A "Latino version of People" at the time of its 1988 debut, Hispanic was one of the first general interest magazines for Hispanic Americans to be printed in English and nationally distributed. Launched in Washington, D.C. by Cuban native Fred Estrada, with former New Mexico governor Jerry Apodaca as his publisher, Hispanic initially revolved around celebrity photo spreads and articles that were roundly dismissed as "fluff." The debut issue featured Raquel Welch "of all people" on its cover, as Estrada's son Alfredo would later lament. After a dismal first year of receipts, Hispanic underwent extensive reformatting. Becoming far more career and professional-oriented, the magazine's new focus was on the achievements of Hispanic business leaders and politicians such as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros, with regular articles on corporate America and its relationship to Hispanics.
The shift was successful. Almost immediately, ad pages increased by more than 200 percent and, by its third year, Hispanic was turning a profit. Reformatting was so successful, in fact, that Hispanic continues to be confused with its competitor, the California-based Hispanic Business (founded in 1979), which threatened a copyright infringement lawsuit in 1993.
While many print periodicals faced increasing difficulty in an era of expanding media technology, Hispanic remained solvent throughout the 1990s, largely due to the rapidly increasing demographic of Hispanic Americans, whose numbers were growing at five times the rate of the general population. It was a trend that advertisers had taken over two decades to grasp. Whereas in 1977, the total national ad expenditures in all Hispanic print media were only about $800,000, by 1997 that figure had skyrocketed to $492 million. As Alfredo Estrada noted, referring to the "lean" early years, "the idea that Hispanics spoke English was heresy [in those days] … even now, some advertising agencies remain wedded to the idea that the only effective way to reach Hispanics is in Spanish." Indeed, as recently as 1992, Hispanic challenged Forbes magazine for its claim that the Hispanic market was practically non-existent. Why then, asked a Hispanic writer, had 70 of the Fortune 500 companies invested in it?
Early pioneering Latino magazines such as Nuestro (published from 1975 to 1981) and Latina (1982-1983) may not have survived long enough to witness the exponential growth in advertising revenue, but the fact that they existed at all certainly paved the way for publications like Hispanic. In turn, the hard work of the Estrada family broke down barriers for later competitors, some of whom were based in large entertainment and publishing conglomerates, such as People en Español, launched by Time Warner in 1996, and Latina, which was first published by African American-owned Essence Communications in 1996.
In the 1990s, Hispanic saw several changes in operation strategies and long-term goals, which seemed both to expand and focus its efforts at once. The publication instituted, for example, the "Latina Excellence Awards," in an effort to "honor Hispanic American women who have made significant contributions in their chosen field of endeavor," as well as the "Schools of Excellence Awards," to pay tribute to secondary-school principals with unique academic and enrichment programs for Hispanic students.
Other changes included relocating its family-owned publishing headquarters, in 1994, from Washington, D.C. to Austin, Texas. The consortium (which now owned Florida-based Vista as well), also joined the new wave of publishers offering titles for Latinas; its quarterly supplement, Moderna, became a stand-alone publication in 1996.
In 1999 Hispanic's circulation was a solid 250,000. Estrada remained chairman and founder, while Alfredo, a former lawyer and graduate of Harvard University, served as editor and publisher. When the elder Estrada heard one advertiser note that the flood of new publications for Latinos had finally "brought credibility to Hispanic print," he asked, incredulous, "What am I, chopped chorizo?" By the year 2050, Hispanics will comprise nearly 25 percent of the American population. Over a decade ago, Hispanic was one of the first to offer them a publication that honored their dreams and triumphs.
—Kristal Brent Zook
Estrada, Alfredo J. "The Decade of Hispanic. " Hispanic. December 1997, 70.
Kanellos, Nicolás, editor. The Hispanic American Almanac: A Reference Work on Hispanics in the United States. 2nd edition. Detroit, Gale Publishing, 1997.
Manley, Lorne. "Mixing Business with Pleasure." Folio. November 15, 1998, 56.