April 14, 2000

First Person

My tortured relationship with journalism

By Pablo Sainz

"El Debate de Culiacan!" I would hear as the Volkswagen Beetle passed in front of my house every morning while I was getting ready for school. A loud voice from the speakers on top of the car would shout out the day's headlines, trying to persuade people to come out and buy the paper: "Y andale! Compre su periodico, El Debate de Culiacan!"

Before leaving for school, while eating breakfast at the table, I would read the comics: "Condorito," "Snoopy," and "Daniel el Travieso." They always made me laugh. But I wasn't the only with a newspaper, it was definitely a family affair: My dad, Deportes ("Chavez is fighting on Saturday!"); my mom, Sociales ("Look, the photos from Domenica's wedding"); my great-grandfather, Politica ("Another sexenio, another thief"); and so on.

Growing up in Sinaloa, Mexico, my first encounter with journalism was in Spanish. From the pages of El Debate to the wrinkled face of Jacobo Zabludovsky in 24 Horas, I was always surrounded by news. But this news, I would soon learn, was extremely censored by the government. The few courageous journalists who dared to criticize the government or the narcos (Sadly, Sinaloa has the greatest number of drug cartels in Mexico) in their writings, were brutally executed.

I was barely in elementary school, but I was already aware of the political and economic problems in Mexico. And periodismo, it was said in Culiacan, wasn't a glamorous career to pursue. In Mexico, freedom of the press was, and still is, just a myth.

The same government that filled my childhood newspapers with lies, forced my family and me to emigrate to the United States in 1990. I was 11.

Since I had attended a Catholic elementary school where English was taught and I was a fanatic of American cinema, when I arrived in Los Angeles I already had a command of the English language. My second encounter with journalism took place. But now instead of Spanish, the news was written in English. Instead of lies, truth.

Here in the United States I still found a problem with journalism, though. In Mexico I was always part of the majority. It wasn't difficult for me to relate to the programs on television or the stories in newspapers. In the United States I became part of a minority.

Both of my encounters with journalism, in Spanish and in English, in Mexico and in the United States, had been shadowed by censorship and by discrimination. I knew I had to do something.

Today, I'm a long way from Culiacan. I'm a journalism and Chicana Studies double major at San Diego State University. I chose these majors to finally repair the tortured relationship between journalism and me: No more censorship; no more discrimination. I write about important forgotten issues and I hold nothing sacred.

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