers in our Country had a Definite Spanish-Language Influence’
KINGSVILLE - August 11, 2009
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Book by Texas A&M-Kingsville Faculty Member Details 200-Year History of Hispanics in the Media
Many a student—and scholar—have picked up the history book Hispanics in the Media and assumed the look back stops at the 20th century. But what they find in the book, written by Dr. Manuel C. Flores, associate professor and chair of the communications and theatre arts department at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, is that Hispanics were shaping American media right from the start.
“Contrary to our beliefs, the evolution of journalism and communications in the United States does not stem from the east coast and the British settlements and the American colonies,” Flores said.
“The first newspapers in what is now the United States had a definite Spanish-language influence and were the forerunners for the cry of independence in this area. They were very much like the colonial press but were ahead of them in many ways,” said Flores.
Released last year, Hispanics in the Media has been picked up for use in universities from California to Florida. According to Flores, communications scholars have found the book to be interesting and provocative.
The History of Hispanics in the Media
“The research for this book solidified that last year we celebrated 200 years of the Spanish-language press in the United States,” said Flores. “The first newspaper in the U.S. that included the Spanish language was a bilingual, tabloid-sized flier called El Misisipi in 1808. It called for independence from Spain and was the first official newspaper by the people.”
“When the westward colonization reached Texas and the American southwest, the newspapers’ emphasis changed to helping the Spanish survive and the Spanish-speakers maintain their culture. The Spanish-language press also adopted the ‘watchdog’ style of journalism, making sure – sometimes at the cost of the editors’ and reporters’ lives or loss of business – that civil rights violations did not go on reported.
“In short, as Anglo domination came to the Hispanic regions of our country, the Spanish-language press became stronger. It was like, ‘Okay, you’re here. We will learn English but we will keep Spanish as our language to help preserve our culture.’ It worked, don’t you think?”
Flores teaches an upper-level and graduate-level class at A&M-Kingsville centered around the book and its subjects. He believes the class and its book have intrigued his students, and have led to them asking some hard questions about its content. “Some students feel that I have given too much credit to the early Hispanic journalists – I call them Los Periodiqueros, a term I chose after research done on the Spanish-language newspaper pioneers in New Mexico – and that really it was the English-language press that influenced the true development of our state and nation. While this is true, the research shows that the Spanish-language press was a part of the web that helped our nation evolve while also preserving the Spanish culture as well as the culture of the Mexicano, Tejano and other groups such as Pureto Ricans and Central Americans in our country.”
Researching Hispanics in the Media
The research Flores conducted had been on-going for about five years prior to writing the book. It started by looking at newspapers in Texas that helped establish the Tejano community in the 19th century. “I found that there were plenty of sources, but that they were scattered throughout the nation and even in Mexico,” Flores said. “Finding these sources, many of which were in private collections or in a variety of city or university libraries was challenging. Early books on the history of different media were also hard to find.
“By networking, making scores of phone calls, purchasing a variety of documents and books, I was able to put together enough material to write a basic history of Hispanics in the Media during the past 200 years. There is much work yet to be done, but this is a start and one that I hope other researchers can build from.”
Flores has presented his research at a number of state and national conferences, including serving as the keynote address of the Second Annual International Conference on Spanish-Language and Other Latino-oriented Media; as a student session during the annual Texas Intercollegiate Press Association state convention; and as a session for professors during the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. This month, Flores will give a presentation at the 21st Century Chicano Activist Convention.
Looking at the finished product, Flores noted format changes he might have made with the book, but overall he is pleased with his work. “I’m so proud that I have been able to document some history that may have been lost. I’m proud also to show that the Spanish-language media is not something that just happened in the 20th century, but has a long-lasting legacy that is part of our country’s history.”
About Dr. Manuel C. Flores
Flores has been with Texas A&M-Kingsville since fall 2006. He serves as chair of the communications and theatre arts department, as well as an associate professor of journalism and as student publications adviser, overseeing the student newspaper The South Texan.
Prior to A&M-Kingsville, Flores served an equivalent position at Del Mar College for 15 years. The community college’s student newspaper The Foghorn went from earning no awards the year Flores started, 1991, to capturing 28 in Texas Intercollegiate Press Association competition three years later. The paper also earned 15 Texas Community College Journalism Association competition awards.
In addition to working in academia, Flores worked as sports editor for the Irving Daily News and as a reporter for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. He took a 10-year break from journalism to work in public relations and advertising for CP&L, then returned to the Caller-Times, where he was a sports columnist and special assignment reporter for more than 10 years. Flores also retired as a captain from the Army and the Texas Army National Guard after 12 years of service.
He holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Texas A&I University, and a doctorate degree from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
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