The newspaper history in Huaraz according to journalist José Manuel Sotelo Mejía (83)

The Huaraz Telegraph spoke with journalist, historian, writer and poet José Manuel Sotelo Mejía who informed us about the interesting history of the newspapers in Huaraz. Mr. Sotelo Mejía was born on the 11th of August in 1933 and organised the very first rescue teams and aid to victims of the earthquake of 1970. He´s also a former mayor of the city and a relative of Grand Marshal, Don Toribio de Luzuriaga and Mejia, descendant of the old family Mejía-Maldonado. We owe thanks to Juan Manuel Quiros Romero, owner of Albergue Churup who set up the meeting for us with his friend Mr. José Manuel Sotelo Mejía. Being the editor of the only five-year-old The Huaraz Telegraph I was seriously surprised that journalism in the department of Ancash started back in 1823. That long ago!

According to Mr. José Manuel Sotelo Mejía, the history of journalism in Ancash and especially in Huaraz, is a beautiful, old and noble story. The story or journalism started back in 1823, when the liberating forces before their decisive campaigns in Junín and Ayacucho, edited awareness newsletters against Spanish power. An example of this work was the Centelina en Campaña, which was produced small printing shops, later to be transported by mules. José Faustino Sánchez Carrión, had an active role in these prints. Sánchez Carrión was a pro-independence politician from Peru and had a decisive role in the formation of the republican system of government in post-independence Peru.

Between this period and 1842, few newspapers were launched, however some are worth mentioning. El Uron del Norte was a satirical cut and El Verdadero Tantalo was another paper that circulated and was printed in the public beneficence of Huaraz. From 1838, El boletín del Ejercito Unido Restaurador del Perú (The united restorer´s army bulletin of Peru) released five issues until 1839. This publication tried to guide the local public opinion against the Peru-Bolivian Confederation, advocated by Marshal Andres de Santa Cruz, who tried to achieve the reunification of Peru with its former territory Alto Perú (nowadays know as Bolivia). This was the beginning of what would lead to a deadly battle in Yungay. The Chilean victory in Yungay effectively brought the Peru-Bolivian Confederation to an end; and the department of Áncash was created. This battle is known in Spanish as the Pan de Azúcar battle.

The 12th of March 1842 could be marked as the official start of journalism in Huaraz when 174 years ago the newspaper El Popular De Ancash was launched. This paper was led by Jose Paredes Cora and printed in Huaraz. It was the first newspaper with a continued circulation and the first that reported on the various events of city life and it included interesting topics such as items related to culture, literature and even poetry. Who finds poetry in a newspaper nowadays? The second half of the XIX century counted with 13 new newspapers; some of which were El Regristro de Ancash with 500 copies per edition, La Autonomía managed by Rafael Sánchez Díaz, El Registro Oficial, La Federación, El Correo de Ancash and La Justicia. The previous two mentioned were run by priest Fidel Olivas Escudero who would later become the bishop of Ayacucho. The newspapers mainly published about Peru´s war with Chile and interrelated on the many (political related) incidents that marked Peru´s history. Two other newspapers that were published during the same period were La Joventud de Ancash and El Amigo.

The beginning of the twentieth century until 1970 marked the end of an area in journalism and the start of a new one, the post-earthquake area. The 1970 Ancash earthquake which occurred on May the 31st is still the worst natural disaster in the history of Peru, taking over 70,000 human lives, 50,000 injured and destroying the historic cities of Huaraz and Yungay. During this period, some important newspapers were launched. Alejandro Dextre Sierra was the editor of El Eco de Huaraz in 1900 and in 1904 El Heraldo (The Herald) was published. In the next year two other newspapers were released, La Actualidad y El Trueno and Obreros y Artesanos de Ancash. Obreros y Artesanos de Ancash had a proletarian character with the first indications of what nowadays would be called a trade union. In 1907 La Noticia and El Informativo Municipal were brought into circulation, in 1908 La Divisa and El Pueblo, La Mañana in 1915, El Huascarán in 1918, El Porvenir in 1925, La República in 1929, La Reacción in 1932, El Perú Libre in 1935, El Tiempo and El Boletin Municipal in 1936, Noticias in 1938 and Debate in 1939. In 1947 El Coloso appears which belonged to the Caro-Sánchez family and this newspaper was a hit due to its small format; a landmark in the history of local and national media. Finally, in 1956 La Hora was released which was directed by Fortunato Flores Guitierrez.

