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'It's my passion to keep it alive' | La Prensa Texas continuing to evolve century-old newspaper

"We will be bigger and I would like to say in the future we will be across the country.”

SAN ANTONIO — To this day, Yvette Tello still remembers her very first encounter with the late and former publisher of La Prensa, Tino Duran.

Tello was working at a hotel in San Antonio where an event was being held that day. Staff members told her she would be presenting an honor of recognition for Duran. Tello had no idea who he was.

“They said before you get in front of that man you better make sure you know who you are honoring because he will put you on the spot, and thank God, I did well with him,” said Tello.

From that moment on, she began to learn more about Duran and the bilingual newspaper. At the time, La Prensa was owned by Tino and his wife Millie. The couple assigned the pages of their newspaper to local journalists to write about the Latino community in a positive light. Up until this point, the couple felt much of what the mainstream media showed were crimes among Latino youth.

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The Duran’s wanted the tabloid to highlight beautiful Hispanic cultural events and stories in San Antonio.

Credit: Sarah Duran
Florentino Duran shows off La Prensa in downtown San Antonio.

“Everyone knows about La Prensa. Everyone knows that you either read it, your grandfather read it or they took your picture and you were in the [paper]. My quinceanera was in there. I [even] found out my own family members worked for the original La Prensa,” said Tello.

La Prensa began circulation in 1913. Its original mission was to serve as the voice of the Mexican exile community and challenge Mexican public policy. For nearly 50 years, it was the leading Spanish-language newspaper circulating in South Texas up until its first demise in 1961 due to radio and television competition.

In 1989, La Prensa de San Antonio was relaunched. This time by the Duran family… my family. 

Some of my fondest memories growing up include spending time at the office with my grandparents. In fact, that’s where I fell in love with storytelling.

Credit: Sarah Duran
Posing with my grandparents.

In 2017, my grandfather passed away from Alzheimer’s disease. Within a year of his death, the paper closed its doors. Not even a day later, Tello said the paper reopened at the request and help of my uncle Steve Duran.

“When [Steve] got word that the paper was about to shut down he came to me and told me that he couldn’t let that happen and asked for my assistance,” said Tello.

Tello admitted she knew nothing about running a newspaper business.

“It was exciting. It was scary. It was eight pages and the hardest eight pages we had to put together because we had to make sure the print didn’t stop. We had staff that came on board that actually worked at the original La Prensa and that was nice because we had their expertise,” she said.

The first edition of La Prensa Texas was printed and distributed on Father’s Day of 2018.

Credit: La Prensa Texas
Copy of first La Prensa Texas paper in 2018.

Leonard Rodriguez helped incubate the paper by allowing La Prensa Texas to office from the Westside Development Corporation office where he was CEO at the time.

“It was a no-brainer. Seeing the history and the legacy of the Duran family, and the brand itself we just knew it could not let the paper disappear. We knew how important the paper has always been, continues to be, especially when it comes to getting information to a part of the community that doesn’t get all of this information,” said Rodriguez.

Not only did the WDC house the paper, but it also helped fund the paper so it could launch its digital phase and continue to expand its reach to all parts of San Antonio.

“It feels like we are on the right trajectory and I’m glad the city’s not forgotten us. Our community continues to embrace us, especially the south side and west side,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez currently serves as chairman of the board for the paper.

“My job is to make sure we are expanding La Prensa into the next century,” said Digital Director Roy Aguillon.

A year ago the paper launched its digital platform.

“I want to produce stories that can outlast us. That can give people hope and inspire them to be better than they are today,” said Aguillon.

That includes producing stories for the platform they feel no one is telling about communities of color.

“La Prensa has allowed us the opportunity to be ourselves and to tell the stories that we believe to report on,” said Aguillon.

Tello said they have a lot of readership in Los Angeles, California, due to the online platform.

“Tino Duran, his dream was that we would be across Texas and that was something that we wanted to honor, we wanted to fulfill. Thankfully it’s been happening,” said Tello.

At its core, the paper is still Tello’s main focus. She is currently the paper's interim publisher.

“I’m a paper person. I love it and I love to be able to hold it. It is my passion to keep it alive. It’s a dying industry across the United States but here at La Prensa Texas, we have no intention of getting rid of the print. We have to make it attainable to those who can’t just pick up their cell phone,” she said.

Right now, the paper is keeping its doors open by advertisement. She recently applied for nonprofit status but mentioned the pandemic has delayed the process with the IRS.

“What that means for us is that we will be able to apply for grants so that we can pay real salaries and grow our staff. Right now, we have to count on our salespeople to make this happen for us [to keep the doors open],” Tello said.

As for the future, she is optimistic.

“We are only getting bigger and better. We are evolving with the times. We are not just staying print. We have our digital team, our radio podcast – and those are things we never had before. We also have a board of directors that are pillars in the community,” she said. “I believe that we are not going to be in no way shape or form the same paper that we were. We will be bigger and I would like to say in the future we will be across the country.”

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