September 15, 2008
Oct. 12, 1808, issue of El Misisipí. (Courtesy Wisconsin Historical Society)

Oct. 12, 1808, issue of El Misisipí. (Courtesy Wisconsin Historical Society)

First Spanish-Language Newspaper Founded 200 Years Ago

The first Spanish-language newspaper in the United States began in New Orleans 200 years ago this month.

El Misisipí, published for exiles opposing Napoleon’s conquest of Spain, was just four pages long and reported on news from the homeland. Printed in English and Spanish, it lasted two years. But El Misisipí heralded today’s thriving Latino press in the United States, which boasts more than 400 newspapers, four major broadcast networks, nearly 80 cable networks and hundreds of TV and radio stations.

Many Spanish-language newspapers got their start covering Latino communities and exposing injustices. Some of the more influential papers over the past 200 years include El Habanero, published in 1824, which advocated Cuban independence from Spain. In 1855, Francisco Ramírez launched El Clamor Público in Los Angeles, which exposed violence against Latinos following the U.S. conquest of northwest Mexico. Jose Martí started La Patria in New York in 1892 to promote Cuban and Puerto Rican independence from Spain.

La Prensa debuted in New York City nearly a century ago to serve the growing immigrant population. Now called El Diarió La Prensa, it is the nation’s oldest Spanish-language newspaper.

With the Latino population continuing to grow in the United States, the scope of the Spanish-language press has broadened. "As our community becomes more diverse, the issues that we cover are not only important to the Hispanic community but to society in general," said Mónica Lozano, publisher of La Opinión which was launched by her grandfather in 1926.

An 1808 issue of El Misisipí and an exhibit on the bicentennial of the Latino press are on display in the News Corporation News History Gallery.

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