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Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News
Sandra Plazas and her mother, Gladys Gonzalez, at the Mundo Hispano office in Sandy. They started the newspaper in 1993.

Gladys Gonzalez and her daughter, Sandra Plazas, chuckle when they talk about the first-ever edition of Mundo Hispano, the Spanish-language newspaper they run together.

"The first edition took us a month," Plazas said. "There we were, a monthly newspaper, and it took us a month to put together the first edition. In the early days, we cut and paste every single edition."

"We did everything," Gonzalez added. "We even delivered the papers."

From its humble genesis in 1993 "in a small living room in the apartment of my daughter," Gonzalez said Mundo Hispano is now a weekly publication with a verified circulation of 10,000. The paper has five free-lance reporters and a correspondent in Mexico City.

Gonzalez and Plazas, who used to do the reporting and editing as well as design, marketing and delivery, now function in executive roles: Gonzalez as publisher, Plazas as managing editor.

"We are a mother and daughter team," Gonzalez said. "We (are) a great team."

Gonzalez came to Utah from Colombia in 1991. A graduate in business from the Los Libertadores University in Bogota, she was consul for Colombia in Ecuador and worked at the Colombian offices of Manufacturers Hanover Trust (which became Chase Manhattan Bank).

When she arrived in the United States, Gonzalez knew some English, but she saw the need for Spanish speakers to have some some sense of community. So with Plazas, Mundo Hispano was born: a team effort, Gonzalez said, and hopefully a legacy.

First, regarding the team: Plazas paused, then laughed.

"This has been a great experience," she said. "But I'm not going to deny that this has also been a challenging experience. We work together a lot of hours every day, and sometimes we have to leave challenges at the office."

Gonzalez said she is the "creative" part of the team. She develops ideas for content, gives the paper visibility in the community and works to form partnerships and grow the publication.

"And I am more knowledgeable about technology," Plazas said. "I'm a lot more patient than she is, which is helpful sometimes when working with people."

Together, they have made Mundo Hispano their legacy. And community and business leaders said their work has helped to inform, unify and empower Utah's growing minority population.

Gonzalez "is among a distinguished group of people across the country who are committed to business innovation, vision, excellence and community service," said Robert A. Hatch, president and CEO for Wells Fargo in Utah. "Gladys is a testament to the strength and unlimited potential of this dynamic group of business owners."

The bank, along with Latina Style magazine, chose to honor Gonzalez as one of its 10 national Anna Maria Arias Memorial Business Fund Award winners.

Art Pina, president of the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, called their work "the perfect example of the American dream." Increasingly, Pina noted, Hispanic women throughout the United States are outpacing men in the achievement of that dream.

"Among Hispanic businesses, there are more women-owned businesses than male-owned," Pina said. "It's a national trend. It says they're aggressive and determined. They have a goal, and the goal is to be prosperous, to be part of the business community."

Which is what Gonzalez and Plazas have become, said Nancy Mitchell, executive director of the Women's Business Center at the Salt Lake Chamber.

"The newspaper has been a forum where people could discuss issues that affect them," she said. "In doing so, it has really been a catalyst in bringing people together."

Gonzalez said that is the legacy of Mundo Hispano.

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"The newspaper is a legacy, not only for my family, but for the community," Gonzalez said. "And not only for the Latino community, but for the community at large in Utah. The reason this newspaper exists, even through times of struggle, is that we want to help Latinos and Americans get to know each other. When people don't know each other, as families or in business, it's difficult to get along.

"We want Latinos to appreciate American culture," she said. "At the same time, we want Americans to understand the love we have for this country. When we make Utah our home, it means really being a part of Utah."


E-mail: jnii@desnews.com