Launched in 1979 as the Latin American Association newsletter, Mundo Hispánico has long been the cornerstone of Spanish-language media in Georgia and beyond, covering everything from the latest political news to the latest telenovela celebrity gossip. When media began to turn to digital platforms, Mundo adapted, adding podcasts and YouTube videos, hosting live streams on Facebook, and gaining dedicated social media followings. And as Latino communities in the United States grow and change, the Atlanta-based media company is keeping pace: Last month, Mundo Hispánico announced it was renaming itself MundoNow, offering culturally authentic content in Spanish and English to reach an increasingly bilingual and bicultural demographic.
“What we learned based on the 2020 census numbers is that a sea change is happening within the Hispanic community,” said Rene Alegria, CEO of MundoNow. Historically, Spanish-language media — and, more importantly, the advertising industry that supports them — has been geared toward a single demographic group: recently arrived, Spanish-dominant immigrants. But as Alegria explained, “Those of us who were born in this country, or who immigrated to this country as young children, did not fall into this category. We felt kind of left behind – what media company was talking to me? »
In fact, as last year’s census data revealed, it is these two groups that now make up the majority of the Latino community. Today, only 28% of Latin American adults are Spanish-dominant, while nearly 70% identify as bilingual or English speakers preferred, a proportion that is steadily increasing as immigration rates decline and American-born Latin American families are growing up. Mundo Hispánico saw in these demographic trends a growing demand for bilingual and bicultural media content. The company started producing content in English in 2020; with the rebrand, MundoNow will prioritize in-depth reporting in English and Spanish through a digital-first strategy that reaches younger audiences with podcasting, streaming and social media.
“MundoNow caters to this group not to mention Spanish-speaking groups and recently arrived immigrants who rely on Mundo for information,” Alegria said.
For Alegria, the evolution of Mundo is not just a business decision: like its partners, it belongs to the same generations of Latin Americans that the company hopes to attract. In 2018, Cox Media Group, then owner of Mundo, was looking to shut down or sell the business. When former state senator Sam Zamarripa heard from a friend in Cox that Mundo Hispánico was on the chopping block, he sprang into action to fund a purchase. Zamarripa asked Alegria if he might be interested in running the new company: the two know each other from the publishing world, where Alegria ran a Spanish-language publishing house for a major publisher (“After 13 Years sales and resale ‘Latino 101’, I decided I had to go it alone,” Alegria recalls with a laugh).
With funding from Marcos Gonzalez, founder of Vamos Ventures, a Los Angeles-based company that invests primarily in Latin American and other minority-owned businesses, Zamarripa and Alegria bought Mundo; it is now the largest minority-certified bilingual digital media platform in the United States.
The fact that MundoNow is run by Latin Americans helps the company stay connected with the communities it serves, producing authentic and relevant content for its viewers. Mundo Entertainment features articles on Ricky Martin’s love life and singer Chiquis Rivera’s birthdays, while MundoNow TV features recipes for Venezuelan tequeños and interviews with Mexican boxer Abel Aparicio.
But, Alegria is quick to note that Latin Americans want reliable coverage of major news events like everyone else: “If there’s a pandemic at play, content that talks about the latest news on that pandemic will be consumed regardless of . . . that person’s country of origin,” he said.
Mundo’s balance of cultural specificity and broadly inclusive value is perhaps best exemplified by its incisive coverage of immigration, which has earned the company widespread accolades in the journalism industry, helping Mundo win 16 Emmys. Awards over the past three years. In 2019, The New York Times produces an Op-Doc, Boca del Lobo (Into the Wolf’s Mouth) which followed MundoNow investigative reporter Mario Guevara in his daily coverage of immigrant arrests in Gwinnett County.
In the short – which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival – Guevara drives slowly through housing complexes and mall parking lots, asking passersby about recent arrests or police activity in the neighborhood. “You are Mario Guevara, aren’t you? a woman says with a shy smile as he waves at her. Guevara, who was a photojournalist in his native El Salvador but fled with his family when gangs threatened his life, reflects on camera on the unique position his career has given him: he is both an unbiased journalist, witness to the daily trauma of deportation, and part of the story himself, the rare immigrant to whom political asylum paved the way to American residency: “I have to be completely impartial, and that’s the hardest part of my work. Guevara often posts his cover on Facebook, where he has half a million followers. In a report on Mundo’s model of journalism, the Center for Community Media called Guevara a “pioneer of digital community reporting.”
The adoption of digital platforms is at the heart of MundoNow’s rebranding. Strategic use of social media and web content has helped Mundo become a major player in Spanish-language news in New York, California and Texas: its website generates 10 million unique visitors per month and more than 5 million people follow the company on Facebook. The company plans to add more podcasting and streaming services, as well as deepen its editorial content in Spanish and English. And, true to its print roots, MundoNow still produces a free weekly newspaper, which circulates throughout the Southeast.
Another thing that won’t change is headquarters: MundoNow is proud to be part of Atlanta’s growing media industry, Alegria said. “We really envision making Atlanta a Hispanic media hub,” he explained. “The multicultural weaving of ideas. . . is just ripe for doing really cool things.
Atlanta’s Latino population exploded in the decades since Mundo’s launch. Data from the 2020 census revealed that the region’s Hispanic population grew by 31% in just ten years. As elsewhere, the composition of this community has changed, said Jerry Gonzalez, CEO of GALEO, the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials. “Latino identity is a complex narrative,” Gonzalez explained. He said he was delighted to learn of MundoNow’s shift to a bilingual and bicultural media strategy.
“(Mundo Hispánico) has long been a staple of the Latino community in Georgia,” Gonzalez said. “And seeing this evolution of MundoNow is really exciting – it’s recognizing the growth of the community, but also the diversity within the community.”