Students walk across the campus of Columbia University in Ne

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Oldest U.S. Spanish-language paper approaches 100; university to preserve photo collection

“El Diario La Prensa” (El Diario, for short), the oldest publishing Spanish-language newspaper in the U.S., will celebrate its centennial next month, but the festivities have already kicked off.

Founded in 1913 as the weekly “La Prensa” by Spanish businessman Rafael Viera, it became a daily when José Camprubí —brother-in-law of future Nobel laureate in Literature Juan Ramón Jiménez— purchased it four years later.

Back then, Spaniards and Cubans made the bulk of New York’s Latino population.  Puerto Ricans began arriving in large numbers in the 1920s and a decade later they became the dominant Hispanic group. Since those early days to the multinational metropolis of today, El Dario has been the historical record of New York’s Hispanic community.

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“The trove of information it provides, from sports to popular culture and politics, is simply overwhelming,” says Carlos Rodríguez, who spent months researching the paper’s archive at El Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños  to produce the chronology for the commemorative website.

Upon the death of Camprubí in 1942, his wife and daughters took control of the company, turning it into the first U.S. daily ran by women.  The family sold it in 1957. In 1963 “La Prensa” merged with “El Diario de Nueva York” and took its current denomination; the joint-venture kept the latter’s paper’ slogan: “El Campeón de Los Hispanos,” the Champion of Hispanics, as its own.

In 2006, alongside “La Opinión” of Los Angeles and other regional newspapers, El Diario was acquired by ImpreMedia, which in this way became the largest Spanish-language print news group in the U.S.  In 2012, ImpreMedia was bought by the Argentine daily La Nación.

On September 16, Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race (CSER) and the Rare Book and Manuscript Library announced a partnership with El Diario for the preservation of its 1980-2012 photo collection. Part of that collection is showcased in an exhibition that will open at Columbia, New York University, and Hostos Community College.

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The calendar includes events at the New-York Historical Society, the New York Stock Exchange, City College and other cultural organizations. On October 12th, the anniversary of the paper’s first issue, the Empire State Building will be lit in blue and red, El Diario’s signature colors (For the whole list of events, visit http://centenario.eldiariony.com )

The great party, a festival featuring Latino theater companies and music, will take place on October 25th at Grand Central Terminal—which also celebrates its centennial—under the banner “New York Icons at 100″. “This event will highlight the relevance of El Diario not just as a Latino organization that has served its community over the past century, but also as a New York institution that has helped build the city alongside other non-Latino  institutions,” says the daily’s publisher, Rossana Rosado.

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Despite the dramatic sea change affecting the newspaper industry in general, Hernando Ruiz-Jiménez, Executive Vice President and East General Manager of ImpreMedia, is optimistic about the future. “There is a new generation of English-dominant Latinos who are now readers of our digital platforms, more than half of them via mobile,” he says.  To better serve those readers, El Diario is planning to expand its English-language sections (The editorials have been traditionally published both in Spanish and in English). “The print version of El Diario will continue to be in Spanish, but you’ll probably see more English in the digital version,” adds Ruiz-Jiménez.

“El Diario reached a century because it was able to evolve with its audience,” says Rosado. “Keeping up with our audience’s language is one of the big challenges for the immediate future.”

ClaudioRemeseira

Claudio Iván Remeseira is a New York-based award-winning journalist, writer, and critic. Translator of the Spanish-language on-line section of The Nation and editor of Hispanic New York, an online portal and blog on current events and culture. Editor of Hispanic New York: A Sourcebook (Columbia University Press, 2010), an anthology of essays on the city’s Latino, Latin American & Iberian cultural heritage, and winner of the Latino International Book Award in the category of Best Reference Book in English (2011).

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