Mundo Hispano: Uniting the community for 15 years and counting

by PHI TRAN

Mundo Hispano, once a small publication, has grown into Utah’s largest Spanish language newspaper. Sandra Plazas, the general editor and co-founder of the paper said it is more than just a newspaper; it is a bridge of understanding between the American and Hispanic communities in Utah.

Plazas said that Mundo Hispano believes that each community has something to say and through communication, people will learn from each other. It is “a mission of getting to know each other,” she said.

Mundo Hispano has become the voice of the Latino community. It covers the important aspects that affect the community such as legislative issues.

“It’s also a tool for us to help teach our kids,” Plazas said. “It’s hard for a lot of kids here to maintain their language because everything around them is in English.” Mundo Hispano can help people with their fluency in Spanish.

Plazas came to Utah with her mother, Gladys Gonzalez, in 1991 from Bogota, Colombia. At the time, Plazas was 20 years old and had just graduated from Universidad Externado de Colombia with a degree in communication.

Gonzalez had a business degree from Los Libertadores University and worked for Manufacturers Hanover Trust, now Chase Manhattan Bank. She also had three years of journalism experience.

Yet finding a job in Utah proved to be difficult. Plazas said employers would tell them that they were either over- or under-qualified.

They ended up cleaning floors. It was unacceptable, Plazas said they did not want to do this forever and they thought, “What could we do that will give us a future but is something that we enjoy doing?” This was the motivation behind creating Mundo Hispano.

Some people criticized the idea of creating a Spanish newspaper in 1993. One person told them, “You’re crazy! How are you going to do that? There is nothing Spanish in Utah.” A Salt Lake Tribune representative said, “You’re making the biggest mistake of your life. The [Hispanic] population in Utah is never going to be big enough to actually support your newspaper.”

Plazas responded to these comments with a quote from one of her favorite movies, The Field of Dreams, “If you build it they will come.” She and her mother decided they would take their chances because they believed the Hispanic population would grow and they were right. According to the 2006 U.S. Census Bureau, Utah’s Hispanic population is at 11.2 percent.

Although both Gonzalez and Plazas had an extensive background in journalism it was still difficult launching a newspaper because they had to do everything themselves. They reported, wrote and edited the news, designed the layout and even delivered the newspapers. Because they were so low on resources, they still had to work full-time jobs to pay their salaries and support their families. Plazas said they worked 52 hours straight without any sleep. “As hard as it was, I think it has been great because it has given me the opportunity to learn every little aspect of my business,” she said.

Mundo Hispano has gone from a mere 1,000 copies per month to a circulation of 10,000 per week. Seven freelance writers contribute articles as well as one correspondent in Mexico City and one in Colombia. The paper has a readership of 2.7 per copy, which means there are approximately 23,000 people reading the newspaper. Plazas said that they plan to expand the newspaper in the future. She said she would like to see Mundo Hispano distributed statewide with correspondents in Europe in the next five years.

In addition to Mundo Hispano, they own a marketing consulting firm called the Hispanic Marketing Consulting La Agency, which helps businesses by showing them how to target the growing Hispanic population. One important aspect that Plazas said the agency teaches other businesses to remember is that the entire Hispanic community cannot be boxed into one category. In fact, there are 25 different Hispanic cultures in Utah alone and Plazas said the challenge for most businesses is accommodating to all the different cultures.

Needless to say, this mother-daughter team has accomplished a great deal since they moved to Utah in 1991. Mundo Hispano is a family business that they created from the ground up. “It has been our baby,” Plazas said. People have put a lot of trust in the newspaper.