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Just two years old, a Spanish-language publication in North Carolina thrives with few ads and no print edition

From left to right: Paola Jaramillo, co-founder and executive editor of Enlace Latino NC; Walter A. Gómez, co-founder and managing editor of Enlace Latino NC

By Anthony Advincula, Ethnic Media Services

When Enlace Latino NC launched two years ago, the challenge it faced was whether the state needs another Spanish-language news outlet, considering there are already 10 serving the Latino community in North Carolina.

With the coronavirus crippling the advertising base of many local newspapers and websites,  the second challenge is whether it could survive the pandemic.

So far, the answer to both challenges is yes. Enlace Latino NC is thriving on a bare-bones webpage, no print edition and sparse advertising.  As of early 2021, it has gained  70,000 online readers and about 1,200 active subscribers on its WhatsApp channel.

“We’re growing everyday,” Paola Jaramillo, executive editor of Enlace Latino NC, said. “When the people tell us how important we are in the community, it means that we’re doing a good job.”

Operated by El Centro Hispano, an advocacy group serving Latinos in North Carolina’s Triangle Area, the online publication was founded to respond to the rising tide of anti-immigrant sentiment fueled by President Trump’s election in 2016.   

As the first online publication fiscally sponsored by a nonprofit organization in North Carolina, the unique component of Enlace Latino NC is its focus on positive news in the community, Jaramillo says, especially the remarkable contributions of Latinos in the state and nationwide.

For example, at the start of the pandemic, the publication highlighted the story about a cohort of Latina doctors and medical professionals in North Carolina who formed a coalition, known as the Latinx Advocacy Team & Interdisciplinary Network for COVID-19 (LATIN-19), to flatten the curve within the state’s Latino community. 

During election, Enlace Latino also posted a story urging Latino readers who are U.S. citizens residing outside the country to vote in the general election. There are approximately 9 million Latino U.S. citizens who reside abroad, representing a significant voting bloc, including 1.5 million in Mexico.   

For generations, North Carolina has been a major gateway for Latino migration to the South. Over the last three decades, U.S. Census data show, the Latino population in the state has grown from less than half a percent of the total population to 24.6 percent—nearing a million people in 2018.

Of about 298,000 undocumented population in North Carolina, 79 percent are Latinos, mostly from Mexico and Central America, according to a report by the Migration Policy Institute.  The state has more agricultural guest workers than any other state in the nation. 

“Now, more than ever, we need to provide our community the right information because it is becoming more and more difficult to live and work here given the continued attacks from elected officials,” Jaramillo added.

With six staff members in the editorial team, assuming multiple roles in reporting, editing and digital design, the publication expands its audience through various digital media platforms, including a weekly newsletter La Tortilla, podcasts, and Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a WhatsApp distribution list.

Enlace Latino NC receives funding from Hispanics in Philanthropy, Democracy Fund, North Carolina Local News Lab Fund, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, and the Facebook Journalism Project.

“Right now, our model is sustainable. We’re making a difference for our community.  But we are really new, so it all depends on the situation of our country,” Jaramillo said.  

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