Noticias y Notas: how a labor of love was born…
Mike Fondacaro tells a story of how his personal labor of love was born through e-mails.
An email documenting the news of Spanish and Portuguese speaking communities in the Upstate New York and New England that is now sent to more than 1,100 people had its origins quite possibly before I was born.
As I became more immersed in the Capital District Latino community, I was told I was Puerto Rican by default. An interesting way to categorize someone who is of Italian and Lithuanian descent, yes, but osmosis might have played a role.
After my mom and uncle moved out of my grandparents’ home at 284 East Main Street in Amsterdam, the Camachos, one of Amsterdam’s first Puerto Rican families, moved in. I was born after the Camachos moved out, but I can’t help but think that some of what they left became engrained in me. Maybe it steered me to having two majors at The College of Saint Rose in Albany: Public Communications and Spanish.
After seven years at the local NPR affiliate, with coverage of minority issues that at times bordered on patronizing, and often being the only Spanish-speaker at the station, I got a job with the New York State Senate.
It was in 1998 that my boss told me that the office of State Senator Olga A. Mendez needed help with the annual Somos El Futuro Conference, a gathering of Latino officials from across New York State. The Senator put me in charge of Upstate outreach. Hence, a compulsive desire was born to know everything about every Latino community in Upstate New York.
By 2000, I had collected enough names to create a directory of Upstate groups and officials. By 2002, it had expanded from 25 pages to nearly 100. I also began looking for stories about the Upstate community in the various newspapers delivered to our office from across Upstate. I began typing summaries of these stories and sending them by U.S. Mail to my contacts called “Noticias y Notas.”
In 2002, Sen. Mendez became a Republican, and because I worked for the State Senate Democrats, I could no longer work with her office. But by then I had met many Latino leaders in the Capital Region. I began finding articles online in 2003 and began sending them to an email list similar to what I did in the Senate. One day I looked through one of my old directories and saw all the contacts I truly had. After typing in some 200 addresses, I sent the first official email edition of Noticias y Notas in July 2004.
The first story about a Portuguese community appeared in May 2005, and I started the Western New England Wrap-Up the following year. Noticias soon expanded to include all of New England outside of Boston, and a section called Nuestros Periodicos, featuring stories from Spanish and Portuguese weeklies and monthlies, began in November 2007.
Today, I send Noticias to people from Maine to Florida to California, and from Brazil to India in two Microsoft Word attachments. The first has links to the articles from newspapers, and occasionally television and radio reports which come after some introductory items, and sometimes some personal commentary.
Arranged first is the Upstate region: Capital Region, Hudson Valley, Western New York, Central New York/Mohawk Valley, Southern Tier/Finger Lakes and North Country. Then, New England states: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
The Community section contains listings of national conferences, festivals throughout the Northeast, and a listing of community and entertainment events, again arranged in the format just noted. There are also listings of scholarship and job opportunities.
Noticias is a labor of love that occupies 15 to 20 hours of my time every week. Thanks heavens my wife is patient . This July, Noticias will celebrate six full years informing the community. It has been an honored to serve so many interested people.
I do not charge subscriber fees, nor do I sit on boards of Latino organizations, so that I may maintain my independence in this quasi-journalistic endeavor. I am happy for the recognition I have received, but am not in this for recognition.
I know I am doing something that people value exemplified in a recent email sent to the host of a radio show saying that I should not discuss Latino issues, as I am not Latino and have “rendered myself ineffective as a spokesman for the community.”
The support I received from people following that email was more than I could have asked for. I am also proud to have my parents and wife accompany me to events when I win awards, or when asked to present at an event, or, write for a blog in this case.
But in the end, Noticias exists solely for the community, for it is the community’s achievements, successes, and yes, even problems and failures that I strive to find and publicize inspired by these achievements and successes, and we learn from the problems and failures.
I send Noticias free of charge every Friday. If you would like to get on the list, feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.