Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


While not as abundant as in some other areas of the country, Spanish and bilingual newspapers have been published in the Great Plains since at least the late nineteenth century. In the tradition of Native journalism reaching back to the founding of the first press in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1834, Casimiro Barela, a settler and Hispanic political leader in southern Colorado, hired exiled journalist José Escobar to publish El Progreso in the western Plains town of Trinidad, Colorado, in 1891. After being named Mexican consul for Colorado in 1896, Barela recruited Escobar to edit Las Dos Repúblicas, a weekly published in Denver between 1896 and 1898. In addition to consular activities, the paper addressed the potential for trade, industry, commerce, and scientific exchange between Mexico and the United States. Escobar, a poet and writer, added literary criticism and in-depth editorials on the conditions faced by Mexican-origin peoples in the West. Barela moved his press back to Trinidad in 1898, where he continued to publish El Progreso until 1901. A second Spanish weekly, El Anunciador de Trinidad, was issued in 1904 and was discontinued only in the 1940s.

A sizable population of Mexican immigrant workers and their families emerged in Kansas City, Missouri, between 1900 and 1920. Two brothers, Manuel A. and Juan M. Urbina, began El Cosmopolita in 1914 to support mutualista (mutual aid) associations working in defense of Kansas City's Mexican residents. In 1915 Jack Danciger, a successful Kansas City entrepreneur with political and business ties to the Mexican community, bought the paper. Danciger and his associates used the paper to promote the sale of goods, merchandise, and beer on both sides of the border. By 1918 El Cosmopolita boasted a circulation of 9,000 subscribers, making it one of the largest Spanish-language newspapers in the country. A succession of owners changed El Cosmopolita's editorial stance over the years. The Urbina brothers had supported insurgency in Mexico. When Danciger took over, he moderated this view by supporting Venustiano Carranza's rise to power, a move that was advantageous to Danciger's business interests across the border. In its last year of publication the paper took on a missionary bent when it became the mouthpiece of the Instituto Cristiano Mexicano, a Protestant group critical of the role of the Catholic Church in Mexico and among Mexican Americans.

Latino-oriented print media published in Great Plains communities today include Dos Mundos (Kansas City, Missouri), Hola Colorado and La Voz (Denver), El Nacional (Oklahoma City), and Prensa Latina (Grand Island, Nebraska).

A. Gabriel Meléndez University of New Mexico

Kanellos, Nicolás. Hispanic Periodicals in the United States, Origins to 1960. Houston: Arte Público Press, 2000.

Meléndez, A. Gabriel. So All Is Not Lost: The Poetics of Print in Nuevomexicano Communities, 1834–1958. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1997.

Smith, Michael, M. "The Mexican Immigrant Press beyond the Borderlands: The Case of El Cosmopolita." Great Plains Quarterly 10 (1990): 71–85.

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