Commentary: Spanish-speaking Austin loses kinship without ¡Ahora Sí!

I remember the first time I grabbed an issue of ¡Ahora Sí! I can´t recall the date exactly — it had to be around 2008 — but I remember how excited I felt. The issue was full of valuable local information — more than 30 pages — and in my own home language! It was well-written, with a friendly tone, professional but easy to understand.

From that day on, I would grab it any time I could, sometimes just because of the event calendar; there was no other place I could find a comprehensive list of Latino-focused cultural and educational happenings. I would find myself hooked reading about topics that I had not seen anywhere else in the local media. I liked that ¡Ahora Sí! kept a clean and respectful tone — no skimpy-clothed “girl of the month” on the cover, no yellow journalism or baseless speculation in its reporting. ¡Ahora Sí! was a breath of fresh air among the Spanish-language media that so often went for the cheap scandalous thrills and morbid headlines.

This was real journalism. The publication has won more awards than I can count; just last year, it grabbed 13 José Martí awards from the National Association of Hispanic Publications.

RELATED: Statesman to end Ahora Sí, offer voluntary severance to all employees.

Many years later, I ended up stepping into the Austin American-Statesman newsroom for the first time. I was excited and nervous. I had just been given an opportunity that I had never expected: I was to help as a reporter at ¡Ahora Sí! for a few months, while one of the staff members was out on leave.

It was then that I learned how truly special this publication was. It was 2014, and there were only three of us getting the weekly paper ready, from beginning to end. Where most reporters do just their beat, and they have a copy editor, photographer, graphic designer, social media community manager and editor to support them, the ¡Ahora Sí! team did it all with just three people and in two languages.

The work was intense and fast-paced. It did not pay enough. You could make more money cleaning homes. But it was a labor of love; it had meaning; and it made a difference.

Many people crossed paths at ¡Ahora Sí!; I believe more than 30 people collaborated at one point or another during its 14 years of existence. All of them learned something very valuable from the experience and from its leaders.

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On my first day there, Josefina Casati, then the editor in chief of ¡Ahora Sí!, pulled me into the conference room and explained what it meant to work for the paper. I should have recorded her exact words, but they were something like this:

This work, writing for the Spanish-speaking community in Central Texas, is a big responsibility. You will have to put yourself in their shoes, you must understand who they are, where they come from and what is important to them.

You are going to write for the farmer who left his small town in Coahuila and has no family and no ties to the city. You will give him a sense of belonging and help him see that there is a future here, that he has rights and should be proud of his sacrifice. You are going to write for the older woman who has lived in Austin her whole life, the abuelita who remembers when East Austin was her barrio, whose family has been here since before Texas was a state. You will share her traditions, tell her story, let her know that she is not forgotten. You will write for the UT international student who arrived from Colombia and is looking for his music, a place to dance cumbia with other Colombians.

You will write for all, respect them all, and learn from them. Because each story should touch their hearts, give them something to think about and let them know they are not alone. That we speak their language, that we listen to them.

Last week, we learned that ¡Ahora Sí! will cease publication Oct. 11.

I feel immensely proud of the work that each person has done to make ¡Ahora Sí! possible. It is a sad day when Spanish-speaking voices will no longer have an outlet who will listen to them.

That is the state of the media today. As a community, we all suffer from this great loss.

Gautier is a freelance writer and marketing consultant. She has collaborated with ¡Ahora Sí! as a reporter and translator since 2014.

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