Click. The conversation ends like so many others she has had with members of the publishing world's inner circle: in defeat. Ever since this 26-year-old daughter of a Mexican immigrant and a white military man from Virginia began publishing frontera magazine in December last year, she has found the invisibility of young Latinos like herself both frustrating and galvanizing. Her splashy quarterly journal for English-speaking Latinos--particularly Mexican-Americans--captures the vibrancy of millions of young people who haven't been able to find a reflection of their lives in any of the mainstream media.
Caught between two worlds, this 'refried nation' (as the magazine refers to its readers) is as fond of punk and apple pie as it is of Mexican quebradita music and south-of-the-border sweets like pan dulce. Doss' magazine, which already has a circulation of almost 20,000, is in an excellent position to ride the wave of opportunity expected to hit in the next decade as Hispanics surpass blacks as the nation's largest minority.
'I feel like we're chronicling a generation from the trenches,' she says. 'Twenty years from now, I'm going to look back and say, `Wow, I was part of that change.' But for now, we don't register on the mainstream radar. We're not even a blip.' The name frontera, which Doss thought up in the shower, reflects the pending change: It's Spanish for frontier, but it can also be read as two English words: front era.
Doss, a philosophy and creative writing graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, never intended to enter the fiercely competitive magazine world. 'I wanted to write books about the big questions in life,' she says, tugging at her short pigtails, 'but I also wanted to write the great American novel.' When she soon learned that neither would pay the bills, she enrolled in the graduate journalism school at Berkeley. There, she took a class in magazine publishing from New York founder Clay Felker and was inspired to launch frontera.
Frontera which Doss and co-publisher Martin Albornoz financed from personal savings and loans from friends and family, isn't the only U.S. magazine aimed at the emerging Latino media market, just the least circumspect. It's miles away from 'mainstream' magazines such as Hispanic and Latin Style. Doss' readers wear nipple rings, dress funky, speak Spanglish, and are open-minded about sexuality. They are enchulosos (hot and spicy Latinos) such as Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Dave Navarro, who appears on the Summer 1996 frontera cover bare-chested and preparing to gorge on a juicy watermelon slice.
Doss is back on the phone, sitting on a couch made from salvaged metal plates next to a lamp made from trashed heating vents. She shares the apartment in a depressed area of San Francisco with Albornoz and Cisco, their overweight Dalmatian. Being on the publishing frontier has, so far, meant working 14-hour days and living on a bare-bones budget until the magazine catches on.
But that doesn't faze Doss. She has more important things on her mind. Her goal, she says, is to ungag her generation, and to try to rectify the raw deal she believes it has been handed by a closed-minded society. 'We're pushing the boundaries of what it means to be American,' she says. 'You can tell America to accept us, or you can change the culture through Latino music and art and popular expression. That way we are America.
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