This blog post was written by Jennie Horton, a 2020 Librarian-in-Residence in the Serial & Government Publications Division.
Unrest in Latin America caused many to flee to the United States. Exile newspapers, Spanish-language papers published in the US, helped immigrants stay connected to their homeland, language, and culture.
Spanish-language newspapers first appeared in the United States in 1808 with El Misispí, published in New Orleans, Louisiana. Papers like El Misisipí catered to Hispanics and Latinxs in exile, reporting on events in Spain and its colonies. After the Spanish-American War and particularly during the Mexican Revolution, more exile publications began to pop up across the Southwestern United States. Upper class political exiles from Mexico and refugees destitute from the Revolution relocated to the US, and exile publications helped keep them informed.
Exile papers printed in the United States were able to address issues that would otherwise be censored if published in the Latin American countries they covered. As a result, these papers often catered to and amplified the beliefs of political exiles. In addition to reporting on events in Latin America and Spain, these papers covered major events like both world wars, reported on local events, ran ads for local businesses, and encouraged engagement with Latinx culture. This allowed Latinx people in the United States to stay connected to their language and culture, and to build a community outside of the countries they left behind.
One of the most widely-circulated exile papers was La Prensa, published in San Antonio, Texas. La Prensa is thus a useful example we can examine to understand the role of the exile press more generally. Ignacio E. Lozano founded La Prensa as a weekly publication in 1913. He relocated to San Antonio from Mapimí, Durango, Mexico in 1908. Though Mexicans were in the minority in San Antonio when Lozano arrived (about 25% of the population), growing tensions in Mexico would cause more migration of Mexicans to cities like San Antonio, El Paso, and Los Angeles. La Prensa filled a need for these immigrants as a Spanish-language paper that not only kept them up to date on local and international events, but also allowed them to keep track of new developments in Mexico. Lozano was a supporter of Porfirio Díaz and as a result, the editorial content of La Prensa was pro-Díaz and represented the interests of wealthy Mexicans with regards to the Revolution. However, the paper nonetheless provided news coverage to Mexican immigrants regardless of their political stance.
After its first year, La Prensa had a circulation of 10,000, and soon after became a daily paper circulating across the United States and parts of Mexico (though the paper would be periodically banned in Mexico throughout its history). At its largest, La Prensa had a circulation of 22,587 for the daily paper and 32,669 for the Sunday edition. The following examples—taken from La Prensa issues available in Chronicling America—illustrate the type of content exile papers published to serve their communities.
“SECCION EDITORIAL” La Prensa (San Antonio, TX), November 16, 1922, p. 3. These secciones editoriales (or editorial sections) published essays on politics, culture, and social values. Prominent Mexican thinkers were often featured in La Prensa, including Minister of Education Jose Vasconcelos.
“Los rebeldes evacuaron Ciudad Porfirio Diaz” La Prensa (San Antonio, TX), October 2, 1913, p.1. Most US newspapers did not report extensively on Mexico, especially during World War I and World War II. Instead, immigrants relied on papers like La Prensa to get information on their homeland.
“DOS SOBERBIOS TRIUNFOS” La Prensa (San Antonio, TX), January 21, 1921, p. 5. La Prensa also reported on and promoted Latinx culture. This article (“Two superb triumphs) discusses prominent Mexican classical musician-composers, Silvestre Revueltas and Manuel Ponce.
“AVISO DE OCASION” La Prensa (San Antonio, TX), November 19, 1922, p.7. Local information was also an important part of newspapers like La Prensa. This page of classifieds would help make locals aware of sales and services available near them.
Interested in more foreign language newspapers? You can browse or search American historical newspapers in 24 languages at the time of publication (including Spanish) in Chronicling America, a product of the National Digital Newspaper Program that is jointly sponsored by the Library and the National Endowment for the Humanities. More resources are available from the Hispanic Heritage Month web portal, a collaborative project of the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
Related Topics in Chronicling America:
- Mexican Revolution
- Pancho Villa
- Spanish-American War
- Vera Cruz
- Territory to Statehood: The Southwest
Mexican Revolution Newspaper Clippings Archive
Independent Mexico in Newspapers: The 19th Century
Texas State Historical Association: La Prensa
Hispanic American Newspapers, 1808-1980 (on-site only access here at LOC)
The Portal to Texas History: La Prensa
Pursuing Democracy: The First Hispanic Newspapers in the United States
Chabrán, Rafael, and Richard Chabrán. 1993. “The Spanish-Language and Latino Press of the United States: Newspapers and Periodicals.” In Handbook of Hispanic Cultures of the United States: Literature & Art, 360–83. Arte Publico Press.
Kanellos, Nicolás, and Helvetia Martell. 2000. “A Brief History of Hispanic Periodicals in the United States.” In Hispanic Periodicals in the United States: Origins to 1960, 3–8. Arte Publico Press.
Rivas-Rodriguez, Maggie. 2004. “Ignacio E. Lozano: The Mexican Exile Publisher Who Conquered San Antonio and Los Angeles.” American Journalism 21 (1): 75–89.
Wow! That is so interesting that Spanish language newspapers have been published in the US starting in 1808! Thank you for the interesting article and great research! I also love all the links that take me to primary sources at the Library of Congress. Great writing!
That is a really good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere.
Short but very precise information… Thank you for sharing this one.
A must read post!
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