NEWS-In the Zona: Central Virginia gets Latin TV

It's no secret that the population of Charlottesville and Albemarle is growing, but it's not just Northern transplants and retirees who are flooding the area. In fact, one of the fastest growing population segments in Central Virginia is Hispanic, and a new local television program aims to reach this booming demographic.

"What's happening is that Virginia in the last five to ten years has seen an explosion in the Hispanic population," says Diane Taylor, co-producer of the new show Zona Latina. The program is set to air Saturday, September 16 at 9am on ABC channel 16 and on Adelphia channel 3, as well as on the Dish network. The show will replay on Monday mornings at 12:30 on the same channels.

Indeed, the Hispanic population in Virginia has increased by 37 percent since 2000, according to statistics from the U.S. Census.

Taylor, who worked in marketing in the city's transportation department until January, met Carlos Teran while she was producing a Spanish language advertisement for the city. Teran, managing editor of the Spanish language newspaper Nuevos Raices, shared Taylor's interest in finding new ways to reach the area's growing Hispanic population, and the two decided to collaborate on the new show.

Each half-hour Zona Latina episode will cover topics ranging from cooking to lifestyles to public service information. The program will be captioned in both Spanish and English, something Taylor says no other show in the nation has done.

Teran, a native of Venezuela who became an American citizen four years ago, will co-host the program with UVA graduate student Carol Rivera.

The show, says Taylor, will "also help dispel cultural stereotypes," such as that Hispanic households tend to be poor. Taylor points to data from the Pew Hispanic Center that shows the purchasing power of Hispanics in the U.S.  has surged to $700 billion. By 2007, Taylor says, that is projected to reach $1 trillion– almost three times the national rate over the past decade.

The number of affluent Hispanic households– those with incomes over $100,000– grew by 137 percent between 1990 and 2000. 

One person who didn't need any convincing to do the show: Roger Burchett, general manager of WCAV Channel 16.

"They came to us almost two years ago and had this dream of doing a Spanish language program," says Burchett. "Carlos was very passionate about trying to provide more information to a growing segment of the population that was struggling with where to get basic fundamentals of survival, things like enrolling in school and getting a driver's license."

WCAV is one of three television stations owned by Gray Television, and Burchett says that fact makes it easier to provide air time to local programs.

"We'd always planned to do as much local programming as we could," he says.

Curiousity about the show has been strong so far, says Burchett.

"I got about 10 emails today from people wanting to know where to find it," he says. And as manager of a new station, he's happy to be helping others looking to get off the ground.

"We've been through start-up mode," he says. "We've taken our lumps, and we're coming out pretty good right now. I hope we can help Zona Latina do the same thing."

WCAV General manager Roger Burchett (right) with Zona Latina producers Diane Taylor and Carlos Teran

Zona Latina co-host Carol Rivera