By Dyana Z. Furmansky
Suddenly, or “de repente” if you speak Spanish, a four-page insert called el Sol del Valle appeared in the middle of The Sopris Sun last March. The insert has since become a weekly feature of The Sun. It publishes opinion pieces written in Spanish, a few of The Sun’ original English articles that are translated and Chisme del Pueblo, publicizing local events in Spanish. El Sol del Valle contains paid advertising in Spanish and its parent entity, The Sopris Sun, attracts donations and grants as a nonprofit.
“El Sol makes it much easier to find out what’s going on in the valley from Aspen to Glenwood,” says Miguel Lopez who manages The UPS Store in Willits. He says he looks for it every week, but the insert, which is also distributed as a stand-alone, seems to disappear quickly. Its readership, though small and not formally counted, has room to grow. According to a 2019 Garfield County census, Latino residents account for 28% of the county’s population of about 60,000.
“It’s such a benefit to people who, like my mother, don’t speak English,” says Jacquelinne Castro, Chisme del Pueblo’s translator. She says she likes doing the translation because “it improves both my English and my Spanish.”
Another translator for el Sol, Dolores Duarte, does not live in Carbondale, but her sister Eloisa Duarte does, and she learned about it from her. Dolores Duarte contacted Sopris Sun Editor Raleigh Burleigh to volunteer her services as a translator. “Other people are asked for donations, but this is something I can do to help connect the Latino community to Carbondale,” says Duarte. Living in an Idaho town where the Latino population is small and not well integrated, Duarte says she understands the importance of having an avenue to get involved in the local community. Duarte, mother of two daughters who received her degree in chemical engineering, says she looks forward to her weekly Sol assignments because they keep her mind active.
“It was a very pleasing surprise to find el Sol,” says Lizdebeth Núñez, who first heard about it from friends. Núñez is a bilingual teaching assistant at Basalt Elementary School. “Me gusta mucho, muchísimo,” she continues in Spanish. Her daughter Fernanda Gonzales, who attends the University of Oregon, was on the three-way phone interview with The Sopris Sun to translate. “My mother says she likes it very, very much.”
Burleigh, who is bilingual, also translates Sun articles for el Sol. When he took the job as Sun editor in January 2021, his “priority was to create a weekly Spanish insert as a regular component of the newspaper. My hope is to attract local Spanish-speaking talent in reporting, sales, art and more, to take the infrastructure and make it as representative as possible.”
As KDNK’s news director before joining the Sun, Burleigh says he became acutely aware of the lack of local media coverage in Spanish during the 2018 Lake Christine fire. “I encountered a family in Sopris Park, washing a baby in the water fountain,” he says. “They had been evacuated from the El Jebel trailer park the night before, and were totally unaware of where to go next. I directed them to the Red Cross evacuee center at the local high school.” The lack of Spanish print media, says Burleigh, is also an issue during elections. “Spanish-speaking voters are unable to find the necessary information to vote according to their values.”
Burleigh says he eventually wants to hire a native Spanish-speaking journalist “to direct the editorial vision and help the paper to grow into its own unique identity, true to the needs and wants of our local Spanish-speaking communities. I think that the local stories component is key.”
The reception in the Latino community has been “very positive,” he says. “Our greatest obstacle is making it known that The Sopris Sun is now a bilingual paper, and always includes a Spanish section with at least four pages of local content, and original reporting in Spanish.”
The Sopris Sun is currently searching for a part-time, bilingual ad salesperson to help grow the section (anyone interested can email email@example.com).
“It is más importante,” Núñez says. Daughter Gonzales translates as her mother switches to Spanish: “It is very important because El Sol motivates the Latino community to read the articles and become aware of opportunities in Carbondale. By attending these events we create an invitation bridge between Anglos and Latinos and create a unified community.”
Running the same local stories in English and Spanish has another benefit. It allows native English-speakers to brush up on their Spanish. Como Yo.