Imagine the feeling: making a fresh start thousands of miles from home, learning a hundred new things a day and trying to make all the right moves. It’s made many times more challenging because you don’t speak the majority language; some agencies and places are bilingual, but many aren’t, and finding the ones that are can be hit-or-miss.
Then somebody hands you a copy or directs you to a website, and BOOM, there it is. News and information in your native tongue. Politics, arts, entertainment, opinion, and ads for businesses that speak your language. All of a sudden, life here is a lot less lonesome. You have found La Voz.
It’s impossible to know how many Spanish-speaking newcomers to our area have had that experience since 2004, but with 6,000 print copies distributed across ten counties each month and read by an estimated 35,000 readers, not to mention a website that gets 95,000 visits a year and thousands of social media followers, it’s a lot. And then there’s the popular broadcast five days a week on Radio Kingston with up-to-the-minutes news and conversation.
La Voz started as a TLS (Trustee Leader Scholar) project at Bard College’s Center for Civic Engagement. “I got to Bard in the summer of 2003, and that fall I met Emily Schmall,” says cofounder and director Mariel Fiori. “The TLS program has a community service and social action component. Emily wanted to do a Spanish-language publication, and I’m a journalist by trade, so we got together on this and the first issue of La Voz came out in January of 2004.”
The publication started as a small black-and-white quarterly, After Fiori graduated in 2005, having transferred her credits from her native Argentina, she met with Bard president Leon Botstein and made her case that this was much more than a student project. “I told him it needed to grow, with more copies and more distribution and more frequency,” she says. “I said, ‘this needs a professional journalist’ and I told him I was one, so I became managing editor in 2005.”
Since then, over 200 students have worked in the offices of La Voz, still based at Bard but now a fully independent nonprofit which sells ads, pays contributors and partners with the region’s library systems on distribution. In 2018, Fiori was producing and co-hosting the Radio Kingston show La Voz, first with her fellow award-winning journalist and co-host Antonio Flores-Lobos, and since 2019 she has been the executive producer and host of the daily La Voz con Mariel Fiori, M-F, 10-11am.
“Radio was always my passion,” she says. “My first job in Argentina was for an international radio station; then as a journalist producer for several national shows, covering news, politics, culture—I wasn’t on the air, I was gathering the information but it was exciting. So when I got to Bard and they had a radio station, a friend and I started doing an hour of Spanish language broadcasting every week. We appropriated the name of a familiar cookbook—it translates roughly to ‘What’s Cooking Today?’ and it was the good housewife’s cookbook, so we completely subverted it, talked about news and contemporary issues.”
After hosting shows on local community radio stations, and having discovered excellent co-hosting chemistry with Flores-Lobos in the process, she met Micah Blumenthal while both were fellows at the Good Work Institute. “They wanted a radio station, and they wanted me to be a board member. Then they hired Jimmy Buff as executive director, and I made a proposal for a daily show with Antonio.”
Today, the magazine and radio presence serve as an information clearinghouse and central contact point for the Hudson Valley’s population of around 150,000 Spanish speakers. “They call our office to ask for help—lawyers, mental health support, many different things. We have a list of referrals, a network. We try to help new residents learn to navigate the system. This is a land of many opportunities, but if you don’t know they exist, how can you take advantage of them?”
La Voz magazine, now a colorful monthly packed with fresh ideas from young contributors, is a proud member of the Hudson Valley Current; advertisers can pay with Currents, contributors can be paid with them, and there’s the catering from Tilda’s Kitchen that’s been earning rave reviews after monthly team meetings.
If you’re fluent in Spanish, know that your voice can be part of the La Voz network. Email your ideas, contributions and suggestions to email@example.com.