By Luis J. Echarte
The Azteca America television network has a presence in 60 markets across the United States and currently ranks fourth among Spanish-language networks broadcasting in the country.
Recently, Azteca America has been in the headlines because of a new initiative to launch a 60-hour series of English classes on 60 U.S. affiliates. Filmed in Mexico City, the classes will be produced by students of Azteca America’s partner, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), supervised by Azteca’s directors.
Surprisingly, an initiative with intentions to fill a need among its viewers has its own set of critics challenging the motives of why a Spanish-language network would invest in a move that would appear to contradict their business goals.
In a special response to Latina Lista, Luis J. Echarte, chairman of Fundacion Azteca America and the Azteca America network, explains why the Spanish-language network feels English needs to be part of their programming.
Since Azteca America and Fundacion Azteca America announced plans late last month to offer English-as-a-second-language (ESL) courses on our television network, the obvious question that arises is Why?
From a business perspective, a limited read would be that we are preparing viewers to migrate to Anglo networks.
However, we donâ€™t see things that way.
Spanish-language television is often a first-stop and point-of-reference for information for recently arrived immigrants. Our community looks to us for guidance on immigration, legal changes, and natural disasters, to name a few examples.
Thereâ€™s no doubt that our community can better assimilate themselves and increase their economic and political power with increased linguistic skills.
The only problem arises when our plans are used to fuel the English First movement. We are closer to Congressman Serranoâ€™s English Plus initiative.
Should we all read and write English? Yes.
Should it be a mandate and be used as a thinly veiled form of racism? No.
Looking at things from another perspective, it would be great if everyone in the US spoke two or three languages fluently.
Bilingual education is a wonderful experience for both native Spanish and native English speakers. Not only does language education expand frames of mind. It also makes good business sense.
Our program has become part of the national debate.
First the LA Times picked up the story, then it was the San Diego Union Tribune and then Fox News.
English Plus and more?