From a cozy table in a coffee shop in Calabasas, three friends, who also happened to be journalists, envisioned a virtual gateway to Latino culture in Ventura County. Since Amigos805 was launched last year by Frank X. Moraga, Mariana Llamas-Cendón and Carlos J. Licea, the labor of love has grown into a thriving enterprise. Affectionately termed El Plan de Calabasas by the three friends, what eventually became “Amigos” was born of a desire to fill what they agreed was a gap in Latino media coverage. “We were finding that Spanish language and English language mainstream publications provided occasional coverage,” says Moraga, but it wasn’t enough. “There’s a hunger from people to be informed,” he said.
Seizing this opportunity, Moraga, Llamas-Cendón and Licea initially formed the communications and marketing firm Tres Amigos, offering multicultural and multimedia services to the 805 area. “We are the first Latino partnership in the county,” says Licea.
The three partners met while working for the publication Mi Estrella, before deciding to venture out on their own. Once the publication shut down, they set off to serve that same Hispanic population. “I felt the Hispanic community had been left stranded,” offers Licea.
Operating out of a virtual office, they hold weekly meetings via Skype. Technology is their principal vehicle, not only for communication, but to provide immediate information to the community. Through their website, Amigos805.com, the weekly e-blast and the online newsletter, Amigos provides information on events, news, business, health, arts, culture, education, etc., about and for the Latino community in the region.
According to Moraga, people want to get their information customized to their liking. Some want to get it from the website; others, looking at their mobile devices and others prefer to receive a weekly electronic newsletter. Amigos is also accessible through various online venues, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.
Although the need for immediate gratification has worked in Amigos’ favor, the desire for tangibility is still very much present, especially for the older generation of Latinos. To that end, Amigos is planning the release of a magazine to fulfill the tactile and visual needs of those who aren’t too keen to get their news with the click of a key. “Not a lot of Hispanics — the older generation — have access to a computer or know how to use the Internet,” says Llamas-Cendón. There are 12 million Latino Internet users in the U.S., but for some families, the Internet has become another foreign language that can become divisive between the older and younger generations.
“Our motto is bringing cultures together,” says Moraga. Amigos is proving to be doing just that as it quickly becomes a household name in the community.
For more information, visit www.amigos805.com.