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In Two Mundos, Money Talks in Two Languages

By Lonnae O'Neal Parker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 12, 2005; Page C08

There's a stealth entry in the soon-to-be-crowded field of luxury lifestyle magazines in Washington. It's high-end, glossy and relaunched last month with a hot cover, a steamy fashion show party and young publishers who believe they've got a bead on the area's rich 'n' sexy. Seems like all the right ingredients for buzz.

The name of the magazine, Two Mundos, means two worlds, and some of it's in Spanish and some of it's in English. It's for those who speak Spanish and English and sometimes both in the same conversation. Although New York and Los Angeles have larger Latino populations, the Washington area has the most affluent Latino market in the country, and Two Mundos' publishers say they want to capture it and cater to it.


Jeanette Dove and Marcelo Rocabado are aiming their magazine at Washington's sizable affluent Latino population. (Sarah L. Voisin -- The Washington Post)

"Not seeing ourselves was what motivated us to create a product that represents the best of both worlds," says co-publisher and editor Jeanette Dove, a 24-year-old Miami native whose parents are Puerto Rican, and who graduated with a degree in international finance and economics from American University. "Ourselves" -- young, educated, steeped equally in two cultures and with money to spend.

Growing up in Miami, Dove says, "it was nothing to see a Latino stepping out of a Mercedes-Benz or some other expensive car." The middle- and upper-middle-class Hispanics she saw were often the second generation, children of immigrants, who secured a place for themselves, then started buying into the national consumer culture.

When Two Mundos launched in 2003, it focused on community outreach. But wanting to go upscale, the publishers re-launched mid-March with their "fashion issue." The pictures are glossy, the models are bikinied, and like a lot of specialty consumer magazines, it is mostly expensive car, furniture and watch ads between profiles of notables (in this case, notable Hispanics) and articles on vacation getaways, cigars and clothes. Continuing the outreach, there's also an English article about denial regarding HIV in the Latino community.

Dove and co-publisher Marcelo Rocabado, 27, met while in college (he attended the University of the District of Columbia and plans to transfer to American this fall to complete a degree in communications) and are also housemates in College Park. Rocabado, who came to the United States from Bolivia as a teen to live with his mother, a teacher at Thomson Elementary School in Northeast Washington, had already started Enerdesigns printing and ad services when he met Dove.

Together, they decided to start a magazine that switched between languages, for those who lived, like themselves, as togglers.

Spanish is reserved for the articles on cars, Dove says, to help young Latinos get beyond what she calls their love of Hondas and Toyotas. Ditto for travel articles, since the magazine promotes travel to Spanish-speaking countries. But an article about a hot young chef with a flair for Cajun cooking is deemed more appetizing in English.

"We could be another English magazine and be one in a million, or another Spanish publication and be one in 100,000," says Dove, but "this gives us the ability to be unique."

The precursor magazine had only two issues. Rocabado and Dove spent a year capitalizing and trying to get advertisers to appreciate their numbers.

According to Raul Cano-Rogers, president of the Washington metropolitan Hispanic chamber of commerce, the Ibero American Chamber of Commerce, the area's Latino population nearly doubled between 1990 and 2000. In 2003 it had 700,000 Latinos with an annual purchasing power of $8 billion, and the area is home to the third-largest number of Hispanic-owned businesses in the country.

"The whole climate is ready" for a Two Mundos-type magazine, says Samir Husni, journalism department chair at the University of Mississippi, who tracks the magazine industry. "The whole aspect of luxury publishing and elite, voyeur magazines are sprouting like mushrooms." (Three upscale magazines -- D.C. Style, Capitol File and D.C. -- are set to launch this year.) "When you combine that with the fast-growing Hispanic minority" -- now the largest minority group in the country -- "to publish a magazine specifically aimed at that community is the logical thing to do."

Last year, Husni says, black and Hispanic magazines were among the 10 most published genres of new magazines.

Advertisers want the luxury market and the Hispanic community, Husni says, "but they want the Hispanic community that has mingled in this society."

This is consistent with what advertisers and focus groups said to Dove and Rocabado. "They told me, 'If I'm going to spend money with you, I want to see luxury,' " says Rocabado. Some even turned over their ads and told him to "give it a Latino flavor."

Flavor, among other things, is evident in the redesigned magazine, which features a bikini-clad model provocatively posed on the cover. (Did the publishers mention they want to help counter Washington's button-down-bureaucrat image?) They hope to publish four issues this year. Subscriptions are available, but it is mostly distributed free in some Miami boutiques and Washington places like the Hotel Helix, Cafe Citron and the Levi's Store in Tysons Corner.

"We have to knock on doors to let people know we're there," Dove says, but it won't always be that way. Especially since the Latino population is projected to increase by 1.7 million people a year. "You have to keep trying until one day, you stop knocking on doors. Then they'll come to you."


© 2005 The Washington Post Company