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La Voz, Twenty Years Later

They Also Made La Voz

Por Miriam Schwartz
June 2024
In 2014, ten years after the founding of La Voz magazine, a Bard student wrote an article titled "A Small Store that Harbors Big Dreams," telling the story of the Castellanos family, owners of the Mexican store located across from Taste Budd’s in Red Hook. That store no longer exists, but the article survives in that edition of La Voz, in the online archives of La Voz, and in the memory of Mexican writer Andrés Martínez de Velasco, who wrote it.
I spoke with Andrés ten years after that article was published, twenty years after the founding of La Voz, in our 2024, the twentieth anniversary of La Voz, to see what he is currently doing and how he remembers his time working at La Voz.
We talked via Zoom; for me, it was a beautiful afternoon in the Hudson Valley; for him, it was 8:30 PM in Amsterdam. He is currently finishing his PhD in atomic physics. Although his time at La Voz did not affect his career directly, since he works in a physics laboratory, in a way, what he learned writing for La Voz still helps him.

"I have learned to write in a less academic way and more for a general audience. This is always useful, I mean, also if you give a physics presentation, it's very good to find a way to talk about complicated things, or not so complicated things, in a less exclusive way so that you exclude as few people as possible from the message you want to convey."

His time working at La Voz gave him the opportunity to work with Latino friends within the context of Bard College, where Hispanic students represented 12% of the student body for the 2022-2023 school year, according to Bard and Data USA. Martínez de Velasco added that La Voz gave him the opportunity to leave what he calls "the Bard bubble" to get to know the towns of the Hudson Valley, interview local figures like Concepción Castellanos from the Mexican store in Red Hook, and attend events with the magazine, including receiving an award that La Voz won. He reiterated his fondness for interviews.
"The people in the Latino community of New York have super interesting stories. So just from the point of view of learning about life outside the Bard bubble and the people who are lucky enough to be there, it's really cool to talk to the people in the community."

Latinos in the Hudson Valley

The Latino community in the Hudson Valley has increased since La Voz was founded in 2004. According to the 2006 report from the New York State Assembly's Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, "The Changing Face of the Empire State," in July 2004, Hispanics or Latinos represented almost six percent of the upstate population, "The Hudson Valley is clearly the dominant region" with 13% of the total population of the Hudson Valley in 2004. Currently, there are 97,425 Latinos (24%) in Orange County; 64,314 (19%) in Rockland; 18,628 (19%) in Putnam County; 14,338 (18%) in Sullivan County; 44,631 (15%) in Dutchess; 21,878 (12%) in Ulster; 3,364 (7%) in Greene County; and 3,073 (5%) in Columbia County, according to United States Census data.

La Voz stands out as the only Spanish-language print magazine in the region serving this growing population.

Emily Schmall and Mariel Fiori founded La Voz at Bard College in 2004. At that time, Emily Schmall was completing her bachelor's degree in Spanish studies; twenty years later, she is a journalist for The New York Times, covering breaking news and based in Chicago. Via Zoom, Schmall spoke about her motive for founding La Voz, how the process was, and how she sees the magazine now after twenty years.

She had worked a bit in journalism before founding La Voz, Schmall said, "I wanted to do something with my journalism that acted as a bridge between my Spanish studies and the Hispanic community. The experience with La Voz showed me that yes, everyone wants and should have a common place where they can converse and share among themselves."
Not being a Spanish speaker, she knew she was an outsider, and at only nineteen years old with little experience, she contacted Mariel Fiori, who had just arrived from Argentina and had more professional journalism experience. "I didn't really know how to start a magazine. So fortunately, Mariel Fiori arrived in the Hudson Valley." That experience taught her that "Yes, it is possible to have an idea that doesn't really have a practical base. I knew I had a good idea, but I didn't really know how to implement it."

She recalled that the first edition was an eight-page newsletter. "We wanted to start quietly just to see if there were readers. We started distributing the magazine in Mexican stores, restaurants, immigrant support offices, and on the Bard campus. And soon we learned that yes, there really was a demand for that product, that it could be useful."

She graduated less than a year after founding La Voz, but continued writing articles until 2011 from various places in Latin America, where she worked as a foreign correspondent. "I always have ties with La Voz because it was like my baby." This 'baby' has grown and in turn given birth to other projects, one of them started by a Bard College alumna at Simon's Rock, now a Spanish teacher at Bard High School Early College in Queens, New York. Katherina Kempf wrote most of her articles from Oaxaca, where she lived and taught English after graduating from college. During the conversation, she shared a poignant story about a colleague who also taught English. He had lived in the United States since he was six years old, but decided to return to Oaxaca because he realized that he could never practice his teaching vocation in this country due to lack of papers. (See more in the archive "Back... Testimonies of Immigrants Who Returned Home").

The learning that stories like these gave Katherina motivated her to give her students the same opportunity, a chance that resulted in very interesting articles like "Hispanic Muslims" by Hanif Ahmed, which Katherina highlighted as one of the most read articles on La Voz's website.

Another project that was born from La Voz was the educational supplement by Kate Feinberg Robins, a Bard graduate who worked at La Voz from the beginning. The educational supplement consists of small English lessons. "It was important because there were many people who spoke Spanish and wanted to learn English. It was a magazine for people who didn't speak English, but we also knew that many of them wanted to learn English, so it made sense to have that part too."
Before working with Emily and Mariel at La Voz, Feinberg Robins founded the Red Hook English as a Second Language class that still exists (see the article "The Trustee Leader Scholar (TLS) and English as a Second Language Classes" by Jonathan Martínez in the February 2023 issue in the archive). So, when she started working at La Voz, Kate brought that teaching experience and knowledge of the Spanish-speaking community's needs to her writing.

She has a long list of useful articles with titles like "Calling a Friend/ Llamando a un(a) Amigo(a): Part I," "Talking to the School Guidance Counselor/ Conversando con el Orientador Escolar," "Talking with the Police/ Conversando con la Policía: Part I," and "Writing a Resume/ Escribir un Currículum Vitae" (all available in the archive on La Voz's website).
Kate, who is an anthropologist, echoed Andrés on the importance of knowing the readership when writing. "When you are writing, you have to think about who the audience is, who you are writing for, and you have to know the reader community, what kind of topics interest them, but also how they speak. Because there are people who speak Spanish in different ways in the United States."As Emily emphasizes, La Voz is a bridge between the large and diverse community of Spanish-speaking people. As Andrés noted, La Voz breaks the university bubble. As Katherina learned, La Voz offers the opportunity  to learn from the people around you. As Kate demonstrated, La Voz is a place to share knowledge.

At the end of each interview, I asked everyone, if you were to write an article for La Voz today, what would it be about? One said they would interview Melanie Nicholson, a professor at Bard, or Mariel Fiori; another said they would investigate the history of reggaeton as Afro-descendant music from the Caribbean and the politics of why it is said "they don't know how to speak Spanish" there; another would write about how to raise a bilingual child. What would you write about?back to top

La Voz, Cultura y noticias hispanas del Valle de Hudson



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