In this edition we are celebrating 22 years of service and are entering our 23rd year.
It was in March 1992 when we launched the first edition of El Puente! It was quite an adventure and it has continued to be a place of dreams, frustrations, hopes, laughter and many other emotions. Above all it has been a journey of faith.
In 1992, Indiana was the only state of the union without a Spanish language newspaper, but that was not what gave us the idea to start the newspaper.
In this part of Indiana there were hardly any stores or places that offered any type of services in Spanish to Latinos. People were arriving attracted and called by the business owners who wanted to expand their businesses and needed the young workforce.
The local schools were not ready for the avalanche of students that began to appear at their doorstep. Most administrators felt overwhelmed with the new questions and concerns the new population posed for them.
The Latinos came eager to work, and be part of the Michiana community. South Bend had had more experience working with Latinos. Some of the people who decided to trade the seasonal work and settle down in the city while working at the local factories found the West Side neighborhoods a good place to settle since the local Polish and Hungarian communities were ready to leave for better housing and opportunities. In other communities the number of Latinos was few.
We decided to walk alongside and serve this new wave of foreigners arriving. During all these years El Puente has tried to be a bridge both to the interior of the multiple communities that constitute the Latinos in the area; people from several different Mexican states, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Venezuela, etc. and the larger community. Everyone so different, yet feeling under the Latino umbrella, sharing almost the same language, all identified with the need to settle down and in the process of doing so, finding jobs, housing, and all the things you need to inhabit and be at a given place.
The schools were the best avenue to reach out to the children and their families.
Those were hard times. Coming to this new place, implied not only learning the language, which is a difficult task when your main need is working long and hard hours at a factory, but it also implied all sort of new rules: traffic, school, etc.
How to access the public library? What do you find in them? Does everyone hate us? Are they laughing at me? Do I have to dress like them? What if I don’t like their food, or music?
There were thousands of questions and few people to answer them. But there were always good people ready to bridge every gap. Meetings were scheduled by the city administration in every place, the police and fire departments wanted to establish communication and of course the businesses wanted the clients!
We have had the honor of seeing at least two generations of students going through the schools systems; some of them are back from college ready to take their place in society.
We hope to be able to continue serving, and loving our Latino community and the community at large that has embraced the Latinos.
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