Lalo Alcaraz has always embraced the word pocho. It refers to Mexican-Americans who have lost their Mexican culture and speak English, and it’s what relatives occasionally called Alcaraz when he was growing up in San Diego. He has leveraged it ever since. In the 1990s, Alcaraz and a friend founded POCHO Magazine, which led to pocho.com. Both projects used English when, for years, “Hispanic media” usually meant Spanish-language content. They satirized Latino issues and poked fun at biculturalism. “We had the National Pochismo Institute,” he says, “where we would send out a fake survey and ‘rate your pochismo.’ ” Currently, Alcaraz hosts a radio show called the “Pocho Hour of Power” on KPFK in Los Angeles.
He was ahead of his time. Pocho is popping up everywhere these days, from Twitter handles to bands and performers. Not surprisingly, a new crop of news websites has emerged to tap the bicultural Latino market, too. Fox News Latino, HuffPost LatinoVoices, and the start-up NewsTaco all were born between mid-2010 and 2011, to cite some of the more prominent entries. This summer, NBC Latino launched an English-language website, and Univision, which had created a news Tumblr to generate buzz for its own new English-language site, says it plans to go live by the end of the summer.
Alcaraz shuttered his magazine in the late 1990s, and his website petered out around 2004. But he kept the domain name, and earlier this year he re-launched pocho.com, now called Pocho: Ñews y Satire. “It’s sad that it took everybody so long,” he says.
It’s no secret why there’s a boom in these websites. The US Latino community now exceeds 50 million—16.3 percent of the population—and accounted for more than half the country’s growth between 2000 and 2010, according to Pew Hispanic Center’s census analysis. “That certainly was a moment that converted a lot of people,” says Miguel Ferrer, editor of HuffPost LatinoVoices about the census.
More important, native-born Hispanics outnumber their foreign-born counterparts roughly 32 million to 19 million. They also are younger (the median age is 18), more likely to own a cellphone, and more comfortable with and immersed in the digital media culture than foreign-born Latinos. In short, they are squarely in the sweet spot for marketers and the media. Carlos Pelay, president of the Charlotte-based Media Economics Group, said in an email that younger Latinos tend to be more educated and affluent, and their purchasing habits are more influential on the broader culture than those of older generations.
The census numbers also highlight Hispanics’ importance in the 2012 election.
In the last presidential election, Hispanics favored the Democratic ticket over the Republican one “by a margin of more than two-to-one,” according to Pew. But that hasn’t dissuaded presumed Republican nominee Mitt Romney from courting Latinos. He’s targeted them with Spanish-language advertisements, a Spanish-language website, and an outreach team, Juntos Con Romney.
That newfound political power certainly struck the late Carlos Guerra, a former columnist for the San Antonio Express-News who’d been a youth leader in the Chicano civil rights movement. He co-founded NewsTaco in 2010 (he died later that year).
“Carlos came from a time and place where Latinos were disenfranchised,” says Sara Inés Calderón, another co-founder and former editor of the site. “He was really excited about what [the election] would mean for Latino empowerment, Latino media, and Latinos having a voice.”
Today, campaign news looks similar across the sites. Yes, HuffPost LatinoVoices has HuffPost’s usual channel of opinion writers—some prominent, some not. And NBC Latino builds its brand by sending its commentators onto MSNBC, and those clips are then featured on the site. But in general, the approaches vary minimally—they all track the candidates’ views on the DREAM Act, Arizona SB-1070, and the Hispanic vote.
While the readership and influence of these sites is growing, Univision, which in 2007 hosted the country’s first Spanish-language presidential debate with the Democratic primary candidates, is still the biggest name in Latino political coverage. Univision has the fifth-largest primetime audience in the country, occasionally besting the other major networks in ratings, according to data from Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.
But even this powerhouse realizes its audience is evolving, as evidenced by its new English-language website and plans to launch an English-language channel with ABC News by 2013.