Its been five years since Sergio Corona launched a Spanish-language newspaper to serve the growing Hispanic population in and around Perry, Iowa (pop. 7,633). Today, 3,500 copies of his Viento del Trópico, or Wind from the Tropic, are distributed in three central Iowa communities twice a month.
The paper looks good and he fills a niche in the community, says Greg Nath, managing editor of the Perry Chief, the weekly English-language newspaper, which prints Coronas paper. The Hispanic kids on the soccer team I coach say its very well written.
Corona, who moved to Perry in 1993 from Guerro, Mexico, via California, had long dreamed of starting a newspaper to serve Spanish-speaking people. However, working long hours in the cornfields and in a meatpacking plant didnt give him much time to pursue his dream.
Corona, 38, got the opportunity when the meatpacking plant closed in 1996. Though he had no journalism experience, Corona talked to members of the Perry Chiefs staff to learn what was needed to start a newspaper. Then, he hit the streets to sell ads.
I approached service businesses because they help peoplelike car repair places, banks, and groceries, Corona recalls.
Hy-Vee, Iowas largest supermarket chain, signed on. So did some bars and the local bowling alley. A packing plant, Iowa Beef Processors, took out help-wanted ads. A bank joined in, too. For many local businesses, this was their first opportunity to reach Spanish-speaking members of the community.
It means a lot to have a paper in your own language, says Claudia Onofre, a mortgage loan originator in Des Moines who advertises in Viento del Trópico. Sergios paper gives the Spanish-speaking community more options than what they read in other newspapers.
In March 1996, Corona published his first edition, an 11-by-17-inch sheet printed on both sides. Tucked around the ads were announcements of events, an article about English-as-a-second-language classes, and humorous anecdotes.
I was worried that no one would read it and people would laugh, Corona says, starting to smile. But they read it and they did laugh . . . because I printed some jokes in it.
The response from the Hispanic community assured that there would be future editions, but Corona had to scramble to keep up with his fledgling enterprise. He visited the city library to learn how to use computers, read books to teach himself photography, and leaned on the staff of the Perry Chief, conveniently across the street from his downtown office, for layout advice.
Twice, to help make ends meet, Corona hired on with companies, with the stipulation hed have Thursdays off so he could work on his newspaper. Twice, he was later told, he had to work on Thursdays. Both times Corona walked away, preferring to concentrate on his newspaper.
Corona now supplements his advertising income by operating a money-transfer service and selling CDs of Latin American music in his newspapers front office, where he works alone producing Viento del Trópico.
The newspaper has increased up to 16 pages per edition and contains articles on immigration laws and news from Latin America, as well as ads from medical clinics, tax services, and travel agencies. It is distributed free in Perry as well as Des Moines and Marshalltown (pop. 26,009), which also have growing Hispanic populations.
Here, theres no radio in Spanish and Sergio gets out the word on information thats really crucial to people, says Vivian Gonzalez, a family support services worker for Dallas County. My hats off to Sergio. What hes done is amazing.
Looking at what hes done, Corona says proudly, I never thought Id have a job like this. I never really thought Id have a newspaper.