On a recent Thursday, Robert E. Bard hobnobbed with Hispanic professional women at a luncheon featuring Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao at the District's JW Marriott Hotel. Some of the nation's largest companies -- Marriott International Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., American Airlines -- were represented at the conference, organized every year by a magazine for Hispanic women.

It was a calculated move to boost the profile of District-based English-language bimonthly Latina Style, of which the Chilean-born Bard is president and chief executive. Its circulation has been stalled at 150,000 since 1996. The publication, marketed to Hispanic working women and entrepreneurs, faces an expanding field of competing magazines.

Until recently, 10-year-old Latina Style was one of only two magazines oriented to Hispanic women in the Washington region. Beyond a small number of newspapers, including El Tiempo Latino, Washington Hispanic and La Nacion USA, the area has few other Spanish-language publications despite an influx of Hispanics in the past few decades.

Latina Style's younger, flashier rival, two-year-old bimonthly Catalina, moved this winter from Vienna to Rockefeller Center in New York. Four staff members at the 100,000-circulation magazine remain in Northern Virginia.

Hispanics are the nation's largest minority, at 38.8 million, and make up 12.5 percent of the population. Ad spending in Hispanic-oriented magazines is growing too but hasn't kept up, said Samir A. Husni, a journalism professor at the University of Mississippi who studies the magazine industry.

Latina Style said it expects $2 million in revenue this year, from ads, events and company sponsorships, up from $1 million in 2002. Among its largest advertisers are Citibank N.A., State Farm Insurance Cos., New York Life Insurance Co. and General Motors Corp.

Catalina said it took in $600,000 in ad revenue last year, up from about $80,000 its first year, when it published only four issues. Still, that's only a smidgen, compared with the $18 million that New York-based Latina, the nation's largest magazine aimed at Hispanic women, brought in last year. Latina's circulation is about 250,000.

Although Hispanic magazines are growing, especially Spanish-language spinoffs of mainstream magazines such as People, Shape and Glamour, their growth is hampered by some advertisers' belief that the market of well-educated, well-heeled Hispanic readers is not large enough to warrant placing ads in them, Husni said.

"They feel they can still reach them through English-language magazines," Husni said. "It's not a market they want to reach via the upscale magazines. It's a downscale market. The perception is bigger than reality. That's the sad thing."

By industry standards, both Latina Style and Catalina, are succeeding simply by virtue of their survival. Sixty percent of all magazines die in their first year, and for smaller publications it's an even bigger gamble, magazine experts say.

Latina Style was founded in 1994 by California native Anna Maria Arias, the Mexican-American former editor of Hispanic Magazine, a publication for professionals now based in Florida. When the magazine moved from the District to Austin in 1994, Arias decided to create a magazine for Latinas, partly funded by a trust fund set up by her father.

Arias used Census statistics to determine her target audience -- Hispanic women ages 18 to 50 in households with an annual incomes topping $60,000 (the magazine now says its average subscriber is 30 years old with an average household income of $76,000). Using her magazine-world contacts, she persuaded some of the toniest advertisers, such as Nordstrom Inc., Coca-Cola Co. and General Motors, to place ads in the fledlging magazine.

Arias died in 2001. Her husband and business partner, Bard, took over the magazine. It has a dozen employees, most women. He boosted the magazine to six issues a year with a focus on professional readers who would appreciate disparate cover stories about Latina congresswomen, late salsa diva Celia Cruz and golf stars Lorena Ochoa and Marisa Baena.

With the exception of some Spanish-language ads, the magazine is in English. "The audience that we reach functions in English," Bard said. "I don't think there's a decent job that does not require you to be English-proficient."

Likewise, Catalina is mostly in English. The magazine's founder, Cathy Areu, 33, is the daughter of Cuban immigrants, and she briefly freelanced for Latina Style in 2001. If Latina Style is the Hispanic version of Working Woman and Working Mother magazines, Catalina describes itself as "Oprah meets Real Simple meets Ladies Home Journal."

Areu taught high school journalism, reported for People and contributed articles to USA Weekend and The Washington Post before starting her magazine in 2002. She sold her 1999 Jetta for $15,000 to help cover the cost of the first issue of the magazine, which employs eight and is named after what her relatives called her when they had trouble pronouncing her American name. She recently moved from Virginia to Brooklyn and dropped her married name, Jones, after people doubted she was Latina.

The magazine had a circulation of about 30,000 in its first year. Last year, the magazine went bimonthly and increased its distribution outlets to Whole Foods Market IP and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and airlines.

Areu said she moved the headquarters to New York to be closer to many of her staffers and freelancers (she also has freelance writers in Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago) and to be closer to national media outlets. Her national advertisers include retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Colgate-Palmolive Co. and organic foods company Eden Foods Inc.

The magazine's March-April cover features a smiling, reposed Marilyn Milian, the no-nonsense Cuban American judge on "The People's Court." The issue is rounded out with an interview with actress Cameron Diaz, a piece on 36 ways to eat, look and feel better, and a list of almond recipes -- a "Spanish favorite."

Areu shrugs off comparisons to Latina Style, instead preferring to think of herself in the same category as People en Espanol. But unlike that conglomerate-published magazine, she has to make it on her own.

"We're not Time Inc., so we can't rely on our sister publications' funds," Areu said.

Sabrina Jones writes about the local advertising and marketing industry every other Monday in Washington Business. Her e-mail address is jonessl@washpost.com.

Catalina magazine describes itself as "Oprah meets Real Simple meets Ladies Home Journal." Robert E. Bard of Latina Style magazine and Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao at a magazine-sponsored conference.Cathy Areu and television star Mario Lopez appeared at a Catalina-sponsored event last fall.