News Column

Text of Jesus Chavarria's 25th Anniversary Speech

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In this evening's Hispanic Business visual presentation, you heard the testimonials of the Puente family from Fort Worth, Texas, and you can read their story in the June issue of the magazine. Growing up in South Texas in the 1940s and 1950s, I recall many small businesses owned by Hispanics -- such as the corner grocery store or bakery. But back then, Hispanics did not own auto dealerships, at least not in the part of Texas that I lived in. Back then, Hispanics did not participate as owners in large commercial franchising networks such as McDonald's. Back then, Hispanics were not consumers of complex insurance packages such as those sold by Liberty Mutual. Back then, by and large, our most important market involvement occurred at the tail-end of local labor markets.

Starting in the 1980s and 1990s, Hispanic Business was reporting on companies engaged in market space beyond the local levels. In the early years, our reporting mainly focused on the highly complex federal markets; many of the larger firms that I first contacted were 8(a) firms competing for federal contracts. Gradually, our attention shifted toward private markets in the auto, construction, service, and manufacturing sectors. Publication of the Hispanic Business 400 in 1983 was a seminal event, and a gargantuan research task accomplished by a research staff of just one or two people.

Another key Hispanic Business contribution over the years, has been the magazine's emphasis on practical, quantifiable information. In the 1970s, while the nation was gearing up to transition to the Information Age, Hispanics still suffered from a significant public-information gap. We still do. A key assumption of Hispanic Business was that practical, quantifiable information would empower readers to greater competitive effectiveness. We could think strategically and measure our progress. We also did not report exclusively on entrepreneurs, but business professionals joining the corporate ranks as well. The white mail that reached us in the early years confirmed that our emphasis on objectivity was on the right track. And so, research and numbers became the order of the day, developing among our readers a passion for metrics.

I recall travels to Mexico and Latin America during those early years, and reading the local dailies and magazines of the cities I visited. Mostly, I found the journalism style excessively personal. I felt a kinship with American culture and felt closer to the information ethic of American journalism, even though American journalists hardly took notice of our community (though they are certainly taking notice now!). It never occurred to me that Hispanic Business could be published in any language other than English. English is the password to participating in American life -- to the nuances of the culture, history, music, poetry, and business of America.

It took us 10 years or so to get the magazine right, and by the early 1990s we were empowered by a magazine culture that was attracting a growing readership and premium advertisers.

The first article I recall reading on the U.S. Hispanic market was published in Ad Age in 1972. In the 1980s, there were no public sources to inform interested readers about emerging Hispanic advertising agencies, emerging Hispanic media, or who the people were who ran such agencies and media companies. There were no sources to identify leading Hispanic market advertising accounts or media expenditures. Information about the leading Hispanic media markets around the country, ranked according to expenditures, was non-existent. Hispanic Business did that, and broke out the expenditures among TV, radio, outdoor, and print advertising.

There also was nothing on the record about the largest Hispanic-owned corporations in the country. Hispanic Business focused on growth, because growth seemed to be the central theme of our lives in the 1980s. As this evening's visual presentation pointed out, the 1970s, '80s and '90s were decades of significant Hispanic demographic gains. They were also decades of progress in related social and economic categories. The educational profile of our communities, for example, changed.

When I was an undergraduate at UCLA in the late '50s, there was no one like me on campus. There must have been other Hispanics on campus -- I couldn't possibly have been the only one -- but if there were, I never saw them. Some of my UCLA professors actually approached me and asked, 'Who are you? And how did you get here with that surname?' By the time I got to UCSB to teach in the late '60s, there were tens -- and later hundreds -- of Hispanic students on campus, and they were demonstrating. This was the case on other campuses around the country as well. By the '80s and '90s, those hundreds of students had become thousands.

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