Romeo Rodriguez, founder and publisher of Austin’s ARRIBA Newspaper, passed away in late March. He cast a long shadow in both the public and private sector and gave voice to an underserved community for two generations.
This past May, Rodriguez was honored in a ceremony at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center’s Awards of Excellence. He was recognized for a remarkable career as a Latino who strove for the highest artistic excellence while serving the cultural arts of Austin. His work demonstrated distinguished service, leadership, dedication, outstanding performance and made a lasting contribution in the arts.
Rodriguez was an early pioneer in publicizing information regarding the Chicano arts, culture, health and political issues. He was a part of the Para La Gente publication, started in 1978 with fellow friends and students of the University of Texas at Austin. In an era of deep ethnic divides in Austin, Rodriguez envisioned that through his vocation as a journalist, he could provide exposure and awareness of the activities within the Mexican American culture that were not being covered by the mainstream newspapers in the area.
He founded ARRIBA Newspaper in 1980 and published bi-weekly continuously until early this year. ARRIBA was a colorful, well-researched, bilingual newspaper serving the greater Austin Latino community for over 37 years. With a distinct focus on the arts, entertainment and relevant community news, ARRIBA paved the way for Hispanic media in the Central Texas metropolitan area. Its readership stretched across a broad demographic spectrum, with a format that reached two of Austin’s largest and fastest growing markets, English-reading Latinos and Spanish reading Latinos, hit the mark.
The local, minority-owned publication earned Rodriguez a reputation as a key figure for Austin’s growing Latino demographic. ARRIBA earned two Austin Chronicle’s Best of Austin Awards: “Critics Best Guide To Local Hispanic Culture & Politics” in 1993 and “Critics Best Community Newspaper” in 1998.
Rodriguez became an inspiration to other Chicanos interested in following a path in advocacy journalism. He was a mentor for many talents in the industry, helping others learn the business of mass communication and developing young writers. He held the outmost respect for the art of writing and it showed in his decades-long contribution to local community news.
ARRIBA Newspaper also served as an avenue for Mexican American entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and others who were given thousands of inches of support through the years, as well as free advertising to reach the community. More importantly, Rodriguez wanted to bring awareness to issues affecting Latinos and help inform citizens about critical health care issues, particularly chronic disease such as diabetes and heart conditions that are prevalent in Hispanic communities to this day. He also highlighted education, housing and affordability, gentrification, economic development, religion and myriad topics of importance.
Romeo Rodriguez was born and raised in Edinburg, Texas, where he attended the University of Texas–Pan American. Family members from across Texas and other states are planning to be in attendance at an Austin memorial planned for Rodriguez on Saturday, June 24, where local community members and friends will celebrate his life and legacy.