By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
"I was there when Beto told my grandfather," Virgil recalls. "He was drunk and crying. And my grandfather said, `I prefer to see you whenever I can than to see you dead.'" It took less than 72 hours for Beto to get his visa, "because they really wanted him out," Virgil says. "They knew if he stayed, either he or someone in his family would start up another newspaper." And indeed, once in Denver, Beto immediately established El Sol and set about chronicling life in his new home. The few English words in the publication advertised it as "the only Mexican paper in USA." Meanwhile, Beto's family remained in Mexico, waiting to be summoned. Of his original eight children, only four had survived childhood, and his wife, Maria Trinidad de Martinez, had been crippled with arthritis ever since Virgil, her oldest, was born. But Maria remained self-sufficient. "My mother always said she didn't need anybody to survive, and she didn't," Virgil recalls. "She made things with her hands and sold them, and it encouraged us. What I got from her was that if I struggle, sooner or later that stone is going to break down."
In 1961, with his only daughter safely married off, Beto brought his three remaining sons and wife to the United States, even though his own marriage was breaking up. Knowing he might have to support his mother, seventeen-year-old Virgil sought work in the business he knew best.
"I went to the Rocky Mountain News, the Post and the Catholic Register to apply for a job, even to sweep the floor," Virgil says. "But I didn't speak English, so I ended up washing dishes." He also signed up for English classes at the Emily Griffith Opportunity School. Four years later Virgil was hired as a printing-press operator and began saving his money.
He spent his first paid vacation in Mexico, visiting printing presses. Back in Colorado, he showed his father a contract he'd signed with a Mexican printer. "My dream was to give my father a newspaper, to show him I could do it," he recalls. "I said, `Okay, Father, here it is. Now we work.'" Beto had been struggling with El Sol, and the idea of starting fresh appealed to him. He graciously consented to act as founder and publisher for the new paper, which he decided to call Antena de Michoacan en Denver. "Every two weeks, we did the layout and sent it to Mexico," Virgil remembers. "When we got the papers back, we folded them in our living room. I was editor, circulation director, ad salesman, whatever it took." And whenever he had time off from his full-time job.
Antena's circulation, which started at 500 copies, gradually climbed to nearly 5,000. Virgil's newspaper knowledge increased exponentially. "My father taught me everything," he says. "Especially when he went on vacation. Then I learned the hard way." There were just two things Virgil deliberately decided not to emulate: Beto's writing style, which tends toward the emotional and self-aggrandizing, and his fondness for alcohol. "He was the reason I don't drink," Virgil says. "The way he punished me for no reason, hit my mother, I thought: I will never be like him."
Instead, Virgil made the rounds of Denver, photographing weddings and writing up local events, while his father stayed busy writing about himself. A quick perusal of past Antenas reveals a preponderance of items related to Beto Aguirre: his travels, his thoughts, his seemingly off-the-cuff acquaintance with celebrities from the worlds of academia and entertainment, even his burgeoning family--after Maria, he remarried and divorced four more wives.
"This little cowboy is Vicente H. Aguirre, future Denver journalist and none less than the darling son of our director," read the caption under a front-page picture of a young boy in a suit. A story headlined "Spanish Language Library Opens Here" featured a picture of library personnel in the august presence of Austreberto Aguirre. "Principals in Mexican Fete" noted that "Austreberto Aguirre, a mexican newspaper editor, will keynote Mexican Independence Day ceremonies at the Rialto Theatre." Finally, readers were treated to a reprint of a story from the Mexican paper El Heraldo de Zamora--in which Austreberto Aguirre stops by the office to discuss his life and times in journalism.
"The newspaper was nice-looking, but there was no money in it," she recalls, "and Denver was a huge, beautiful city, but no one was ever on the street! It was dead! Where I was from, everybody got all dressed up and went downtown."
During her visit, Rosa Linda did manage to go downtown for dancing at La Fiesta, where she subjected every potential suitor to the strict quality standards she had learned as a convert to the Mormon church. "I grew up around men who smoked and drank, and it was so nice when they didn't," she explains. "I had a lot of real cute, handsome boys who were after me, but they drank, and I said forget it. My friends thought I was weird, but whenever someone asked me to dance, I smelled him first."