Progress 2020: Family business educates and inspires community


Photo: Pictured above, Jairo Vargas serves as the CEO of Latino News. Photo courtesy of Birmingham Business Journal.

In 1996, Jairo Vargas visited Alabama to attend his sons’ college graduation and discovered he faced a dire decision. An engineer in Columbia, Vargas could return to a country battling cartels and rebels or remain in the United States with only his family’s savings and an uncertain future. With a family to protect and provide for, Vargas decided to establish himself in America. That single moment altered Vargas’ life, creating the narrative of one man’s devotion to helping others that flourished into a successful business that still thrives today.

At 49, Vargas adapted to life as an engineer whose credentials were unrecognized in the United States. He noticed the growing Hispanic population in the Gadsden area, where he approached Father Kevin Moore from St. James Catholic Church, who believed in Vargas and encouraged him to move forward. While Vargas asked Father Kevin about writing for the church bulletin, Moore inspired Vargas to expand his dreams into something greater – a Spanish newspaper that would become known as Latino News.

Twenty-three years later, Latino News evolved into a free, weekly print publication and daily online publication that distributes information in 13 counties and reaches over 12,500 Hispanic readers. Established as a family effort, Vargas’ entire family played a role in the paper’s success. His daughter, Vanessa Vargas, remembers sitting on stacks of newspapers in the delivery van at six years old. As they drove from county to county, Vanessa handed her mother bundles of 20 newspapers at a time.

“It started as a family business,” said Vanessa Vargas, “and it’s the story of immigrants – how they come and try to adapt and make a living.”

While Alabama is one of the largest growth states for the Hispanic population, there remained a lack of media coverage geared towards Hispanic residents. Through Latino News, Vargas recognized a void and fulfilled a need, transforming the Hispanic community’s access to news and vital information.

By addressing his readers’ needs, Vargas serves the growing demographic. His impact on minority-owned businesses has spurred economic growth in the Hispanic community. The mobile consulates he was instrumental in bringing to Alabama have helped the various Hispanic communities navigate the necessary immigration paperwork.

Latino News’ website and social media pages are updated daily, with a translation option available so that all viewers can read the content in any language. Vargas expanded Latino News’ audiences when he sold franchises in Tennessee, Indianapolis and The Latino Yellow Pages Directory, the first Alabama Latino community directory. The Latino News brand also includes an app that provides news in different languages, as well as an evening broadcast online.

Latino News covers various topics from local news, immigration news, national and international news. The publication features “Historias de Migrantes” or “The Stories of Migrants,” which are articles focused on readers in the community that allow people to grasp a clearer understanding of Alabama residents who immigrated to the area from different countries. Historias de Migrantes tell the stories of real people and their experiences.

Born from the support of the community, Latino News’ goal is to continue serving as a bridge within the entire community through educating readers and providing readers with resources, from services like the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama to recommendations for local businesses.

“If readers don’t know where to look, they can always call the Latino News office,” said Vargas.

When Latino News began, its original title was “Un Venta al Mundo Latino,” or “A Window into the Latin World.” Today, Latino News remains that window, giving readers the opportunity to peer into a world full of stories. Latino News allows all businesses from different backgrounds to promote their services and products while educating readers about available resources to help them grow financially, individually and together.

Latino News is more than just media coverage; it is an outlet for education, the result of determination and dedication and an example to all immigrants of the possibilities the world holds. Latino News does more than provide readers with articles about their community, the publication provides readers with the tools necessary so that they may thrive in their community. What began as a small family business now supports the successful growth of families and businesses nationwide, nurturing a mindset of acceptance and encouragement and proving that with perseverance dreams are fulfilled and goals are accomplished.

“The connection to the community as a whole [is what I enjoy the most about Latino News],” said news manager Vanessa Vargas. “Whether it’s through events, board involvement or interviews. Personally, it opens my eyes to see how much we all have in common.”

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