Se Habla English: American Couple Starts Paper for Anglos in Mexico

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

To the dozens of titles that have emerged in Mexico City’s suddenly vibrant newspaper market, add Inside Mexico, an alternative-style monthly targeting a big but woefully under-served audience in the nation: English-speakers.

Aran and Margot Lee Shetterly are a married couple who moved to Mexico City a year ago, after researching the idea of a English-language Mexican paper while living in Maine.

“There’s actually one million English speakers from America here, and another 500,000 Canadians — it’s basically the size of a whole state in the United States,” Margo, the paper’s managing editor, said by phone from Mexico City.

As surprised as they were by the potential audience, they were even more shocked that there was “very, very little English-language media here.” Indeed, in Mexico City, the newspaper pickings amount to The Herald, a daily jointly produced by The Miami Herald and the big Mexico City newspaper El Universal. Many big Mexican cities have no English-language papers.

Inside Mexico, which publishes its third issue in January, has the look of an American alternative weekly but on higher quality newsprint to give it a magazine feel, the Shetterlys said. It was designed by Emilio Deheza, a former design director for the highly regarded Mexico City daily Reforma.

Most of the paper’s 20,000 print distribution is in Mexico City, but copies are also distributed in areas that have many American residents and tourists, such as Cancun, Merida, and Acapulco. A PDF version at its Web site attracts another 20,000 readers, Aran said. “We could easily distribute 35,000 copies, and maybe more, but first we wanted to focus on distributing the 20,000 right,” he said.

The staff of eight full-timers who produce the paper is evenly divided between Mexicans and Americans to combine a feel for the country and knowledge of what will interest Americans. “We look at this project as a way to build a bridge between English-speakers in Mexico and this country itself, and we knew to build that bridge we would have to have a team that was mixed,” Aran said.

When the Shetterlys were first considering the paper, they thought they would publish from Oaxaca, traditionally a top tourist destination. But then a teacher strike that spawned a violent attempt to force the resignation of the state’s unpopular governor paralyzed the city, and chased away all tourists.

“But the other thing is that we quickly realized we had to be in Mexico City, because that’s where all the ad agencies are,” Margot said. “If we were going to do this on the kind of scale we wanted, we had to be in Mexico City.”

This is a first newspaper venture for the couple, who met while working on the Internet start-up Comet Systems. Margot, a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) since 1997, was a consultant to new media start-ups at PBS and HBO, and Aran is a writer whose book on a U.S. citizen who became a leader of the Cuban revolution will be published next year.

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