Together in Bicultural Business
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Fredy A. Diaz thumbed through the upscale Spanish-English magazine Two Mundos, flipping past pages of Peruvian models, a story in English about geometric chandeliers and one in Spanish about reggaeton music.
"We don't target the immigrant that just immigrated. It takes us a little bit to get set," said Marcelo Rocabado, Two Mundos's 28-year-old co-publisher who was born in Bolivia. "We target people like you and me."
Diaz -- born in El Salvador 35 years ago and now owner of Telecel Marketing Solutions Inc. of Gaithersburg -- nodded. His DirecTV affiliate, which sells satellite television's Spanish-language offerings to immigrants, has 110 employees, seven offices down the East Coast and more than 23,000 customers.
On this day, he was considering whether to buy an advertisement in Two Mundos. "We all came to this country with nothing," Diaz told Rocabado. "I think this [magazine] inspires people to go to the next level."
Rocabado quickly flipped the conversation to a mix of Spanish and English, as he offered Diaz a discount to close the sale. " Si compra mas que un mes tenemos discounts," Rocabado said. "We can do something special."
Rocabado and Diaz are part of a small but growing group of young, professional Latino entrepreneurs here. About 13 percent of the more than 32,000 Hispanic-owned businesses in the Washington region are in professional areas such as technology, law, accounting, engineering and translation services. Some of the Latinos who run those companies say they operate in a bicultural society that extends from this region to Latin America, a world defined more by language, ethnicity and international connections than by geographic boundaries.
These demographic changes and bilingual networking were on display one Friday night, as Rocabado met with the Two Mundos staff at Cafe Citron on Connecticut Avenue NW in the District. A deejay mixed a Persian techno beat behind Latina rocker Shakira's latest hit, driving the club's international crowd to the tiny dance floor.
Club owner Jackie Rocha greeted Jeanette Dove, Two Mundos' other publisher, with a light kiss on the cheek. Rocha immigrated to the District from Bolivia on a visa with her parents 30 years ago and in 2000 opened the popular cafe with her mother.
Dove's family moved to Miami from Puerto Rico in 1979 so her father could study to become a commercial airplane pilot. She spent most of her childhood in Aurora, Colo., where she attended a predominantly white school. She spoke a mix of Spanish and English at home and only English at school. There, she told her teachers more than once that she does not celebrate Cinco de Mayo, the holiday commemorating the Mexican army's victory over France at the Battle of Puebla. "They thought we are all Mexican." She moved to Washington in 1999 to attend American University's business school.
As Dove chatted with Rocha, Rocabado danced behind her. He was raised by an aunt in a middle-class neighborhood in La Paz, Bolivia. He left home at 16 to follow his mother to the District, where she worked as a teacher. When he arrived on a green card sponsored by his mother, Rocabado spoke no English but learned quickly and enrolled at the University of the District of Columbia. He directs the magazine's photo shoots, designs its pages and sells advertising along with Dove, who is also his girlfriend.
That night, the magazine staff was at Cafe Citron taking a break from production of the fifth issue of Two Mundos, a three-year-old magazine that publishes 40,000 copies. Dove said that club owner Rocha had studied fashion in Milan and that she helped choose the photo for the cover of the magazine's fashion issue.
Dove, 25, said she and her friends often feel invisible despite the growing number of Latinos like them in the Washington area. There are no day-labor sites, Minutemen or harrowing border crossings in Dove's world. As immigration has pushed to the front pages, stereotypes about the Latino community have surfaced that Dove said do not reflect her reality.