When Argentine-born Mariel Fiori first came to the Hudson Valley in 2003 from Spain with her then-husband, she wasn’t legally allowed to hold a job or take classes for credit. Just a year later, she’d become the driving force behind La Voz, the Spanish-language monthly that has become a lifeline for 120,000 Latinos who live in the Mid-Hudson Valley.
Getting from point A to point B was a big jump, but then again, Fiori has always been good with leaps of faith. She’d left her radio and TV journalism job in Buenos Aires to follow her former love to Galicia, Spain; when she landed with him here, she wasn’t sure what to do next.
“I wasn’t raised to stay at home,” says Fiori, who already held degrees in journalism and legal and commercial English-Spanish translation. So she started auditing classes through Bard’s continuing-education program.
The first few months were rough going: Though she had studied English, Fiori spoke in a formal textbook style. In 2003, when Bard student Emily Schmall approached her for help to launch a Spanish-language magazine, she jumped at the opportunity.
“When I arrived in this country and opened anything written in Spanish, it was always so badly written,” she recalls. “There were typos, Spanglish, and basic spelling errors that made it look like someone who’d only gotten to second grade wrote it. I felt outraged because it made it look like Latinos are illiterate.”
The publication started with only 500 copies printed on a quarterly basis. “Then we started getting phone calls asking for advice on things like information on where to take English classes or how to get a job; how to navigate the system,” says Fiori. Meanwhile, Fiori was able to change her legal status, which enabled her to work and earn a degree at Bard. She had a meeting with Bard president Leon Botstein, to present her case to continue La Voz, even through she and Schmall had graduated, because she felt there was a clear need in the community. Fiori was hired as the managing editor, got a small office on campus and expanded the publication’s reach, eventually distributing 5,000 copies to 20,000 people in four counties.
Fiori makes an effort to include practical articles on topics like knowing your civil rights or how to navigate the local public transportation system.
While she was pregnant with her first child, Fiori, now married to Bard mathematics professor Japheth Wood, commuted to NYU’s Stern School of Business to earn her MBA so that she could better manage the business side of La Voz. Today, the publication organizes panel discussions that tackle Latino issues, such as human trafficking and domestic violence. Fiori also gets the word out through the NPR radio show she co-hosts with journalist Antonio Flores-Lobos on WHDD 88.1 FM, ¿Qué Cocinaré Hoy? (“What Is Cooking Today,” which is not a cooking show). If you listen closely, you may hear Fiori’s new baby crying in the background, as she records the show in her home.
One place she won’t return to — at least not permanently — is Argentina. “I was first a woman and then a journalist in Argentina, but in the US, I am first a journalist and then a woman, and that makes a huge difference,” she reflects. “In this country, doors were opened to me.”