But, there is one newspaper that hasn’t got a mention yet. This concerns a newspaper that covered with height, honesty and truthfulness almost the whole twentieth century. This newspaper, called El Departamento de Ancash, was founded on March the 7th in 1908 by lawyer, poet and journalist Luis Navarro Neyra. This man from Ica ran the newspaper until the year 1914 when he was killed as a consequence of political struggles. Four years afther Navarro´s murder, Dr. José Joaquín Sotelo is installed as the new editor of El Departamento de Ancash. For the next years, the newspaper maintained its character and true leadership, using a very formal orientation, with print runs that covered the requirements of information and culture of the people until the periods of the 50s and 60. Due to deterioration of its printing, and by reducing their print run, it became almost obsolete. However in 1969, the Salazar family decides to purchase a brand-new, ultra-modern printing machine, to give a new impulse to the newspaper and to make it profitable again. Sadly and unexpectedly, the Great Peruvian earthquake destroyed the modern printing machine completely in 1970.

In the years before the earthquake, El Departamento de Ancash counts with the help of historian Manuel Reyna Loli and journalists Francisco Jaramillo and Jose Sotelo Mejilla (our interviewee) who add character and give excellence to knowledge and culture to the paper. In the early decades of the twentieth century, the newspaper records harsh political struggles between parties, clashes that happened on more than one occasion causing bloodshed between political leaders, who used the media of that time as battle flag. A sample of those hard times of strife has been found in an editorial in 1919, written by Dr. Sotelo. He stated: ¨Now, without fear of contradiction, we can say that with an occasional rare exception, the press is the most damaging element in Peru, due to being exclusively deviated from its fair limits¨. This quote reminded Jose Sotelo Mejilla of a statement once made by José Antonio Miró Quesada who specified that in journalism,  depending on how it is exercised, it may be concerned the noblest or the vilest of all professions. Journalism is a quadruple mission that seeks to truthfully inform, guide, educate and should culturalise the people. Especially in a country like Peru, which is a collection of (different) people, nations and races, that is bound together through nationality and love for their country. Being a country with different races, cultures, traditions and languages, journalism should be the link; the force that helps in search for unity, which finally should break with the differences between groups and men. Next year in 2017, Jose Sotelo Mejilla has planned to make a special jubilee edition as the paper celebrates its 110th anniversary.

Additionally we asked Jose Sotelo Mejilla what he thought of the current quality of journalism in Huaraz and if he had seen our newspaper.

I have seen your newspaper, I can´t recall where, but I have seen it a couple of years back for the first time. I think you do a great job and I know at first hand that it´s a lot of work! I have to admit that I don’t read any newspapers in Huaraz because it´s cultural and informative levels are terrible nowadays. Not to mention the journalists behind those papers. It seems that the only thing they are interested in nowadays is money. I have been a journalist for over 40 years and have always been careful with that topic. I have written a lot and have now come to a point that I can´t be bothered anymore. The downfall started after the earthquake in 1970. Journalism belonged to a select group of elite people and with the earthquake our culture got destroyed and we never got it back. After the quake a bunch of new journalist arrived from Trujillo, Cusco and Arequipa but they weren’t interested in our local culture. They were only interested in making money and sending it back to their home city.

In 2016, the city of Huaraz counts with a number of daily local newspapers such as Prensa Regional, Diario Integración and of course the English language newspaper The Huaraz Telegraph.

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