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The Indianapolis Star
Speaking The Right Language
BY ABE AAMIDOR
July 5, 2003
It's a few minutes before 4 p.m. on Tuesday, and Lourdes Duarte is taping the fourth edition of "Hoy en Dia Indiana," a Spanish-language public-affairs program that airs monthly on WTTV (Channel 4), and is produced at the WXIN (Channel 59) studios.
Four members of a local Hispanic dance troupe are about to come onstage to perform.
But Brian Wilkes, the Channel 59 weather guy, needs the No. 3 camera to broadcast his afternoon weather update live, so taping stops. Duarte, a reporter for Channel 59 who produces and co-hosts "Hoy en Dia" with no budget and no staff to call her own, can only smile and wait.
Such is life when Spanish-language programming is still the stepchild of local television.
"You make a sacrifice, but eventually, it will pay off, I guess," said Duarte, 27, who was born in Chicago to Cuban immigrants and is bilingual. She moved to Indianapolis last year, after working for a TV station in Peoria, Ill.
With content ranging from an interview with race-car driver Helio Castroneves to an in-depth look at the new Mexican consular I.D. cards, plus an attractive stable of volunteer co-hosts, "Hoy en Dia" just may achieve the prominence it seeks.
"Hoy en Dia," which means "nowadays," premiered March 30. It airs the first Sunday of each month at 10 a.m. on WTTV . Channel 4 and Channel 59 both are owned by Tribune Broadcasting.
"I arrived here in August, and all of a sudden, I got involved in the community and started meeting people," said Duarte.
She consulted with WXIN news director Karen Rariden about starting a Spanish-language public affairs program and received a green light -- as long as she could fulfill her regular reporting duties and it didn't cost the station any money. Duarte recruited her co-hosts from WEDJ-FM (107.1) Radio Latina, where she had been interviewed shortly after her arrival in town.
People are watching
Duarte had never produced a show before, but "Hoy en Dia" has a lot of polish.
"People tune in," said Kathy Cabello, president of Cabello Associates, a local, Hispanic-owned advertising and marketing company. "I know people who have said they want to be in."
The show recently achieved a 3.0 rating, meaning 3 percent of all area households that were tuned in to television during a recent broadcast were watching "Hoy en Dia."
That was about as good as the numbers for "Inside Indiana Business," a well- regarded, locally produced business show that also airs Sunday mornings.
(But Duarte jokes that her biggest competition is God -- many Hispanics go to church on Sunday mornings.)
To add ambiance to the show, Duarte recently picked out some made-in-Mexico pine furniture and clay pottery from Under the Sun, an import furniture store. The texture of the carefully carved wood is a great improvement over the typical chipboard furniture seen in other TV studios.
Co-hosts Angel "Cuba" Chacon, Janice Vega and Mayra Arroyo all come from WEDJ.
The format of "Hoy en Dia" is to have the gang sitting around a living-room set, introducing different segments and bantering with each other as if they were housemates.
Chacon, a native New Yorker who was born to Cuban-American parents, came to town several years ago to study at IUPUI. In addition to "Hoy en Dia," he hosts a music program Saturdays on WEDJ and spins Caribbean music at area venues.
"When you start seeing big business, in a sense, turning toward our culture, it's a sign we've arrived in the city," said Chacon, who mostly introduces food segments on the show.
The growth of the local Hispanic community has been well publicized. The 2000 Census counted 33,290 Hispanics in Indianapolis, up from 8,450 in 1990.
Spanish-speaking "TV households" also have increased in recent years and now stand at 17,570, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Co-host Vega, 26, has roots in Puerto Rico.
"I see the Latin community as one big community," said Vega, whose regular day job is as an employment counselor.
"We don't want this show to be just for Mexicans or Dominicans or Puerto Ricans," she said
Jorge Chapa is professor and director of the Latino Studies program at Indiana University-Bloomington.
The growth of the local Spanish-speaking community arises from three causes, he says:
* The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which made it easier for residents to legalize their status and move about the country more freely.
* Rising anti-immigrant sentiment in California in the 1990s.
* Availability of low-paying jobs locally that often go unfilled by other Hoosiers.
Spanish-language media is important to this segment of the population, says Chapa, but he disputes notions that Hispanics don't want to learn English. WIIH-TV (Channel 17), a Spanish-language Univision affiliate, began broadcasting locally in February.
"Most Latinos do want to learn and be fluent in English," said Chapa. "But this process takes time. Time living in this country and (having the) opportunity to take classes."
Students of Spanish will be pleased to know that "Hoy en Dia" is partly bilingual. Duarte will often read short introductions on air in both English and Spanish. Being broadcast on what is nominally an English-only station, she knows some of her viewers won't know any Spanish.
Back at the taping, the WXIN crew was trying to finish in under two hours, but there are always unexpected interruptions.
Rita Moreno, in a satellite interview videotaped earlier, tells the audience at one point to call a number on the screen for more information about Hispanic- related health matters, but the phone number is not there.
"The problem is (the production crew) doesn't understand what we're saying," Duarte noted wryly.
At another point, Duarte starts laughing. She was out of synch with the words rolling by in the camera's TelePrompTer and had to call for a halt in the taping.
Take two: She laughs again, at the same point in the script.
The third attempt is no better. By now Chacon, Vega and Arroyo, all seated on a nearby sofa, are in stitches themselves. Not even a dour look in their direction from Duarte can shape them up.
When later asked if she would like to do the show live, Duarte made a Lucille Ball kind of face and answered, "Oh, God, no."
Call Star reporter Abe Aamidor at 1-317-444-6472.
Hoy en Dia Indiana
What: A (mostly) Spanish-language public affairs and variety TV program.
Who: Lourdes Duarte is primary host and producer.
When: 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. the first Sunday of each month.
Where: WTTV (Channel 4).
17,570 - Number of local Hispanic TV households
9.8 million - Number of U.S. Hispanic TV households
62nd - Indianapolis' rank as a Spanish-language TV market
13.4 percent - of overall American population that is Hispanic
$490 billion - Estimated consumer spending by Hispanics in 2000
Sources: Nielsen Media Research; U.S. Census; Herb Terry, Indiana