L.A. billboards offer up a proclamation

Daily Sundial

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Spanish television networks, radio stations and newspapers have become a billion dollar empire, and in this empire, the Burbank-based Univision is king.

So when KRCA Channel 62, a Spanish-language independent station, needed to come up with a new advertising campaign, they needed something that would catch the attention of almost 4.5 million Latinos in Los Angeles.

The Lieberman Broadcasting-owned station needed something big enough to snatch away some of the viewership monopolized by Univision’s hefty budget and emotional Mexican telenovelas.

About two weeks ago, the company started to display a series of billboards with their top two anchors sitting at their desks with the Los Angeles skyline displayed behind them. Underneath the anchors read the station’s slogan, “Tu ciudad. Tu equipo” (Your city. Your team).

“Los Angeles, CA” was written above the anchors, only the “CA” was crossed out, and a prominent “Mexico” was written out in broad red letters.

Plenty of words were used to describe the billboard (many of which should not appear in print), but one of them should’ve been “efficient.” KRCA got their moneys worth, as other stations referred to the station during their news broadcasts, including a Univision affiliate. The billboards appeared in English newscasts, too, and even in the Los Angeles Times. All this free advertising did not cost KRCA a single cent, even though they were criticized for it.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called the billboard “divisive,” and others said it promoted illegal immigration. Others called it insulting.

How a billboard that is seen only by those living in Los Angeles promotes illegal immigration is beyond me, although the criticism isn’t surprising. It seems everything “promotes” illegal immigration — the “cause of all evils” whenever the economy or our governors’ approval ratings take a dip. That criticism does not even merit a response.

The only people who might be justified in feeling insulted are the 30 percent of the city’s Latino population not of Mexican descent. These people are from Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Cuba, and other countries. It’s true that KRCA’s main audience is of Mexican descent, but they should be more careful in taking their audience into consideration. In this widely expanding market, those who do not consider the slight shifts and turns in demographics will be left out of the race. The Spanish-language market is not equivalent to the Mexican market. It is not even equivalent to the immigrant market, and if KRCA is looking to even slightly compete with the Univision goliath, it needs to take this audience into consideration in its advertising and programming.

But is this billboard divisive? Hardly. It seems many people have simply failed to correctly understand the message of the billboard. Critics say it placed Los Angeles inside of Mexico. One blog even said the billboard illustrated “the true intentions of the Mexicans of annexing Los Angeles.” I feel sorry for those who harbor these absurd xenophobic fears. People have feared an immigrant takeover even before Catholic Germans began migrating here in the 1800s — even still, it’s not going to happen.

Instead, critics failed to see an important bridge the billboard illustrated. The billboard did not “unofficially annex” Los Angeles. The billboard illustrated a sentiment that many immigrants can understand, but are afraid to express at times, mostly because of these claims about the “immigrant takeover.” Immigrant families feel at home here in Los Angeles just as much as they felt at home in their native country. And when people feel at home in a city, they become involved in that city. They begin to vote, beautify their neighborhoods and contribute economically and culturally to their city.

This billboard wasn’t an annexation; it was a proclamation. This is home.

Those who don’t believe it should take a walk around Los Angeles and look at the businesses that fill the streets. They should look at the numerous signs that are printed in Spanish, at the billboards that read in Spanish, and the business owners who have mastered the Spanish language because they don’t want to be left behind in this bilingual economy. They learn Spanish because 40 percent of households in Los Angeles speak the language.

When people find their home, they take care of it, they protect it and they contribute to it.

This is what really worries some people, even if they don’t have the courage to say it. They do not fear the immigrants who come in, work, save their money and go back to their home country. These people are easily ignored.

Those who are really feared come here with good intentions to make a decent living, find a home, attain their citizenship and become involved in their community. People like this make it harder to argue against immigration, and makes it impossible to contend that people are only here to make money and go back home, that they do not want to contribute to our society, that they feel no love for this country and therefore do not deserve any of our public services.

But these people are wrong. This is their home. They want to be a part of this city politically, economically and culturally. They are ready to do their part and take their fair share. They are ready to love this country just as much, if not more, than those who have lived here for generations and have taken it for granted.

For them, this is home.