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  • "Se habla Español":Hispanophone-Merchant Advertisements in José Ferrer de Couto's El Cronista (1878)
  • Ayendy Bonifacio (bio)

In our cultural imagination, newspaper editors are often seen as all-controlling figures, fundamentally in charge of their papers. This is particularly true for editors of partisan newspapers that attempt to uphold specific political and cultural appearances for their readers. Editor and proprietor of El Cronista (New York), José Ferrer de Couto (1820–77), for example, was part of a select group of nineteenth-century editors and writers who along with Gonzalo Castañón (1834–70), José Pérez-Moris (1840–81), and Luis Fernández Golfín (1825–89) made it their mission to preserve the general impression of Spanish patriotism and the colonial status quo in the Antilles.1 In his career, Ferrer de Couto published more than a dozen books on Cuba, Mexico, Santo Domingo, and Spain, defending Spanish sovereignty in Latin America and Europe. Ferrer de Couto was born in Ferrol, Spain, on July 14, 1820, and immigrated to New York City in 1860.2 In 1864, he acquired the Spanish-language newspaper La Croníca, which would later become El Cronista in 1867. El Cronista was a semiweekly paper measuring 28 by 42 inches, with a modest circulation of 6,000. The newspaper's office was located at 64 and 66 Broadway, a few blocks away from the offices of La Verdad, a rival newspaper established by the Cuban Junta of New York in 1848.3 From El Cronista's editorial content, Ferrer de Couto vehemently opposed Cuban separatism and annexation, professing great loyalty to Isabella II and her dynasty.

Advertising was an important financial component of Ferrer de Couto's El Cronista, as was the case for most postbellum newspapers in New York City. Gerald J. Baldasty argues that in most postbellum newspapers, "advertising accounted for the majority of a newspaper's revenue."4 Subscriptions alone could barely cover the expense of paper, let alone production and distribution. The November 4, 1876, issue of El Cronista contains more than 150 ads, filling more than one third of the newspaper's contents. These ads take up the last column on page 2 and completely fill pages 3 and 4 of the four-page newspaper. The revenue they generated kept the newspaper afloat financially. Like many editors at the time, Ferrer de Couto did not have the financial means or a broad enough network to maintain control over the ads he printed and the political and cultural implications these ads conveyed to his readers.

To some, perhaps, Ferrer de Couto's contentious reputation as a Spanish nationalist implies a likeminded readership for the paper he edited. However, the newspaper's advertisements reveal a broader picture of El Cronista's audience. Targeting a politically diverse and broadly conceived Hispanophone public, El Cronista's ads reveal networks of local and national businesses and newspapers. For example, on November 4, 1876, Ferrer de Couto printed an advertisement for [End Page 118] the Los Angeles−based weekly La Crónica, a paper that catered to a wide-ranging Latinx community. In addition to listing the subscription prices for a year, six months, and three months, the advertisement states that La Crónica is "el único periódico español en el Sud de California … Es independiente en politica y defensor de los intereses y derechos de la raza Latina" ("the only Spanish newspaper in Southern California [that is] politically independent and defenders of the interests and rights of the Latino race").5 Although Ferrer de Couto's vision for El Cronista was predominantly based on Spanish interests, advertisements such as this one demonstrate that El Cronista also promoted newspapers that held dissimilar political views and catered to other readers outside of New York City. In promoting "a politically independent newspaper," El Cronista's ad uses the term "raza Latina," which in the midcentury loosely referred to a Hispanophone people and not just to Spaniards. The generic term "la raza" was already in circulation in midcentury Hispanophone newspapers, evincing, what Richard Griswold del Castillo calls, "a new kind of ethnic consciousness."6 Griswold del Castillo continues, "La Raza emerged as the single...


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